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Learner Attainment on ILAFS

Learner Fieldwork During ILAFS

Learners on ILAFS are divided into mixed-schools teams of 3 or 4 for the first two days of the field school. They spend most of these two days working independently in their team with an adult supervisor, who may be a member of school staff from their own or another school, a 6th former or a student volunteer from a local HE institution (student volunteers have been recruited from University of Cambridge, University of East Anglia, University of Bedford, University Campus Suffolk, Peterborough Regional College and University of Hertford). Supervisors mentor the individuals in their team for the duration of the ILAFS, and also assess their performance by completing standardised report forms for each learner. Learner performance is graded 1-5 in three main areas: effort/interest, behaviour/attitude/initiative and achievement/standard of work and skills developed/applied. Assessments are made at 4 regular intervals over the two days. The results of assessments can be combined and converted to an overall percentage. After each field school is completed, the grades awarded are used to provide learners are provided with a written report showing their performance in each of these areas over the two days, and also with individual free text comments from their supervisor. 

A summary of the marks given by supervisors to 745 learners in 2009 and 2010 is provided below (NB the remainder of the 1,029 learners who attended in those years were assessed using a new assessment framework being piloted in 2010 and are not included here). The 745 assessments show a very high level of attainment, with the great majority of learners (83%) gaining overall marks above 80%, and 66% gaining marks over 90%. Although this seems high, it does reflect observations by staff (from schools and the ACA team), who consistently note the high level of enthusiasm and commitment learners apply to the ILAFS tasks. This is also evident in anecdotal comments from learners. Click here to see some of these comments. 

It is notable that there is very little gender-based variation in performance: 83% of boys and 84% of girls were graded 80% and above. Within this top range, however, there is some gender distinction evident: slightly more boys than girls are graded at the highest level (90% and above) (69% of boys compared to 63% of girls). This is counter-balanced by slightly larger proportions of girls graded between 80 and 90% (21% of girls compared to 14% of boys). 

2009 & 2010 Male (no.) % of Total Male Female (no.) % of Total Female Total (no.) % Total
90-100% (A*) 253 69% 238 63% 491 66%
80-89% (A) 50 14% 80 21% 130 17%
70-79% (B) 37 10% 32 8% 69 9%
60-69% (C) 14 4% 18 5% 32 4%
59% and below (D&E) 12 4% 11 3% 23 3%
GRAND TOTAL 366   379   745  

HEFA 2009 & 2010 fieldwork grades (combined for effort, attitude and standard of work)

This data indicates that the outdoor academic research programme that field schools provide represents a very effective model for enabling boys and girls alike to enjoy applying and stretching their skills. It is particularly notable that within this programme, boys are able to excel without eclipsing the performance of girls.

Skills Development by Learners During ILAFS

ILAFS aims to provide participants with the opportunity to develop transferable cognitive and personal skills which will enhance their ability to learn and raise the standard of their work, thus supporting them in succeeding in gaining a place at the best university for them. Thus, not only are aspirations raised by attending a ILAFS course, but those aspirations are more likely to be fulfilled. To assess the extent to which ILAFS succeeds in this aim, on post-ILAFSfeedback forms in 2010 participants were asked to comment on the extent to which they felt ILAFS had helped them develop skills in six main areas: verbal discussion of ideas; working to set standards; creative thinking, reflective learning, working with persistence and team working. For each of these, participants were asked to indicate whether the time they had spent on ILAFS had 'helped a lot', 'helped quite a lot', 'not made any difference', 'hindered' or 'hindered a lot' in developing relevant skills. Asking participants to answer these questions fulfils two functions: it firstly provides valuable data indicating the extent to which ILAFS is succeeding in its aims, and secondly encourages participants to identify and think about the skills they have learned. Recognising the new skills they have developed in this way raises their confidence in being able to deploy these effectively in their learning in the future, thus contributing raising both aspiration and achievement in the future.

The first skill set ILAFS aims to enable students to develop is that of being able to discussing their own and other people's ideas and talking about what they've done and discovered to different people. 76% of respondents (370 out of 486) reported that their experiences on HEFA had helped them in developing these skills.

