Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

Blog > Classroom > The perfect alignment

The perfect alignment

What we focus on in lessons is driven by the assessment objectives (AOs) for the exams in our subject. But how can we develop students’ language to express the cognitive complexity behind the tasks?

Where assessment objectives, cognitive tasks and academic language meet
Where assessment objectives, cognitive tasks and academic language meet
18 Sep 2018
Written by Edward de Chazal
Classroom
The lessons we teach – and the material our students learn – are driven by the assessment objectives (AOs) for the exams in our subject. We know what these AOs are, and very often we communicate them to our students via our starter slide. Our students are probably more familiar with the abbreviation ‘AO’ than they are with, let’s think, ‘EU’. Sure, we let our lessons ‘breathe’. We don’t want to be a slave to the AOs, but they inform what students do every lesson.

In turn, what students are doing is heavily cognitive. For instance, AOs for the Pearson Edexcel International GCSE in English Literature require students to do the following:
AO1 Demonstrate a close knowledge and understanding of texts, maintaining a critical style and presenting an informed personal engagement.
AO2 Analyse the language, form and structure used by a writer to create meanings andeffects.
AO3 Explore links and connections between texts.
AO4 Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written.

Other subjects require students to do similarly challenging cognitive tasks. For instance, the Pearson Edexcel International GCSE in Geography has these four AOs:
AO1 Demonstrate knowledge of locations, places, processes, environments and different scale.
AO2 Demonstrate geographical understanding of: concepts and how they are used in relation to places, environments and processes; and the interrelationships between places, environments and processes.
AO3 Apply knowledge and understanding to interpret, analyse and evaluate geographical information and issues and to make judgements.
AO4 Select, adapt and use a variety of skills and techniques to investigate questions and issues and communicate findings.

Look again at the cognitive tasks in these AOs: students have to analyse, evaluate, interpret, and understand – and that’s just A E I and U! Students also have to apply, engage, enquire, reflect, appreciate, draw conclusions, and more. Challenging cognitive tasks like these turn up across all academic subjects, to various extents.

The crucial thing is that all this cognitive activity has to be communicated through language. Otherwise all our students’ work will remain invisible in their brains! Students have to draw on the English language they know when they write, or say, their responses. All too often, however, students – across all subject lessons – tend to fall back on the language they already know. This language may be serviceable – it probably does the job and gets the message across – but often it is limited in range and sophistication.

To maximize success, we need to provide students with the language they need while they are doing their cognitive tasks. Clearly, there is a lot of language to learn. If we take one frequent cognitive activity, EVALUATION, this could include any of the following language:

I think… / I feel… / I believe… / For me…
It seems to me… / It appears that…
On balance it may be seen that…
It is interesting / important / crucial / necessary that…
It is not surprising that…
This is not clear / This lacks clarity
There is little / no doubt that…
Surprisingly, / Worryingly, / Inevitably, / Probably…
This policy is worthwhile / flawed / important / significant
no doubt / of course / on the whole / as a rule / in a sense / in principle / in most cases


If we give our students these ten language areas to work with, their spoken and written output is likely to be clearer and more sophisticated. They can create their own variations to express the exact meanings they want.

Going forward, let’s provide our students with the language they need when they’re doing cognitive tasks driven by those AOs. It’s crucial!

______________________________

About Edward de Chazal
Edward de Chazal is a teacher, author, and conference speaker. He teaches English in secondary and university settings. He specializes in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and has published resources for the global English-medium international school and university sector. Visit his profile to find out more and connect with Edward. 

If the article got you interested in exploring more AOs, you are welcome to browse more information about the Pearson Edexcel International GCSE qualifications  and Pearson Edexcel International Advanced Levels.  

Similar stories

What do students need to break through the grade 4 "ceiling"?

Now that GCSEs are replacing letter grades with a numerical 1–9 grading system, it’s time to reflect on how we can really get our students moving up through those grades. More...

International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

It has been 31 years since the signing of the original Montreal Protocol (an international treaty which aimed to protect… More...

Thank you all for being a part of it! 
Pearson International Schools Community is 1 year old!

A year ago we started out with a vision of creating an inclusive, positive and safe space online for international schoo… More...

From Bunsen Burners to Robots: how Experiential Learning is Changing Science Education

International schools are striving to offer more practical experiences, but teachers face many challenges. More...

Let's talk about Oracy this International Literacy Day

How do you encourage the development of students' oracy skills? Edward de Chazal shares 7 ideas to maximize oral communi… More...

Most read

Should smartphones be banned in schools? The big debate

Are mobile phones in schools a distraction or can they be beneficial to students? More...

British international schools - a passport to elite universities and top jobs

Seb Murray examines the role of high quality teaching, networking and cross-cultural communication in British internatio… More...

The importance of English language skills in international teaching

English language skills are important for all subjects in international teaching. More...

How gamification is changing classrooms and engaging students

What is the role of games in education and how can it benefit learning in the classroom? More...

This website is powered by
ToucanTech