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A level internal assessment marking procedures - any advice?

(9 Posts)
Bluemoon49 Tue 01-Mar-16 19:20:34

Hi all...I am a new member and this is my first post. I have come on here hoping to get some advice or input for an issue we are having with DDs A level English Language coursework. She is in the second year and is doing A levels at an FE College rather than a school sixth form.

DD and other students have been working on coursework for the AQA A2 English Language. They were told that they would have time to produce the piece of coursework before it was marked by their teacher for the first time and then given back to them with marks, a grade and feedback including pointers on improvements that could be made. They would then have chance to take on the feedback and improve the work before it being handed back in and given a final mark which could not be changed. This is how it has always been with all subjects that she has done throughout GCSEs and A level.

However, the English teacher she has this year is new and apparently has never taught A level before and therefore has, by her own admission, never done A level marking before. She even told the students before giving them their coursework back that she wasn't entirely confident in her own marking, so advised them that she would have to get her friend and colleague, another English teacher at the college, to 'moderate' the marking, so marks could change. When DD got her work back the teacher had marked it as an A grade, 42 marks out of 50 meaning it was 2 marks into an A. There was also NO feedback or comments on the whole of the work indicating any ways in which the work could be improved, all teacher had written were numerous comments of 'good' and 'great point' and 'excellent' in the margins, along with the overall marks and grade A.

Naturally, DD didn't make many changes to the work because there were none suggested and she isn't confident so didn't feel she could directly ask "what can I do to improve it?" Therefore the work got handed back in and a week later the teacher addressed the class before the lesson, apparently very apologetically and said that unfortunately, following a remark by this other, more experienced teacher, some marks had gone down. DDs went down by 3 marks, making it a B instead of A. Apparently the teacher spent ages apologetically explaining how "it's so hard marking when you have never done it before" and after consultation with the other teacher she realised she had been too generous with the marks.

Now I know DD is not a child anymore and I don't usually get involved in her college issues but when she told me all of this I felt that it was unfair - not because the grade had gone down but because of the way it was all handled. Surely if this teacher has no experience of A level marking she should not have been doing it alone, and if she needed help from this other teacher should she not have got it before handing the coursework back to students? The issue for me is that students are officially allowed to submit two drafts and get feedback from the first and a chance to improve the mark. However I don't feel the students in DDs class have been given a fair chance at this because the marks they got turned out to be wrong, and now they have been put down they can no longer change their work.

Anyway I sent a polite email to the teacher outlining how I feel about it and what I got back was an email explaining 1) although she has no experience of A level marking she does have 10 years experience of marking English GCSE coursework 2) the reason there were comments of 'good' in the margins was because the feedback is written at the end of the work. 3) It is standard practice for coursework to be 'moderated' within the college by other teachers and it is also not standard practice to moderate marking before giving work back to students.

I have a problem with each of these points. How does having experience marking GCSE work mean that you can mark A level work? Obviously it is a much higher standard and harder to get high marks, which is obviously why she was too generous with the marking. Secondly, having looked at DDs coursework that she got back there is absolutely no feedback on it at all, even at the back and DD says no verbal feedback was given whatsoever.

Now the third point is a little more complicated and this is where I would appreciate input and advice from any who know. It seems odd to me that this is standard practice as we have never encountered anything like it before and DDs other A level teachers mark work and give feedback independently and don't do this remarking thing with other teachers. It seems to me that this was done because the teacher is inexperienced in marking A level work and needed this other teacher to 'check' that she had marked correctly, and it turns out she had got it wrong.

Now I appreciate everyone has to learn but I just think she should have done this BEFORE giving the work back to the students so that the marks were correct at that point and the students could have improved from there. Now I know that really DD should have anticipated what could happen and worked on it to make sure it was over and above an A grade before it went back, but as I said before there was no feedback or points for improvement offered, which makes me think that maybe the teacher didn't know what could be improved on and wasn't capable of giving feedback. If she had marked in collaboration with this other teacher from the start maybe he could have identified areas which needed improvement - he obviously spotted something which warranted 3 marks being taken off, but DD hasn't been given the opportunity to learn from this and improve.

