Wednesday, 29 September 2010

National Qualification Frameworks

SQA runs a series of research seminars when we hear from educational researchers about their latest projects. I attended a seminar this afternoon about National Qualification Frameworks (NQFs).

Scotland's own NQF - the Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework (SCQF) - has been on the go since 2001 and countries across the world are introducing similar frameworks.

Stephanie Allais, of the University of Edinburgh, reported on her work for the United Nations comparing NQFs across the world. She looked at 16 case studies, from Scotland to Australia, which introduced its NQF in 1995.

She reported that the impact of NQFs is hard to measure, and their impact has been a mix of success and failure. Part of the problem is that few countries had tried to actually measure their impact in any systematic way so there was little hard evidence for their claimed successes or failures.

All frameworks used a number of levels (most commonly 8 levels), and all used level descriptors to define each level. Some frameworks were defined to a great degree of precision, and this had led to problems of complexity. Many were based on the NVQ framework, which originated in England in the early 1990's (and has subsequently been replaced). Every NQF managed to simplify the "jungle of qualifications" that often existed prior to their introduction. But there was little evidence that any new qualifications that were produced as a result of NQFs were any better than what went before. NQFs often led to highly complex qualification systems (she cited a Mexican qualification that ran to 90 pages).

Stephanie was positive about SCQF, which she considered a success. It was developed in a more consensual, collaborative way than most other NQFs and, as a result, had much wider respect and recognition than most others. Its implementation had also been a lot smoother than most other frameworks. Her only negative observation was that some educationalists didn't think it had had much real impact on the Scottish educational system.

One of her most interesting statements was: "The least ambitious frameworks achieved the most. And the most ambitious achieved the least." A principle that can be applied across education.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Scottish Learning Festival

I attended the Scottish Learning Festival on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. It's always interesting to catch up with the wider educational issues but we also used the event to promote some of our qualifications.

Wednesday's keynote by Mike Russell, the Education Secretary, was particularly interesting. His talk focussed on the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). He spoke about "the unparalled opportunity to change the qualification system" and how there was "too much emphasis on tests and exams". He emphasised the need to change teaching and learning, and "think differently".

At lunchtime on Wednesday we launched the NPAs in Computer Games Development. There was a good turn-out at the seminar, where we explained what's in the new awards and their key features. There has been a huge amount of interest in these qualifications.

In the afternoon, in the discussion zone, Kate Farrell explained how her school had implemented the National Certificate in Digital Media Computing. Kate explained how her school timetabled the course and the resources she used.

On Thursday morning I attended a spotlight event on assessment within CfE, led by Frank Crawford, the Chief HMIE. Frank explained the need to change assessment and the importance of getting away from rote learning and learning exam techniques. SQA's John Allan also contributed (from the floor) and pointed out that the new unit specifications that SQA will produce as part of CfE will be "more open" with "more freedom for teachers". He emphasised the need for integrative assessment that assessed more holistically.

In the afternoon, we also had a slot on the main floor to promote the NPA in Computer Games Development when people could drop-by, take a seat and find out more about the awards.

CfE has implications for everyone in education, not just school teachers and pupils. It was pleasing to see that the new NPAs in Computer Games appear to be compatible with many of the principles and practices proposed.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

National Certificate Games Development

I went along to the third meeting of the QDT for the new NC award in Computer Games. There was a good turnout with 13 people in attendance.

It was a crucial meeting and involved a lot of important decisions about the structure of the award. One decision was the name of the award: we agreed NC in Games Development at SCQF Level 5. We also made decisions about the precise structure of the award, deciding what should be mandatory and what should be optional. The new NPAs in Computer Games Development will be fully embedded within the award.

So lots of progress today. Of course, we need to continuously consult on every decision that we make -- and ultimately the award will have to be scrutinised by a validation panel, but it's good to see the award begin to take shape.

The consortium hope to validate the new units in February next year and the group award validation in May. So, if all goes well, the new award will be available to centres from August 2011.

The development is led by Fiona Jackson of Forth Valley College, along with a consortium of other interested colleges. Please contact Fiona for more information.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

NPA Computer Games assessments

Hilary and me attended an assessment writing training event today, held in Glasgow. It was for the teachers who volunteered to write the assessments for the new NPAs in Computer Games Development.

