I haven’t posted in a month which is, by far, the longest gap between posts on this blog since its birth in 2018. A big reason for this is the exam season of 2022; for the first time since 2019, A-level students faced rigid external examinations. And so, why not a short post outlining some of my current reflections on the whole period?
Firstly, young people have much more resilience then they are often given credit for. At the start of the exam period myself and other teachers were worried about their mental state in facing a series of tests, particularly due to the impact of Covid and their lack of exam-practice. Sure, mocks and other assessments are regularly held throughout the academic year, but this simply cannot compare to the mental strength needed for an official external exam. However, I found that students faced the challenge and overcame their (and our) fears. They grew during the period and demonstrated that Covid and lockdowns had not meant they were a failed or forgotten generation.
Secondly, I think I have forgotten how to get the best out of students in the revision period. This was usually my most engaging time: students would step things up a gear, and for some things finally fell into place. However, I have definitely become stale since not being fully utilised in this manner since 2019. I’m now considering how I can look at things differently – and more effectively – for revision in 2023. This will include different activities, other perspectives, and the use of more engaging games.
Thirdly, the advanced notice information provided was incredibly useful. A-level students normally have to remember every single thing that has happened in a two-year programme, just on the off-chance that a small topic features in an exam. However, the advanced information allowed students to focus on quality rather than quantity. It is a feature that should be retained in future years (but no doubt will not).
This leads me onto the fourth and final point: A-level exams and A-levels as a whole are in need of a strong overhaul. They are simply not suitable for the 21st century due to the onus placed on remembering information; this does not fit any workplace or higher education setting in the year 2022. So much could be gained by scrapping these types of exams in favour of other types of assessments (such as more coursework, presentations, and other assignments that utilise digital technology). Not only would young people develop a wider range of skills, it would also eliminate the anxiety of so much riding on one paper taken over 2 hours.
Of course, A-levels will not be reformed in this more holistic and supportive manner any time soon. Little trust is provided to teachers to make informed decisions about students’ grades, and the ridiculous grade inflation that some sixth forms and colleges participated in 2020 and 2021 underlines this. However, this doesn’t change the fact that A-level exams – and much of the specification material – remains as it did back in the 1950s, stuck in a stagnant time-loop. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t take part in some wishful thinking.
And now I – and everyone else – must wait until Thursday 18th August to find out the results to these exams. For the meantime I will enjoy having some headspace again and will now turn my attention to planning out a scheme of learning for 2022-23. I want to be at 100% for the exams of 2023.