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Examining the examiners: the state of senior secondary English examinations in Australia.


Senior Secondary schooling in Australia relies heavily on externally set and moderated exit examinations, with only one state of six (Queensland) not using an externally set examination (Australasian Curriculum, Assessment and Certification Authorities [ACARA], 2016). Not only do these high stakes examinations determine (in part) students' admission into university, they are also cause for elevated levels of psychological distress, sleep deprivation, depression, and anxiety in both Australian and international contexts (Putwain, 2011; Robinson, Alexander & Gradisar, 2009). Of a multiplicity of subjects offered to students across the country, subject English has attained a position of prestige and importance above all others, for largely historical and political reasons (Brock, 1996; Christie, 1999; Eagleton, 1985; Patterson, 2000). This means that regardless of a student's location or aspiration, they are likely to sit an English exit examination.

Examinations, and the academic discourses embedded within them, tend to favour middle class views and ways of thinking (Street, 1985). This becomes an issue when considered in terms of social mobility and access; Australian schools are sites for the reproduction of social inequality and the recruitment of an elite class from socially privileged families (Gronn, 2000; Western, 2000). With English examinations occupying such an important place in examinations and students' academic trajectories, research into differences between successful and less successful responses is vital in order to disrupt these cycles of inequality. Previous research has investigated teacher opinions of subject English (Jogie, 2015; Manuel, 2002; Potts, 1999); examinations and student responses (Christie, 2016; Christie & Dreyfus, 2007; Christie & Macken-Horarik, 2007, 2011; Macken-Horarik, 2006); and examiner comments themselves (Patterson, 2008; Rosser, 2002). Research focusing on student writing seems to generate two key criteria for successful writing in subject English: (1) a clear rhetorical structure, allowing the writer to demonstrate expert knowledge (e.g., Christie & Derewianka, 2008; Christie & Dreyfus, 2007; Macken-Horarik, 2006); and (2) the adoption of a set of particular sensibilities that position the writer as one who is appreciative of literature and able to draw symbolic abstractions about life from it (e.g., Christie, 2016; Christie & Derewianka, 2008; Christie & Macken-Horarik, 2007, 2011).

In order to assess how students navigate these requirements, or, more specifically, how their attempts are evaluated by examiners, it is useful to consider what types of knowledge and knowers are valued.

Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) is a theoretical framework for describing how different types of knowledge and thinking are valued in different disciplines (Maton, 2016). Despite being a relatively new approach to examining disciplines, it is becoming more commonly used to examine subject English, both in Australia and in international settings (Christie, 2016; Jackson, 2016). As Figure 1 shows, LCT draws on the work of Bernstein and Bourdieu to provide a sociological view of knowledge and knowers.

The research into successful student writing in subject English tends to identify two key aspects: (1) a knowledge of rhetorical structure and how language features are mobilised by authors, and (2) an ability to engage with abstractions about the human condition. The LCT framework introduced above allows for the systematic description of both of these discursive practices: (1) as a knowledge code, and the second, (2) as a knower code. The research has often focused on the importance of either a knowledge code or a knower code in achieving success in senior English. Christie and Derewianka (2008), as well as Christie and Macken-Horarik (2011), are notable exceptions, suggesting that successful writers are able to conflate both codes in order to produce successful responses. Despite their thorough and revealing analysis, the authors only considered a select number of successful responses, without the benefit of examiner comments. This paper builds on their work by investigating what it is examiners are looking for, and how these criteria are realised or failed to be realised in student writing. By couching the analysis in LCT terms, this paper specifies the type of knowledge that is valued in senior English. I argue that it is neither a knowledge code, nor a knower code (in contrast to Christie, 2016); instead English values an elite code.

