Is it this year’s Scottish Exam Results that Have No Validity, or just the System Itself?

Now that the Scottish exam results have reverted back to those based on teacher predictions, students have done MUCH better than previous years, around 10-12% improvement, or over a grade compared to previous years.

To put this in a chart – here’s what it looks like: The middle column is what the results were last year, the last column is what they now are, with the government’s U turn.

2016-19 Ave2020 SQA moderated2020 teacher predictions
national 578.681.188.6
higher76.578.988.8
advanced higer80.484.992.8

To display this graphically – we’ve leapt from blue to yellow, while even with moderation (red) that kind of increase is just about feasible, even if unlikely.

It is highly unlikely that this year’s students on average would have achieved 10-12 % points higher than the previous year’s students, had they sat their exams, had there been no disruption.

Had they sat the exams, they would have been moderated by the exam boards so that the pass rate and A* rate was broadly in line with previous years, and then the spread of results would have probably also been broadly similar.

What’s happened instead this year is that we now have results based on teacher predictions, rather than ‘pure moderation’ by the exam boards, which broadly keeps things in line year on year.

In case you don’t know, what the exam moderating authorities do with actual exam results, is they look at the raw marks, and then tweak the fail/ pass and A* raw mark boundaries so that there’s a similar percentage passing and achieving high grades every year, but now they’ve had that power stripped from them.

Now the grades are based purely on teacher predictions and teachers always over-predict, it doesn’t take much explaining to figure out why – because of the competitive education system, and it’s one of the few rules you can bend as a teacher, so nearly every teacher does it, because they know every other teacher does it!

TBH I don’t think either system is that valid. You’ve seen the results year on year, it’s highly unlikely that there’s going to be a gradual trend upwards, without there ever being a single ‘spike year’ – but that’s what you get when exam moderating authorities ‘control’ the grades every year – a gradual increase gives the impression of credibility.

Teacher predictions might well have more credibility, because they actually know the students, but there is a problem of reliability when, for just one year, this year, 2020, you allow exam results to be determined by teachers, and then you get a massive spike compared to previous years.

Students who sat exams in 2017 to 2019 should be complaining

Students from the last three years are the one’s who are being harmed by this unjust political interference – not only do they now have a worse track record of exam results compared to this year’s students, these are the students who are now graduating into a world of contracted employment, so they’re going to have ‘worse’ results, and a longer period of unemployment on their CVs.

This year’s students by contrast, if they’re going on to 2-5 years of FE/ HE, the chances are the economy will be recovering by the time they graduate, so they’ll have a better education record and less of a track history of unemployment.

Glasgow Live: Exam Results Glasgow 2020

The Guardian

The BBC

The Scottish Exam Results: The real losers are last year’s cohort, and the next!

Now they’ve had a day to do some basic analysis of the Scottish exam results the newspapers have had a chance to put their spin on the story – and the narrative runs something like this:

First narrative – ‘Scottish pupils have had their teacher predicted grades lowered by the qualifications authority’.

Second narrative: – Poor Scottish pupils have had their teacher predicted grades lowered more than rich pupils.

Sources

Links to both the above are at the end of this article

This makes for a great story, but I think they might be misleading. As far as I can see, this year’s National Five Scottish students have done better than they would, on average, had they sat the exams.

If you compare the previous years’ results with the teacher predicted grades you get to see how exaggerated those predictions were…..

A comparison of previous year’s results with teacher predicted grades and the actual downward-adjusted grades

All of the data above is from the articles linked below – NB the blue column for the least and most deprived clusters is only 2019 data, A-C pass rate, and the exam results I’m looking are the National 5s, equivalent to the English GCSE.

What’s really going on?

  1. Teachers in Scotland grossly inflated the predicted grades of their pupils, by 10% compared to previous years on average.
  2. They exaggerated the results of the poorest students more than for rich students (bloody left-wing teachers that is!)
  3. The exam authorities modified the results downards, but the results received are still much better than the previous years, showing an improvement.
  4. The poorest students have improved dramatically.

