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Posts Tagged ‘marks’

  1. One More Mark

    15 February 2015 by shartley

    We recently had an assembly at my school to celebrate the students who received an ATAR over 90 in the HSC last year.  There was a brief introduction from the Principal, a guest speaker who was surprisingly entertaining and in-depth about having respect for yourself by demonstrating respect for others, a speech from an all-rounder from the class of 2014 and a speech from the student who achieved the highest ATAR in 2014.  The students’ speeches consistently referred to balance but also a commitment to study.  The Head of Curriculum spoke about “one more mark”.

    I am currently finishing my Masters in Education with a plan in place to do a literature review as one of my last subjects in preparation for a Masters of Research as a lead-in to a PhD.  A long road is marked ahead.  For my PhD I plan to examine the increasing emphasis on marks as the main goal instead of marks being a mere measure of learning.  Sometimes the learning component of 13 years of formal school education is lost in a single number.  Too many times I ask students what they want to do when they leave school and they have no idea.  When I ask what they want to achieve at school they say a good mark in the HSC.  I ask why and more often than not it is to please their parents.  I ask what interests them in what they’re learning, and they say not much, they are just aiming for good marks.  How sad is that?

    The “one more mark” speech implored students to ask their teachers what they could do for just one more mark.  You see, data analysis of the school’s HSC results revealed numerous 88s and 89s in individual subjects so the aim is to push students into Band 6 (90+) because we have more Band 5s than the average school, shouldn’t it be easy to push them into Band 6 with a one more mark philosophy?  I think not.  I think the underlying problem is more associated with a culture of teaching to the test and spoon-feeding, of memorising and regurgitating, not just in my school but across many, many schools.  Band 6 is about demonstrating high-order thinking skills, critical thinking, problem solving and the like.  Remembering one more fact will not push an 89 to a 90.

    Now as much as I am an advocate for learning to be a focus over the memorising for tests, part of my job is preparing students for the HSC and its testing regime.  In Society and Culture students need to know, understand and apply some core concepts.  We drill the eleven main definitions underlying just about everything studied in Society and Culture.  My Year 11s recently sat their first test of these eleven definitions.  One student perfectly provided the first six but then left the remaining five blank.  She didn’t want to even try to use words from her own understanding, she only wanted to give the precise words of the syllabus.  Again, how sad is that?

    This weekend I marked a practice HSC Business Studies extended response I had given as holiday work.  They were a long way below the standard I expect from these students.  I believe the majority didn’t do them over the holidays but the night before they submitted it.  The question was How can different sources of funds help a business achieve its financial objectives?  Both the sources of funds and financial objectives listed in the syllabus were handed out when the question was issued at the end of last year but many students failed to refer to them, probably because they just took the question from the ediary entry.  Most of those who did use these syllabus terms, did not link them to show how different sources of funds help businesses to achieve financial objectives but merely provided textbook definitions of each term and tacked on introductions and conclusions.  Needless to say, it was a disappointing marking process.  However, despite my reservations about the “one more mark” speech I am going to hand these responses back with marks and an expectation of how many more marks they are to achieve in their second attempt.  I feel like I’m going against my principles but that it could be a good way for them to see that their poor attempt at the only bit of homework I set over seven or so weeks of the holidays just isn’t good enough.  The increase of marks expected have been determined by my gut instinct based on having spent a year with these students and thus knowing what they can achieve.  Some students are being asked for just two more marks, some ten and a whole range in between.  Wish me luck!


  2. The Unmeasured

    6 February 2015 by shartley

    As HSC scores and ATAR results roll into the school’s conversations and the media coverage, we find ourselves evaluated and judged on the basis of these.  The media only has access to the Band 6 (90 and above) results of students in each subject so schools are ranked on this basis.  In this post I want to discuss the unmeasured outcomes.