This analysis is complemented with a Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) view of the language of examiner reports. In particular, attention is given to the language used to describe successful and unsuccessful responses, as well as the hypothetical candidates that are suggested by the examiners' comments. Successful responses are typically described as thorough and reflective, and by extension their writers are measured and discerning. In contrast, unsuccessful responses are described as haphazard and pedestrian, their writers being either lazy or ignorant of the examination requirements. The discourse of the examiners suggests that not only are candidates' work being judged, but so too are the personal dispositions of the candidates themselves.

Legitimation Code Theory

LCT uses a number of different dimensions to make its description of knowledge more specific; for this paper recourse is made to one of these dimensions in particular: specialisation codes. Each code is distinguished by how it positions the relationship between knowledge and objects of study, epistemic relations (ER), and between knowledge and the knower, social relations (SR) (Maton, 2016). Each relationship may be strongly (+) or weakly (-) emphasised, producing four discrete codes (Maton, 2016; see Figure 2):

* knowledge codes (ER+, SR-), where possession of specialised knowledge, principles or procedures concerning specific objects of study is emphasised as the basis of achievement, and the attributes of actors are downplayed [for example, a scientist may be highly regarded because of his expert knowledge of physics, rather than his insightful view into the human condition];

* knower codes (ER-, SR+), where specialised knowledge and objects are downplayed and the attributes of actors are emphasised as measures of achievement, whether viewed as born (e.g. 'natural talent'), cultivated (e.g. 'taste') or social (e.g. feminist standpoint theory) [for example, a poet may be valued for their unique, artistic view of the world];

* elite codes (ER+, SR+), where legitimacy is based on both possessing specialist knowledge and being the right kind of knower [this, I argue, is the ideal English candidate]; and

* relativist codes (ER-, SR-), where legitimacy is determined by neither specialist knowledge nor knower attributes--'anything goes'. (Maton, 2016, p. 13; italics and parentheses in original; square brackets are my additions)

As I noted briefly above, Christie (2016) has argued that subject English values a knower code; that is, in order to be successful, candidates have to be 'the right kind of person', or SR+. While this is indeed an important aspect to success, as Christie convincingly argues, I believe it only describes one side of the coin. Rather than just the knower, English examinations (at least in Australia) appear to also value a particular knowledge of the subject itself, ER+, leaving ER+, SR+, and elite code. This suggestion is in line with earlier work (Christie & Derewianka, 2008; Christie & Macken-Horarik, 2011), and, I argue, a more accurate characterisation of what is valued in English.

Systemic Functional Linguistics

Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) is a system for describing language usage, in particular how users of language deploy various grammatical features in order to create meaning (Matthiessen, Teruya & Lam, 2010). The compatibility of SFL and Bernstein's Code Theory has been noted by researchers from both perspectives (Bernstein, 1996; Hasan, 1999), and LCT, which draws heavily on Code Theory and Bernstein's work, continues this relationship (Maton, Martin & Matruglio, 2016). Whilst LCT provides the language necessary to describe knowledge and knowers, SFL provides the (meta) language to describe how the examiners' reports use language to build these descriptions. Since these are externally set and marked examinations, the marker does not know the student who has produced the text, and must therefore make judgements about a writer's capabilities based solely on their examination script. Examining the language used to differentiate high and low scoring responses allows for the recognition and systematic description of discursive patterns that are used to distinguish between the imagined writers of different examination responses.

As its name suggests, Systemic Functional Linguistics is concerned with systems in language. The analysis here focuses on the system of APPRAISAL. APPRAISAL resources allow language users to describe their feelings and attitudes towards aspects of the world (Martin & Rose, 2007). The analysis draw in particular two elements of this system: appreciation and judgement. Appreciation refers to the evaluation of objects (like examination responses); the analysis presented below draws on Martin and White's (2005) categories:

* Reaction

--Impact--'did it grab me?'

--Quality--'did I like it?'

* Composition

--Balance--'did it hang together?'

--Complexity--'was it hard to follow?'

* Valuation--'was it worthwhile?'

(adapted from p. 56)

Attention is given to these resources because it is through appreciation that the examiners are able to describe how they view different responses, either positively or negatively.

