I spent a bit of time during the week trying to establish for my own satisfaction what the state of play is with respect to the much vaunted introduction of practical exams into LC science subjects. This is the sort of job you do when you have a pile of correcting to do....
I knew a trial was carried out in some schools last year on what these practical exams might look like, and I know there were media reports saying the project had been pushed back. But I hadn't seen any report of the trial itself, and I don't think it was circulated to schools. Which is a great pity, because having found it online, I can report that the report was published last year - and its really interesting! Government sponsored documents can so often be written in such dense and convoluted prose that its hard to believe even those writing them could bear to read them, but this one is clear, detailed and very readable. Even enjoyably so!
The report is available here.
Most satisfyingly, the trial seem to have concentrated on the practical difficulties of introducing practical exams. Which is the sort of thing that could so easily have been overlooked until a crisis developed. For example, the report detailed how crucial the role of the DST (designated support teacher - essentially the kid's own teacher) was when the 90 minute exam was taking place, and speculated on how difficult it might be to recruit an adequate number of teachers to fill the role of examiners. It hadn't occurred to me before how this might be problematic. If its crucial that the physics teacher is in the school during the exam in order to deal with any problems that might arise, and its also crucial that experienced physics teachers are the ones who supervise the exam - travelling to another school to do so - its not hard to see how scheduling problems will arise.
A video of what the exam might look like is here. https://vimeo.com/247183151/1be249d39e
The report doesn't supply an easy-to-skip-to bullet-point list of findings, but does contain this ominous comment:
Chapter 8 (lays out) the very significant challenges that would be faced if this model of assessment were to be rolled out, and some of the associated costs. The SEC currently has considerable difficulty arranging for the conduct of the existing oral and practical examinations, particularly with regard to examiner supply, and this assessment model would be even more challenging than the existing ones in that respect, particularly given the twin needs of the subject teacher needing to be available while at the same time those teachers forming the pool from which examiners are predominantly to be drawn.
And it is presumably those challenges that lead to reports like this in the media last December:
So what is the current state of play? I can't find any DES, NCCA or SEC updates since the trial was carried out, but I imagine the newspaper report in December was accurate, or it would have been corrected.
So we are where we (usually) are: awaiting a report......
If anybody knows more than I've outlined here, I'd love to hear from you, and I'd gladly update the story.