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I’ve been a teacher, an examiner and a moderator for a number of years for both English and history courses across a range of levels including GCSE, A Level and Adult Access to HE, so I’ve had to get to grips with a breadth of specifications and assessment types. In order to really get a handle on new specifications, the most valuable CPD that I’ve undertaken has been becoming an assessor and looking back, the benefits have been more wide ranging than I could have anticipated.
The most obvious benefit from working as an examiner is the insight I’ve gained straight from the horse’s mouth (that is, the principal examiner's!) into how to consistently and accurately apply the mark scheme and into appreciating the nuances between awarding marks within a band. The rationales provided on standardisation material, the dialogue at standardisation events, and the on-going one to one support from highly motivated and successful team leaders, all act as a fantastic toolkit from which to make judgements. I’ve gained greater confidence in my ability to mark accurately and in dealing with unusual responses. I’ve had access to real experts and I’ve become really confident in my ability to assess accurately.
Since I became an examiner, my teaching has become more focused. The insights I’ve gained into the underpinning ethos of the specifications have helped me better prepare my learners for their final assessments, both in terms of the teaching and learning journey, and the specific assessment objectives. Not only that, but I shamelessly magpie the excellent insights into texts that candidates discuss in their responses, which I know have not occurred to me or my learners. I feel excited when I witness a candidate response which provides a fresh look at the text and this often rejuvenates my delivery.
I gain an insight into the spectacular teaching input that is evidenced in learners’ responses – and I seek to apply the implied teaching approach in future teaching delivery. Assessing the full range of course options (whether that’s set texts, or different subject content) has opened my eyes to the different ways I can structure courses to best meet the needs of my learners, and sometimes the high quality of responses candidates produce on texts, has prompted me to consider texts that I might not otherwise have taught.
I have always enjoyed sharing teaching experiences with other colleagues and I’ve found assessing provides valuable access to friendly and motivated professionals from a range of teaching contexts, from whom I can gain excellent insights. I know many of those I assess with also enjoy the networking opportunities that are promoted within the assessment world and at OCR assessors have the opportunity to subscribe to the dedicated online social community hosted on Yammer.
In my teaching context, promotion opportunities were limited and this was part of the reason I looked for alternative challenges in the world of assessment. I have found that in working as an examiner I developed new skills and gained recognition in another field. There are some fantastic opportunities to pursue various avenues within assessment, and I’ve learnt to be more broadly ambitious in terms of what I want to achieve professionally. In fact, my first formal leadership role was as an examiner Team Leader, and I found being part of the senior assessment team incredibly rewarding. Indeed, this experience eventually aided me in gaining a promotion in my 'day job' because I was able to evidence that I had many of the skills required to take on a leadership role within my institution.
Oh, and there is also the benefit of a bit of extra money to spend on a summer holiday…
Well, with the move to new specifications across the curriculum, there are lots of new opportunities for assessment specialists (both examiners and moderators). It is also fair to say that many teachers are experiencing some unease, questioning where the new grade boundaries are likely to sit, and how to best prepare learners within linear specifications and for mostly examined assessments. I would encourage anyone in this context to become an examiner. I appreciate it can be hard to find the time and sometimes even the energy, but for a little over a month of extra work, there is so much more to be gained. As an OCR assessment specialist you will be well looked after, meet some fascinating and inspiring educators and engage more closely with our exciting and innovative specifications – so why not go for it?
Examining and moderating candidate scripts has genuinely been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career, and I feel privileged to have been part of the process of awarding (and rewarding) learners with their grade at the end of their academic course. I hope those of you who do join up to be an examiner in the coming, or future, series gain as much out of the role as I have. For further information on becoming an examiner, please visit the OCR Examiners and Assessors webpage.
Alana Stewart - Subject Specialist - English and Creative
Alana joined OCR as a subject specialist (maternity cover) in the English and Creative team in February 2016. Alana is responsible for GCE English Literature legacy and new specifications, and works on the commissioning of new resources and CPD events for these qualifications. Alana contributes to the OCR English twitter account and shall regularly blog on all things literature.
Prior to working at OCR, Alana was an English and History teacher at a college in the North of England. Alana has taught English and History on GCSE, A Level and Adult Access courses. Alana is also an experienced moderator and examiner, having marked for a range of exam boards, including OCR.
As a teacher, Alana admits that she did not have a lot of spare time, but is looking forward to finding out how she can fill her new leisure time. She is a keen reader, enjoys painting and drawing, and wants to learn how to use a sewing machine.