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Why I'm changing from AQA to OCR


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#1 Roy Huggins

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 06:47 PM

Hi Folks,

I've been teaching NEAB / AQA Modern World History for 13 years. However, in the past three years the style of questions in paper one have got progressively harder and more tricky. It almost appears that AQA are deliberately trying to catch or trick students into failing. However, I love the content and paper 2 is brilliant.

Unfortunately, our 'E' to 'D' students do very badly on Paper 1. We've tried everything, and I mean everything to try and help this group to improve but have hit a brick wall. On the other hand, our A- C students do very well and we get some really good As and Bs.

So we've soldiered on and scratched our heads and pondered what are we doing wrong. Even Ofsted was at a loss when they looked at the department. They graded the teaching and learning as very good and couldn't understand why we weren't breaking through the 40% pass rate. Then a friend in a neighbouring school, who achieved a 60% pass rate with very similar students, recommended that we look at the OCR Modern World Syllabus. Its taken me nearly a year to get around to looking at it in detail, but I'm converted.

I would strongly recommend that anyone who teaches AQA Modern World should consider looking at OCR. The questions are very straight forward and at least 40% easier! I'm not kidding, have a look online.

The curriculum pattern that I'm opting for is to do the following: Britain 1906 - 1919. This module does not include the weapons, tactics or fighting on the western front. I'm then going to do the OCR coursework on the FWW and stalemate. We will them move onto to the Treaty of Versallies, League of Nations and causes of the SWW. Once completed we will then opt for the depth study on the USA 1920s and 30s. At AQA we'd also do Germany 1920s and 30s. Unfortunately, you have to choose between USA & Germany. However, you can opt for the OCR coursework on life in Nazi Germany, which includes how Hitler kept control, Hitler Youth & KKK. This means that you get to drop Weimar Germany! If you prefer you cam drop Weimar Germany and do the OCR coursework on the Boom in 1920s USA.

When I first looked at the syllabus, I was concerned at the amount of content on the cold war section. However, according to OCR so long as you complete 1919 - 194O you are always going to get at least two questions on 1919 - 1940 so you can cut down on the content if you have a weak group. I actually think that I should be able to complete the whole cold war section, but on the whole there is a lot less content on the OCR Syllabus and the questions are a lot easier!

However, what annoys me the most is that exam boards can get away with such obviously different standards. We are not competing on a level playing field and that is not fair. So my advice to anyone doing AQA Modern World is have a good long look at OCR, its a lot easier!

If I'm wrong I'll own up to it in two years time! :hehe:

Edited by rhuggins, 25 March 2007 - 11:00 PM.

"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#2 Phil N

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 07:57 PM

I think that you have made the right decision, we moved from AQA 3 years ago and our students are really enjoying the spec. We have also increased our examination results.

We decided to change for all of the same reasons, there is less content, and its great to teach the whole of the cold war.

I really think that you have made the right decision

#3 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 08:20 PM

I agree entirely with all you say about AQA. Absolutely awful papers. I've moved to Edexcel and changed to SHP and couldn't be happier so AQA will just have to accept that more and more will do likewise unless they do something to make their papers more accessible.
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#4 Roy Huggins

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 08:32 PM

Thanks for the support lads. It was a really tough decision. History is very popular at Mexborough as we have about 120 students picking history every year so picking the right syllabus is a big responsility. I agree with what you said Dave, we are in the business of unlocking potential and helping kids to achieve their best.

Has anyone got any resources or schemes of work on the liberal reforms between 1906 - 1914? I'll happily do a trade? I've got 4 DVDs worth of mouth watering resources that any decent history teacher would die for?

I've already burnt yours Dave, see you in the bar at SHP.

Roy
"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#5 Roy Huggins

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 08:58 PM

I almost forgot to mention. The coursework support materials from OCR are brilliant. Their questions, resources and mark schemes transparent markshemes are great.

Why didn't we do this sooner?

Edited by rhuggins, 19 April 2006 - 11:55 PM.

"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#6 CD McKie

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 01:19 PM

Not wishing to sound like the harbinger of doom, but I completely disagree with you about AQA and OCR. Before arriving at my present school, I had taught OCR Modern World for 9 years and generally found that bright students had little difficulty getting to grips with the course. Upon starting my present job last September, I took over a department which followed the AQA course. Having now taught the course to both Years 10 and 11, I would argue that AQA is significantly easier than OCR. The main reason for this is the difficulty of the OCR Paper 2, where students are expected to display quite high-order source evaluation skills. The source questions at AQA are considerably more straightforward in my opinion. However, I suppose when the examination results come out this summer and next, I'll have a clearer idea about whether I have been right to stick with AQA. At this stage, however, I would argue that lower ability students will find OCR more challenging than AQA.
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#7 Roy Huggins

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Posted 02 July 2005 - 09:00 PM

I can train my students to do higher order source based questions. However, no matter how hard I try many of my students struggle to get to grips with the language and question style of AQA. The worst offender is the AQA Paper 1 questions which ask students to explain which factor was the most important for causing for example the FWW, the Bosnian Crisis or the Alliance System? Under pressure most of my students will make the simple mistake of relating the Bosnian crisis to the assassination of the Arch Duke! Now there are two ways of interpreting these types of questions, firstly that AQA have not thoroughly thought through the language and style of their questions and their target audience or secondly, that they are deliberately trying to catch students out rather than give them a fair chance to shine and prove what they know! In contrast, if you look at the style and language of the OCR Paper 1 questions on topics like for example, this year's question on the different factors relating to the impact of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, then they make logical sense which give the students a chance to make valid links and demonstrate what they have learnt. Obviously, if they haven't put the effort in then they can never make the valid links, but what happens to those students who have worked really hard, gone the extra mile and then been caught out by a badly phrased question or an examiner who is deliberately trying to trip a student up so that they can differentiate ....

I suppose the key question is this: Are exams designed to sort out the working classes from the academically more literate or are they supposed to be a fair test of what students have been taught according to the published syllabus? Anyone can catch students out by cleverly phrasing their questions, but is that fair?

I have taught NEAB / AQA for 13 years. I suppose its time for a change! I'm sure that they are not deliberately trying to catch students out, but their quality control processes for their exam papers langauge and target audience have a lot to be desired from my perspective. Rather than hoping that things will get better and I'm voting with both feet to give my students the best chance that I can.

Roy

Edited by rhuggins, 19 April 2006 - 11:52 PM.

"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#8 CD McKie

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:02 PM

Higher order source based questions I can train my students to do. However, AQA questions like which ws the most important: The Bosnian Crisis or the Alliance System in causing the FWW, I struggle with.

I have taugt NEAB / AQA for 13 years.  Time for a change!

Roy

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Good luck, Roy. You may be right. However, the example you provide about the causes of the First World War at least means that only two factors need to be covered and both are mentioned in the question. OCR will not afford you that luxury with their Paper I questions, e.g.

"The most important reason why the Second World War started in 1939 was because of Hitler's foreign policy." How far do you agree? (10 marks)

To obtain a mark of 8 or more, the candidate would be expected to explain, link and/or compare a good range of factors (around four or five). OCR expect a greater degree of factual knowledge in answers, but then again there is less content to cover.

A change is no bad thing, of course. After 9 years of teaching OCR, I'm willing to give AQA a chance over the next 2 or 3 years. I just hope we've both made the right decision. :)
To you who call yourselves men of peace, I say: You are not safe unless you have men of action on your side.

#9 Roy Huggins

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 04:06 PM

I had a very interesting chat with a few folks at the SHP Conference about exam boards. One of the points made by a highly respected historian and a chap from a government watchdog, was that AQA's interpretation of the GCSE history specification has resulted in its exams being aimed at narrow range of accademic students.

I was initially very surprised, but then when I began to think about all the public school teachers who were at the exam board meetingsand it finally clicked.

The target audience, language and type of question at AQA are closer to the old 'O' Level. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending upon your point of view and the type of students you teach.

We more than half the year group picking GCSE history every year. Kids enjoy history, but they also love getting good exam results.

If I'm wrong I'll happily own up to it in two years time.

Kind Regards

Roy :) :hehe:

Edited by rhuggins, 12 April 2006 - 02:28 PM.

"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#10 Roy Huggins

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 09:03 AM

Hi Guys,

Just a quick update to let you know how things are going on the new OCR Modern World History Course as opposed to the old AQA course.

The biggest difference that we have noticed as a department, is that OCR seem to award a lot more marks at a level 3 for contextual source analysis on the nature and purpose of a source. We have just finished the assessing the first coursework assignment which we have taught using the CCCJ model mentioned above and it has been very successful. The only downside is that it has taken us longer to teach the coursework on General Haig than we expected. However, this is alway the case with a new assignment.

On the content delivery side, we have finished the whole of Paper 2 on Britain 1906 to 1918, one coursework asssignment and are about half way through the International Relations course 1918 to 1939 which makes up half of the Paper 1 topics that we are covering. If all goes to plan weshould be able to fit the last cousework module on how Hiter kept control in before the Summer Holidays. That wil then leave us with the whole of the Autumn Term to complete the rest of Paper 1 on the USA in the 1920s and 1930s.