However, the language of the examination report suggests that it was not only the writing of candidates appraised, but also the candidates themselves. For this reason, the text was also examined from a judgement perspective, which refers to the appraisal of social actors (Martin & White, 2005), in this case, the writers of the examination responses. As with appreciation, I have drawn on Martin and White's (2005) categories:

* Social Esteem

--Normality--'how special?'

--Capacity--'how capable?'

--Tenacity--'how dependable'

* Social Sanction

--Veracity [truth]--'how honest?'

--Propriety [ethics]--'how far beyond reproach?' (adapted from p. 53)

Appreciation and judgements can be marked explicitly through attitudinal lexis, labelled as an inscribed evaluation; or implicitly through ideational meaning, that is, an invoked evaluation. For example, 'It's a really funny movie' clearly expresses the speaker's positive appreciation through the lexical item 'funny'; 'I went and saw the movie three times!' does not use any explicit markers of attitude, but the idea that the speaker enjoyed and valued the film is clearly invoked.


The analysis presented here documents the language of the 2015 examiner reports of equivalent secondary English exit examinations in Victoria, New South Wales (NSW), and South Australia. Each of these states employs externally set exit examinations for secondary students, with comparable content and examination structures (ACARA, 2016; Board of Studies, Teaching & Educational Standards NSW [BOSTES], 2015; SACE, 2015b; VCAA, 2015b), allowing for effective and meaningful comparisons to be drawn between the three states.

The Higher School Certificate, Victorian Certificate of Education, and South Australian Certificate of Education (HSC, VCE, and SACE; the exit examinations of NSW, Victoria, and South Australia respectively) contain a number of different sections in their English examinations, each tasking the student with producing a different type of response. Under consideration in this paper are roughly equivalent sections from each examination, those that require the student to produce some kind of extended and sustained critical response to one or more texts. Different sections are weighted equally, encouraging students to divide their time equally. This means that students are expected to spend between 40-60 minutes answering one question (Board of Studies, Teaching & Educational Standards NSW [BOSTES], 2015; SACE Board of South Australia [SACE], 2015b; Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority [VCAA], 2015b); inviting able candidates to produce considerably lengthy responses where they create and sustain a line of argumentation. The length of these relatively open-ended responses means that these sections often feature detailed commentary in examiners' reports, compared to, for example, a short answer question requiring a one or two-line response. The relative similarity of these sections across states, and the detail contained in the examiners' reports, readily lends this section of the examinations to analysis.

As suggested above, the examiners' reports were analysed through two separate (although mutually supportive) theoretical approaches. Particular focus was given to those sections which described the style and approach of successful responses and contrasted them with less successful ones. These sections were examined first through an LCT lens in order to see if aspects of knowledge were emphasised (ER+) or de-emphasised (ER-), and if the personal attributes of the actors were valued (SR+ or SR-). Anson (2016) has argued subject English sees explicit knowledge of the English language and communication strategies as an important and discrete knowledge; drawing on this analysis, examiners' comments were marked as ER+ when they drew attention to students' ability or failure to demonstrate this knowledge. Comments that commended students for their ability to reflect on complex abstractions relating to the human experience (Christie, 2016), and/ or their personal engagement with the text (Christie, 1999; Christie & Derewianka, 2008), were considered SR+, following Maton's (2016) categories. Specialised knowledge tended to be represented through the organisation and skill of the writer, as well as an ability to comment on authors mobilise various language features in their own texts to achieve specific effects, whilst personal attributes were seen through the originality and insightfulness of a writer's interpretation (see figure 4). SFL analysis was conducted by reviewing the examination reports from an APPRAISAL perspective, focusing in particular on appreciation and judgement. Both inscribed and invoked evaluations are included in the analysis in order to widen its scope and allow for a more comprehensive overview of what is valued by examiners. The target (i.e., the object/ thing being appraised) is also included in order to highlight patterns of examiner comments, in particular, shifts between evaluations of the writing to the writers themselves. Only judgement is included in HSC analyses, as the formatting of the report means that feedback is specifically about candidates' strengths and weaknesses, rather than their writing. By examining the differences in the approaches of high and low scoring responses, it is possible to begin to describe which types of knowledge and knowers are privileged over others.