    In Year 12 Society and Culture today I was meant to be covering the dot-point in the syllabus about the future directions of the country we had chosen to study for the topic of Change and Continuity.  We have been studying Vietnam.  In class, students were organised into small groups and were supposed to use all that they had learned about Vietnam to predict what would happen in the next 5 to 10 years.  They had spent several weeks studying Vietnam at the end of last year and had a refresher lesson and a half this week.

    However, they struggled to focus, which could partly be because it was Friday, at the end of the first full week back, on a day of an assembly that went for over an hour and that they are keen to move onto the next topic, Popular Culture.  Every bit of pleading and guiding failed.  So I let it go.  I decided to give myself a break for 10 minutes and leave them to discuss whatever they wanted to discuss.  The group that most interested me included a girl who suffers from anxiety and the most chilled girl going around.  They run in completely different social circles but they were using this time to find out about each other and their attitudes towards school.  It was fascinating to eavesdrop on the conversation as Miss Chilled gave Miss Stressed advice and Miss Chilled learned how much other students care about results and doing their best to perform at school.  Miss Chilled expressed how much she loves school because she lets all the hard bits just wash by her.  Miss Stressed couldn’t believe that people like Miss Chilled exist in the world.  What I was most fascinated by was how much they listened to each other intently and learned about different perspectives and attitudes towards the purpose of school.  And isn’t that what Society and Culture is all about?  Yet this conversation will never be measured or recorded except in this blog and possibly in their own memories.

    All up, the three groups came up with some good basic fundamental future directions for Vietnam but mere bones which need a lot more flesh.  I’m frustrated that I feel the need to do one more lesson to expand their ideas when my schedule says we should be starting Popular Culture.  How often do we ignore learning opportunities because of our plans based on content driven syllabuses?  Thankfully in Society and Culture we have more scope and space than most other subjects except for the timing requirements of the Personal Interest Project (PIP) but I’ll save discussion of the PIP to another day.

    The assembly today was a celebration of the 2014 HSC students who achieved an ATAR of 90 or more.  It was a well ran event with one of those students performing a piece out of the musical Chess, a guest speaker, the Head of Curriculum speaking and two of the 2014 HSC students speaking, ending with the student who achieved the top ATAR mark for the grade.  Both the students spoke about balance and tried to provide advice for how to approach the HSC, study and school life in general.  They had both very thoughtfully constructed speeches directed at their peers.  The seeds they may have sowed today will never be measured because the cause and effect of HSC results to speeches like these are not measured.  My daughter is in Year 12 this year and a similar event occurred at her school and the highlight for her was similar advice from a past student but her outward behaviour will not change in any detectable way. I’m a big believer in sowing seeds that may blossom immediately or may take an age to show life.

    Today I had 10 minutes with a colleague who is resistant to change and having to learn new things but she is thrown into a circumstance where she must.  I showed her how to use the technology required for our Year 7 program and provided some tips along the way to make it easier and more efficient.  All these little moments of teachers learning are not measured; it seems that only the big registered courses that count in the teacher accreditation process.  The 10 minutes snatched here and there are precious in the teaching world but are not valued enough.  Teachers learning from each other, planning together and even teaching together is vital for the modern age but there isn’t enough of it.

    Ah, my 28 minutes are up.  I’ll sneak in here at the end stuff about my last class of the week with Year 7, my second ever Geography class with them, with both lessons having a focus on the technology set-up rather than the subject itself, and that’s fine.  While they were learning about the technology and some basics of high school Geography, I learned about them.  I learned how a boy interrupts me mid-sentence every time he had something to say (and I wonder if he is allowed to interrupt his parents at home), how another could not stop talking no matter how hard he tried, how some boys have patience and resist the hardships being dependent on technology can bring, while others want to give up at the first sign of difficulty.  I learned how strongly independent some students were, and they weren’t who I expected.  I learned that most of the students started the year with a concept that Geography is all about nature and that the human element is a perspective of Geography many hadn’t considered before.  I don’t know all the students’ names yet so I don’t have comprehensive notes of all this but this information is invaluable for deciding my attitude and approach to teaching them.  How can this sort of thing be measured?

