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.