A Janus-faced subject

The idea that success in school depends on hard work and the right attitude is an admirable one. In a country where discourses of meritocracy have penetrated political rhetoric and are firmly established in the minds of Australian youths (Cooper, 2000), the belief that institutional success depends on a 'can-do' attitude, rather than access to socially privileged dispositions and cultural capital, is understandable. Christie (2016), however, has argued persuasively that subject English values an SR+ code, that is, that it emphasises the importance of the writer's personal judgement and aesthetic appraisal of texts (as opposed to detached analysis, as might be valued in a science subject). This tendency can be traced back (at least in NSW) to as early as 1965; Rosser (2002), in his analysis of previous HSC papers, concluded 'As a generality, we can say that a good workmanlike analysis of the text is not enough to attain a high grade' (p. 103).

The examiners' reports under consideration here repeated this trend, sometimes using very similar language and expressions. Below are some examples of language which demonstrate that SR+ is valued in examinations (italics are used to mark examples of language explicitly signalling the importance of a student's ability to explore the human experience, and to provide 'personal' interpretations of the text, rather than just textual knowledge):

Victorian Certificate of Education

* A personal engagement with the texts and ideas is neither formulaic nor predictable

* Responses that were thoughtful

* Students should be encouraged to have confidence in their own reading and demonstrate a personal understanding of their text

* The highest-scoring pieces were those that were thoughtful and fresh (VCAA, 2015a, pp. 1-2, emphasis added)

South Australian Certificate of Education

* This question required students to interrogate the necessity of change ... for example a change in moral outlook

* It was acceptable for students to interpret 'dreams' in a variety of ways

* The more successful responses involved an understanding of the nuances of fear and of delight

* Students might have explored the nature of poverty; or a lack of hope; or a lack of compassion; or a lack of opportunity (SACE, 2015a, pp. 8, 10, 11, emphasis added)

NSW Higher School Certificate

* Making more insightful links between texts

* Demonstrating individual engagement with the question

* Engaging personally with the play through the crafting of a sustained voice

* Personally engaging with an interpretation of the film (BOSTES, 2016, 'Paper 1: Section III,' para. 2, 'Standard, Module A', para 2., 'Question 5', para 3., 'Question 6', para 2. emphasis added)

Together, the extracts above support the trends noticed by Christie (2016) and Rosser (2002): that subject English can be categorised as SR+. This does not necessarily mean that specialised knowledge is downplayed (i.e., ER-; see below for my departure from Christie's 2016 analysis), as it might be realised as detailed knowledge of texts and their features, but rather that specialised knowledge it not the only thing that is being assessed. The VCE and HSC tend to value students who are able to produce 'insightful' lines of argument and demonstrate their 'personal' engagement with the text, or are able to feign their engagement (Patterson, 2008). The SACE foregrounds the importance of being able to consider abstract concepts about the human experience, being able to comment on morals, emotions and dreams. Therefore, success in English is not just about what you know, but also who you are, because students must have the right 'feel for the game' if they are to produce truly insightful and personal responses. What counts as insightful and personal is problematic because of its subjective nature, but historically subject English in Australia has been dominated by Anglo-centric middle-class discourses and dispositions (Anson, 2016; Brock, 1996; Patterson, 2000; Rosser, 2000), which means that those students without the cultural capital necessary to espouse the required subject positions, or feign compliance, are typically disadvantaged by subject English and its examinations (Patterson, 2008; Rosser, 2002). The 2015 examiners' reports suggest that this trend is alive and well today.

