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AS/A2 History Teaching


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#31 gav

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Posted 07 June 2006 - 09:45 PM

There seem to be a number of issues outside of the classroom itself which have a directly negative impact on A-level teaching. (I can only comment on my own experience here.)

1. The move to AS/A2 - this has put much more pressure on teachers to teach 'to the exam' - much of this pressure comes from the students themselves who naturally prioritise their grades over a more 'fulfilling' experience of studying the subject. What I mean by this is that, with the straight two year A-level, there was time to experiment and encourage a real passion for the subject amongst the students. In fact the whole move towards more rigorous formal assessment in recent years has changed the way many students approach learning - they are much more inclined to learn for the exam than for enjoyment. (This is fuelled by teaching to get the students through SATs and GCSEs - the teaching in turn is as a result of school targets and government league tables.) This perversely can have a negative impact on achievement in the sense that I have always found that those students who are really passionate about their subject are those who will be more likely to be open to different teaching methods and think 'outside the box' (although I detest that expression!)

2. Jobs - it may seem strange but I've seen a massive increase in sixth formers with part time jobs. This has coincided with the introduction of EMAs (- you would have thought it would mean students would have to work less.) This has been a real problem for many students who come from an area where there isn't great parental support for post-16 study. The hours that some students put in each week horrifies me. This has had a real negative impact on their studies. They have very little time outside of lessons to read or produce good homework and this leads to a desire to be spoonfed with content rather than think for themselves (which requires more time and effort.)

3. Teaching time - in my school we only have 4 hours per week - this puts a lot of pressure to get through the content of the course.

4. How are we judged? There is a pressure on teachers to stick to tried and tested methods of delivering A-Level. we will be ultimately judged on our results, not on whether we deliver exciting lessons. Of course, the two often come hand in hand, but there is a fear of trying something new.

5. The jump between GCSE and AS level. Better teaching means that pupils today are more likely top get a C grade than say ten years ago, however, it is often teaching 'to the exam' which has achieved this. This doesn't do the students any favours and i've found several students who gained a C at GCSE are competely out of their depth in year 12. Consequently, I've been pushing Year 10s and 11s with essay writing skills and much more independant learning than they might get in other subjects. This has really paid off as the quality of essay writing has improved massively at A level in recent years. If bright students have been debating, presenting, researching, and reading around the subject from year 10, onwards, this can only help them in the sixth form.

6. Sixth form numbers. Many sixth forms are under financial pressure to increase numbers. This has led to allocating students to courses who would not have been in past years. I've found that Connexions are pretty effective in encouraging students to stay on even if it is not in their best interests. So class sizes have gone up but we now have more students who aren't prepared to go the extra mile for their studies.

Right I've got to number six, my eyelids are closing (hard school trip today) and everything has been a bit negative so far. Tomorrow I'll post my positive thoughts on how I try to get round these problems.


edited to correct typing errors and to add this: (attempting to address above points)

1. Try to get classlists of those taking your subject at A-level and give them something to do over the summer. e.g. a (non-text)book to read and write a review on, a glossary to find out, maybe even a couple of films to watch. The aim being to generate an interest in the subject before you begin teaching and to make them realise at the earliest stage that A-levels involve independent learning. Those who are put off at this stage wouldn't have made it to the end of the course anyway.

2. There isn't too much you can do here except nag at them and give them examples of students who have underachieved in previous years. One area I have had some success in is talking to parents and persuading them to offer more moral (and even financial) support - (but be careful how you phrase this) - I was surprised at how many students are expected to contribute to the household or at least be 'self-sufficient' once they finish GCSEs

3. Keep raising the issue of teaching time in HODs meetings, even put it into your department reviews and development plans. e.g. 'aim: to push for more teaching time' 'considering our limited teaching time, the results this year were particularly pleasing'

4. Take risks and try different teaching methods but plan them well, deliver them with enthusiasm and have a 'plan b'

5. (see also 1 above) and insist on having an input on those opting for your subject next year.

6. Not much can be done about this - its a result of New Labour and market forces in post 16 education.

I'll have another think and try to offer some examples of lesson activities and strategies I have used which have been successful.

Edited by gav, 08 June 2006 - 02:57 PM.


#32 gav

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 02:58 PM

Damn that looks long. Sorry.

#33 Guest_Nick Dennis_*

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 04:25 PM

I really like the idea of a book review/film review to stimulate interest. I'll have to find out about the classes I'm teaching next year.

You make an interesting point about teaching towards the exam. We are moving much more in this direction next year as some of our students really struggle with the independent learning outside of the classroom. I think my department would welcome the idea of sitting all the units at the end of Year 13 but it would cause chaos across the school in terms of results and that schools like to offer a wide variety of subjects to students (locking them into History for two years reduces choice).

Edited by Nick Dennis, 08 June 2006 - 04:25 PM.


#34 alison denton

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 05:09 PM

I really like the idea of a book review/film review to stimulate interest.


