Marginal Gains with Controlled Assessments

My Year 11 boys are getting restless and, since coming back from their mock exams, they have no focus… GCSEs feel miles away for them (all of four months) and they still have half a novel and a 25% literature CA to go. The answer for me is marginal gains. Alex Quiggley (@HuntingEnglish) has done some brilliant work on Marginal Gains (here). I know this is now widely understood and used by many, but for anyone who is unfamiliar with the theory, it’s based on the work of the hugely successful GB Cycling team and briefly states that if one is able to make marginal improvements in a number of different areas, even a 1% raise in efficiency, skill, understanding etc. then the overall improvement will be substantial. Alex Quigley has taken this idea into the classroom and I have been using it with a number of classes, in slightly different ways, since the start of term.

Because I have a limited time in which to complete this CA (one of the many issues with these types of assessment… see this blog by David Didau @LearningSpy for an excellent run down of all of them), I need to make the most of every activity in lessons. With this in mind, I came up with a list of 24 skills which my students will need to use in the essay. Each one is linked to the Assessment Objectives and colour coded according to a specific skill category…




As you can see, each skill goes into a different ‘spoke’ on the marginal gains wheel, and the students colour code them according to the AOs.

This is very simple, and incredibly similar to what @HuntingEnglish has already described in his own blogs. It is based on AQA GCSE Literature Route B, Poetry CA.

I hope that this will do the job of both focusing the students, making them engage with the mark scheme, and ensuring that they make real progress in essay planning, writing and understanding of analysis; all of which will, of course, impact greatly on their Exams (hopefully!).

Will update with information about how it works in the up coming lessons.

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