I argue, however, that this is not the whole story. Whilst English does indeed value certain personal dispositions, creating an SR+ code, it also values a specific kind of knowledge which must be mobilised in order to guarantee a high-scoring response. This knowledge is one which includes a strong command of English language skills, a clear and purposeful organisational strategy, and a sophisticated view of how authors of texts use language to achieve certain effects in their writing. Some examples of the importance of this knowledge are given below, with italics used to mark language which foregrounds the importance of certain types of knowledge (specifically a knowledge of how language features are mobilised by authors to achieve specific effects, and a knowledge of effective rhetorical organisation), rather than certain types of knower, which was seen above:

Victorian Certificate of Education

* An understanding of the knowledge and skills required in the study

* Careful management of the response structure

* Develop language awareness, to articulate ideas and to develop communication skills

* They were required to [consider] ... the structures, features and conventions used by authors

* The full range of key knowledge and skills

* To be supported by detailed analysis and specific reference to the selected text

* By establishing the parameters of their essay this way

* The student moves beyond the surface of the topic to arrive at a position on the effect of the poetry

* These basic skills must be continually reinforced, including building more sophisticated vocabulary, continuing to improve grammar and placing more focus on sentence structure (VCAA, 2015a, pp. 1, 2, 3, 4, emphasis added)

South Australian Certificate of Education

* Those students who demonstrated an analytical understanding of the text types being explored and fluently employed appropriate metalanguage in their responses fared best

* Students fared best when they provided clear textual evidence to justify their points rather than making unsupported statements

* Students produced more successful responses when they displayed an understanding of how authors create and use characterisation

* In less successful answers, students described change and recounted the subsequent cost, reducing the argument to plot and character summaries (SACE, 2015a, pp. 6, 7, 8, emphasis added)

NSW Higher School Certificate

* Synthesising a response to the question with elements from the rubric

* Knowledge of the prescribed text

* Linking the prescribed and related texts through the analysis of ideas/ perspectives/ techniques/ themes

* Understanding and effectively using the module to address their text pairing

* Directly answering the question asked and applying detailed, well supported knowledge for that purpose

* Writing effectively in language appropriate for purpose

* Controlling expression throughout the response

* Analysing rather than just describing texts

* Integrating textual form and purpose rather than limiting the comparison of texts to a preoccupation with thematic concerns (BOSTES, 2016, 'Paper 1: Section III,' para. 2, 'Standard, Module A', para 2., 'Advanced, Module A, para. 2, 3, emphasis added)

From the above, it is clear that is not just about what you say (SR+), but also how you say it (ER+); an insightful and original analysis of a text is valued, but a candidate's marks will be affected if they cannot express their ideas stylishly and effectively. These ideas should also be supported with detailed analysis and textual evidence, rather than just relying solely on 'feelings' (which is the kind of writing that would be valued in a ER-,SR+ subject). Subject English therefore is targeted towards establishing an elite code (ER+,SR+): it not just the views of the candidates that are assessed, but also the knowledge and skills acquired in subject English, and the reports' discussions of high-scoring responses tends to praise the rhetorical moves that allow for a cohesive organisation, and a demonstration of the candidates' knowledge of English language features. Overall, it is this combination of two elements--a personal, 'cultivated' view of the texts, and ability to justify this view with clear analysis and effective writing--that is important for success in English examinations.

The right candidate and its imposters

If subject English examinations value a certain kind of knower (SR+, candidates with the 'right feeling' for the texts they read), and certain kind of knowledge (ER+, candidates who can apply their knowledge to argue effectively), it is possible to generate hypothetical candidates who satisfy, or fail to satisfy, these criteria.