Analysis

It’s highly unlikely that this bunch of students is hyper-successful compared to previous years, so thus unlikely we would have seen an increase in 10% points in the pass rate.

I think the real thing to keep in mind here is what really goes on in exams – pupils sit them, they are marked, and then stats magic is done on them so we end up with a similar amount of passes and grades distribution to the previous years – so it’s hard-wired into exams that little is going to change year on year.

That’s what we’re seeing here – the exam board adjusting to fit the results in with business as usual, but they’ve had to compromise with those optimistic teachers trying to game the system, and as a result, excuse the pun, this year’s Scottish students have done very well, especiallly the poor.

The students who should be angry are last year’s – they’ve lost out relative to this years, next year’s probably too, and those poor mugs actually had to sit their exams, and didn’t get four months off school!

This probably won’t be the way it’s spun in the media – it’s easy enough to find a few students a parents with individual axes to grind, against the overall trend of the 2020 cohort doing very nicely, thank you teachers!

Sources

The Scottish Sun

BBC News

Make your own exam questions

Generate your own exam questions for A-level sociology of education exam papers!

40 000 students should be sitting the A-level Sociology of Education with Theory and Methods Paper (7192/1) today, but they’re not because of Coronavirus.

In case you feel like you’re missing out, why not design your own exam paper and answer the questions for fun.

Below is a list of the main key words taken from the AQA’s A-level sociology specification, just the education topic:

A-level Sociology of Education Key Word List from Specification

the role of education

functions of the education system,

the economy

class structure

differential educational achievement

social class,

gender

ethnicity

teacher/pupil relationships,

pupil identities

subcultures

the hidden curriculum

the organisation of teaching and learning

educational policies

policies of selection,

marketisation policies

privatisation

policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity

experience of education

access to education globalisation

Make your own exam questions!

All you need to do to design your own questions is cut and past this list into this random word generator, click ‘create random anything’ and then you’ve got the basis for some 10 mark and 30 mark questions.

You have to be a bit creative to make up the questions, by adding in your own action words, but the question formats are quite limited in variety: 10 mark analyse questions ask for ‘two ways/ reasons’ and a 30 mark will ask to evaluate the extent to which something is true, so making up your own questions should be fairly easy to do.

Pupil Identities and the Functions of the Education system example

To take one example above, the generator randomly selected ‘pupil identities‘ and ‘functions of the education system‘, so two potential questions might look like the following:

  • Analyse two ways in which pupil identities might come into conflict with the functions of the education system (10)
  • Evaluate sociological perspectives on the relationship between the functions of the education system and pupil identities (30)

I’m not even sure if the above questions make sense, so answering them might be a challenge – maybe something about social control and hyper-masculinity and work related functions and class based identities.

NB both of the links above take you to two examples of 6 mark ‘outline’ questions I put together a while back, so they’ll give you some idea of how you might start to build up an answer to the more complex 10 and 30 mark questions.

Other random sociology word combinations I got:

  • policies of selection and pupil identities
  • social class and globalisation
  • marketisation policies and the hidden curriculum
  • policies of selection and the economy
  • the experience of education and the hidden curriculum
  • gender and the economy

Have a go, and post your questions below!

Remember that the AQA bots can’t distinguish between a sensible and terrible question so it’s best to be prepared for all potentialities – so why not have a go and generate some random questions, and have a think about the answers.

What else have you got to do after all, no Glastonbury, no Reading, and certainly no Gap Yah!

Keep in mind that this technique doesn’t provide you with an item, which you would need to use in both the 10 mark and the 30 mark questions in the actual exam.

Outline three ways in which pupil identities may come into conflict within school

A possible 6 mark question in the sociology of education exam. Unlike many 6 markers, this one lends itself to research studies!

Paul Willis: Learning to Labour – found that the traditional working class male identity came into direct conflict with the norms of the school – for the ‘lads’ he studied being male for them meant being cool, and not caring about school work. For them ‘real boys didn’t try hard at school’ and they were more interested in dossing around.

Louise Archer –found that girls that didn’t conform to traditional gender identities (passive and submissive) came into conflict with the school. For most of the girls, constructing and performing a heterosexual, sexy feminine image was the most important thing to them. Each of the girls spent considerable money and time on their appearance, trying to look sexy and feminine which gave the girls a sense of power and status. The peer group policed this.

Mac an Ghail argued that the African Caribbean community experienced the world in very different ways to white people – namely because of institutional racism in the college and he argued that any anti-school attitudes were reactions against this racism. He mainly blamed the school rather than the students

A level sociology exam dates 2019!

Just a reminder of the upcoming exam dates for the three A-level sociology exams!

  • 7192/1 Education with theory and methods 2h 22 May 2019 am
  • 7192/2 Topics in Sociology 2h 04 June 2019 pm
  • 7192/3 Crime and deviance with theory and methods 2h 12 June 2019 am

Do please make sure to check the dates for yourself!

Source – cut and paste directly from the AQA’s confirmed exam timetable!

Revision Webinars

I’m offering three revision webinars on the Sundays before each of the above exams.

For anyone signing up in the next week (before May 10th, I’ll also throw in access to eight pre-recorded revision Webinars covering the entire A-level sociology syllabus, available at this blog post (password protected: if you sign up for the three Webinars, I’ll email you the password!). NB six are currently available, 2 to be uploaded next week! 

Countdown to the first exam!

Just in case you weren’t panicked enough already…

A Level Sociology Revision Webinars

I will be running three A-level sociology revision webinars to cover both the core content and exam technique for the three A-level sociology exam papers: Education with Theory and Methods (paper 7192/1), Topics, focussing on the families and beliefs options (paper 7192/2), and Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods (7192/3).

EDIT (June 17th 2019) – These have now ended! 

NB – I will also throw in access to 6 hours of recorded Webinars covering exam technique for the three exam papers!

The webinars are 90 minutes long and scheduled for the following dates, on the Sundays before the relevant exams:

  1. 11.00 A.M. Sunday 19th May – Education with Theory and Method
  2. 11.00 A.M. Sunday 2nd June – Families and Belief
  3. 11.00 A.M. Sunday 9th June – Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods

All of these webinars will last 90 minutes during which I will provide a (necessarily) brief overview of the content within each topic, and a discussion of several specific exam practice questions. The main focus will be on exam technique.

Students will be able to ask questions during the Webinar, via text, and there will also be time for students to ask questions at the end.

Attendees will be able to download support materials in advance of the webinars, ask questions during the seminars via ‘chat’, and students will also be able to review the seminar afterwards as they will be recorded and stored on the site. Recordings will be available until the 16th of June (several days after the final A-level sociology exam).

Downloadable resources

The one off £29.99 registration fee not only gives you access to all of the Webinars scheduled below, the price also includes downloadable hand-outs with exemplar question and answers for all of the question types on the three exam papers. The documents included in this bundle include:

  • Exemplars of 4,6,10 and 30 mark essay questions for Education.
  • A hand-out on how to answer methods in context questions, with examples.
  • Exemplars of the two types of 10 mark questions and 20 mark essay questions for families and beliefs
  • Exemplars of 4,6,10 and 30 mark essay questions for Crime and Deviance.
  • Exemplars of 10 mark research methods questions
  • Exemplars of 20 mark ‘theory and methods’ questions.

NB – if you are already enrolled on my more extensive 12 week revision webinar series, you don’t need to sign up for this, we cover everything in these three webinars in the 12 webinar series, just in more detail.

For further details of my resources and work please see my blog – revisesociology.com

NB – I will also throw in access to 6 hours of recorded Webinars covering exam technique for the three exam papers!

Revising core themes in A-level sociology

There are six ‘core themes‘ in the AQA’ A-level sociology specification: 

  • Socialisation
  • culture
  • identity
  • Social differentiation
  • power
  • stratification

These six core themes cut across every compulsory topic and every optional topic (usually families and beliefs), and they can form the basis of any 10 mark or any essay question. Students should not be at all surprised if they see any of the words cropping up in one of the 30 mark essay questions.

NB – these themes should look familiar, as they are basically some of the core concerns of the perspectives: Functionalism and postmodernism tend to focus on the top three, Marxism and Feminism the bottom three, with interactionism sitting somewhere in between them.

Where 10 mark questions are concerned, I recommend trying to use these two sets of core themes to develop points you find in the item – ‘one way’ focussing on a Functionalist/ postmodern analysis, the other focusing on developing a marxist/ feminist/ postmodern analysis. To my mind, it’s easy to develop Postmodernism from Functionalism and Labelling theory from Marxism/ Feminism.

Where essays are concerned, the 4 boxes above might be used as a suitable structure for four paragraphs, again, in relation to the item.

Quite a useful revision task is to place different questions in the middle of the above slide and just talk through how you might relate the different core themes/ perspectives/ concepts to the question.

In future posts this month I’ll outline how I use this analysis structure in mainly 10 mark questions!

A-level Sociology Revision Webinars 2020 (AQA focus)

Get ahead with your A-level sociology revision with these cheap online webinars covering the entire A-level sociology specification over a 12 week period.

Please note these have been cancelled due to Coronavirus!

But I will be running the same series in 2021, from March!

A Level Sociology Revision Webinars starting March 2020

The webinars are scheduled for 19.00 every Monday (with one on a Thursday) and will run from Monday 1st of April to Monday 20th June, 2 days before the last exam (crime and deviance with theory and methods). Webinars are scheduled early so that we can get through the entire specification BEFORE the first paper (on May 20th).

NB Registration will only be open during March and the first two weeks of April, then it will close!

Schedule (please see below for a more detailed version)

  1. Thursday 26th March – Education 1
  2. Thursday 2nd April – Education 2
  3. Thursday 9th April – Families and Households 1
  4. Thursday 16th April – Beliefs in Society
  5. Thursday 3rd April – Crime and Deviance 1
  6. Thursday 30th April – Crime and Deviance 2
  7. Thursday 7th May – Research Methods
  8. Thursday 14th May – Social Theories
  9. Saturday 16th May – Education and Theory and Methods 3 (exam on 20th May )
  10. Monday 25th May – Request webinar, content TBC
  11. Monday 3rd June – Families and Beliefs 2 (exam on 2nd June)
  12. Monday 10th June – Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods 3 (Exam on 10th June).

All of these webinars will last 50 minutes during which I will provide a brief overview of some of the content within each topic, and a discussion of at least three specific exam practice questions. Students will be able to ask questions during the Webinar, via text, and there will also be time for students to ask questions at the end.

I will be conducting the Webinars via Click Meeting, which allows students to download support materials in advance of the seminars, ask questions during the seminars via ‘chat’, and which will also allow students to review the seminar afterwards as they will be recorded and stored on the site. Recordings will be available until the 16th of June (several days after the final A-level sociology exam).

Sample of Webinar 1 from 2019

Webinar Support materials

The first eight revision Webinars are supported by a PowerPoint, revision notes and exemplar exam questions, and the education, families and methods topics (basically the first year content) have gapped revision hand-outs too, so these really are being offered at a bargain price!

Detailed Schedule..

Please click below for the full schedule (PDF)

Revise Sociology Webinars ScheduleV2

How to access the Webinars and resources

Access to all 12 Webinars is only £49.99, which is less than £5 a Webinar. 

The link will take you to a registration page for my ‘Permanent Room’ on the ClickMeeting platform. This is the room from which I will be running all revision Webinars from, every Thursday from March 26th, switching to Mondays before the exam, and one on a Saturday.

