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Post Info TOPIC: Extra Help


Mookish Deity Most High

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Extra Help


I was having a discussion with Tudor that got derailed and ended with the following. I then wondered what mooks thought of this.

In schools (in the UK, at least) there are two groups of students who get more help (by whatever small amount). Those who struggle with the work (and who, without help, will fail their GCSEs) and those who are 'Gifted and Talented'.

Tudor's argument was that, in his experience, the G+T students were getting help that he (slightly above average, in his own words, but not enough to attract such attention) needed more.

My argument was that, in my experience, the G+T students would have got worse grades than him if he received all their help. My logic being that (again, based on my personal experiences) exam boards require specific boxes to be ticked to give out the A* grades these students aspire to. It doesn't make sense to teach a whole class (especially mixed ability classes, like my English GCSE classes were) the minute details they need to reach those grades when most of the class would be better served with a thorough explanation of the basics and details on how to reach the higher B and A grades. If students who were expecting a B were given the support needed to take them to an A outside of lessons (or in lesson time, in private conversations taken out of general class time) then the G+T  students would miss out on that class time and would not have access to the additional information that they could make use of.

I am not suggesting that a student expecting a B couldn't hope to get an A* if they worked hard and applied the extra knowledge if they were taught it, but most schools (some may differ) don't teach that information to all students as standard.

Of course, it stands to reason that the students who would otherwise fail should get extra help. But what do Mooks think about students who have proven they can get As on their own getting the boost they need to get the highest grades?

And, as an aside from anyone's personal experience, it is in the interests of the teachers and the schools to give the most attention to those two groups of students. Two signs of a good school are, of course, a low rate of failing students and a high rate of A* grades. In Tudor's words, they don't care about you if you're average.

So, what is the mooky take on it?



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Mookish Deity Most High

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I think you are both correct but an average student who just coasts along being average and shows no desire or ability to be G&T (loving the abbreviation) won't get picked up and I think that is fair enough. Teachers don't have all the time in the world and they have all the pressure to get students exam-ready. By focussing on both ends of the spectrum they can pull up some of the worst and get the best just that little bit extra. It is the top students who will be applying to university for the competitive degrees, medicine, vet, law etc therefore requiring the absolute best grades possible that if they didn't get that little bit of extra coaching might easily achieve the A but fall far short of an A*. (or, in Scotland, go from a B to an A, I don't think we have plus/minus and we definitely don't have A*). Failing them the chance to gain a top grade would be as bad as allowing a failing student to just give up and have no grades when they leave school. Yes, the high-end student could go through college or another route to their career but for the sake of a few hours extra coaching, why should they? A failing student probably won't achieve A grades even with extra coaching (unless exceptionally bright and just not trying) but having a middle-range grade will stand them in much better stead (sp?).

If an average student is capable and willing (by showing willing, not just saying that they could if they wanted to) then they should and probably do get some extra help.

Sometimes I think mixed ability classes are a good thing because the people who are struggling can learn from those who are a bit more advanced but, at the same time, the teacher spends longer on the basics which then forces a requirement for the G&T kids to need extra tuition because the class doesn't progress at their rate.

 

edit: did Tudor actively look for extra help and was denied or does he think that teachers are psychic?



-- Edited by Spikeyfaerie on Wednesday 3rd of December 2014 10:57:25 PM

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Mookish Deity Most High

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I keep imagining Gin and Tonic students and hence the "University Challenge" sketch from the Young Ones!

Great question though ; Wyno can give a professional opinion on this.

As for me,I'm not really in favour of extra help for G&T people,because although academic achievement should be recognised and rewarded,arbitrarily "streaming" people like this has the potential for elitism and cliquery amongst the lucky few ; resentment and bullying from the rest,and extra pressure amongst the "top set" to keep at that higher standard,both from the teachers and themselves. Once they've shown they're capable of getting A* grades,they'll be expected to keep getting them by their teachers,not to mention that nasty beastie on their backs - peer pressure.

Basically,mixed ability classes mean you mix with a wide range of people and not just a narrow subset,and that can't be a bad thing IMO ; ultimately if somebody wants to learn and be the best,they'll ask as many questions as needed to achieve it no matter what class they're in - and in an all-abilities class,the answers will benefit everybody. The only stupid question is an unasked one after all,because that's how you learn.

Dave.

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High Mookish Shaman

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As someone who was classed as G&T at my school - I found that in mixed ability classes I got bored and didn't really connect with the subject (possibly due to the fact that the majority of my classmates were on the C/D border line unless we were put into sets, which was only really in maths and science) and I think without the extra 'attention' which for me came in the form of extra problems and the encouragement to take ideas further I would have completely have disengaged and got B's and C's which, while perfectly good grades, are nowhere near what I did get with this push. At GCSE, I think the students that are capable of higher grades can all too easily get complacent when they are flying through work that others may need a bit more hand holding through and get into the "I already know it all, why should I work?" mindset. I saw it happen in my own year. A very intelligent young man who was in the top set for subjects that were streamed like that got C's and D's because he had got lazy. So I think that actually it is very important to give the higher achievers the tools to aim for that A*.

