Getting started: webinar transcript
Hi, welcome to this online training for the amended FCSE specification, my name is Janet Smith and I will be taking you through this presentation. I have been involved with FCSE since the very start and taught it for many years, I am the chief examiner for French for this specification and I’m also involved with the AQA GCSE specification so can see how the two link together.
This webcast is generic for all languages offered at FCSE, the aim of this training is twofold: to introduce the specification to those of you who have not used it before, and to signpost the changes to those who are familiar with the current specification. There is also a second webcast with French exemplar material which will further illustrate the assessment criteria used when marking speaking and writing assignments. There are also some examples for the new reading translation assignments.
The FCSE is offered in four different languages and can be taken as a full course covering all four skills or as a short course covering two skills, either listening with speaking or reading with writing. Many elements of FCSE have stayed the same, we’ve kept the characteristics that teachers tell us they like but have updated it to reflect the changes that the reformed GCSE has introduced. Those of you who are familiar with FCSE will recognize the many features that we have retained, I hope those of you who are new to it will like what you see.
During this session we will have a look at what the specification entails the content that is included and the assessment criteria for each of the four skills
So what can the FCSE bring to you and your school? It can be used as a stand-alone qualification or run alongside GCSE. It is not aligned with any specific course and can fit easily into any scheme of work. Currently I would say that it is used mostly with KS3 students, frequently in Year 9, and anecdotally can say that it has worked as a motivator to both students who have decided not to continue with a language and also to show students that they can achieve in languages. It prepares students for the new GCSE with an introduction to simple translation and also to role plays.
For me the most important was the motivational aspect. My students were always keen to see how close they were to the next boundary mark and what difference a resit would make. I always used a spreadsheet of marks so they could see where they were up to, where they had achieved their best results and where there was room for improvement. The boys particularly enjoyed the competition (though they would never admit it).
The course is designed so students can take their assignments when they are ready. They have a chance to improve on their scores by resitting or attempting the next level up. We offer assignments at 3 levels: Pass, Merit and Distinction, (linked to the old NC Levels 4, 5 and 6). The students can submit assignments at different levels so can start at Pass, get success then build to the more challenging levels. The assignments are taken under controlled conditions so you can start to prepare them for the rigour of formal exams. Though in the classroom, we always made it very formal with the exams officer talking to them at the start of the course about rules and regulations and also the penalties if they transgressed. The formality of external exams can come as quite a shock to some students so this helped them to prepare.
So what about the benefits for teachers? Submission date is in May so even if the students have decided not to continue with languages they have a reason to keep going. All students can achieve success if the appropriate level is targeted and nothing motivates like success. FCSE is really flexible and will fit in with whateveryou are doing at the moment in your own school.
At the moment we have primary school candidates and also adult learners. I would say not only that you can look at the assignments but that you should look at the assignments before giving them to your students. This will help you decide which unit and theme to do and also inform the vocabulary and structures that you teach. All units are available on e-AQA . I am sure you all have access but if you don't your Exams Officer can get you registered. I used to get my students to vote on the units they wanted to do. I could usually predict what they would choose but then it was their decision, not mine. The results from the assignments can also give you valuable data to show the progress of your students.
FCSE remains a portfolio based qualification but there are new elements in the Reading, Speaking and Writing that reflect the changes in the GCSE requirements. Reading now has a translation element from the target language into English. Speaking has a role play and Writing has a translation element from English into the target language. We will have a look at these in more detail as we look at each skill. Each of the skills has equal weighting. For the internally set Speaking and Writing assignments most schools use the exemplar material that we provide in e-AQA.
There are a total of 8 units but you need only complete 3 to form the portfolio. There are two sets of assignments for the Listening, Reading, and Writing, and three sets for Speaking so you can choose the assignments that suit your students the best. It doesn't matter which task, C or D, you use initially or which one you use for a resit opportunity. There is an example of a complete portfolio on pages 20 and 21 of the specification. These elements of FCSE mean that it is very flexible so that it can be moulded to your specific requirements. We can see the available material on the next slide.
This slide shows the assessment material that is available. Students may include any combination of the different sets as long as the overall requirements are met. We will talk about what that means a little later. We can see the themes and units that are available on the next slide. These are available as Sets C, D and E.
As I said I used to get my students to vote on the unit in each theme they wanted and then disregard the least popular one at the end. This gave them more ownership and less imposition. You can usually get them to choose the ones that you want by what you say. You might want to choose different areas that you have not covered before or you might want to revisit work that you have already covered in Years 7 and 8, if you are doing the FCSE in Year 9. Or you might want to run it alongside what you do in KS4 if that is when you are teaching it. It is really flexible and will fulfil all of those requirements.
