Wednesday, 16 July 2014

OFQUAL 'AS' and 'A' level Geography consultation

Latest from OFQUAL yesterday.
You have until September to give your thoughts on these proposals
More on the GA website.

Geography

GCSE

1.1      We have already announced our decisions on the design and assessment of new GCSE geography, following consultation in summer 2013. The new qualifications are due to be taught from September 2016.

A level and AS qualifications

1.2      We consulted in late 2013 on proposed assessment arrangements for A level and AS qualifications in geography and on new assessment objectives for these qualifications.[1] We proposed that 20 per cent of the marks should be allocated to assessing fieldwork skills in a non-exam assessment.
1.3      It was intended that the reformed qualifications should be taught from September 2015. However, the responses to the separate consultation, hosted by the DfE, highlighted the need for a further review of the proposed content. This led to a decision to defer the introduction of new A level and AS qualifications in geography until September 2016.

1.1      ALCAB.[1] We have reconsidered our proposals for the balance of assessment in the light of the draft revised content and have decided that our original proposals remain appropriate. However, as the draft content has changed, we repeat our proposals here and invite views on them. In addition, in response to the new subject content, we have made some changes to the assessment objectives on which we previously consulted. We set out our rationale for our revised proposals below.

Proposed assessment arrangements

1.2      Currently students are expected to undertake fieldwork to develop their skills and understanding of the subject; however, there is no direct assessment of fieldwork skills. We have received representations from the subject community arguing in support of a separate assessment of fieldwork skills and raising concerns about the effectiveness of the assessment of these skills by examination. In our review of the current qualifications, we also identified concerns about whether all relevant geographical skills were being effectively assessed in exams, and suggested that it was important to consider whether non-exam assessment should be included in reformed A level qualifications.[2]
1.3      Given the importance of fieldwork to students’ understanding of the subject and for progression to study geography in higher education, we are proposing that fieldwork skills should be assessed through non-exam assessment at A level. We propose that 20 per cent of the marks should be allocated to this assessment.[3]
1.4      In contrast to our decisions on A level science practical assessments we propose that the outcome for A level geography fieldwork assessment should contribute to the overall A level grade. The geography fieldwork assessment will take place over a period of time, and it can be more student-led than science practical assessments. It will draw on different aspects of the course and will not result in direct assessment of the fieldwork skills but will result in a written report, the marking of which can be moderated by exam boards.
1.5      In A level, the science practical assessment directly assesses a wide range of practical skills. Our expectation is that by the end of a two-year course of study in a science subject most students should have developed those skills and should therefore be expected to pass the practical assessment. As we have seen from the current science practical assessments, it is difficult to differentiate between students’ performances in such assessments. There is greater potential to differentiate between students’ fieldwork reports. 
1.6      We will work with the exam boards to consider how authenticity of the work and the quality of teacher marking and its moderation can be secured. We will keep the effectiveness of any new geography fieldwork assessment under close review.
1.7      We propose that AS qualifications in geography should be assessed by exam only. If there was a non-exam assessment in the AS qualification, a student who chose to take both an AS and an A level would have to complete two non-exam assessments. This could be disruptive to teaching and learning and add little value. A student intending to study geography in higher education could be expected to undertake an A level in the subject and therefore undertake the fieldwork assessment.

Proposed assessment objectives

1.8      The proposed assessment objectives specify more clearly than the current ones the abilities required in the subject. The proposed permitted ranges are narrower than those in the current assessment objectives. This should promote greater comparability in the way the abilities are targeted in different qualifications.

Assessment objectives
Weighting
AS
A level
AO1
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of places, environments, concepts, processes, interactions and change at a variety of scales
30–40%
30–40%
AO2
Apply knowledge and understanding in different contexts to analyse, interpret and evaluate key concepts, information and issues
30-40%
30-40%
AO3
Use a variety of relevant methods and techniques to:
n  investigate questions and issues
n  interpret, analyse and evaluate data and resources
n  communicate findings
20–30%
20–30%

Current assessment objectives


Assessment objectives
Weighting
AS
A level
AO1
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the content, concepts and processes
30–55%
30–55%
AO2
Analyse, interpret and evaluate geographical information, issues and viewpoints and apply understanding in unfamiliar contexts
20–40%
20–40%
AO3
Select and use a variety of methods, skills and techniques (including the use of new technologies) to investigate questions and issues, reach conclusions and communicate findings
25–45%
25–45%


                     

[3] We have taken a different view at GCSE. We have decided, following consultation, that the new GCSEs in geography will be assessed by exam only, with some exam questions being designed to assess the knowledge and skills students learn from fieldwork. There will be no non-exam assessment, but schools must confirm in a written statement that students have carried out two pieces of fieldwork. 
The GCSE geography cohort is, of course, much larger than that for A level geography (in 2012 in England 163,604 students were awarded a GCSE in geography, and 27,604 an A level in the subject). Our decisions for GCSE geography took into account the logistical issues created by a compulsory fieldwork requirement for GCSE students and the challenges of making sure all students entered for GCSE geography have undertaken their fieldwork assessment. The writing of the fieldwork assessment in the classroom under controlled conditions diverts time away from teaching and learning, which can be significant in a small qualification such as a GCSE. There are also concerns about the authenticity and marking of some controlled assessments.

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Consultation Question 27: To what extent do you agree or disagree that AS qualifications in geography should be assessed entirely by exam?
Consultation Question 28: To what extent do you agree or disagree that for A levels in geography 80 per cent of the available marks should be allocated to exams, and 20 per cent to non-exam assessment?
Consultation Question 29: To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed assessment objectives are appropriate for A level and AS qualifications in geography?
Consultation Question 30: To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed weightings of the assessment objectives are appropriate for AS qualifications in geography?
Consultation Question 31: To what extent do you agree or disagree that the proposed weightings of the assessment objectives are appropriate for A levels in geography?
Consultation Question 32: Do you have any further comments relating to the assessment of this subject?

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