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Exceptionally Long Read: Teachers responses to the first exams for the 2016 reformed A Level Drama and Theatre qualifications.

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A Level exam – Monday 11th June 2018 and OCR paper 2 – Friday 15th June 2018.

Two surveys were sent out for A Level. The first for the exam day where all boards had a paper being sat. The second was only for OCR centres as they have a second paper on a different day. There were 97 responses to the first survey and 6 responses to the second. As there was a small response to the second survey and the data were collected anonymously, the results have not been included in the analysis, except for the questions which allowed for free text responses. The percentages throughout are rounded figures so may not add up to 100%.

The first question asked which 2016 specification the students completed. 2 responses were removed from the analysis, both of which did not state their chosen exam board.

 AL 2016 exam

AL legacy exam

The legacy specification results are not entirely representative of the entries for the previous specifications. OCR did not offer a Drama A Level, offering performance studies instead, a qualification which was not reformed. There does appear to be more stability at A Level than GCSE. Most of the movement appears at A Level to be away from Pearson.

AL AQA

 

AL Eduqas

AL OCR

AL Pearson

The next 3 questions answered how teachers felt about the exam. The first question asked if the exam was what teachers were expecting. It had 5 options, yes, sort of, not really, no and not seen. 1% of teachers responding had not seen the paper. The responses were more heavily weighted towards the positive options with 51.5% saying yes, and 39.2% saying sort of. 6.2% said not really and 2.1% said no. Broken down to each exam board shows that teachers of all boards were generally positive about the A Level papers.

Exam board

Yes

Sort of

Not really

No

AQA

15 (48%)

16 (52%)

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

Eduqas/WJEC

7 (41%)

6 (35%)

2 (12%)

2 (12%)

OCR

5 (38%)

7 (54%)

1 (8%)

0 (0%)

Pearson

23 (70%)

9 (27%)

1 (3%)

0 (0%)

The next question asked if the exam was similar to the sample papers (SAMs). It had the same 5 options as the previous questions. The responses here were positive with only 5.2% saying no, all Eduqas centres, and 4.1% saying not really. 38.1% said sort of and 50.5% said yes. Broken down to each exam board shows that teachers of AQA and Pearson were a little more positive about the exam than the other two boards.

Exam board

Yes

Sort of

Not really

No

AQA

16 (52%)

15 (48%)

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

Eduqas/WJEC

5 (29%)

7 (41%)

1 (6%)

4 (24%)

OCR

4 (31%)

8 (62%)

1 (8%)

0 (0%)

Pearson

24 (75%)

7 (22%)

1 (3%)

0 (0%)

The last of these questions asked if teachers were happy with the paper. The results here generally mirrored the previous questions. The responses were more heavily weighted towards the positive options with 56.3% saying yes, and 30.2% saying sort of. 10.4% said not really and 2.1% said no, all of which were Eduqas centres.

Exam board

Yes

Sort of

Not really

No

AQA

15 (50%)

13 (43%)

2 (7%)

0 (0%)

Eduqas/WJEC

9 (53%)

4 (24%)

2 (12%)

2 (12%)

OCR

7 (54%)

3 (23%)

3 (23%)

0 (0%)

Pearson

23 (70%)

8 (24%)

2 (6%)

0 (0%)

There were 2 questions in the survey which allowed for text responses. These were:

  • How did your students feel about the paper?
  • Any other comments about the paper?

The comments didn’t have any key themes which spread across all the exam boards. There was one comment which did not relate specifically to the exam and this was not reported. This was about the customer service provided by exam board.

The results to these questions have been broken down by exam board. The proportion of comments mirrors the proportion of teachers who said they were happy or unhappy with the exams. I haven’t commented on the general positive or negative comments which haven’t given any specific details.

AQA responses

On the whole, the comments were generally more on the positive side. The common theme across the comments for AQA was that the students had to write too much for the amount of time available in the exam.

How did your students feel about the paper?

No of responses

Summary of comments

3

Too hard to write what is required of them in the time.

They all needed more time, especially for section B answers

2

The extract in the exam was very long.

2

Three hours is exhausting. Those with extra time were writing for 4.5 hours. They struggled to sustain concentration.

1

Different expectations to exemplar paper

1

Lots were thrown by Antigone Q in section A not asking for 2 moments as this is what the SAMs have all asked for.

1

One question was poorly worded which confused the students

1

Section B metamorphosis – they were not expecting line numbers for the last question.

1

Students were disappointed that live theatre questions did not have options for all design elements.

1

Too much to write for Our Countries Good

Any other comments about the paper?

No of responses

Summary of comments

3

Every question in the SAM and this paper bar one Antigone Q followed a formula as this paper asked for 1 moment, not 2.

2

Poor choice of extract for Our Countries Good and Caucasian Chalk Circle.

1

A lot to cover in the 3 hours.

1

Are set / costume design sketches compulsory for Section B? "Where appropriate" is open to interpretation.

1

Disappointed not to allow annotated texts or live theatre notes.

1

One section the question rubric was very different from the sample material.

1

Section B passages were too long. No guidance on the maximum length provided.

1

We needed more than one specimen paper as a guide for potential questions

Eduqas/WJEC responses

The Eduqas responses were mixed with some positive comments, however, a number of concerns about Section B were raised. There were only a small number of specific comments provided.

How did your students feel about the paper?

No of responses

Summary of comments

2

The quotation used for section B was confusing and left the students confused and/or unsure about their own concepts.

