4.3.1.3 The influence of verbosity on the grades awarded by the S.E.B.

From looking at the six discussions on the Young People Talking film, it became apparent that the more they talked, the higher the grade awarded to a pupil. The table below shows the average number of words per minute of discussion uttered by each pupil assessed (the number of words each pupil spoke is given as words per minute rather than as a total for the whole discussion because all the discussions were different lengths, so the absolute numbers of words spoken were not comparable). The table also shows the average length in words of the pupils' turns, and the level and grade they were awarded in the S.E.B.' documentation accompanying the film.

speaker average no. average length Grade / level awarded

words/1 minute of turn

B1 7.48 19 6/ Foundation

B3 33.43 10.6 5 / Foundation

B5 97.82 13.5 4 / General

G5 76.47 13. 3 / General

G10 71.61 27.75 2 / Credit

G11 76.6 63.8 1 / Credit

As can be seen from the chart above, in the cases of the pupils assessed by the S.E.B., the two pupils assessed as foundation level, B1 and B3, speak markedly fewer words per minute than the pupils assessed as general and credit levels (7.48 and 33.43 words per minute respectively). The three girls G5, G9, and G11, who are awarded grades 3, 2, and 1 respectively, speak considerably more (76.47, 71.61, and 76.6 words per minute respectively). The only pupil whose average number of words per minute does not fit into this pattern is B5, who speaks considerably more words per minute than any other assessed pupil (97.82), but is awarded a relatively low grade (a 4 at general level). B5 is a markedly competitive speaker, as demonstrated by his verbosity and in other aspects of the analysis, and he is explicitly penalised for this by the S.E.B..

If in addition to the number of words spoken per minute, the average length of speakers' turns is taken into account, the correlation between quantity of speech and grade becomes more emphatic. The speaker with the longest average turn is awarded the highest grade: G11, who is graded as 1 at credit level, has an average turn length of 63.8 words. The speaker with the second longest average turn length is awarded the second highest grade: G9, awarded a 2 at credit level, has an average turn length of 27.75 words. G5 and B5, both assessed as general level, have similar average turn lengths: 13 words and 13.5 words respectively. B3, who is graded the second lowest, at grade 5 foundation level, has the lowest average turn length at 10.6 words. The gap between B3's average length of turn and that of G5 and B5 is not very great, but the number of words B3 says per minute is much lower than the number said by G5 and B5.

Thus, when a profile is constructed taking into account the average number of words uttered by the pupil per minute, and the average length of the pupil's turns, there is a strong correlation between quantity of talk and the grades awarded by the S.E.B..


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