The second skill set encompasses those relating to knowing how to complete an investigation which seeks to find new data by correctly following set procedures and working to set standards.  80% of respondents (388 out of 485) reported that their experiences on HEFA had helped them in developing these skills.

The third skill set is that of creative thinking – this is used during HEFA in many ways, including using imagination intelligently to come up with ideas to explain findings and to solve problems. 78% of respondents (378 out of 485) reported that their experiences on HEFA had helped them in developing these skills.

The next set of skills HEFA expect participants to develop are reflective learning skills, ie the ability to assess how well tasks have been carried out (both by themselves and by others in their team) and to identify and make necessary changes. 76% respondents (368 out of 486) reported that their experiences on HEFA had helped them in developing these skills.

The fifth skill set HEFA aims to develop revolves around the ability to work persistently hard and to maintain a high standard of work and positive attitude to tasks throughout. 83% (403 out of 485 respondents) reported that their experiences on HEFA had helped them in developing these skills.

The final skill set which participants are specifically asked about at the end of their HEFA summer school concern those involved in being an effective team worker, including focusing on completing their own tasks and helping ensure that others have the help they needed. 87% (420 out of 485 respondents) reported that their experiences on HEFA had helped them in developing these skills.

Overall, feedback in 2010 indicates that HEFA is very successful both in providing opportunities to acquire and develop a wide range of key transferable skills for life and learning in participants, and also in ensuring that participants recognise that they themselves have developed these skills. On average, 80% of respondents reported that HEFA had helped them develop the new skills they were asked about. It is also notable that HEFA is shown to be able to impact at a consistently high level on participants' skills across the full, very wide, range of skills on which feedback focuses: in no area of skills did less than 76% of participants report a positive impact, and this percentage (of respondents reporting a positive impact) varied by only 12% between different skill sets, from 75% (reflective learning) to 87% (team working).

Post-ILAFS Written Assignment (extension learning)

319 written assignments submitted by ILAFS participants in 2009 and 2010 to date have been assessed and marked to date. As the written extension work is optional and has to be carried out by learners in their own time or in extra-curricular school sessions, a submission rate of nearly one in three indicates a significant level of commitment by learners and shows how highly the ILAFS learning opportunity is rated by learners and schools/school staff.  Rates of submission of completed written assignments varied considerably from school to school, from 100% to 0%. Marks were awarded as percentages according to standard criteria, which allows them to be compared with GSCE / ‘A’ Level grade boundaries) for the ILAFS assignments were generally good, ranging from 53%-98% and averaging 79%. Overall, around a third of submitted assignments gained marks in the top (80% and above range) (ie the equivalent of A/A*), a third in the 70-79% (B) range, and a third in the 60-69% (C) range. Within this, however, there are significant differences in the patterning of marks when broken down by gender. Overall, a significantly greater number of girls submitted written assignments than boys (180 from girls compared with 139 from boys). Girls were significantly more like to produce very a good report with a mark in the range 81% and over(A/A* equivalent): 44% of assignments completed by girls fall into this grade band, compared to 19% or assignments competed by boys. The percentages gaining middle-range marks (70-79%, equivalent grade B) were the same for both genders, but a considerably larger proportion of boys than girls gained marks in the 60-69% range. Numbers gaining a mark below 60% were below 10% for both genders, but a much larger percentage of boys (9%) fell into this range than girls (1%).

2009 & 2010 Boys (no.) % of Total Boys Girls (no.) % of Total Girls Total no. % of Total
80% and above (A/A*) 26 19% 80 44% 106 33%
70-79% (B) 43 31% 55 31% 98 31%
60-69% (C) 58 42% 43 24% 101 32%
59% and below (D-E) 12 9% 2 1% 14 4%
GRAND TOTAL 139   180   319  

HEFA 2009 & 2010 written assignment marks

Both the submission rates and the range of marks indicate that the time, effort and attention given to preparation of the assignments clearly varies considerably between individuals and also from school to school, which seems in part to reflect the support the school has been willing or able to offer learners for this stage of the academy. Overall, however, the standard is very high, showing that learners are taking a pride in their work and that they have absorbed what they have learned during the two excavation days. Those pupils who completed the assignment have the benefit of a substantive, assessed piece of work which can be used for future reference, for inclusion in their school portfolio and as a permanent memento of their ILAFS experience.