A-Level reform, minutes from AGM

SCUDD AGM, Aberystwyth University
Friday 11th April 2014

A-Level Reform:

  • The Chair handed over to Mark Taylor-Batty to lead this item on the agenda as Mark kindly attended the consultation meeting on behalf of the SCUDD Executive on 31 March 2014. Other SCUDD members who were also present.
  • Drama A-Levels reforms take effect from 2016. The consultation meeting took place in this context.
  • The issue of ‘non-exams’: the use of such negative vocabulary in the documentation to describe all forms of assessment that are not formal, sit-down written exams is problematic. Mark Taylor-Batty noted that since very few HEIs offering degrees in our disciplines use such exams, their implementation at A-Levels is doubtful.
  • He requested the membership to send him responses by Monday 14th April evening so he could collate them, and send an official submission by Tuesday morning.
  • Ian Brown suggested we carefully consider the underlying set of skills and understanding that are assessed in practical modes, and stated that we should be careful not to suggest / overstate that everything in Drama can be assessed through practice.
  • Pedro de Senna said that we must also remember that we are being presented with a binary between exam and performance and that there are many other assessment options which we must argue for, under the non-exam category.
  • Mark Taylor-Batty confirmed that if we look at our discipline as embodied knowledge, then we cannot assess it through an exam route.
  • Steve Fisher stated that performance is culmination of process and asked if the underlying idea here is that A-Levels should be made more ‘scary’ by an emphasis on the written in order to push practice into B-Tec, thus creating a bigger gap between A-Levels and B-Tecs.
  • Mark Taylor-Batty confirmed that in his opinion drama is still being seen as a play, a literary artefact to be studied, and there is little recognition of drama as an embodied practice.
  • John Bennett raised concerns that exams would not allow the assessment of collaborative group-work, which is important to our discipline.
  • Pedro de Senna noted that we need to make a distinction between writing an exam and writing in other forms and that we need to be careful not to argue our case so far that we come across as being opposed to writing altogether.
  • Ian Brown noted that because education ministers responsible for reform come through private schooling they cannot think beyond exams.
  • Tom Maguire stated that we are not just teaching students to be creative practitioners but also critical thinkers. We want students to think and not just to know.
  • The Chair wrapped up this discussion by requesting members to formalise their thoughts and send Mark Taylor-Batty responses by Monday.