So how does this compare with our AQA course? I have just finished the Nazi Germany course on paper 2. We shall be starting the last part of the course on the origins of the Cold War 1945 - 1949 next week. I estimate that this will take three to four weeks. That will then leave the department with the rst of May to revise. This time next year I will have been revising since the beginning January.

The only downside to the route that we have taken is that the last term was hard work finishing off and marking Year 11 AQA coursework at the same time as teaching the new OCR coursework on Haig. If anyone is intereted in changing from AQA to OCR I'll happily send you our schemes of work etc. QED

The only other downside to all this hardwork is that everything is of course changing in 2008!

Roy

Edited by rhuggins, 12 April 2006 - 09:32 AM.

"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#11 Roy Huggins

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 09:38 AM

Posted below are some notes that I took on an OCR Inset training course last November. They make interesting reading.

General

46, 389 pupils opted for OCR Modern World History of which 30,000 did the Nazi Germany Depth Study and 13,000 the USA.

70.8% of schools were comprehensive, 6.9% selective and 18.9% independent,

Interesting to note that more independent schools do OCR Modern World History than any other syllabus! (No differential in residuals)

Grade Boundaries

Paper 1: A = 73% C= 51%

Paper 2: A = 72% C = 54%

Coursework A = 86% C = 62%


Paper 1

Paper 1 will always have a very large knowledge focus. However, section 1 will always have a sourced based question to help warm the students up for the 2-hour exam.

Q1 1919 – 1939
Q2 1945 - 1988

Please note that the sources based question will always be a ‘What is the message of the cartoon’ type of question.

This will be a simple comprehension and knowledge question. Students are not expected to write a balanced reliability question – unlike paper 2.

Detail and length are not necessary in this section.

Please see League of Nations Question 2005.

The key to success is to get students to follow the following formula: Comment / Content / Context of the source and then move on to the next question! (Message / Source / Own Knowledge)

In order to access maximum marks the student must link both the detail of the source and their own knowledge to the message of the source.

Question b in section A will always be a explain knowledge based question. For example, explain why the League of Nations was established.

In section B our students will always do questions 3 & 4, questions 5 & 6 will always be post 1945.

Paper 1 Section B Continued

The third section © of each question in section B will always ask students to discuss three key factors. Students are not expected to discuss any other factors unless they link the three together.

For example:

The following were all equally important reasons why Germany hated the Treaty

· Limitations on its armed forces
· The loss of raw materials and industries
· The loss of land

Do you agree with his statement? Explain your answer refering to only the above

NB: the focus has always been on the Treaty of Versailles. There has never been a question on the other peace treaties. However, students can pick up lots of marks for knowing that Austria lost far more territory and population than Germany!

Please see sample answers to 3c and the relevant mark scheme.

Teaching point: Always try to explain the links between the stated reasons or discuss their comparative importance.

Formula: Discuss detail of statement and use knowledge to explain how it fits into the bigger issue and then move on to the next one.

Students will not receive credit for knowledge outside of the three factors or issues.


Paper 1 Section C: USA Depth Study

· Depth Study = depth of understanding and critical thinking skills!
· You will rarely get sources based on photographs
· Compulsory source questions followed by a choice from two optional knowledge questions

Please see sample answer 8c and mark scheme on Weimar Germany

Question: How far was the WR Republic a failure? Explain your answer.

Teaching Point: once failure and success have been explained students must try and make a judgement in some form of conclusion

Judgement can be explained in terms of short-term successes and long-term failures.

On an ‘explain why’ question on the knowledge questions try and get students to go for a minimum of two or three factors.

Teaching Point: Explanation can be brief and two valid explanations will gain maximum marks

Explain why some Americans did not benefit from the government’s economic policy n the 1920s.

All explain why questions require an explanation of reasons. So why didn’t farmers benefit? … Over production… Why didn’t Black people benefit … racism and low wages?

See the mark scheme in the examiners report.

2005 Prohibition sourced based question sample answer 7c

Level 2 is accessed when the candidate identifies another reason for the failure of prohibition


Paper 2: British Depth Study

There are three themes that questions will always be asked on:

· Votes for women (2004)
· Liberal reforms (2005)
· Impact of the FWW on the Home Front (2003 / 2006?)

Due to the fact that Liberal Reforms had not come up before students used far more knowledge than usual. This meant that some students did not finish the paper and wrote beautiful model answers that did not respond to the sources or answer the question. This is a source analysis paper!

There will always be six questions and seven sources – no photographs. Sources will always be played into chronological order.