The language of the examiners' reports suggests that this may be the case. A remarkable pattern of language was found across the reports from different states, with each report tending to position successful candidates as discerning and motivated, and less successful writers are lazy and unrefined. Below are some examples, drawing on Martin and White's APPRAISAL framework (2005); inscribed judgements are bolded, invoked judgements are italicised, and the target of judgements are underlined:

Examining the reports from both an appreciation and judgement perspective, as well as the shifting target of the evaluations, reveals that not only are the examinations being assessed, but also their imagined writers. Overall, the trend suggested by the LCT analysis is congruent with the language describing the difference between high and low scoring responses. High scoring responses are typically thoughtful, careful, judicious, and discerning (SR+), as well as effective, appropriate, and clear (ER+); low scoring responses are, by contrast, simple, formulaic, and unsupported.

As Tables 1, 2, and 3 show, appreciation: composition, and judgement: capacity are highly valued; both of these categories are realised through ER+, as students display their knowledge through skilled and controlled writing. This distinction between high and low scoring responses is easily justified; in many subjects and disciplines, academic writing that is thoughtful, careful, and effective is typically more highly regarded than simple or unsupported writing.

However, it is important to note that the language used to describe different types of responses often suggests something about how the examiners might see the candidates themselves. The higher scoring candidates appear more willing 'to go the distance', working hard to justify the position they take in their writing, but, importantly, doing so carefully. It is interesting to note the VCE's chief examiner's use of the term 'unfolded' (VCAA, 2015a, p. 3) to describe the development of a successful essay, a word imbued with meanings of deliberate and graceful execution. By contrast, less successful candidates 'launch' into their response (p. 3), 'simply discuss texts with a token 'comparatively" (SACE, 2015a, p. 6), and '[rely] on unwieldly acronyms' (BOSTES, 2016, 'Paper 1: Section III,' 2-3). The language of each examiners' report tends to converge on the same idea: that less successful writers are imposters of their more successful counterparts, trying to slip false markers of academic writing ability, like a 'token comparatively or similarly', past the markers. Unsuccessful attempts to take up the discursive practices required of subject English, ER+,SR+ brand the writer as someone without intellectual stamina to meet the question on its own terms: 'It is still a problem that too many students want to respond to their own question rather than grappling with the ideas of the topic as it is presented' (VCAA, 2015a, p. 3).

Overall, the language of the examiners' reports suggests that the trends of earlier English examinations continue; the successful candidate is imagined as someone who is able to write gracefully and 'with feeling and insight' (cf. Brock, 1996; Rosser, 2002, for analyses of English examinations from circa 1950-2000). This has implications for students who are unable to access the middle-class discourses which are typically valued in the subject (Brock, 1996; Christie, 2016; Macken-Horarik, 2006; Patterson, 2008; Rosser, 2002), especially considering the high stakes nature of these exit examinations. While it is important to note that these examinations are designed to discriminate between candidates, it seems unfair that struggling writers are reprimanded for their failed attempts to satisfy the examination's requirements. Words like 'want', 'rely', and 'simply' position the candidate as someone who not only cannot write and address the question effectively, but also as someone who chooses to do so. The suitable English candidate, therefore, must not only be able to write well, but also must relish the opportunity to engage with these texts, which leaves students lacking the cultural capital necessary to do so at a disadvantage.

Discussion and conclusion

Above, I have argued that subject English values an elite code, that is, a student with both 'the right feeling' and the right knowledge; and that the language of the examiners' reports praises these candidates, whilst representing less successful candidates as lazy and disorganised. The analysis suggests that the views of English examiners have remained largely unchanged since the 1950s, and that candidates without the cultural capital or personal disposition to appreciate certain texts are disadvantaged by these examinations (Brock, 1996; Macken-Horarik, 2006; Patterson, 2008; Rosser, 2002). The characterisation of English as an elite code is congruent with earlier analyses by Christie and Derewianka (2008), as well as Christie and Macken-Horarik (2011); and helps to reconcile research which has argued that English is either ER+ (Christie & Dreyfus, 2007; Macken-Horarik, 2006) or SR+ (Christie, 2016; Christie & Derewianka, 2008; Christie & Macken-Horarik, 2007, 2011) by arguing that the subject functions as both a ER+, SR+ code. Such a view also aligns with the one presented in the subject's curriculum documents in NSW (Anson, 2016), which is unsurprising, considering that examinations are designed to assess a student's mastery of the curriculum content.

