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Sharing Best PracticeFollowing an analysis of trial exam responses from Year 11 students, staff have come up with suggestions for DIRT (Directed Improvement and Reflection Time) activities that spotlight an individual's weaker areas in order for them to focus on improvement...

A scrutiny of student responses to a range of short, medium and extended style questions was carried out following the Year 11 trial exams. Key weaknesses were identified across all the subjects within the scrutiny and these areas have been identified below. Staff have suggested some useful DIRT activities that would be helpful in drawing students' attention to these areas.

Students not understanding the requirement/s of the question.

DIRT activity?

Analysis of a range of questions - can students define the following 'instruction' words:

  • Analyse
  • Assess
  • Criticise, etc.

Student responses contain too much irrelevant / narrative material.

Many struggle to get to the point and write a significant amount of text that actually fails to attract any marks because it is just 'preamble'.

DIRT activity?

Highlight the sections that are actually achieving marks. Compare the amount of text that is credit worthy to the amount dedicated to preamble. Re-write using 40-50% less text.

Students display a limited use of vocabulary.

The best responses are always spot on with the appropriate use of vocabulary that adds a level of sophistication and precision to the answer. Other students tend to repeat themselves, sounding overly casual and too simplistic.

DIRT activity?

Use exemplar answers. Students highlight the key vocab and build up a vocab list for their own use. Re-write one answer using new vocab to add detail / more authority to the response. Peer-assess the outcomes.

Students struggle with flexibility / adaptability.

"It isn't like the one we did in class!" Some students were finding it hard to adapt knowledge to questions that were phrased differently. Some students actually produced responses to the questions that they had seen before - that seemed in some way 'connected' (!)

DIRT activity?

Use questions from other exam boards to discuss. Link the 'instruction word' DIRT activity with this one - how does the question change when it is re-phrased?

More sophisticated responses demonstrated an awareness of audience / writing style / tone / professional context, etc.

DIRT activity?

Look at examples of professional reports / reviews, etc. Consider tone / awareness of audience, etc. Apply understanding to own work.

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