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In part one of this blog I talked about my arrival at a centre, initial discussions, and how teachers make judgements about students’ competence. Part two is all about what I’m looking for when I observe a practical lesson and check records.
Once we have had a chat about the centre’s approach to the Practical Endorsement, depending on the outline for the day we might next observe a practical lesson. Once in the lesson, it is great to be introduced to students. It’s also good to share what we are there for (for both the teacher and students) and that we are not inspectors! I go around the room to look at students using practical equipment and talk to them about their practical work and what they are doing. Often I see students very involved, but when working in groups there is a tendency for not all students to be ‘making and recording measurements/observations’. Also I find students working on scraps of paper or in rough as they want their lab records to be neat. I often discuss with students the purpose of the lab book: it should be a working document and a direct record of their practical work, and is allowed to be messy.
I make notes on what I see students do, and afterwards see if the teacher has made observations and judgements of students’ competences that approximately match what I have seen. We talk about where students have or haven’t shown competence in the skills assessed in the activity and often teachers pick up on the same things I do. Occasionally teachers are then unsure how that translates to the “achieved” or “not achieved” for each strand, so we have a chat and use examples to inform the assessment. Teachers find this bit very useful as it puts the general requirements in the context of the students they actually teach every day.
The records are checked with the teacher, or if they have other lessons I will go through the records and give them feedback afterwards. The student work is sampled along with the teachers’ records. I have seen many different approaches to teacher records ranging from grids to their own databases or spreadsheets, but mostly teachers have gone with the OCR PAG tracker. A monitor will expect teacher records to be an accurate reflection of students’ competence and this is likely to show some form of progression rather than have all skills met at the same time or having ‘passed’ each task. I check the teacher records against student work to confirm that work has been done, and check what sort of records students have kept. If I find anything that is worthy of discussing I usually stick a small sticky tab on it.
After the sampling I like to talk to the teachers about the work and use the examples I have put labels on to highlight any trends. The key thing is that the feedback is supportive and that teachers use this to inform the assessment from the visit onwards, rather than trawling through the old work and changing everything! Only rarely have we judged that it would be better to pay another visit to see if record-keeping has improved. I often find that teachers react well to the feedback and I am happy that they can make the necessary adjustments to their assessment or record-keeping strategy.
The most essential part of the visit is the one-to-one advice and support. Also valuable is showing teachers the wealth of resources that OCR actually have on our website, and talking about the network meetings and CPD events we run. Teachers are often quite in the dark about how much we have on our website, and it’s not all about the specification and past papers! I often have a chat with the whole science team and answer many questions. Upon departure I feel like I have met a variety of enthusiastic, experienced professionals that have valued having someone coming in to their classroom with the view to support and share and discuss best practice rather than just to inspect, judge, criticise and scarper.
If you’re a lead teacher for one of the science A Levels, you a required to complete the Practical Endorsement standardisation training to ensure you are aware of all the requirements for this assessment. Other useful resources to help you plan and run the Practical Endorsement are the Practical Skills Handbooks, information videos and FAQs – find all of these resources through our Positive About Practical page.
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Lead monitor for the Practical Endorsement