I don't normally attend these meetings but we are taking a slightly unusual approach to these units. We plan to write integrated assessment support packs (ASPs) for each theme within these courses. There are three themes: (1) game design; (2) media assets; and (3) game development. Each ASP will cover one theme - which will effectively assess three unitsSo it was important to go along and discuss with the writers the unique challenges of writing integrated assessments like this. The assessments must not only integrate three units but must also be able to be used by teachers who only want to deliver a specific level (unit).

We hope to have these ASPs available before the end of the year.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about the new NPAs in Computer Games.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Today's Times Educational Supplement

Today's Times Educational Supplement (Scotland) has an interesting article on the new NPAs in Computer Games Development. These new awards are generating a lot of interest -- in the media and also in the classroom.

You can find out more about these qualifications here or contact Hilary.

The qualifications are being launched at next week's Scottish Learning Festival.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Best practice in assessment workshop

When I recently asked how SQA can help you, there was a lot of support for a "best practice in assessment" workshop. So, I will arrange something on this theme sometime before the end of the year (probably December). Look out for more news on this blog. Please let us know (via this blog) if you have any ideas about what we should cover during this one day event.

Monday, 13 September 2010

PC Passport units and assessments

I received an e-mail this morning from a teacher who asked a question about PC Passport. He wanted to know if he could use the old PC Passport assessments with the new units.

In my update letter of 9 August I referred to the use of old and new units and old and new assessments. Basically, for the current year only, centres can use any combination of new and old units and assessments that they like.

This is because some centres will have began delivering the course before we published the final version of the units and assessments during the summer. Of course, I would recommend that you use the new units and the new assessments since we believe that these are improvements over what was there, but, if you don't, you will not be penalised -- for this year only.

Contact Hilary for more information about PC Passport.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Meetings with E-Skills

I attended one of the quarterly Awarding Body Forum meetings, when the awarding bodies (such as SQA and City & Guilds) meet with the Sector Skills Council (E-Skills). Today's meeting was held in Cardiff. Some of you will know the convenor of the meeting, Chris Morrow who has done a lot of curricular work in Scotland.

These meetings cover a wide range of issues relating to the awarding bodies. The qualification sector outside of Scotland is very complex, with lots of different agencies, each with different roles, involved in the education system. It makes the Scottish system seem very straight-forward.

Two things of particular note came out of today's meeting. E-Skills wants awarding bodies to stop using paper-based portfolios by the end of 2012, and move all candidates' work to electronic portfolios by that time. E-Skills also proposes to develop new Standards relating to Internet Safety, computer games and "green IT" -- two of which are already well established in Scotland.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about SVQs.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Meeting with Sector Skills Council about vendors

I was in London yesterday at a meeting to discuss the links between the Skills Council, awarding bodies and vendors.

All of the UK awarding bodies have links with vendors -- and it was clear from the meeting that we also face the same issues. The main problem is keeping up to date with the regular changes to  vendors' courses. The situation is worse in England because it is a much larger and more complex qualification sector, with OfQual controlling what awarding bodies can offer.

There was general agreement about the best way to tackle this problem. Vendors should "genericise" their qualifications, making them less specific and, therefore, less in need of constant updating. The best way to do this is to "wrap" vendor qualifications in more generic language and put this on QCF. These generic units could be picked up by awarding bodies and included in their qualifications -- and being more generic, they would not constantly have to be changed.

The vendors also agreed to provide the SSC and awarding bodies with prior notice of proposed changes to their curricula and to adhere to any deadlines that are set by awarding bodies if they want their qualifications included in national awards.

So it was a very worthwhile meeting with lots of positive outcomes. You can find out more about SQA's links with vendors here.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Online assessments for Computing

I was reminded this afternoon, when I checked the SOLAR website, how many Computing qualifications are supported by online assessments. Computing is the most supported subject, by some margin, so it's a great resource for centres to use. You can check out what's available here.

Friday, 3 September 2010

What we do

I was sent a link this morning to an interesting new e-book, which explains what SQA does. It seems well presented and easy to follow. You can access it here. It states the SQA mission statement, which is:

"Our vision is to be recognised nationally and internationally as a leader in qualifications and assessment."

We're working hard to try to achieve that.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

PC Passport ASPs SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6

The revised PC Passport ASPs are now available on the secure site. I believe they were published last week although the e-mail from SQA mycentre did not go out until 31 August 2010. Please use the revised ASPs (August 2010 versions) as these match the updated Unit specifications.

Where there were two ASPs (for school and FE use) there are still two ASPs available but titled ASP 1 and ASP 2 and not differentiated for either market. Centres can choose which one they wish to use.