As we quickly approach half term, many of you will be well underway with your BTEC assessments, with others planning to start in the near future.
I am sure by now you have all had a chance, with your teams, to take a look and discuss the new assessment rules for both the QCF and NQF frameworks. You can obtain guidance documents on the BTEC website which clearly explain the internal assessment rules for the BTEC first and nationals.
With the rules in place centres need to look at ways in which the learners can continue to reach their maximum potential and gain the highest grades possible while at the same time demonstrating a higher degree of independent learning.
This blog is going to look at some practical solutions for centres to think about, which will help maintain quality standards and in many cases improve the learners’ ability to work and think independently.
Teaching and Learning
Key to any success within BTEC is the quality of teaching and learning, with many centres delivering high standards, but with the changes made by BTEC a change in teaching strategy within some centres may prove to be beneficial. Previous guidelines used to encourage centres to lean towards greater ‘coaching’ methods, pointing out in clear detail how the learner can achieve grades, with clear detailed action points which identified content to be included within a specific structure. Regular reviews of work and draft copies may have been submitted, with actions identified by the tutor for the learner to complete before final submission.
Centres should now focus on teaching content which provides the learners with a full understanding of the assessment strategy and expectations. Specific tasks could be set which covers course content and would reflect the potential final assessment which will be handed to the learner to complete within a specific time frame. The learner should be taught relevant academic skills to stretch and challenge their levels of learning and help them understand the meaning of the key grading criteria descriptors, for example describe, explain, analyse.
Different assessment methods could be used within the tasks, (i.e.) presentations, observations, essay, report, case studies, written test, posters, leaflets. These are the forms of assessment you would use in your final assessment but you should use a different method in the class tasks compared to the final assessment as this could be deemed as coaching. This however would not apply in certain circumstances the most notable being a mock coaching session for example.
Examples of tasks could include:
- A mock practical session in coaching
- A mock presentation on hydration effects in sports performance
- A case study report on the influence of the media in sport for current issues
- A written test on the structure of the skeletal system
Clearly the list goes on and I am sure you all have a variety of teaching methods and final assessments in place. A piece of advice would be that the learners keep a portfolio of all the tasks they have completed so they can use this for reflection or revision before embarking on the final assessment. This portfolio would be comprehensive, having looked at all relevant content and criteria as well as the many different forms of assessment. The skills and knowledge gained are easily transferable into the final assessment with the information readily on hand for the learner to use as a guide.
The tutor feedback within this teaching and learning phase should be comprehensive with the learner being in no doubt the grade they are working towards which would reflect a mock grade of pass, merit or distinction. You could also in this instance identify clear and specific actions the learner would need to take if they were to achieve higher grades. This is similar to how feedback and actions were presented under the old system which is perfectly acceptable within the teaching and learning phase. At this point you would reiterate that when under final assessment under no circumstances would feedback of this nature take place. These processes should have already been made clear to the learners.
Feedback during the Assessment
As we know, the learner must work independently during the final assessment so the feedback you provide will be in a different context. You are now in a supporting role so you should not provide any theoretical content to the learner. Much of your support will be reaffirming the requirements of the assignment brief and timescales, as well as study skill approaches.
If your teaching and learning phase has been strong with the learner having a portfolio of work this can become part of the reaffirming process. You will not talk to them about specific pieces of work they have completed, but you may well encourage the learner to think more independently and reflect on the work they have done so far in class.
Simply saying “Think of the tasks we have completed about this topic within your portfolio. You clearly demonstrated in those tasks your knowledge and understanding.”
This should encourage the learner to reflect on their portfolio which will help them complete the final assessment. You are not mentioning specific content or grading criteria you are pointing them in the right direction, reminding them they have the skills.
Feedback following Assessment
This feedback is now straight forward explaining your decisions and how you have achieved the grades against the criteria. You should not provide a clear list of actions against the criteria you have not achieved to subsequently achieve it under the resubmission rules.
Resubmission of Evidence
Remember, only the Lead Internal Verifier can authorise one resubmission chance for each assignment and only if the learner has met all the initial deadlines. It is stated that a resubmission should only be granted if the learner would provide improved evidence without further guidance. This could be justified through the teaching and learning phase with the portfolios. If a learner has only achieved a pass in their assessment but their class work has achieved a higher standard, then the evidence is there if you as a tutor decide to made the judgement that they are capable of a resubmission. The portfolio not only becomes a tool for the learner but also for the tutor when making these decisions.
Retakes are only allowed on the QCF as the learner has to pass all the pass criteria to complete the unit and qualification, so there are NO RETAKES FOR NQF programmes.
Once again the Lead Internal Verifier is the only one who can authorise a retake but the learner must still have met all the deadlines or agreed extensions. This is a straight forward process with a new piece of work set for the pass criteria only. If this work does not pass then there are no further retakes resulting in a fail.
This new system is far more robust and fair which should result in the learner being able to, and having to, think for themselves. It fits well with the vocational model and will reduce ‘coaching’ in the classroom which can result on a learning becoming too dependent and then taking these bad habits into the workplace or higher education.
The new assessment rules will work, but what takes place in the classroom is paramount to the success. The learners have to gain the knowledge base in the teaching phase or the learner will fail to implement the final assessment to the best of their abilities.
This is just an idea I have talked about today which can be adapted and used according to the level and number of students you have, it wouldn’t suit everybody and I am sure there is a lot of excellent teaching practice taking place out there which will see many of our students walk away with high grades.