Is VCE more than just answering questions on exams?

When talking with and delivering workshops to VCE teachers, we ask them what they’re preparing their students for. Often, we get a similar response – preparing students for the VCAA examination at the end of the year.

Whilst, yes this is one (rather large) assessment and requirement of VCE studies, is this a narrow response? Is VCE more than just answering questions on exams?

There are a two-ways we could view intended outcomes for VCE:

1) Prepare students to respond to questions in the exam, OR
2) Build students’ knowledge and toolkit within a specific subject area so they can tackle new problems and create new solutions.

Absolutely, students need to prepare to respond to questions under examination conditions. Practicing for exam situations is very important, but what if the writers decide to change it up one year and throw in a curveball question? How do you prepare your students for something they haven’t seen before?

What if your students need / want an extension? How do our students use this information and exam skillset in a world where we often don’t answer examination questions? Will students always need to provide information in a written form?

Examinations are a part of VCE and it is important for students to develop strong literacy skills to showcase their knowledge and skillset within this setting, but in the bigger picture, responding to questions in an examination setting is only one way students can demonstrate their knowledge and skillset.

As teachers, we want to use classroom and study opportunities for students to develop a set of skills they can use in exam settings and beyond. A toolkit of skills that will enable them to interpret new information, make meaning of it, analyse or evaluate it, and put forward their own new ideas. We want to provide students with opportunities to communicate information in more than one way – not just answer questions on an exam.

Literacy is comprehending (reading, listening and viewing) and composing (writing, speaking and creating) information. Literacy can also be improved by using all of these skills; not just simply reading and writing.

Encourage your students to provide and justify responses verbally, draw flowcharts and mind maps to show connections, participate in practical activities to interpret information or demonstrate a concept in action.

These are kinds of opportunities which will deepen students’ understanding, and broaden their toolkit to tackle new situations and information with confidence – not just in exams, but also beyond the classroom setting. In doing this, we also help our students apply themselves in new contexts, transfer their learnings and skills onto other subjects.

Students may well be preparing for comprehensive external assessments, but we want them to take skills with them they can use to help make meaning of the world around them.

If you’re looking for new and engaging VCE literacy, assessment and preparation teaching ideas to help deliver strong student outcomes, click here to sign up for our conference coming up on 19 FEB for VCE teachers of PE, HHD, OES and VET Sport and Recreation  an excellent opportunity to learn from some of Victoria’s leading teachers. Also check out our VCE®Resources webpage for more.