New Millennium New Syllabuses: Choosing and Using the Post-Dearing Year 2000 AS/AL Specifications

By Hodkinson, Steve | Teaching Business & Economics, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

New Millennium New Syllabuses: Choosing and Using the Post-Dearing Year 2000 AS/AL Specifications


Hodkinson, Steve, Teaching Business & Economics


ABSTRACT

The imminent arrival of new AS/AL specifications (syllabuses to you and me) in business studies and economics from Awarding Bodies means that choices have to made about which to adopt and how best to make use of the material they provide. This article briefly discusses the government approved QCA/ ACCAC/CCEA Subject Criteria for Economics and for Business Studies (1998) which govern the new syllabuses. Factors which might usefully be taken into account when making choices between specifications are identified and discussed. Ideas for developing the use of syllabus information to enhance student learning are proposed and related to recent research in assessment.

It seems an age ago since Sir (now Lord) Ron Dearing reported on his Review of the Post-16 Qualifications Framework (1996) and promised what looked like a radical change in some aspects of post-16 education. Unravelling the recommendations and turning some of them into workable changes has taken time but at last we are going to see some of the outcomes which affect teachers and students at Advanced Level. New GNVQ specifications with three as well as six and twelve unit awards are almost with us as is the revised Key Skills certification. Examination Boards have been transformed into federal Awarding Bodies with peculiar acronyms and the merger of NCVQ and SCAA has spawned the QCA in a refurbished MI5 building on London's Piccadilly.

But enough of the pleasantries...this article is about the GCE AS/AL changes that will be introduced from September 2000. Its focus is on making the best use of what is provided by the Awarding Bodies both to select a syllabus and to help students to learn in what for them is a crucial transitional period between 'schooling' and higher education and the workplace. In order to aid and progress the discussion I have selected a number of what I term "Drivers" factors that need to be taken into account and analysed. Some relate to the institutional context in which the particular syllabus will be taught; others to the clues that are offered in the syllabus material about teaching, learning and assessment; and others to the need to think carefully about how best to interact with the students themselves. First, however, let's briefly explore the new regime in which the syllabuses are being developed.

NEW A LEVEL CRITERIA

GCSE subject and general criteria have been with us for quite a long time but it is only now that the principles involved have been extended to GCE. Gone is the concept of a `subject core', in effect representing AS level in economics and in business studies. In its place are subject criteria for each of the two subjects and other criteria which are common to all AS/AL subjects.Together these prescribe the requirements for new syllabuses.

GENERAL CRITERIA

Features of the common criteria mean that the new syllabuses will have:

a full A level which comprises an AS (50%) and an A2 (50%) with the AS standard pitched at a level equivalent to what might be achieved half way through a full course and the overall A Level standard as now;

three assessment units for each of AS and A2 with normally no more than 30% internal assessment and a mandatory 15% synoptic assessment set mainly in the A2 components;

a five grade scale (A-E) for both AS and the full A level;

assessment units available to be taken at staged points during the full course or at the end;

very clear statements in relation to Key Skills opportunities and assessment for the specific subject.

There are clear implications in that all syllabuses will now be able to be regarded as modular in the sense that students will be able to accumulate assessment units as they progress through. Students who wait until the end of a full A level course to sit all units, will find themselves taking examinations pitched at two different standards, AS and A2 a strange quirk of the new arrangements. …

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