So we’re nearing our first exams for the new GCSE PE specifications and recently I haven’t been able to help but to reflect on the successes and failures of delivery of the course.
The increased theoretical weighing, more difficult and increased volume of content have made me consider more carefully how students are tested and how this testing support retention of knowledge.
The Current Model
For the past two years we have followed a basic delivery model of: deliver unit A, test unit A, deliver unit B, test unit B, etc. Within delivery of each unit we have always incorporated lots of exam-style questions to help students with application of knowledge to those questions. The problem, as is well acknowledged with this model, is that students are tested on information they had recently rehearsed, therefore being easier to retrieve, then forgotten after the test as it wasn’t fully grooved in to long term memory. This not only has had an implication on long-term retention but also means that test scores are skewed and tracking of progress is less accurate as a result.
The New Model
Now, I am fully aware that this isn’t revolutionary and is probably only bringing my thinking in line with many departments, but for me it is a progressive step.
My first task was to ensure that unit content was meticulously planned in to the time available and ensure that AEP delivery time was planned in to the scheme of work (eg teach movement analysis, complete coursework section of movement analysis). The units were also broken up in to smaller units of similar content (eg cardiovascular system became about 3 sub units).
Next, was to do away with the old end of unit tests and intersperse content delivery with 20 (yes 20) low stakes tests (up to multiple choice and short answer questions) over the delivery of the course. Each test would be completed three times in order to allow students to recall information from previous tests more often. The new model looks something like this:
- Teach unit 1
- Teach unit 2
- Test unit 1
- Teach unit 3
- Test unit 1 and 2
- Teach unit 4
- Test unit 1, 2 and 3
- Teach unit 5
- Test unit 2, 3 and 4 etc
These new tests are entered as percentages in to our tracker to help calculate working at grades.
The final issue was to ensure that, as we were focusing on retention in testing, we allowed students lots of time in lessons to apply learning to higher order command words that would not be found in low stakes knowledge tests, compare, analyse, justify etc. We created a bank of questions for every unit which fitted along side the scheme of work with differentiated exam questions which allow high ability students to access high order thinking questions more often.
Ultimately, we want the low stakes test to help support retention, not just provide the means of tracking progress. Allowing students to retrieve information more frequently and longer after initial teaching should provide the means for this.