02 Feb 2023
By Marks Richards,
What is it that makes you a great teacher?
It’s in an interesting question and, to be honest, there are many ways we could answer it. Is it a teacher who can inspire young people? Definitely. Is it the ability to support, nurture and develop their pupils? Obviously. Is it a professional who can help students realise their potential? Of course.
In fact, it’s all of these things – and more. However, in the education system that teachers work in in the UK, it often comes down to progress targets and the examination results that our students attain.
Most schools would balk at the suggestion that they are simply ‘exam factories.’ However, the reality is that is that exam results are all important. Because of this – ultimately – teachers will be judged on their students’ exam results.
We could argue until we are blue in the face about whether that’s the way it should be or not. But we would be foolish to pretend that it isn’t the way things are.
Be an examiner: Be a better teacher
So, if you’re looking for something that you can do that will almost certainly make you a better teacher, the answer is clear: become an examiner.
It’s simple when you think about it. At the end of the day, success in exams comes down to understanding what the examiners want to see. What better way to acquire this knowledge than to become an examiner yourself? There simply is no better way to get hold of the invaluable ‘insider knowledge’.
The other thing to remember is that you don’t just become an examiner, you receive specific and focused training to help you become an examiner. This takes you out of the four walls of your individual classroom, and the comfort zone of your own department and school. The experience will inevitably help you in your own practice. You will learn about what works in other settings up and down the country. You are bound to pick up tips and useful snippets of advice.
Invaluable insider knowledge
Schools, quite rightly, recognise the importance of thorough and robust standardisation and moderation procedures. However, if you have at least one examiner in your department, it can only make your internal standardisation and moderation processes even more effective. Often, they work on the basis of ‘this is what we think the exam board wants to see.’ This may well be based on the expertise and experience of dedicated professionals. However, add a practising examiner into the mix, and all of a sudden, the department ‘knows what the exam board wants to see.’
Becoming an examiner isn’t easy. It’s a significant time commitment and the financial rewards – although not insubstantial - are not exactly earth-shattering either. It’s tiring too – after all, most examining is done at during term-time – alongside the day job. However, all things considered, the insight and knowledge that becoming an examiner gives you is definitely worth it.
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