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Year 12 Biology 2.2 Internal - a different approach

As part of an initiative to try and increase engagement and achievement in Year 12 Biology, we decided to try something different.

Annually we take a trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island to gather data for 2.4 and 2.2 Internal assessments.  For the 2.2, in the past we have required students to gather their information, have it checked out and then write up a report under exam conditions.

This year, we moved away from this and encouraged students to present their information in a video presentation, website or newspaper front page.

 

After following the two usual checkpoints, we made the journey over to the island.  We met students at the Ferry, whereas in the past, the school had organised a bus to get them there.  This has always had its problems, but all students made it to the ferry on time.  They were encouraged to bring devices with them that could record/photograph items on the island for possible inclusion into their reports.

Engagement of students on the islands far exceeded our expectations.  They were recording and photographing at every opportunity and this included feeding stations, Greg the Takahe and information boards.  Numerous films were taken of the pod of Dolphins that we saw at the wharf.

When the time came to hand in the assignment, there was a rush of students wanting to hand their work in as opposed to the past, when students have had to be pressured to hand in their stuff.  Some students even handed their work in, in advance of the deadline.

 

The quality of the work, and particularly the presentation, exceeded all expectations.  Assignments were not graded for their presentation, but it was clear that the students had relished the opportunity to use their ICT skills to do this work.  Websites were handed in on USB memory sticks and stored on the school server for later assessment.  There was one video presentation.

We believe that the flexibility offered for this assessment has allowed students to engage much more positively than in the past.  One parent remarked to me that her boy had been doing his Biology website over the weekend in preference to other activities.  He had obviously enjoyed the challenge of making a website from scratch and was good at it.

Achievement of lower ability and ESOL students was increased also.  We believe this was because they could use a medium they were familiar with and show what they know, without the stress of sitting in an examination room, where no dictionaries are allowed etc etc.

Last year we had a raft of complaints from the guides at Tiritiri about how disengaged our students were.  This year it was the opposite.  One of the guides remarked to me that it was great to see the students using their devices to take pictures and videos of their trip on the island and that there were no issues of engagement at all.

Grading of the assessments was also easier as most were typed and links to information (in the case of websites) was physical and could be seen to work or not.  References on websites were 'live' in some cases, to the source could actually be checked out easily.

The change in the method of assessment has, we believe, had a major impact on the engagement of students this year.  Not only did they engage more on the island, but the effort put into their final products, suggests that most put in a lot of work into this assignment.  That is has resulted in an increase in the achievement of lower ability and ESOL students, suggests that this is a way to improving the outcomes of these students at school.

 

Example of a front page