This paper therefore has implications for senior secondary English teachers working across the country, and for examiners. Teachers should make students aware that the subject values two discrete skills and types of knowledge: the ability to produce insightful and personal views of texts, and the ability to support these views with precise and fluent writing and a demonstration of expert knowledge of how authors achieve specific effects within their texts. Students should also be cognisant of the need to practice fluently embedding quotations and technical language in their writing, the importance of a strong rhetorical organisation, and the dangers of 'feigning' the discursive practices required by extended response writing (e.g. using a 'token comparatively or similarly', rather than genuinely making connections in their writing). Examiners should also be aware of potential bias when assessing student work, as earnest attempts to meet the requirements of the examination can be misread as laziness or unwillingness to engage with the question.

Despite attempts to provide an overview of the Australia's examination practices, the above research only focuses on examination reports from three states. It is possible that other states emphasise different aspects of subject English more or less strongly in their examinations; differences between the structure of the actual courses also makes it difficult to compare each state precisely. It should also be noted that the views presented in the examiners' reports are a summary of the views of many different individuals, and that when these views are condensed into a single document or dot point some nuance is lost. Future research should therefore investigate examiners' feedback from other states and territories; and would benefit from a more ethnographic approach where the views of different examiners are able to be articulated and justified in interview settings. More research is also needed to examine the relationship between the subject's curriculum documents and its examinations, to see if there is a connection (e.g. Anson, 2016, in a NSW context), or disconnect. Investigation into teacher and student perceptions of examinations would also help provide a more comprehensive view of how successful and less successful student writers are able to take up the discursive practices expected in their writing.


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Daniel W.J. Anson is a PhD candidate at the School of Education, University of New South Wales. His research focuses the sociology of education and educational linguistics, focusing in particular on the curriculum and assessment of subject English within Australia. Systemic Functional Linguistics and Legitimation Code Theory are used to explore the language of the subject, as well as how it positions itself and its students.

Caption: Figure 1

Caption: Figure 2

Caption: Figure 3

Caption: Figure 4
Table 1. Victorian Certificate of Education

                             Positive               Negative

APPRECIATION   Reaction      * Both the quality
                             and quantity of work
                             produced under the
                             timed conditions of
                             the examination were
                             quite sound, and, at
                             times, impressive
               Composition   * Detailed analysis    * Predictable and
                             and specific           superficial
                             reference              discussions
                             * High-scoring         * Simple plot
                             responses did not      summaries
                             rely entirely on the   * Too often a key
                             most obvious scenes/   point was taken from
                             moments                the topic and a
                             * This [high           response produced,
                             scoringl response      omitting a
                             carefully considered   significant idea
                             the topic and its      that had a major
                             implication            bearing on the topic
                             * Clear                itself
                             * Careful reading
                             and consideration of
                             the first topic for
                             All About Eve [title
                             italicised in
               Valuation     * Discerning           * [some less
                             selection of scenes    successful responses
                             to support and         were characterised
                             explore ideas          by] relying
                             * Responses that       exclusively on
                             were thoughtful        commercially
                             * Recognised the       produced material
                             conceptual ideas and
                             implications of the
                             topic explored
                             * The
                             responses were those
                             that were thoughtful
                             and fresh
JUDGEMENT      Capacity      * The [successful]     * A dependence on
                             student provides       formulaic, prepared
                             themselves with        responses
                             opportunities to       * It is still a
                             think in a             problem that too
                             sophisticated and      many students want
                             conceptualised way     to respond to their
                             * Be able to support   own question rather
                             their                  than grappling with
                             interpretations with   the ideas of the
                             insightful evidence    topic as it is
                             * The [successful]     presented
                             student perceptively   * Too often students
                             notes the way an       launch into a
                             image as unreal as     response if it looks
                             squid-like men can     familiar to another
                             convey a truth as      topic they have
                             powerful as the        explored in class
                             horror of war          * On other
                             * The ability to       occasions, students
                             embed quotations       ignored a key term
                             appropriately          that may have played
                             * This [successful     an important in
                             student] carefully     understanding the
                             considered the topic   topic's implication
                             and its implications
                             as the essay began
                             and unfolded
                             * The same
                             [successful student]
                             examines the text
                             closely and
                             considers in detail
                             * The student moves
                             beyond the surface
                             of the topic to
                             arrive at a position
                             on the effect of the
                             poetry, contending
                             that ...