1

The allocation of marks was nothing they had seen before or were expecting

1

Thrown by section c. One configuration, not two, and focus on acting which my clarification with the board said it wouldn’t be as it was different to the CPD.

Any other comments about the paper?

No of responses

Summary of comments

4

Very different to any of the sample assessment materials. Didn't give teachers much chance to help prepare students for the paper. There is a sense of trying to be caught out.

1

I think it needs a separate booklet for the Curious extract. It is very difficult for students to write about the extract when they have to keep flicking back through pages to find the section they want.

1

The emphasis on adding information about Live Theatre was explicit in two, but not three questions.

1

The quote in section B was not mentioned in spec or CPD.

1

The quote used for section B was a bit tricky

OCR responses

The comments reported below include the comments from both surveys which includes the 6 responses for the survey on the second exam paper. The comments were a mix of positive and negative feelings, with specific comments on concerns about the Heroes and Villains theme in paper 1 and the wording of the questions in paper 2.

How did your students feel about the paper?

No of responses

Summary of comments

4

The wording of the questions is an issue and threw some students.

4

They were thrown by the lack of thematic mention in Heroes and Villains, whereas the other questions all linked to the theme clearly.

2

A bit confused and disappointed that the overall directorial vision for the extract wasn't asked.

2

They also were unclear about the term ‘theatrical conventions’ in the live theatre question because it did not mention the idea of being linked to a style. The question was too broad.

Any other comments about the paper?

No of responses

Summary of comments

3

Strange choice of language in some of the phrasing of questions. The wording is an issue.

2

No thematic focus in Heroes and Villains questions

2

Very frustrating that the one phrase the SAM resources indicated would always be in the paper wasn’t there.

1

One scene is too confining for a question

1

The difference themes had very different types of questions and some felt harder than others

1

The Specimen paper and example answer really have not been that helpful

Pearson responses

The responses for Pearson were positive on the whole, with criticisms of the choice of extracts and issues with page numbers for extracts.

How did your students feel about the paper?

No of responses

Summary of comments

5

The students struggled to fit their answers into the time. There wasn’t enough time.

4

Students were thrown by the fact the extract did not have a protagonist in, making it difficult to meet criteria by showing understanding of whole text development of role when characters don't reappear.

Hedda Gabler and Machinal were given as examples.

2

There was a poor choice of extracts.

1

There was some confusion over page numbers for the extract.

Any other comments about the paper?

No of responses

Summary of comments

4

Two different sets of page numbers were confusing. It would be better if the extracts were printed.

The language they used to differentiate between publications was also fairly inaccessible to students and the exemplars didn’t reflect them.

2

The extracts given were the opening of both texts for B and C which was odd.

1

Students were thrown by the choice of extract for Machinal. Seeing as they must refer to the whole play, it was a little strange not to have the protagonist in it.

1

The extract for section B and the choice of keywords were a challenging combination.

1

There is too much for the students to complete in the time given.

Results and changing boards

The other 2 questions asked about results and future cohorts.  The first asked if teachers are expecting good results in August. There were 5 options: yes, maybe, not sure, no and no idea. The majority of teachers were unsure although only 7.2% said no. 21.6% of teachers said yes with 30.9% saying maybe, 23.7% said not sure and 16.5% said no idea. One challenge here is that my question didn’t define what ‘good’ meant. In my mind, this meant that the students would achieve the results that the teacher would have expected for their ability, but this may not be what the respondents understood the question to be.

Broken down by board it shows that teachers are really not sure about their results for any board.

Exam board

Yes

Maybe

Not sure

No

No idea

AQA

2 (6%)

9 (29%)

11 (35%)

4 (13%)

5 (16%)

Eduqas/WJEC

5 (29%)

7 (41%)

4 (24%)

1 (6%)

0 (0%)

OCR

4 (31%)

5 (38%)

2 (15%)

0 (0%)

2 (15%)

Pearson

10 (29%)

8 (24%)

6 (18%)

1 (3%)

9 (26%)

The last question asked whether teachers were planning on changing exam boards. There were 7 options given for this question. They were: yes (decision already made), probably, waiting for results before making a decision, maybe, probably not, definitely not and not my decision.

Response

Responses

Percentage

Yes (decision already made)

3

3.1%

Probably

1

1%

Waiting for results before making a decision

23

23.7%

Maybe

5

5.2%

Probably not

33

34%

Definitely not

31

32%

Not my decision

1

1%

The analysis by exam board shows that there is the potential for some movement between exam boards after results day. Broken down by board this looks like the majority of teachers are planning on sticking with their choice at A Level.

Response

AQA

Eduqas/WJEC

OCR

Pearson

Yes (decision already made)

1 (3%)

1 (6%)

0 (0%)

1 (3%)

Probably

0 (0%)

1 (6%)

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

Waiting for results before making a decision

5 (16%)

4 (24%)

6 (46%)

8 (24%)

Maybe

2 (6%)

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

3 (9%)

Probably not

16 (52%)

3 (18%)

4 (31%)

10 (29%)

Definitely not

7 (26%)

8 (47%)

3 (23%)

11 (32%)

Not my decision

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

1 (3%)

Making the assumptions that the ‘yes’ and ‘probably’ groups do change, the ‘probably not’ and ‘definitely not’ don’t change and 50% of the other groups do decide to change, it means that approximately a third of teachers may be changing specification after the first exam. Breaking that down by board shows how unhappy teachers were with the exams, especially teachers who chose OCR.

Percentage of teachers who may decide to change boards.

AQA

Eduqas/WJEC

OCR

Pearson

14%

24%

23%

19.5%

 

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