However, I am no expert which is why I wondered if anyone here has any knowledge or thoughts to offer on whether this situation is indeed 'standard practice' and whether I am justified in thinking it is a bit unfair. DD also said that when work was given back following marks going down, most of the class were told that this would be their final mark which could not be changed while another student was quietly told that they could have another go at it (because their marks had gone down significantly) and there are students in the class who have submitted more than two drafts. Obviously this is a side issue and we have no proof so can't really make a fuss but it is annoying!

Anyway, any thoughts or input is appreciated. Thanks in advance and sorry again for the length of this post! smile

Lilyargin Wed 02-Mar-16 10:11:48

It is standard practice to give work back un-moderated as there simply isn't time to keep meeting other teachers and moderating work, it takes a really long time. I tend to give work back with comments on how to improve, but not the mark, as a colleague might change it when we have our moderation meetings (3 a year and they take ages) or indeed, so might the exam board. I don't really think this teacher did anything really wrong. If your child is doing controlled assessment at A level standard she's got it fairly cushy; producing essays without teacher guidance in exams is a much more rigorous way of testing. In my experience there is always one student in each A level group who tries to find fault/gets their parent (almost always the mum) to write in, and it almost always comes from kids who have done CA GCSEs and expect to be "spoon-fed".

Lilyargin Wed 02-Mar-16 10:14:07

Meant to say I give them a grade (with the rider that it could possibly change once moderated) not a mark, but I do give lots of feedback.

Lilyargin Wed 02-Mar-16 10:17:20

The other teachers in other subjects WILL definitely do moderating if their subject is CA based. They just wouldn't necessarily be informing you every time they have a moderation meeting. Or their subjects have no controlled assessment.

Bluemoon49 Wed 02-Mar-16 16:34:44

Lilyargin I appreciate your input. If the moderation is standard practice then fair enough. In this case I don't think it was fair because as I said she gave no feedback whatsoever. I also still think that she should really have experience of marking A level work, not just GCSE. And some students have definetely been given more chances to redraft than others.

As it happens Dd did not 'get me to write in', I decided to do that myself. She will have an exam this year in which she will have to produce essays under exam conditions and she definetely does not expect to be spoon-fed. You said yourself you give plenty of feedback, and this teacher didn't.

Lilyargin Thu 03-Mar-16 18:09:31

Yes, you're right, she should have been given feedback on how to improve and it is definitely not fair if others have the chance to re-do work. How has she explained that? In an ideal world she would have had experience of A level marking, but at some point a teacher has to have their first year of teaching A level and there isn't always enough time or money to send people on training courses, so a lot of teaches have to learn on the job.
I'm sorry if I biffed on too much! Good luck to your daughter.

Lilyargin Thu 03-Mar-16 18:10:10


OurBlanche Thu 03-Mar-16 18:25:00

OK. I have 20 years of A level and BTEC marking under my belt.

BTECs always have a sample internally moderated.

A levels it is good practice to do the same especially if there is a team of people marking - to standardise the centre's marking. There are yearly sessions held by the exam boards to explain how, always free when the curriculum changes. So whilst this teacher is new to A level marking she has had a few months to get her head around it and pencil it in in her schedule.

So, your DD has, in reality, NOT had a chance to re-work her assignment due to the internal marking procedure of this lecturer. THAT is not good enough. Do ask tomorrow if there is any time left for her to re-work it WITH some feedback. The school's final deadline is May, but there will be earlier deadline in school for the final marking.

Bluemoon49 Thu 03-Mar-16 23:41:20

Lilyargin - I didn't challenge her about the other students getting more chances to redraft as we don't have any proof and I imagine she would just come back and say DD has made a mistake or misunderstood, so I didn't think there was much point complicating matters by throwing it in.

Thanks for your thoughts Blanche, I do feel that she hasn't had a fair chance and I have replied to teacher's email stating this and asking for her to provide proper feedback and give DD a chance to act on it. Don't know what reply I'll get, I don't hold out much hope. I am just annoyed really because she said in her email that the feedback would be "in the final comment" and there is no final comment at all, the page at the end is completely blank!

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