Let's have a look at the different skills now. Students complete the Listening and Reading assignments under supervised conditions, but this does not mean formal exam conditions. They can be completed within a classroom situation but the teacher must ensure that the work completed is that of the individual student. The assignments can be attempted in any order. You might wish to start with a Pass assignment and work through the more challenging ones, or with a more able group start with a Merit. You know your students best and can access the assignments at any time so are able to choose the most appropriate for your students. Although the assignments are easy to mark, the teacher must mark them rather than the student. The final portfolio can be made up of a mixture of levels so students can compensate for a weaker performance in one skill with a stronger performance in another. Similarly across the 3 different units.
The Listening tasks remain the same but we have amended the Reading to reflect the reformed GCSE and now include a translation element. The translations themselves will be brief and will be marked for communication. Each task will consist of one sentence, with different vocabulary and structures providing the increased challenge.
Let's move onto the Speaking with some general points. Each of the Speaking assignments is constructed to include at least one opinion. The different levels include prompts for one, two or three time frames. Notice that we talk about time frames rather than tenses so things like demain je vais en ville would count as a future time frame. Only one unambiguous example of a time frame or opinion is needed to access the more challenging levels but students should be encouraged to have more than one attempt in case they are not successful in their only attempt. The inclusion of different time frames has a big impact on the marks awarded.
Supervised conditions does not mean that the students have to be directly supervised during the recording but the teacher must be able to authenticate the work as the student's own. Possibilities for this could include students recording in an adjacent room or supervision by someone other than the teacher. Although only one Speaking assignment has to be recorded and submitted I always recorded all of them as I found them easier to mark that way. Other colleagues found they could supervise and mark the tests at the same time so didn't record all of them. You can do whatever is best for you as long as the student has one recorded assignment to submit in their portfolio and you are confident about your marking. We include a speaking record form on the Candidate Record Form which should be completed for each assignment and makes the marking quite straightforward.
Let's have a look at the Speaking that has stayed the same. Students still produce what we call internally set assignments though most centres use the exemplar tasks set by AQA. You can produce your own or amend the AQA ones but if you do so, make sure that they offer the students opportunities to produce opinions and a variety of different time frames. They should not be a replica of the material that they have produced for their written assignments. Assessment Advisers are available for advice if you want to produce your own. Your Exams Officer will have their contact details. Dictionaries are allowed in the preparation of the speaking assignments.
We are not prescriptive about how you produce the outcomes for these assignments . They can be a monologue, an interview or a conversation. I tended to do an interview as the questions asked can often remind the students of the answers that are needed. These tasks can be prepared in class and practised before doing the actual recording. Although the students are allowed the 10 words I tended not to use them as the more able students could complete the assignments without them and the least able just tended to read out the 10 words and think they had completed the task. It is however entirely up to you, you know your students best and how to get the most out of them. The words are available if you wish to use them. The students are allowed 2 attempts at these internally set assignments.
So what's new? This addition reflects the changes in the GCSE though we have written the prompts in English as a starting point for the students. The task is unseen however sentences similar to those included in the role-play can, and should, be practised by the students as part of their normal teaching and/or homework. Students may prepare notes as for the internally set assignments ie 10 words but these must be done under supervision immediately prior to the task being assessed. When they complete the task though they may of course have the task sheet. The task is prescriptive and should not be changed in any way though teachers are free to use their own wording in the questions to elicit the appropriate response from the student. Tu t'appelles comment ? Comment tu t'appelles ? Comment t'appelles-tu ? are all equally acceptable. Use the structures that the students are used to.
Let's have a look at the assessment criteria. This assessment criteria applies to both the externally and internally set assignments. Marks are awarded for communication without ambiguity which means that the information doesn't have to be 100% accurate but the teacher must act as a sympathetic speaker of the language not a sympathetic teacher who knows what the student is trying to say, sometimes unsuccessfully. Repetition of the verb will not count unless it is used in a different context for example if it answers a different question. Let's take an example from Unit 4 Leisure - je joue au tennis, je joue au football, je joue au rugby would only count as one piece of information whereas in Unit 3 Holidays je vais en France, je vais avec ma famille, je vais en hiver answer where, who with, when and would therefore score 3 details. When marking the piece, Pass, Merit or Distinction should be determined first of all, depending on the number of time-frames that the student has successfully communicated. The number of items of information should then be totalled and a mark awarded following the table above . Each response from the student must contain an appropriate verb in order to be credited as an item of information. The inclusion of time frames is very important, the difference between 10 and 30 points, which is why we suggest students always make a couple of attempts. It is important that there is internal standardisation within the centre if more than one teacher is involved in the assessment of the assignments before the final marks are submitted.
