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Inconsistencies in Marking of SPAN1 Writing

So here we are again.  Results are in and now we begin the arduous task of working out where our students did well and where we need to review teaching and learning to benefit our next cohort.

A few years ago we had some very inconsistent marks for the SPAN2 unit but we made some tweaks to how we prepared students and now our students do very well in this unit.  However, despite making numerous changes to how we prepare students for the writing element of the SPAN1 exam we always end up with the same inconsistencies in marks which make it difficult to know what we are doing wright, or indeed where we are going wrong.

Using eAQA I produced a breakdown of results by question for my students who sat SPAN1.  Several students who have been writing superb essays all year (by that I mean they with a clear coherent structure, lots of original ideas with personal examples to back them up, a range of linguistic structures, sophisticated vocabulary etc…) were awarded low marks for content, whilst other candidates who have difficulty generating relevant ideas let alone expressing them in the target language were getting marks in the top band.  I just don’t understand.  One candidate got over 95% in the listening and reading sections (10 out of 10 for the grammar), 48 out of 50 for the oral, but yet just 70% on the writing.

A few teachers have written to me saying that they have been on numerous AQA courses and followed their advice ‘a rajatabla’, worked with other schools to moderate students’ essays, got back students’ essays from the board to review them as a department and yet they still find the marking inconsistent and don’t know what to do to improve marks. Well … me neither.

One thing which my colleague and I will be doing differently next year is not getting students to write full essays until after Christmas, but rather get them to produce essay plans and write out one point from the plan which we will then mark using the principles of Assessment for Learning.  We are not going to give any grade, but rather comment on the extent to which students have met the criteria and identify three things which need to be improved.  Students will then have time in class to rewrite the paragraph taking on board our comments which will then be remarked by a peer.  This process will continue until the student has an A grade paragraph.  I developed a template for giving AfL feedback which can be found here.

I would be very interested in hearing other teachers’ views of the consistency of marking and any advice you give your students in order to help prepare them effectively for this part of the paper.

Useful Link: SPAN1 Advice for students

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