Lianne, an English examiner at AQA, provides insight into becoming an examiner and why she continues to encourage colleagues to do the same.
As educators, it’s very easy to get stuck on a metaphorical treadmill where other demands takes priority and we can fall into a habit of putting our professional development needs last.
Examining is one of the ways we can better our craft and pedagogical expertise – our subject knowledge, communication skills, patience and time-management skills can all be enhanced if we engage with the training opportunities available to us.
Thus, in improving ourselves, we become better for the students before us.
I started examining after becoming a Head of Department. Suddenly, I was thrust under the spotlight of the exam world and having to learn – very quickly – about the bigger picture.
The technicalities of exams, the needs of a whole cohort of students and the weight of my school’s results seemed far more pressing. Consequently, I needed to upskill and hone my craft so becoming an examiner would allow me to make sense of the journey I’d embarked on.
I’ve gained myriad benefits as an examiner.
Firstly: subject knowledge. Choosing to mark the Literature paper exhibited the variety of texts I could incorporate into the English curriculum for our students to discover.
In reading an array of responses from students from all over the country, I was able to glean a rich insight into the level of analysis and exploration students were making.
The assortment of novels offered by AQA encouraged me to move beyond what was currently taught and really equipped me to later move into other schools with, not only an understanding of the texts, but a foundation of how to approach teaching it.
Secondly: the rigorous training received from AQA – particularly the regular feedback received from my team leader regarding my marking was exceptionally useful.
The team leader is available throughout the period; from initial moderation until the final batch so you never feel alone.
This support was hugely beneficial in those early days and perhaps even more now! The feedback is personalised and specific yet wholly supportive and useful in assisting the fair marking of scripts for all students.
The level of feedback gave me the chance to reflect on my current approach and really reconsider whether it was detailed enough to help my students to grow. As a result, the depth of expertise you develop seeps into your everyday practice.
I flourished not only as an examiner but as a teacher; my expectations soared as I now had working knowledge of the standards (for example; marking criteria) my students were being assessed against and more specifically, how to further advance my students to achieve.
Thirdly: in terms of career development, being an examiner has allowed me to delve into diverse roles in and around education. The transferable skills of having to work with new people, learn quickly and apply, reflect and adapt is vital in the continuing face of education.
Having the conviction to undertake a new challenge is pivotal in broadening expertise regardless of whether you aim to change roles or not, but certainly examining contributing to my tenacity to try routes I perhaps wouldn’t have considered prior.
Although the last year has been difficult for many educators, the meticulous training I received as an examiner meant I was better equipped to provide direct and guided instruction to students during remote learning:
- clearly model the process of reading and writing
- developing confidence to steer their understanding
- promoting my students’ independence
- offering the encouragement to tackling challenging texts
- providing diagnostic feedback that would aide students’ improvement
- breaking down the exam criteria and being a far more responsive teacher in terms of swift interventions to help students progress have all been key factors in sustaining the momentum during such a challenging time
I found examining flexible and considerate; as a full-time teacher, the deadlines were reasonable to achieve and could easily be incorporated into my lifestyle.
Although the sense of achievement in knowing that you’ve contributed to your subject, students and yourself is undeniably the driving incentive and offers the most fulfilment.
Seven years later, I am still examining and regularly encourage colleagues to get involved – after all, we are learners for life too.
You can apply to become an examiner here.