Let's move onto the writing though much of the general information about Writing follows the same pattern as that of the Speaking so I will just give you a moment to read through this information.
Again this is very similar information to the internally set Speaking assignments although for Writing only one attempt is allowed. The final bullet point is important though. The tasks are marked for communication with no penalty for brevity as long as the each outcome is successfully achieved.
As with the Speaking students are allowed to practise for these internally set assignments. When the students write their final version, as well as the 10 words, students can also have access to dictionaries but I found that this often caused more problems than it solved but again it is entirely up to you.
The new element for Writing again reflects the changes in the GCSE. The task is unseen however information similar to that included in the translation can, and should, be practised by the students as part of their normal teaching and/or homework but they should not see the actual task before completing it under supervised conditions. Students should have no reference material or notes in front of them when they complete the task though they may of course have the task sheet. The task is prescriptive and should not be changed in any way.
Although students enjoy using IT, I find it can lead to problems. As the Writing does not have to be 100% accurate and it is marked for communication only it may not have an impact but the last bullet point on this slide is important. Once again it is up to you.
The Writing assessment criteria then. This assessment criteria applies to both the externally and internally set assignments. Marks are awarded for communication without ambiguity which means that the information doesn't have to be 100% accurate. Use of a time indicator such as demain or hier may well make all the difference. For eg j'ai regarde is not really clear as to when this activity happened but hier j'ai regarde does. As with the speaking repetition of the verb will not count unless it is used in a different context such as answering a different question. When marking a level should be determined first of all, just as in the Speaking, depending on the number of time frames that the student has successfully communicated. The number of items of information should then be totalled and a mark awarded following the table. Each response from the student must contain an appropriate verb in order to be credited as an item of information. The inclusion of time frames is once again very important, the difference between 10 and 30 points, which is why we suggest students always make a couple of attempts. As with the Speaking it is important that there is internal standardisation.
It is important that for the Listening and Reading each response in annotated. With regards to the Writing the piece should not be corrected but it is useful to the moderator if the piece is annotated with information as to where details have been awarded. O for opinion, F and Pa for the time frames and the number of details credited. I always collated the marks and completed the Candidate Record Form as I completed a unit so that it was not a big job at the end.
So what is a portfolio of work? The Candidate Record Form also now includes the Speaking Record Form. I always filled this out at the start of the course and made the students sign them then. This meant absenteeism at the end didn't cause a problem with getting the signature. We always went through the Declaration at the start of the course so the students knew what was expected of them and what was acceptable. I then filled out the marks achieved as we went along, doing all of them at the end can be quite daunting. It is helpful to the moderator if the portfolio is presented in a logical way. The CRF should be at the start of the portfolio and then the assignments arranged in unit order. The portfolio should not include all the work completed by the student, only the highest scoring piece in each skill. Students are not required to provide evidence for all outcomes to achieve an award but they should be encouraged to complete as much as possible as the final award is an aggregate of the marks achieved. The recordings for all the students in the cohort can be presented on one CD or USB but it must be accompanied by a track list so it is easy for the moderator to access a particular student's work.
Let's look at the key dates then. The new specification is the only one which should be started from September 2017, but students who have already started the legacy FCSE course may complete it. Should you wish to design your own internally set assignments your assessment adviser will be available. These details will be sent to your Examination Officer in September. As with other specifications entries should be made in the February of the year that the portfolio is submitted. The first award of the new specification will be in summer 2018.
If you require any further information there are a number of documents available on the website. The updated specification is available on the AQA website via the Languages FCSE page as will be the Frequently asked questions document. There will also a document called a Practical Guide which gives ideas and suggestions for delivering this specification. Other documents may be added so it is worth keeping an eye on them. There is also an accompanying webcast to this presentation that shows exemplar material for the translation tasks for Reading and both the externally and internally set tasks for Speaking and Writing. The commentary for this webcast illustrates the main assessment points for marking these skills.
If you have further queries please contact the languages team at AQA using the details here.
We have now come to the end of this webcast. Thank you for taking the time to listen and I hope we have given you some food for thought about this updated specification.