Once registered you will receive an email from ClickMeeting which will provide you with an access link which will allow you access my permanent room for March-June 2019. (NB I will only be using this at the scheduled times, as outlined in the schedule.)

Following registration I will also send you an email containing all the relevant revision resources for the 12 Webinars. These will also be downloadable during and immediately after each revision session.

Reminder emails will be sent out the day in advance of each of the 12 Webinar Revision Sessions, and also watch out for a bonus ‘introducing revision Webinars’ session on the final Monday in March, to give you an opportunity to familiarise yourself with how ClickMeeting works.

Payment is via PayPal only!

About your Tutor

I’ve taught sociology for 20 years, 16 of those in a successful sixth form college between 2002 and 2018 (10 years as Head of Department).

In 2014 I set up this blog, and managed to save enough off the back of it to quit working for the ‘man’ and now I work independently, developing non-corporate support materials to facilitate the teaching and learning of A-level sociology.

I also see myself as something of a trail-blazer in developing 16-19 online education: in 2019, we should be doing better than 20 teenagers all having to travel to a central location and then ‘sitting in a room’ for an hour or two. To my mind this all seems a bit 19th century. These Webinars are a move towards making A-level education more flexible and decentralised.

A-Level Sociology is Becoming Increasingly Popular!

There’s been a 16% increase in A-Level Sociology Exam Entries between the 4 years 2014-2018, according to the latest data on GCSE, AS and A-level entries from Ofqual.

A level entries 2014 to 2018

Here’s a print version of the stats in case the above isn’t that legible! (If it’s not, I might try and sort it out laters!).

how many students study A-level sociology

 

What’s particularly encouraging about this is that this in the context of declining numbers of 17-18 year olds in the corresponding birth years stretching from 1996-2000, and the corresponding decrease in overall A-level entries.

It’s also interesting to note that more traditional subjects such as History and English are losing out to ‘newer’ more critical subjects such as Sociology. Psychology also saw a similar trend.

Just a quick one today!

 

AQA A-Level Sociology: Guidance on 10 Mark with Item Questions – Education with Theory and Methods

Examples of actual student responses marked by the AQA, showing you the standards expected to get certain marks!

Below is an example of an actual marked response to a 10 mark ‘analyse with the item question’.

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website) and the specific question is as follows:

Read Item A below and answer the question that follows.

Item A

Since the 1980s, a major aim of government policy has been to increase parental choice in education. There is now a wider range of school types, and league tables on school performance are also publicly available.

Increased parental choice has had many effects on pupils’ experience of education.

Applying material from Item A, analyse two effects of increased parental choice on pupils’ experience of education (10)

While this example is taken from a 10 mark ‘applying material from the item’ question taken from the education paper, the general advice below on how to answer such questions applies equally to the same format of 10 mark questions that you will get in both sections A and B of paper 2, and on paper 3.

For general advice on how to answer 10 mark questions (covering both the two types of question) please see this post here.

Marked exemplar of a 10 mark ‘applying from the item’ question

NB the second picture is a continuation of the first, same response on both pictures!

10 mark question sociology AQA

aqa sociology 10 mark question marked exemplar

KT’s commentary

A great example in the first paragraph of ‘how not to do it’….

Despite the rather scathing final commentary from the examiners, the second paragraph still gest five marks, and it does make three development points – so it’s got breadth rather than depth.

Hint: go deeper, develop further!

If you can’t be bothered to think of how you might improve it for yourself, click here for an example of a 9/10 answer, but if the first bit of this sentence applies to you, I don’t rate yer chances of ever getting more than middle mark band!

Question: What would you do to get another 5 marks….Comments below please!

Essay Plans/ Revision Resources

Education Revision Bundle CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my sociology of education revision notes bundle – which contains the following:

  1. 34 pages of revision notes
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education

 

Source:

A-level
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods
Published: Autumn 2017

NB – this document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them.