Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Teaching Essential Skills Task & Test

Is teaching to the test bad? If teaching information that must be covered in a short amount of time is considered teaching to the test, it may not be such a bad thing – especially if the students don’t have all academic year but only have a few weeks to learn what they need to learn in order to complete a qualification and take an online test.

If the test measures the skills students are expected to be learning and teachers/assessors prepare students by teaching those skills, then I think teaching to the test is a good thing. You are meeting the necessary criteria – in a more focused, shorter amount of time.  

I am in a bit of a quandary. This isn’t the way I have taught in the past, but it is the way I am teaching now. I like it, but I don’t like it.  At the same time, I must admit, in short, focused lessons, it seems to work just fine. My learners are getting through the task and some have even completed by passing the test (not all have been scheduled at this time).

We teach to the task and prepare for the test.  We still go over testing skills. We focus on understanding reading passages, (see www.ReadTheory.org it’s a brilliant FREE website for understanding context) following directions, knowing when certain answers can be eliminated (when in doubt choose either “B” or “C”) — these are all important test-taking skills that students need to know as they prepare.

I have set up the following blog pages that contain useful resources when delivering the Essential Skills Task and Test.

ES T&T Resources – Application of Number Level 1 & Level 2

ES T&T Resources – Comms Level 1 & Level 2

ES T&T Resources – Digital Literacy Level 1 & Level 2

These resources are put together specifically to help students get through the task as well as provide information and resources (digital tools) to help prepare for the test.

Both of these websites offer additional help with picking up grammatical errors that spellcheck misses. I think it is to the student’s benefit to learn how to use digital tools to improve their work. Utilizing the Internet is a skill. Why not embed it in teaching task and test?

Feel free to browse the resources I have added.  I hope you find them useful. The Essential Skills Task & Test is a new program set out by the government with the awarding bodies. It’s going to take time to perfect how we deliver the qualification now in comparison to how we delivered it when it was all portfolio based.

My biggest concern is the digital literacy qualification because I don’t think it is “fit for purpose” for the WBL learners. Ah well, time will tell.

What are your thoughts on the new Task & Test?
How is it working for you so far?

What do you predict will happen in the next few years - do you think it will change? Perhaps only for the WBL learners?


  1. I'm am not opposed to tests. I am not opposed to being judged by my students' success (or lack of). I am opposed to being required to teach content 1 mile wide and 1 inch deep, and that absolutely no responsibility is placed on the learner or his or her parents. Idk if this is what you're referring to, Mel, but just my 2 cents. 😊

    1. Oh I absolutely agree. I remember back in my USA teaching days and all the tests were starting up then. It was very stressful - still is. In Wales, they have changed my area of teaching to a "new" standardisation; really, it's the same, but it no longer allows for any creativity. The students have to pass every aspect of the task, or they do the entire task (a different one) over again. Once they pass the task, then they must take an exam - which they have to pass as well (of course). It is very stressful for the students. I must admit, they aren't written very clearly, which makes it even more stressful (for both student and teacher). It's all a timed process as well - just a bit more stress thrown in. So, not only do you have to underpin the knowledge, you have to be very specific with what they need to know to pass the task, and what they need to know to pass the test. This all part of why I developed the resources blog. Hopefully, it will cover the information they need to focus on. Great fun, eh?


Application of Knowledge: Digital Literacy Skills Checklist

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