Table 2. South Australian Certificate of Education

                             Positive               Negative
APPRECIATION   Composition   * More successful
                             responses involved a
                             deconstruction of
                             the question and the
                             creation of a line
                             of reasoning in
                             response to it
                             * These references
                             to the text were
                             more useful when
                             fluently embedded
                             into the line of
JUDGEMENT                    * Those students who   * [students are less
                             demonstrated an        successful when
                             analytical             they] simply discuss
                             understanding of the   texts sequentially
                             text types being       with a token
                             explored and           comparatively' or
                             fluently employed      similarly' at the
                             appropriate            point of juncture
                             metalanguage in        between the texts
                             their responses        * It was not
                             fared best             sufficient for
                             * Students fared       students to simply
                             best when they         respond to one or
                             provided clear         more of the dot
                             textual evidence to    points listed in the
                             justify their points   question
                             * Many students were   * [unsuccessful
                             able to apply their    students were]
                             understanding,         making unsupported
                             construct coherent     statements
                             arguments, address
                             the questions, and
                             justify their point
                             of views with a
                             broad range of
                             references to the
                             * Students fare best
                             when they organise
                             their line of
                             reasoning around the
                             * Those students who
                             displayed an
                             awareness of all
                             features of the
                             question fared best
                             * Students fared
                             best when they
                             provided clear
                             textual evidence to
                             justify their points

Table 3. NSW Higher School Certificate

                       Positive               Negative

JUDGEMENT   Capacity   Candidates showed      Candidates need to
                       strength in these      improve in these
                       areas:                 areas:
                       * Judicious            * Analysing rather
                       selection of related   than just describing
                       text                   texts
                       * Developing and       * Referencing texts
                       sustaining a thesis    appropriately
                       that was               instead of relying
                       well-supported         on unwieldy acronyms
                       through purposeful     * Using metalanguage
                       structure and          inappropriately
                       textual analysis       which too often
                       * Writing              served to cloud
                       effectively in         rather than clarify
                       language appropriate   meaning
                       for purpose            * Addressing the
                       * Effectively using    question asked
                       the module to          rather than relying
                       address their text     on pre-learned
                       pairing                general concepts
                       * Directly answering   * Limiting the
                       the question asked     comparison of texts
                       an applying            to a preoccupation
                       detailed,              with thematic
                       well-supported         concerns
                       knowledge for that     * Integrating the
                       purpose                discussion more
                       * Discuss[ing] them    successfully by
                       [the texts] in a       making more
                       concise and focused    insightful links
                       manner                 between texts
                       * Others offered       * Avoiding broad,
                       more detailed          sweeping statements
                       analysis and           about context
                       formulated their own   * Developing a full
                       informed personal      and deep awareness
                       viewpoint              of the values
                       * Synthesising a       presented in the
                       response to the        text
                       question with          * Including cultural
                       elements from the      and social analysis,
                       rubric                 and recognising that
                       * Exploring a change   the concerns raised
                       or transformation      in the texts are
                       that occurred as a     still concerns in
                       result of Discovery    the current context
                                              * Controlling
                                              throughout the
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Author:Anson, Daniel W.J.
Publication:Australian Journal of Language and Literacy
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2017
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