Will anyone lament its passing?



A Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) report back in 2006  said that  coursework “does not fulfil its stated purpose” in an age of league tables and targets.  Amid concerns about cheating, maths coursework was scrapped  the following year   and  it is being phased out in more subjects. When   they were asked in 2006, in  contrast with all other subjects, a substantial majority of mathematics teachers (66%) disagreed with the proposition that coursework was valid and reliable,” the QCA found .This academic  year there will be even less coursework  on offer in modules .

Coursework has long been contentious because it has always been difficult to authenticate pupils work. Is it their own work, or have they colluded with others including their peers, parents or even teachers to secure a good grade? They can  present several drafts of their work   to their teacher before it is finally submitted  for assessment. One teacher recently told me he has never had a pupil who got less than an A grade in coursework. One wonders how many drafts his pupils have to submit to him-before they reach an A grade? Doesn’t that rather defeat the purpose of coursework?  Plaigiarism using the internet has been a growing problem too. Coursework  is doubly unfair on the most disadvantaged pupils. First, because they are less likely to get meaningful parental support, and secondly many   of them will not have easy out of school access to the internet. Chris Keates, was right when she said “Children from advantaged backgrounds have always had access to resources and opportunities to support coursework research denied to disadvantaged children,”

 According to a recent report coursework favours girls as boys are said to prefer the exam format. Teachers, despite guidance, have different interpretations of how much support they can give their pupils, not just between schools but within schools, which can lead to inequitable outcomes.

Many teachers actually quite like coursework because they believe it to be   less susceptible to rogue marking. They grade the work and a sample is mediated by the respective Board. Grades though can, of course, be mediated up or down.. But  if things go wrong for pupils seeking a re-mark for coursework  it is a nightmare.

Generally, it is not possible to have individual coursework entries re-marked. So if you get a poor grade in coursework you are stuck with it – there are no comebacks. It is only possible to have the entire schools batch re-moderated by the Board. Submitting the whole batch for a re-moderation would be speculative only and  could jeopardise the results of all the other pupils.   And  this  cant be  done, in any  case ,without  the written permission from all  the pupils concerned , an unlikely proposition.  So in short, while you can generally retake  for instance a normal   A level  module either in January or June(unless the module is at the end of its shelf  life) you cant  secure a re-mark for coursework that has not  secured the expected grade.  You will find that most parents don’t know this.

 It is arguable  that effectively  removing this right of appeal in coursework, when it is available for other modules, is not fair on pupils.

But the most damaging charge against coursework is that it is difficult to authenticate and to prove that it is exclusively the work of the pupil who submitted it. So we shouldn’t lament the passing of most coursework into history.


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