May 2014 Results!
Thursday 14 August 2014
Reflections and Resolutions
Each year I am required to write a report on the IB Mathematics results and, although I am still in holiday mode, I am beginning to think about what I will write this year. Obviously I wont publish confidential results here on this blog, but rather some related reflections. The end of one school year and the start of a new year offer great opportunities for reflection, resolution and new starts!the following are just some thoughts related to the teaching of IB Maths Studies that I have had following the results of the last class.
I am a great advocate of not worrying too much about what moderations have been made to your IA marks. The system is such that this is beyond our control. If we have done our best to think about and interpret the criteria as fairly as possible and then justify why we did so then that is the best we can do. Sometimes the sample will be simple and representative and sometimes it wont. Sometimes our moderator will agree with us but theirs wont and so on. That said, it is reassuring when your grades are not changed at all which is what happened this year! I have marked up, marked down and both in the same year, but only twice have all of my marks been unchanged. It seems funny to me that the first time was my very first year teaching IB Maths Studies and the second the first run through of a new syllabus! Anyway, I would be citing the system if my marks had been moved and so I will put this down to laws of probability as much as my efforts. I did write these two posts about IA whilst marking this year if that is of interest to anyone....
I think one of the most important indicators for results is how close your results were to the predicted grades we gave to IB earlier in the year. Sure, there are lots of 50/50 students and some of us go for optimism and some are more cautious and you must bear this in mind as we interpret the correlation. This year I over predicted by an average of half a grade. Although I am self confessed optimist this is unusually high for me and so it has been quite a point for reflection for me. Without going in to details about the class in question I have been asking myself the following questions.....
- Did my class, in general, react in the same way as other classes to the mounting pressure of impending exam?
- Did I do anything particularly differently from previous years throughout the course?
- What impact has the new syllabus possibly had on my ability to predict?
I have answered the first two questions for myself and drawn some useful conclusions. The third is, however, harder to answer and one I will be thinking about a lot this year as I prepare the next class for exams. As author of this site and a workshop leader for Maths Studies I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the subtle changes to the syllabus, trying hard to make sure I covered them all. After the exam and before completing the G2 form in May I did do the papers myself and have published the written solutions here. As I did the paper I did find myself identifying a number of questions I thought my students would find difficult, but did not conclude that they were particularly difficult in comparison to previous years, although I have made a note to check again as term starts. What I did conclude was that still, students are required to take their understanding of mathematical ideas and apply it to less familiar contexts, even on this course. As produce more 'exam style questions' I will bear this in mind.
Implications for teaching
This is the most important part - what might I do differently as a result?
I took the decision to get my IB1 class through their IA already while I was thinking about so much during moderation. I think I will repeat this for the new IB1 class. This will have the added benefit of allowing a bit more time to do some more exam preparation with classes in the IB2 year.
Pedagogy Vs passing exams - this is the raging debate in education and fascinating one. As day to day teachers we are the ones that have to walk this line. I have always justified an emphasis on 'thinking skills, discovery and exploration' in mathematics teaching by saying that exam results should be a symptom of what we do not the goal. I stand by this and the philosophy that education and in particular maths education, is about so much more than passing exams. It is always worth stopping to check though - if the symptoms stop appearing then there is a problem. I remain certain that the emphasis must remain on sound educational experiences, but having over predicted this year, I am checking myself by thinking about some ways to help students be better prepared for exams.
Anyway I really enjoy the time and space to have these reflections and am looking forward to a few more in the weeks before the new term starts for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.