    At the end of the school day I gave my congratulations to Year 7 for making it through their first full week of high school and was very corny by asking them to give themselves a pat on the back but they were happy to do so.  I imagined giving myself one too.  Survival, resilience, resisting temptations, and letting go of control…these things are hard to measure but are so important to life and learning.  When are we going to start valuing the unmeasured more?


  3. The Education Revolution (a quick post)

    20 January 2011 by shartley

    Pročitano u prvoj polovini 2008. godine

    So I was doing the laundry and thinking about the prep work I’ve been doing this week and about a conference I’m helping to run later in the year and wondering how many teachers actually want to move away from an industrial style of teaching and learning. I think those of us on Twitter feed off each other and become enthused and energised by the concept of change to improve students’ learning. Further, I teach at an extremely innovative school led by a Principal whose current passion is architecture and furniture for education. Not everyone is like us.

    I want my students to love learning, to enthusiastically participate in discussions, to want to learn more, to think, investigate, discover, problem solve, create, participate in world matters, and so on. I don’t want them to merely regurgitate facts and figures, to memorise standard essays, to simply read and feed it back. Yet I am constrained by our system. For the last 6 years I have only taught students in Year 9 and up so am duty bound to prepare them for the School Certificate at the end of Year 10 and the HSC at the end of Year 12. The majority of my students are not pushed at home to perform at the highest level, they have cruised through most of their school life coasting on whatever ability they are at rather than adding value to their education by being enthusiastic about the learning process and/or their subjects.

    It seems the majority of the top performers are the ones who have a culture at home of valuing academic education but what about those who don’t? Even then, many of them are seeking marks as a means to university entry and power and wealth rather than valuing education for its own sake. How do we encourage students to embrace learning?

    The work I’ve been doing this week is preparing a Business Studies course for a new syllabus. One of my main aims is to use the textbook as little as possible to the extent that next year we can ditch it altogether. This means using less than 10% of the pages and so far I’m on track. Business Studies is a subject that lends itself to being real and relevant. The Australian government at all levels and various business associations provide material online to help business owners establish and operate their businesses. Students can dream and plan their very own businesses. I love showing students how they can turn their interests into a real live business. My current HSC students that I have often referred to in this blog include a lot of sports enthusiasts. It is an absolute joy when they can envisage running a coaching clinic, owning a sports store or running a sports travel agency.

    When I taught Business Studies early in my career I was bored silly by the textbook and the internet worksheets I created so much that I never wanted to teach it again after just two years. When I saw the students enrolled in my class last year I knew they and I would never survive if I continued in the same vein. Now I use tools like LinoIt, games like the lemonade stand game, online quizes like this entrepreneur one and creating their own online glossary of key terms in Moodle. The best aspect of Business Studies is how they can apply the theory to their own future business. It takes a lot of energy to run classes like this but the reward is great. Most of these students will not perform well in the HSC but they will perform better than they would have by merely studying the textbook. They have learnt heaps about business, they are quite enthusiastic about business and they have a foundation on which they can build their own business. The HSC does not measure that.

    Now thinking about the conference on best teaching practices in Business and Economics classrooms, I wonder about the participants. What do they want from their teaching? What do they want for their students? Have they heard from a change enthusiast like myself before?

    Some of the teachers participating in this conference come from schools where the standard is extremely high and the pressure for results in tests are immense. Are innovative teaching methods appropriate for their students? Is there a trade-off of marks for passion? Is it possible to achieve both?

    I think it is possible. Actually, I believe innovative teaching is important even if marks are sacrificed. Passion can lead to better marks for the lower to average student. However, I think there needs to be a change in culture for the top-end to understand memorisation is just a means to an end and in the long-run they benefit more from enthusiasm and curiosity.

    Our testing system also needs to change. There needs to be greater scope for the way students present what they have learnt and how they can create, problem solve and be active citizens in our economy and society as a result of a quality education.


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