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The Use of English as a Medium of Instruction in Maltese Mathematics Classrooms: Continuing the Debate

Marie T. Farrugia

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In 1999, a new National Minimum Curriculum for Primary and Secondary schools in Malta was published. One of the recommendations included in the document was that, preferably, Mathematics lessons should be conducted in English. The aim of this suggestion appears to be to discourage the prevalent practice of code-switching used in the teaching and learning of this subject and to help the children improve their knowledge of the English language. In this paper I highlight the possible consequences of such an immersion approach by discussing aspects related to Mathematical language. In particular, I discuss the role of Mathematical words and the difficulties encountered in solving word problems. I argue that focusing attention on English may mask important issues related to Mathematical language and that code-switching may in fact serve an important role in the teaching and learning of Mathematical ideas.

Validation of Written and Video Based Assessment Instruments in Physical Education

Dr. Gemma van Vuuren-Cassar, Dr. Iasonas Lamprianou

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A written paper (WP) and a video-based-paper (VP) were used to measure the learning outcomes of three experimental teaching units (ETUs) of athletics. The subjects (n=49) were 16 year olds. The ETUs represented three teaching environments; practice, practice and handouts, and classbased sessions.

Pre and post-tests were administered for the content of rules, planning tactics and techniques. Rasch model analysis showed that both tests were unidimensional and reliable (R ranged from 0.86 to 0.92).

The efficiency of the three experimental teaching units was evaluated by means of paired sample t-tests. The subjects performed better on the posttests (WP: effect size=1.2 and VP: effect size=0.93). The pre-tests and posttests abilities of the subjects were highly correlated (WP: r=0.380 and VP: r=0.322). The subjects of the class-based sessions achieved significantly better scores on all content areas when video based assessments were used. The findings of this study are applicable to athletics.

The Physics SEC 2000 Examination: A focus on the Differentiated Paper System

Jacqueline Pace

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This research centres on Physics SEC examination for May 2000 using MATSEC data. All the different components of this examination were analysed so as to shed light on whether this system is upholding quality, equity and fairness. This study aims at drawing out any distortions that decrease the validity of the system. This research puts forward evidence that an appreciable number of high ability candidates, who should have opted for Paper A, sat for the easier Paper B. This crossover to the softer option distorts the final grade of the candidates. The end result is that, not only the lower ability paper-B candidates are at a disadvantage by being normreferenced with some very able candidates, but also the high ability candidates undertaking Paper A are finding it harder to access the higher grades since there are fewer candidates of average ability.

Current Assessment Practices in Schools in Malta and Gozo – A Research Project

Dr. Grace Grima, Dr. Deborah Chetcuti

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  • As part of its action plan, the Educational Assessment Focus Group carried out a survey on current assessment practices in schools in Malta and Gozo. Two complementary research tools were used to collect the data for this project. All Heads of Schools were invited to be interviewed and fill in a questionnaire. In total, 62% of the schools (119 / 191) collaborated in the interview process and 52% (98 / 191) returned the completed questionnaire.
  • In the year 2002, only 24.5% of the schools that participated in the survey (24 / 98) said that they have an assessment policy document in their school. The survey responses indicated that that several approaches have been used in formulating this document.
  • The majority of schools that responded to the questionnaire, with the exception of three, answered the question on current assessment practices. Overall, the data show that the range of current assessment practices in schools is wide and varied. These practices are generally formative or summative and relate to ways of collecting information and ways of recording and reporting information to students and parents/guardians. Annual tests and examinations, half yearly tests and examinations, the correction of class and home work and classroom-based tests are the most common ways of collection information whereas the most common practices related to record keeping are recording information to pass on to parents/guardians, filling in the cumulative record cards and using merit cards and certificates of merit. Overall, record keeping is not popular in Maltese schools.
  • The schools reported that a variety of modes are used to give students feedback about their progress. It is common practice for teachers in Malta to mark and/or correct student work, whether the work in question is class work, home work or tests. It is also common for teachers to write comments on the students’ exercise books and test papers. This form of individualised feedback is sometimes used in conjunction with, replaces or is replaced by short interactions between the teacher and the student. Other common practices are class discussion once the work is returned to the students and sending reports home after the half yearly and annual tests and examinations. All school representatives reported that most of the feedback about children’s progress is given to parents/guardians orally during Parents’ Day/s. All schools hold at least one Parents’ Day but it is quite common for schools to have two such days.
  • The data relating to successful assessment practices indicated that current practices are still very much embedded within a traditional culture of examinations and testing and assessment is used for summative purposes. The majority of the participants felt that examinations and tests were still the most effective and reliable method of collecting information regarding student progress. Despite this emphasis on traditional assessment practices, however, most of the participants did agree that it was also important to make use of formative assessment in order to help and support the learning process.
  • The schools’ current concerns regarding assessment practices range from practical issues regarding time constraints, inadequate recording systems and the need for staff training to more philosophical concerns such as the impact of examinations on students and parents, to issues regarding the reliability and validity of our assessment practices and the pressing need for levels of achievement and assessment criteria to ensure fair and valid means of recording and reporting on student progress.
  • The participants focused on a limited range of innovative practices that they intend to implement in their schools in the near future. All of the innovations form part of the new national minimum curriculum.

The Maltese SECE: An Evaluation

Mario Cutajar

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This paper attempts to present an evaluation of the Maltese Language SEC 16+ exam. The study evaluated all the components of the May 1998 Maltese SECE, reviewed changes that may have been made to any of the Exam components ever since, and strives to show how accurately a perspective is this exam giving of the students’ writing skills and linguistic competence in the Maltese language. A Mixed Research Methodology is employed: a cross-sectional survey, employing self-administered questionnaires distributed to 486 First year Post-Secondary students of varying abilities, and a number of interviews with syllabus and paper setters, markers, lecturers, assistant lecturers and teachers. The evaluation is carried out on the aspects of examination format, content, level and backwash effect.