Is Controlled Assessment in Modern Foreign Languages a good thing? I Oxford Open Learning

Is Controlled Assessment in Modern Foreign Languages a good thing?

As an experienced teacher of the subject, this author’s answer would be “No.”

As part of the GCSE course in languages, students have to complete four controlled assessments: two written and two spoken. These four components make up 60% of their final GCSE grade.

For each task, students have to prepare around 300 words of information, which they have to memorise, since in due course they will be tested on them in exam conditions.

It takes a long time to teach students each topic, and even longer for them to prepare their essays using reference notes, hence the majority of lessons are delivered with the controlled assessments in mind. Unfortunately, the controlled assessment preparation makes the lessons very dry and tedious for students and teachers alike. The enjoyment and engagement factors are minimal, which creates a lot of disaffected and reluctant learners. A great amount of class time, work and practice is allocated to teaching students how to work independently and how to develop the skills required to produce work of the highest quality, using reference notes and dictionaries. Homework and class work aim at enabling students to practise these skills independently, as well as offering detailed feedback on how to move things forward in their actual controlled assessment.

Additionally, since they have to memorise their 300 word responses, we have to teach them learning to learn skills. This is no longer language teaching or language learning. Although students might achieve high grades, this is not a true reflection of their linguistic ability. Students are not better linguists, since they haven’t been taught to speak a language anymore. Instead, they have been trained to memorise information and reproduce that information in exam conditions.

Finally, students can be given the opportunity to re-sit those of their controlled assessments for which their teacher has to change one of the bullet points of the task. So here we go again; further preparation time, further learning to learn sessions and re-sits, after school or at lunchtime, since only certain individuals from each teaching group who fail or don’t achieve their targets will need to re-sit the controlled assessments.

All in all, intervention, intervention, intervention, seems to be the key answer to controlled assessments these days. Teachers and learners are no longer teachers and learners, but grade manufacturing machines operating through intervention sessions. All in the name of healthy league tables.



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