Any other AS DC struggling with GCSE science mark scheme because of pragmatics? Is it discriminatory?

(134 Posts)
HisMum4now Wed 24-Jul-13 14:01:28

DS has a statement because of his AS, specific language impairment and pragmatic difficulties. He is going into Y11 and doing relatively well in his mock GCSEs. He is really good at maths and sciences. He understands the science, but struggles to score marks because of theory of mind and pragmatics.

If you ask him explicit specific questions he would explain everything giving specialist terminology. But the questions in the exam papers are wage, indirect and convoluted. The marking scheme looks completely illogical, arbitrary to DS. From his point of view he answered correctly the question asked, but within the explicit question there were two other hidden questions and he really couldn't see them - how is he supposed to guess which other questions he is supposed to answer? There are too many other questions he could comment on, but these don't logically follow from the question asked on paper. He feels it is unfair.

For example:
Question: "Why radiator is painted black?"
DS answer: "Because black surfaces are better emitters of infrared radiation then light surfaces"
Marks: 1 out of 3. He needed to add "so higher rate of energy transfer" For DS this is self evident and contained within his answer "better emitters". He would never guess to add this. So he scores about a third of the marks!

Another example:
Question: "How would gas and nuclear power stations be used to meet the demand for electricity within 24 hours?"
DS answer: "The nuclear power station is used for baseline demand. The gas station is used to generate extra power when demand increases"
Mark: 2 out of 3. He needed to add "because of short start up time". But the question was How, not Why!

Often out of many possible valid answers the examiner only gives marks for one narrow specific answer that looks arbitrary, random to DS (even to me) in relation to the question asked. For example:

Question: "Vaccination against measles virus will not protect the child against rubella virus. Why?"
DS?s answer: "Because measles and rubella are different pathogens"
Marks: zero... not correct ???
I don't even know what the "correct" answer is but nothing in the way the question is articulated suggests that other answer. I can see what DS means by arbitrary and random mark scheme.

DS's problem is not with knowledge and understanding, but with guessing what the examiner wants. Theory of mind.

DS works very hard - 5 hours of homework and revision every day. Most of this time is dedicated to getting sense of pragmatics and mark schemes. However it doesn?t pay off. It looks to me that with exam papers like these higher marks are just unattainable for ASD DS because of pragmatic bias built in the questions.

Is DS the only one having this problem?
What can be done?

HisMum4now Wed 31-Jul-13 17:37:51

So you are just not personally concerned. I 've seen you being quite granular and involved about issues you are passionate about, like grammar schools etc.

creamteas Wed 31-Jul-13 17:45:04

Life is harder for DC with AS (I have two).

Although it is profoundly unfair that they will not necessarily get the GCSE grades that they are capable of achieving, as long as this doesn't stop them doing on in education, then I can live with it.

For the vast majority of people, 5Cs including English and Maths at GCSE is enough, once they have level 3 qualifications. And these are not as relevant if they go onto a degree.

My DD does try to memorize and apply exam technique rules, she is more likely than NT DC to get them wrong. We will discover this summer, just what she has managed to achieve.

But to be honest, on the things to stress and protest about around their lives this is not my highest priority.....

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 31-Jul-13 17:50:30

I'm clearly concerned about the accessibility of exams to kids with SEN. Have you read any of my posts in this thread? The biggest problem at the moment however is that the new rules are discriminating against ALL high ability Kids with SEN. There are issues with particular subjects where some kids are more disadvantaged and some less but it seems to me that to focus on those issues rather than the overarching issue (which is that someone at the DfE believes that kids with SEN should not be getting A*s qua SEN) is shortsighted and a function of, to use a word you keep using (not entirely correctly), bias. If you insist on focussing on science and not considering other subjects then as far as I'm concerned the key thing that should be done is getting rid of CAs. But I can actually see that CAs aren't an issue for everyone.

HisMum4now Wed 31-Jul-13 19:35:41

I think I was clear that I agree that there is a disadvantage for high ability kids because of the arbitrary low thresholds in JCQ regulation. DC cannot get the reasonable adjustments effective for them. The way to challenge this within the current law is to take apart the unlawful basis for the blanket thresholds, which are designed not to pick up the exact issue the kids are struggling with. Within the current law if the threshold is relaxed, all disabled high achieving kids could get the right exam arrangements that work for them. The way to do it is to find a test case and to rally behind it, not to fight other SN parents. You don't need to fight me, I m not the problem.

However, if you don't see the issue with the questions for yourself, it doesn't follow it isnt't right to look into the issue and validate the questions and the mark scheme. The concern I raise is a real issue that needs to be heard for many AS DC who are not coached to death in exam technique by posh schools. This would help all kids, even NT. It wouldn't hurt anyone. Unless indeed preserving own advantage is the sole concern.

I maintain that exam papers need
- validation
- overquota of SEN kids
- expert panel of scientists
- panel of SEN people

D of E wants SEN parents to fight with each-other instead of scrutinizing them.

gobbin Wed 31-Jul-13 23:13:46

To be honest, you should be taking it up with Ofqual, not MN. We can only provide you wih opinion, not the change you desire.

Uninformed Fri 02-Aug-13 18:52:50

I haven't read through all of the threads, but at quick glance maybe getting used to the command words on exam papers may help:
Knowing what the examiners want, for example the difference between "Evaluate" "Describe" "Explain" or "State" etc. I found the link below useful. Hope it helps.
http://filestore.aqa.org.uk/subjects/AQA-GCSE-SCIENCE-COMMAND-WORDS.PDF

Uninformed Fri 02-Aug-13 19:15:48

I haven't read through all of the threads, but at quick glance maybe getting used to the command words on exam papers may help:
Knowing what the examiners want, for example the difference between "Evaluate" "Describe" "Explain" or "State" etc. I found the link below useful. Hope it helps.
filestore.aqa.org.uk/subjects/AQA-GCSE-SCIENCE-COMMAND-WORDS.PDF

Vanillachocolate Fri 02-Aug-13 21:25:01

This is very helpful indeed. Thank you Uninformed.

HisMum4now Fri 02-Aug-13 22:46:35

Thank you Uninformed, this helps. I was looking for these in the specification. Great.

However it makes little difference because AQA explanations are vague and woolly. So much so that even examiners themselves don’t apply them consistently. According to these descriptions the answers given in OP are valid. And the word always in the mark scheme is arbitrary. The real assessment criteria “what examiner wants” remain hidden. There is no explanation for command words "How" "Why" and "What" for example, while they are used in papers. In contrast, the description of command words from Cambridge IGCSE is very clear.

AQA definition of Describe is vague, it doesn't give any guideline or criteria for good description. It leaves it totally open to dozens of valid answers. The marks scheme becomes arbitrary:
"Students may be asked to recall some facts, events or process in an accurate way. For example they may be asked to describe an experiment they have done, or they may need to give an account of what something looked like, or what happened, eg a trend in some data."

Cambridge IGCSE definition is structured and precise. It is more clear what to do to give a good description: "
(a) Describe, the data or information given in a graph, table or diagram, requires the candidate to state the key points that can be seen in the stimulus material. Where possible, reference should be made to numbers drawn from the stimulus material.
(b) Describe, a process, requires the candidate to give a step by step written statement of what happens during the process.
Describe and explain may be coupled, as may state and explain."

This description is not written by parents of SN children, but it just makes sense.

The wooliness put huge unnecessary demands on AS DC and their families and makes results hit and miss due to inconsistency at the exam board. This is why validation is necessary.

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