The task of making KS3 assessments more effective is still a priority for our department and as discussed in my previous blog the introduction of structure strips have certainly been a step in the right direction for us. The project started out with one class of Year 7 pupils but has now been rolled out to all KS3 History classes in the school. The feedback from the initial trial was almost entirely positive, pupils felt the structure strips guided them effectively. Comments included:
“I found it useful because I don’t usually write a lot and this helped me to structure a longer answer.”
“I found the strip helpful because it had all of the key factors but in a simple form that I could understand.”
There were only two comments from the pilot group which were not so positive, one of which was comment that they could not remember the assessment so I took the option of discounting their feedback! The other pupil felt they, “would have done better if they had been able to write what they wanted.” This comment brought up an interesting debate, whilst the structure strip scaffolds pupils through the requirements of a mark scheme do they in fact inhibit a pupil’s ability to think for themselves and develop their own academic style?
The new GCSE’s were certainly designed to encourage our pupils to be independent and the OCR History specification states they wish for students to “become responsible for their own learning, confident in discussing ideas, innovative and engaged”. Whilst the idea of self- motivated, innovative, engaged pupils is the ideal in an age where statistics and data are king can any teacher afford to allow pupils to experiment with their own style and method and risk them not reaching their targeted band in the exam? The exam board have encouraged a degree of freedom repeatedly asking pupils to credit response displaying, ‘good History’, however, I am not confident that pupils can develop ‘good historical skills’ without prescriptive guidance certainly at KS3. My hopes are that students will develop the necessary skills during KS3 and then they themselves can develop their own innovative styles given time.
All of the pupils in KS3 have now completed at least two assessments using a structure strip to guide them. The structure strips have not eliminated the existence of weak assessments but they have definitely had a positive impact. Pupils have been far less likely to not cover all of the required elements of the assessment and have generally made far more numerous attempts to explain/support their points. As yet we have not got to the point where we have asked pupils to design their own structure strip for an assessment but this is a target for the summer term with Year 9 pupils in order to help them make the transition to GCSE. The success of our pilot and the second stage of our introduction of structure strips has been shared across the faculty as a whole and introduced to the school through a teaching and learning training session.
The research project has encouraged me to question why we introduce change and has made me much more critical about the impact of the changes that we introduce. It has also made me far more confident to share our findings within the department to the school as a whole.
The Ramsey Academy