With 18 years of experience behind me as an examiner in two subjects and across three key stages, I would fully advocate all teachers to try their hand at examining at least once during their careers.
Not everyone will stick at it for as long as I have. But in all the roles I’ve held over the years, from Assistant Examiner to Team Leader to Assistant Principal Examiner, Principal Examiner and Chief Examiner, I have generally found a great deal of job satisfaction from the work. I’ve experienced some of the very best professional development I ever had in my teaching career… and earned a fair bit of extra cash along the way too.
So, here are 5 reasons why all teachers should try examining at least once.
Exams are where it’s at
Rightly or wrongly… Okay, wrongly, because of the ongoing reforms to GCSE and A level qualifications, examinations are taking on an increased importance in schools today. With our students facing terminal examinations (at the end of a course) worth 100% of the total marks available in many subjects (and increased percentage weightings in most others), exams will be the be-all and end-all for student performance. No longer will they have the ‘safety net’ that coursework/controlled assessment potentially offered for them to fall back on.
This might be unfair and wrong (and it is), but it’s the system we are left with. It’s not about ‘playing the system’, it’s about working with the system for the benefit of our students. So, teachers need to know their exams inside out – and the best way to do this is to become an examiner.
‘The examiner will want to see…’
Most teachers, at some point, tell students that they need to do this or that in an exam because, ‘the examiner will want to see…’
Confidence grows (for you and your students) when you can stand in front of a class and proclaim, ‘the examiner will want to see x, y or z – and I know this because I am an examiner.’
Examining gives you a real insight
Carefully reading through specifications, past papers, mark schemes, reports on the examination – or any number of documents that exam boards produce – are all very helpful. But, for example, a mark scheme really comes to life and makes much more sense when you have actually applied it yourself – and been judged on how you do it by other experienced professionals
Examining hones your teaching
Teaching is a profession that is awash with people giving you advice: different learning styles, what constitutes outstanding teaching, effective questioning, et cetera, et cetera. All of this is important, of course, but experience of examining gives you ‘the icing on the cake’.
Because, you could be the most engaging and whizzy teacher around, but if you can’t focus those talents in on how to prepare your students for the examinations they face, the full effect of your teaching will never be felt.
Examining pays you well in what you learn, the knowledge you gain and what you can pass onto the students you teach. It pays you cash too! Not much, admittedly – but anyone who says they became an examiner purely for professional development reasons is a liar. Of course, the extra money is a factor. Handily timed to coincide with the summer holidays, examining can give you your bank balance a nice little boost.
But, don’t just do it for the money though. You’re not going to get rich from it and you need to weigh up whether you are prepared to effectively write off every June in the year to take on the commitment.
You may not become a serial examiner like me, but do it even just once and the knowledge you gain from being involved in the process will prove to be extremely beneficial.