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What did you think of the EnglishEAL paper of 2022

May 19, 2023 by Doug McCurry from BooBook Education

Did you see the letter below in The AGE on the 16th of November? A concise and accurate statement about a parlous situation.

The letter is about the maths exams where there are at least correct answers. The situation is worse for Englishes and other Humanities. And in the past there has been no feedback from the GAT. One fears there will be no information about or feedback from the new GAT which is now a high stakes test for individual students.

The VCAA currently keeps marker briefing documents secret, and seems to divulge as little about the marking processes and the performance of students as it can get away with.

The sample answers used in marker briefing, for instance, are kept secret as are the criteria for assessment. Only snippets from high scoring papers are included in examiners' reports and there is little discussion of weaknesses in student work.

Contrast this situation with that in the ACT where I worked on a test like the GAT for more than thirty years. In all that time marker briefing documents and sample scripts with scores were publicly available. There was an examiners’ meeting each year in which the chief assessor discussed the sample scripts (and other scripts) used in marker briefing and the reasons why particular scores were given. There was a daylong session in which the chief assessor briefed teachers from schools in a more specific and detailed session on how to mark practise tests. The test scripts were marked in Melbourne rather than the ACT for a range of reasons. One of the reasons for marking outside the system was to avoid the development of an insider culture of those in the know.

This secrecy about the VCE assessment is quite unacceptable for the reasons indicated by the letter writer. The publicly available feedback from VCAA assessment procedures is inadequate and it privileges those who take part in the assessments.

Shouldn’t there be principled protocols for feedback from public assessment procedures available to all teachers and students?

Feedback from VCE assessments should be as transparent as possible rather than taking place with the current secretiveness.

The two-tiered system of VCE assessment

I am a VCE teacher. It is that time of year when examiners meet to develop marking schemes for VCE exams and train a select group of assessors. They will be given a classified document explicitly stating how marks are to be allocated. This document is not available to teachers who are not selected to, or do not wish to, assess.

Instead, these “second-class teachers”, and their students, are forced to guess the marking scheme each year. After the VCE results come out, teachers can attend “meet the examiners” evenings. However, my experience is that questions are often left unanswered, with a common response being “if you want to know the marking scheme, you should apply to be an assessor”.

Teachers read examiners’ reports that simply say things like, “The correct answer was 200. This question was not answered well”. This provides zero assistance to inexperienced teachers, those who are teaching outside of their preferred method, and most importantly, their students.

The result is a two-tiered system in which the same schools – often those which can afford to provide teachers with time allowance so they are more easily able to choose to be assessors – continue to thrive.

Name withheld, Ringwood


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