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Science


The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School
Kerboodle Case Study – March 2010

Miss Alison Popperwell (Director of Science)

Context
The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School is a mixed comprehensive of around 1300 students. A Level exam results are high and in Biology we have had a 100% pass rate for many years achieving well above the national average. In summer 2009 over 50% of the students gained grades A or B and 84% gained grades A, B or C.

Subject focus
All year 13 Biology students sat the A2 Unit 4 examination in January 2010 and started working on Unit 5 in February. By the time the Kerboodle trial was up and running they had covered Chapter 9 – Response to Stimuli and Chapter 10 Co-ordination. I already have a fairly rigid program of homework assignments which are set for the students on a regular weekly basis. I am running the Kerboodle trial alongside this program. This means that although all students were enrolled on the Kerboodle site, and were given the opportunity to take part, not all wished to commit to the extra workload that this involved. Some students requested that they were able to do some, and not all, of the Kerboodle exercises set and I was happy for them to do this. The Test Yourself multiple-choice questions with immediate feedback are particularly accessible for such students.

Summary of interventions used
The first assignments set using the Kerboodle package were the ‘Test Yourself Chapter 9’ and the ‘Stretch and Challenge exercise on Reflexes’. The latter was made available to all students because all students sit the same final examination papers all need to practise such work, even those not performing very well!

This area led to the biggest change in my teaching practice. Because all students sit the same final examination at ‘A’ level, (there are no foundation and higher tier examinations) I have always set the same homework assignments to all students. So when I set the first assignments set using Kerboodle I did just this. As I became more familiar with the resources available on Kerboodle, and read carefully the notes that accompanied the trial, it became apparent to me that I could easily set different assignments to different groups of students.

All students scored relatively highly in all assignments but for the purposes of the trial, and the setting of further Kerboodle work, I divided the students into two groups according to their performance in the initial work and subsequently set stretch and challenge work to the high achievers and reinforcement work to those achieving slightly less highly. In addition, only those students who scored 100% on the Test Yourself work were told to complete the assignment. All other students were asked to complete the end of chapter examination-style questions that appear on the Kerboodle website and in the textbook.

The second assignments set using the Kerboodle package were the ‘Test Yourself Chapters 10 and 11’. This provided quite a lot of data on each student and, before proceeding; an average mark was calculated for each student. This mark formed the basis upon which the students were grouped and the final assignments set.

All students performed well scoring between 100% and 71% but, for the purposes of the Kerboodle trial, they were split into two groups – Group 1 comprised those students scoring 80% and above and Group 2 comprised those students scoring between 70 and 79%. The Kerboodle exercise set to Group 1 (Stretch and Challenge activity for Chapter 10 Neural Toxins and Poisons) was designed to extend their knowledge by investigating new areas while those set to Group 2 (Revision mp3 for Chapter 10 – The nerve impulse, and on your marks Chapter 10) were used to reinforce ideas.

The Kerboodle trial ended with all students being set the ‘Test Yourself’ questions from Chapter 12 and those who did not score 100% on the first run through the Test Yourself Chapter 9 exercise were asked to repeat this as well. The Chapter 12 Test Yourself exercise would allow students to build on some of the intervention work completed as a result of the initial work carried out at the start of the Kerboodle trial. Plus, having worked with Kerboodle for two weeks, alongside the materials in the A2 textbook, the students’ final performance should be better than their initial one. Only the results from the end of Chapter 12 Test Yourself work was used to construct final group action plans.

Impact interventions had on learners’ progress
The greatest impact on learning came as a result of the Test Yourself multiple-choice activities. A couple of the students who took part in the Kerboodle trial usually need constant chivying from me. These students very much liked the multiple-choice work and the immediate feedback they received. This could be a way forward for such students as it would enable them to assess their understanding of a topic in a quick and, in their eyes, relatively painless fashion. Having seen that they understand the work they may be more willing to focus their attention on the examination style questions.

Those students who lack confidence in their own ability also benefitted from the Test Yourself materials. They gained confidence as well as a new type of learning tool. For example – the ability to get feedback on the questions they got wrong was invaluable and the fact that they were not just told what the correct answer should have been, but were directed to the relevant section in the textbook, was excellent. They had to revisit the material to find the correct answer and in doing so were reinforcing some ideas and as well as learning new ones.

The high achievers valued the stretch and challenge materials they were set following their high scores in four pieces of work. However, it was felt that especially for the reflexes and the autonomic nervous system, more information was provided at the start of the question than would be in a similar examination situation. Nevertheless such work provides very valuable comprehension material and practice for this relatively new style of AQA examination paper. The specification references ‘stretch and challenge’ work but this is the only material of its kind we have come across so were pleased to be able to show students such work. The stretch and challenge activity linked to chapter 10 on neural toxins and poisons was not marked formally but used as the basis for discussion.

Students very much liked the mp3 materials and the animations that we used in class. It is extremely beneficial to be able to direct them to these via Kerboodle as they can, and did in this trial, spend quality time at home listening to the text and studying the diagrams as appropriate. It is lovely to have such animations to use as part of a lesson but some students need a longer time period to fully comprehend such materials – via Kerboodle they have this luxury.

Students very much liked the ‘on your marks’ materials and these are extremely useful for all ability students, as success at this level is as much to do with subject knowledge as it is examination technique and this addresses both of these issues. Having always set the same homework assignments to all students I was a little concerned that those not assigned the stretch and challenge materials might feel aggrieved. This was not my experience. However, some students not initially given such work asked to see it what it was like. In fact in
discussion many not given the work to complete performed well. Students were provided with answers from the Kerboodle teacher’s notes after the discussion.

Conclusion
Kerboodle is a very user-friendly site on which assignments can be set to whole groups and individual students. Groups can be varied with task and specific assignments set to targeted groups. All can be set up in a matter of minutes. This is extremely valuable for feedback to teacher, students and parents.

Using Kerboodle, alongside the textbook, provides students with a very detailed coverage of the requirements of the specification.

It is useful to be able to provide students with written feedback through Kerboodle and to send reminder messages with regards to assignment completion dates.

Feedback is easily retrieved and can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis.