Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression
The focus of activities was scanning for evidence and summarising it accurately. Despite being lower-order skills, these can be a significant barrier to obtaining a grade 4. They are important skills, tested explicitly in the GCSE exams and also underpinning all reading questions.
Starting Points: Data from June Exams
Across the two exam papers, three questions explicitly test the ability to scan, retrieve and summarise. In the June 2019 exams, Student A had a 45% success rate in these questions, while Student B had a 73% success rate. They were flagged as Amber on their Academic Tracker for these skills.
Learners were given a series of biographies of athletes and asked to scan for specific information, highlight it and summarise it in a grid. This was then assessed using a progress assessment sheet using student-friendly versions of the Skills Tracker RAG-rated descriptors. Student A made significant progress from Amber to Green in scanning and interpreting explicit information. Student B significantly improved their scanning and summarising skills, moving into Green. It became apparent that both students did not always use a highlighter for identifying important information. This was flagged to each learner as an area of improvement.
In Sport lessons, students read an article on progression to university and scanned for specific information before summarizing it. Student A again demonstrated improved levels of skill (in the Green band). Student B retained Green performance. Both learners acted on feedback from the contextualisation phase to improve their use of a highlighter. The fact that they both implemented this in the embedding phase showed the transfer of skills across lessons. Lecturers noted a significant improvement in knowledge retention and recall.
Outcome: Data from November Exams
An analysis of the November GCSE showed the impact of the project. Student A showed a significantly improved success rate in the scan/select/summarise questions from 45% to 73% (a 28% increase). Indeed, in the second paper they scored 100% for those questions. Overall, performance had improved in both reading elements. The biggest gains were made in non-fiction. This might suggest that the use of vocationally-relevant non-fiction was effective for this learner.
Student B increased their success rate in the scan/summarise questions from 73% to 91% (an improvement of 18%), showing a clear progression in those questions on both papers (100% in the second paper). There was an improved performance in other reading questions, especially fiction texts.
Student reflection on the Project Activities
Learners’ reflections on embedding and contextualising were interesting. In regards to contextualisation in English, student A stated that this task, linked to a Sports context, would help them when attempting a purely English-based piece of work. They said they would think back on this activity when doing English. They enjoyed the link being made between a sports topic and English skills. When asked about how they felt about the contextualisation phase of the project student B said: “I’m not interested in the idea of vocational relevance – I just want to be taught well and taught the skills that are explicit to English in an English context only.” Both students said that they might have enjoyed the first phase more had they been asked what sporting topic they would like to cover.
Both student A and B said that they enjoyed the ‘embedded’ lesson with their vocational lecturer, and felt that it had much a stronger resonance with them. They were more motivated because the work was linked to an assignment and they could see its relevance. Despite one being more enthusiastic than the other, the perception of both was that the project has, on the whole, improved their confidence and their skills. They saw a marked improvement in the quality of the work they produced and this was reflected in the exam data.