1 2011 School-assessed Coursework Report Psychology ( ): Units 3 and 4 This report is provided for the first year of implementation of this study and is based on the coursework audit and Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) statistical data. UNIT 3 GENERAL COMMENTS In general, the tasks that were submitted for audit were well presented, relevant and pitched at an appropriate level. Pairs of tasks were chosen that met all or most of the content covered by each outcome. Since this was the first year of implementation of Units 3 and 4, many teachers chose to use commercially produced material as a time effective preparation option. Teachers are advised to use their professional judgment when selecting commercially produced material as it the teacher s responsibility to ensure that the selected School-assessed Coursework program meets the assessment requirements of the study design and that each outcome is covered in its entirety. A number of teachers used teacher-generated School-assessed Coursework tasks and in general these were of a very high standard and appeared to be aimed at directly engaging students with the study design and exploring their understanding and application of psychological principles in depth. Some schools demonstrated cross-school collaboration, including appropriate protocols involved in collection of primary (first-hand) data to undertake research studies involving different sample groups. A noticeable feature of the sampled coursework was that the range of tasks adopted by teachers was very narrow, despite the variety of tasks offered in the study design. The test task was the most popular selection. Teachers are reminded that pages 36 and 37 of the study design provide further advice about the scope and nature of the different tasks offered as possibilities for School-assessed Coursework. Further advice about assessment is also available in the assessment handbook, which is now only available as an online production at SPECIFIC INFORMATION Unit 3 Coursework Outcome 1 Explain the relationship between the brain, states of consciousness including sleep, and behaviour, and describe the contribution of selected studies and brain research methods to the investigation of brain function. There are two pairs of assessment tasks. may be selected for either Outcome 1 or Outcome 2. Pair B must be utilised for the outcome not covered by. Report of a research investigation conducted by the student AND one other task selected from:.
2 Pair B annotated folio of practical activities Most schools audited chose from Pair B for Outcome 1. The likely reason for this is that a research task for the content of Outcome 1 (especially the brain section) is more limiting. Hence, most schools chose to leave the mandated report of a research investigation task for Area of Study 2 (Memory). This area of study lends itself to a wide variety of hands-on tasks and experiments and additionally, students would likely be better versed in research methods by then. From Pair B, the most popular choices were the test task (60 %) and the visual presentation task (51%). While the test task tended to cover all dot points in the study design, the most extensively covered area for the visual presentation task was dot point 6: the interaction between cognitive processes of the brain and its structure including: roles of the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system (somatic and autonomic), and autonomic nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic) roles of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex in the control of motor, somatosensory, visual and auditory processing in humans; primary cortex and association areas hemispheric specialisation: the cognitive and behavioural functions of the right and left hemispheres of the cerebral cortex, non-verbal versus verbal and analytical functions the role of the reticular activating system in selective attention and wakefulness; role of the thalamus in directing attention and switching sensory input on and off. One of the strengths of the visual presentation task is that it provides an alternative to tasks that favour sophisticated verbal skills. While drawing should not be an integral part of this task either, it does suit the visual learners in the sense that it is usually in a poster format that involves charts, tables, graphs, diagrams, etc., and is not contingent upon a significant amount of reading and writing. Most teachers legitimately provided diagrams and photographs for their students as we are not assessing the students artistic prowess. Some schools chose an evaluation of research task and this often focused on the area of sleep. This is a broader topic and allows the teachers to address material from dot points 3, 4, and 5. However, the very narrow focus of most research meant that students were evaluating just one (or even part of one) of these areas; most commonly within dot point 5: the effects of total and partial sleep deprivation sleep as an altered state of consciousness: purpose, characteristics and patterns of the stages of sleep including rapid eye movement (REM) and the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages of sleep methods used to study the level of alertness in normal waking consciousness and the stages of sleep: measurement of physiological responses including electroencephalograph (EEG), electro-oculargraph (EOG), heart rate, body temperature and galvanic skin response (GSR) the use of sleep laboratories, video monitoring and self reports 2
3 the effects of total and partial sleep deprivation: loss of REM and NREM sleep sleep recovery patterns including amount of sleep required, REM rebound and micro sleeps sleep-wake cycle shifts during adolescence compared with child and adult sleep including delayed onset of sleep and need for sleep. Some schools chose to do a media response task (9%); a few used a data analysis task (6%) and a couple undertook an essay and an evaluation of research task. In terms of assessment, teachers mostly referred to the Performance Descriptors from the assessment handbook to develop their own assessment rubrics. There were no examples of qualitatively inadequate assessment rubrics in the work that was audited. There was one example of a quantitatively inadequate set of tasks from a school that administered just two tasks for the unit instead of two pairs of tasks. The use of weightings does not apply to the information in the assessment handbook. Outcome 2 Compare theories that explain the neural basis of memory and factors that affect its retention, and evaluate the effectiveness of techniques for improving and manipulating memory. There are two pairs of assessment tasks. may be selected for either Outcome 1 or Outcome 2. Pair B must be utilised for the outcome not covered by. Report of a research investigation conducted by the student AND one other task selected from:. Pair B annotated folio of practical activities Most schools that were audited chose from for Outcome 2, having chosen from Pair B for Outcome 1. The report of a research investigation task conducted by the student lends itself to a wide range of hands-on tasks and experiments for the topics of memory and forgetting. Areas including the serial position effect, recall versus recognition, enhancing memory using mnemonic devices, replications of Ebbinghaus forgetting curve experiment were all appropriate for this mandated task. Almost 70% of schools chose to address the report of a research investigation task in Outcome 2 and` 60% chose a test for the other task in this pair (). The work sighted was universally relevant, appropriate and thoroughly presented with teachers again using the Performance Descriptors from the assessment handbook to develop their own assessment rubrics. 3
4 As for Outcome 1, the second task from this pair was almost always a test. Research can only be on a very narrow area chosen from a huge breadth and volume of material. The only other tasks that could incorporate such breadth might be the annotated folio of practical activities task or an essay. None of the work presented in the audit dealt with the new additions to this otherwise familiar topic. The new areas concerning the regions and structures of the brain involved in memory were left to the test task. From Pair B, the most popular choices for Outcome 2 were a test task and a visual presentation task. Appendix A on the following page summarises the breakdown of tasks undertaken from each pair of tasks in the Unit 3 study design. Appendix A: Graphical representation of tasks chosen from Pairs A and B for Unit 3 Psychology Tasks chosen from Tasks chosen from Pair B 4
5 UNIT 4 GENERAL COMMENTS Teachers seemed confident in choosing their tasks and, for the first year of a new study design, there were very few issues that might have constituted not meeting the School-assessed Coursework requirements of the study design. Whilst there was complete unanimity about the area of study in which the mandated task would be undertaken, this was perfectly understandable considering the task (an annotated folio of practical activities) and the content of Outcome 2 (Mental Health). It was an obvious choice to apply this task to Outcome 1 (Learning) which lends itself to so many practical activities across the full range of content. SPECIFIC INFORMATION Unit 4 Coursework Outcome 1 On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the neural basis of learning, and compare and contrast different theories of learning and their applications. There are two pairs of assessment tasks. may be selected for either Outcome 1 or Outcome 2. Pair B must be utilised for the outcome not covered by. Annotated folio of practical activities AND one other task selected from: Pair B report of a research investigation conducted by the student Every school that was audited chose to undertake the mandated School-assessed Coursework task: Annotated Folio of Practical Activities from for Outcome 1. The reason for this is probably that practical activities in the area of study on Mental Health would have been difficult to contrive. In contrast, the area of study on Learning provided a wide range of subtopics which in turn leant themselves to a variety of different practical activities that could be performed in class time. These activities undoubtedly enhanced student learning in an interesting and engaging manner. Despite a non-prescriptive description of this task, most schools seemed to administer it in a similar fashion, delivering somewhere between five to eight short activities about which students then completed a written statement (sometimes done via a teacher-prepared pro forma). In most instances, some sort of classroom testing was then performed about the students knowledge and understanding of the concepts covered by 5
6 these activities. Usually, students were allowed to use their folios as a resource for this final part of the assessment task. The other task from this pair for Outcome 1 was a Test for 83% of the schools audited. About 10% undertook a Visual Presentation task and 7% used an Essay to complete the assessment requirements for this outcome. Outcome 2 On completion of this unit the student should be able to differentiate between mental health and mental illness, and use a biopsychosocial framework to explain the causes and management of stress, simple phobia and a selected mental disorder. There are two pairs of assessment tasks. may be selected for either Outcome 1 or Outcome 2. Pair B must be utilised for the outcome not covered by. Annotated folio of practical activities AND one other task selected from:. Pair B report of a research investigation conducted by the student Pair B became (by default) the sole domain for Outcome 2. Teachers again favoured the Test task (with 91% of schools employing this as one of the pair of tasks). But there was a good spread of other tasks from the eight on offer in this pair. In fact, only the Oral Presentation was not favoured by any school in the group that were audited. 44% of schools chose an Essay; 28% a Visual Presentation; 21% the Media Response; 9% the Evaluation of Research; 5% opted for the Report of a Research Investigation and 2% for the Data Analysis. The work audited was generally appropriate and clearly presented with teachers often using the performance descriptors from the VCE Psychology Assessment Handbook to develop their own assessment rubrics. As with Unit 3, the assessment of Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework was dominated by the use of the Test, and probably for the same reasons. Few of the other tasks lend themselves to covering any breadth of content; whilst it is acknowledged that not every dot point needs to be covered, teachers still see the School-assessed Coursework tasks as somewhat of a preparation for and measure of the students understanding of the material that is likely to be presented to them on the examination. Nonetheless, it was pleasing to see that most other tasks from Pair B had been employed across the schools that were audited. 6
7 In summary, the tasks that were submitted were well presented, relevant and pitched at an appropriate level. Pairs of tasks were chosen to meet all or most of the content covered by each outcome. Appendix A on the following page summarises the breakdown of tasks undertaken from each pair of tasks in the Unit 4 study design. Appendix A: Graphical representation of tasks chosen from Pairs A and B for Unit 4 Psychology Tasks chosen from Tasks chosen from Pair B 7