The key to success on source-based questions is to get students to follow the following formula: Comment / Content / Context of the source and then move on to the next question! (Message / Source / Own Knowledge)

The key theme of the whole Paper is how did Britain change and how effective were these changes – did they make a difference. Women, Liberal Reforms and DORA.

Key issue on DORA – Daylight saving – a government that goes as far as to control time! Water down beer! Why? Effective? Positive? Negative?

The only knowledge of the FWW weapons and tactics that the students will be required to know will be impact of:

· 1st July 1916 – Battle of the Somme – 60,000 casualties – 20,000 killed.
· War at sea – submarines – food shortages and rationing
· Air raids – Scarborough and Yarmouth

Resources

The best website that has been purposely made for OCR British Depth Study is the learning curve. Materials made by Ben Walsh

There are some good resources on Spartacus.

Ben Walsh book is considered best by paper 2 examiner followed by brown OCR book. Avoid blue too content heavy – unnecessary.

Structure of Questions

Question 1: Opening question will always be – what is the message
Questions 2 – 5: Questions addressed to specific sources (Bias / Reliability / Usefulness / Compare)
Question 6: Use all the sources to judge the validity of a statement. Answers to question 6 must always be balanced

Hierarchy of source skills to be awarded:

1. Description
2. Inference
3. Reliability – top skill

Level 1 can be accessed by cross-referencing / comparing a source with another.

Level 2 can be accessed by cross-referencing / comparing with own knowledge

NB There will always be a completely biased source!

The key difference between a source based question in Paper 1 and source based question in Paper 2, is that students have to balance what the source tells them with what it does not tell them.

· Paper 1 – What does it tell me?
· Paper 2 – What does it tell / not tell me?

Question 6

· In order to achieve the high marks on Q6 students must write a balanced answer.
· Students finding at least one source for and against the statement can easily access a level 4.
· Try and push students to use more than one example of a source for and against

Teaching Point: Try and get students to group sources together (For / Against)

Weaker students can pick up marks (see sample answer 6A) by simply listing the sources and describing their content and whether they are for or against the statement!

Teaching Point: Get students to comment on the origin, purpose and the nature of the source. For example, get students to refer to the sources not by their letter but to the ‘painting’, ‘poster’ as they are more likely to make a better connection to its purpose and therefore its reliability.

General

The knowledge used by candidates has to be linked to the source. Outside knowledge to the source cannot be credited. Refer to easier notes at start of Paper 2 notes.

Coursework

Best videos for teaching General Haig Coursework Blackadder and Battle of the Somme War Walks.
"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#12 Richard Fitzsimmons

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 11:28 AM

Coursework

Best videos for teaching General Haig Coursework Blackadder and Battle of the Somme War Walks.
[/quote]

Roy,

If you can get hold of the BBC Timewatch programme : Haig - The Unknown Soldier - this is a good 'revisionist' view of Haig and his reputation. It covers his training at Sandhurst, his religious belief, previous commands at Neuve Chapelle (1915), the Somme, Passchendaele etc

We have found it useful for helping with the OCR coursework assignment on Haig and his reputation as Butcher of the Somme.

Also of use is Richard Holmes' series on Western Front - also BBC. These are relatively short programmes (30 mins each I think). Good on the nuts and bolts of military engagements.

Richard
'The Historians, therefore, are the most useful people and the best teachers' - Martin Luther 1485-1546


#13 Roy Huggins

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 02:34 PM

Hi Richard,

Thanks for the information on Haig. Its been hard work making the transition, but I'm always on the look out for new resources. If anyone fancies trading resources 11 to 18 and especially on Britain 1906 to 1918, I'd be really interested so please do get in touch.

Another good reason for moving from AQA to OCR is that the level of support at GCSE is excellent. AQA have stopped running training seminars or courses to support GCSE history teachers. Their online resources are excellent, but sometimes you need some dedicated training.

I might add that we have decided to stick with AQA 'A' Level History as we have found the style, content and support excellent. Shame about the GCSE. AQA will have to try a lot harder if they want to attract our business at GCSE in the future! I just hope that the new statutory orders for GCSE in 2008 actually help to create a level playing field and stop this dispartity between the exam boards.

Kind Regards

Roy

Edited by rhuggins, 12 April 2006 - 05:46 PM.

"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#14 Neil DeMarco

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 04:33 PM

Great post on the OCR Modern World, Roy. Can someone do something similar for Edexcel's Modern World syllabus, please?
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#15 Andrew Field

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 04:35 PM

Great post on the OCR Modern World, Roy. Can someone do something similar for Edexcel's Modern World syllabus, please?


Well, now you've volunteered yourself Neil - how about it? Just press "New Topic" and get started. I'll chip in where I can.

[off topic - apologies]
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