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Mookish Deity Most High

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I think the thing about G&T is not just about the student's academic ability, it's also about keeping the student interested. For example, there were a few guys in my chemistry class last year who already knew pretty much everything on the syllabus through their own reading so started studying A level topics. If they hadn't been given extra time/attention they would've wasted the best part of two years being taught things they already knew. Also, if a student's G&T at a certain subject, as Spikey said, there's a good chance they'll want to study it at higher level so need to be certain of getting the highest grade possible.

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Mookish Deity Most High

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I've never come across G&T students getting extra help, so this clearly isn't a thing that happens everywhere. But we did have sets for most subjects, which whilst you can argue that only associating with those of similar academic abilities during class time could create a sort of achievement-based status quo, that has not been my experience. In fact I'd say that I don't understand how you could have mixed sets in certain subjects past a certain level. For example in my school, in maths those of higher ability were entered into 'higher' level GCSEs, but those who struggled more were entered into 'foundation' level GCSEs. The difference being that foundation level exams meant that the highest grade possible was a C, but you only had to cover topics that were up to C level, meaning more time could be dedicated to learning these topics more thoroughly, so more people achieved those C grades than would have if entered into the higher level exams. So in that case mixing sets would just not have been possible as the material being covered was different (as was the case in most GCSE subjects).

However, I had friends that were in lower sets and they reported that they felt ignored by teachers, as they weren't failing, but neither were they reaching the top grades. They said that they felt a bit forgotten about, and didn't think they were treated as well as it seemed higher achieving students were (for example there were a few G&T trips put on during the first couple of years of secondary school, which had nothing to do with learning, and I will agree that that was not fair). I think it would make far more sense to reward people based on effort rather than achievement.

So yeah, whilst I think that having different sets for different ability groups is a good idea as it means that each group can have their teaching tailored towards them, extra help or tuition being available solely for those at either end of the spectrum doesn't sit too comfortably with me. Would it not be better to have this 'help' (not sure entirely what that entails) available by request, rather than to single out the ones for whom it would benefit to the school to boost the grades of.

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Mookish Deity Most High

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skgogosfan wrote:

I keep imagining Gin and Tonic students and hence the "University Challenge" sketch from the Young Ones!

Great question though ; Wyno can give a professional opinion on this.

As for me,I'm not really in favour of extra help for G&T people,because although academic achievement should be recognised and rewarded,arbitrarily "streaming" people like this has the potential for elitism and cliquery amongst the lucky few ; resentment and bullying from the rest,and extra pressure amongst the "top set" to keep at that higher standard,both from the teachers and themselves. Once they've shown they're capable of getting A* grades,they'll be expected to keep getting them by their teachers,not to mention that nasty beastie on their backs - peer pressure.

Basically,mixed ability classes mean you mix with a wide range of people and not just a narrow subset,and that can't be a bad thing IMO ; ultimately if somebody wants to learn and be the best,they'll ask as many questions as needed to achieve it no matter what class they're in - and in an all-abilities class,the answers will benefit everybody. The only stupid question is an unasked one after all,because that's how you learn.

Dave.


 Bullying should be dealt with by the school (I say "should", I know some schools are shit), not used as a reason to not push gifted students.  My friends group was a mix of ability levels, to be honest the worst cliques were formed by those at the lower achievement end in my school.  Reverse elitism?  You are all so square while we go out and get drunk a lot...

I think, on the most part from personal experience, that being good in one academic subject usually meant I was expected to achieve well in all subjects but it wasn't like "you are an A student in biology so you should be getting As in Maths".   Echoing what someone else said, boredom sets in if you feel you are stuck in a class that is not progressing.



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Mookish Deity Most High

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In my school, I was a G&T student, along with most of my friends. In my experience, good students do well wherever they are, providing they're motivated to work hard enough to achieve high grades.

I also experienced what Spikey described, the expectation that as I was achieving high grades in most of my subjects, I should be achieving them in all my subjects. I was in the top set for maths and I begged to be moved down because I was really struggling, but my teachers believed that being in a class with all my maths wizard friends would help me. This didn't work, and I ended up having to have a private tutor in maths, who did admittedly raise my grade from an E (seriously, I will never understand why they didn't move me down) to an A*, which as far as the teachers were concerned only proved their point.

I suppose it depends on the subject. My GCSE options were mixed ability, but the core subjects were streamed. I found the streamed subjects did better at maintaining my interest in the subject, but my grades didn't suffer in the mixed ability groups at all, and we all worked together to help struggling students boost their grades as well as the G&T students.

Interestingly, the second set for English in my year actually did better than the top set, and third set was not far behind. To me, this suggests that streaming is not necessarily the best way of teaching students of differing abilities.

I suppose I am of the opinion that most, if not all, subjects shouldn't be streamed, because I do think it's important that everyone receives extra help, and most of the best students need only pull their fingers out to achieve excellent grades.

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