So do I!

Can we start a list of possible films/ books that could be given, for the A-level courses we all teach?
Maybe as a different thread??
Help Carole!

I teach Europe 1815-1914 (essentially - Germany and Russia in that time, and the causes of WW1).
What do you suggest?

War and Peace (probably a bit much for budding Y12, and only covering the course intro really)
Anna Karenina? Probably too long again
The Scarlet Pimpernel?
Sharpe books/ DVDs?
Dostoevsky? A bit serious for Y12?

I am totally clueless here - any suggestions? Anything else set in Russia (I LOVE Russian history)?
Seriously - I'd love to do this.

#35 Guest_Nick Dennis_*

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 05:39 PM

I know that a similar thread was set up ages ago, but I think it was more to do with the courses we teach rather than resources we could use.

A 'prelim resources' thread/wiki/etc is a really good idea.

#36 Russell Courts

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 06:23 PM

I have never set a book or film review, what a great idea. I often recommend books and films some of which go down better than others.

As far as Russia goes, many of them seem to have enjoyed the following over the last few years:

Darkness at Noon, One day in the life of Ivan Deniisovich (obvious I know, but goes down a treat), I had a Russian girl two years ago who read Master and Margarita in Russian and loved it, no one else ever has!

As for movies, I showed my upper 6th the whole of Dr Strangelove this year, didn't do anything fancy, just showed them a movie and we chatted about it for a double lesson. I wasn't sure what they would think (it is in black and white after all!), but they adored it, the discussion was fantastic and went off on all sorts of tangents. Unfortunately one of them did mention the development of the doomsday machine in the mock.
I think I'll have strawberry...

#37 alison denton

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 09:07 PM

there does seem to be a bit more for the 20th century overall

I'm really struggling to think of suitable novels especially dealing with 19th century European history that would be the right level for Y12.

Have looked up teenage historical fiction on net for a while but can't seem to hit any kinds of lists of possible material for the right time periods and countries

#38 Russell Courts

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 08:47 AM

What about The Fixer by Bernard Malamud? A great read and a decent enough film if they can't be bothered with reading!
I think I'll have strawberry...

#39 Paul Smith

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 10:26 AM

I'm really struggling to think of suitable novels especially dealing with 19th century European history that would be the right level for Y12.


The Red and the Black by Stendahl. France c 1830.

And Quiet Flows the Don by Sholokov (Much of the action is Revolutionary Russia but it gives a sound description of rural life of the pre-rev period. It looks dauntingly thick but I read it during my Alevels.....which is remarkable since I never read anything I was meant to.......hence the grades!)

Paul
Cassus ubique vale

#40 alison denton

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 08:03 PM

thanks for the recommendations - this is 100% more than I had an idea of yesterday!!
One of the English teachers in school recommended a short story by Nikolai Gogol - will let you know what when she brings it in for me this week

#41 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 01:17 AM


I really like the idea of a book review/film review to stimulate interest.


So do I!

Can we start a list of possible films/ books that could be given, for the A-level courses we all teach?
Maybe as a different thread??
Help Carole!
...........


Sorry. Have been away for a bit and only just seen this.

No problems at all creating lists of films and books as 'background' for different A Level courses. All that needs to be done is to start a new thread - in 'Teaching Requests Ideas and Resources' would be best - with an appropriate heading.

I guess what would be best is if it was a categorised and collated list a bit like the one I did for Visual and Audio Sources and then 'pin' it so that it is always at/near the top of that section. I'm quite prepared to do that but there are a couple of minor problems:
1. I'm not sure what all the possible teaching Topics/Units are so can only have a stab at creating the categories
2. Though I can search the Forum for what may be here already and collate it I don't think there is currently very much

Nevertheless, over a period of time, it should grow into a useful resource.

I can start a new thread with some basic stuff and then people can post there to tell me what categories I've missed and also come up with suggestions for films and reading. I can then edit my own post accordingly and collate as we go.

Does that sound OK?

#42 Guest_Nick Dennis_*

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 11:47 AM

Sounds brilliant! :)

Edited by Nick Dennis, 12 June 2006 - 11:49 AM.


#43 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 12:17 PM

Right. I'll get onto it asap. .... unless there are better suggestions?

#44 alison denton

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 05:42 PM

thanks Carole - just what we need

'Daed Souls' by Nikolai Gogol

Available on Amazon at 8.95 (+1.99) and in the marketplace from 5.05

#45 Samantha Murray

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 07:08 PM

Dear all,

I hope I do not offended anybody here! I have recently completed an investigation ( for cambridge) on this topic which I will share when I have written it up in full. It is based around using Key stage three strategies to develop learning at Key stage 5. As part of this I am including this discussion as part of my appendix. I hope that this does not cross over any boundaries. I just found your comments exstremely relevant to my investigation. I will pull it out if there are any objections.

many thanks

Sam




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