I have thoroughly enjoyed the first year of teaching the OCR A level. As well as rediscovering my love for theology – topics on Jesus and on Bonhoeffer have gone down particularly well – we have particularly got into Business Ethics which helped to dispel the idea that RS is full of old ideas that have no real relevance in the modern world.
The idea for Year 1 was to get through as much content as possible to allow time to slow down, review, and practice skills in year 2 – thus avoiding the trap of rushing to finish the course. We aimed to get through 18 of the 28 topics – we managed 17 but that was OK. I am all set to start with liberation theology – good links to Bonhoeffer – and theology and gender. Our main thoughts entering year 2 are around teaching and learning; what is written below is by and large the key messages that I will be giving to the Humanities team at the college as they begin the year at various stages (History has had its first results, RS is midway through, Philosophy and Classics are beginning their linear journeys)
As I have been thinking I am guided by a quote from Stephen Tierney at Northern Rocks 2015. Good teaching and learning is ‘Finding out what students don’t know and then teaching it.’ (Stephen Tierney @leadinglearner) Hence a key question is – do we know what each of our students’ strengths and weaknesses are? If we do, this is the first step to being able to do something about it.
- Content and Linearity
In the second year of RS and History we are beginning by using a Google form and asking students to RAG rate themselves against each of the first-year topics. This will help us to plan how to review first-year content and can be updated as we quiz students on what they claim to know.
Obviously we will be checking students learning on the new topics and questioning in class. In an effort to combat the difficulties of linearity.
Quizzing: By the end of this year we should have a pre-prepared quiz on each of the topics in the first and second year, whether this be a Kahoot, Socrative or pen and paper. For the electronic versions it will be possible to revisit these quizzes and by announcing the quiz schedule in advance and having a quiz league it will enable students to always be reasonably warm on past topics by virtue of their competitive natures.
Poor performance by individual students can lead to support or challenge as appropriate. If most students are struggling on a quiz – that gives us a priority in terms of our teaching.
- Skills and Linearity
In an effort to bridge the literacy gap we have introduced a reading program where students and staff will read silently for around 20 minutes towards the end of the last lesson of the week. The link to the reading program for RS in Year 1 – an anthology of key chapters and articles- is here.
In terms of exam technique we have to recognise that alongside the scheme of work for content there almost needs to be a parallel scheme of work for skills. (or if you are clever this can be one document!) This includes
- Improving students’ metacognition – one strategy will be to do modelling of how to answer exam questions in a similar way to John Tomsett’s walking talking exam
- We will also be making use of actual exam board scripts that we will talk through together in class. (Past scripts are fine and OCR are currently getting senior examiners to annotate some sample answers – coming soon to a website near you!)
- One other useful strategy before students hand their own essays is to get them to annotate their essays in terms of which assessment objectives they think they are fulfilling. It is often quite enlightening to see that what they think is AO2 is actually AO1 or completely irrelevant; interesting discussions can then emerge.
- We are also explicitly teaching paragraph structure using PEE for AO1 (Point Explain Example) and PEA (point explain assess) or PACE (Point, Assess, Counterargument, Evaluate) A more advanced structure (DISC + PEREL) and discussion is found here in courtesy of @missavecarter.
Our primary forms of assessment are the taking in of typed up notes after every couple of topics (We are using Google classroom to help with this) and regular timed essays. This will enable us to see how students are progressing with both content and skills.
- We aim to do most of our feedback in class through verbal feedback – sometimes live marking an essay with the student present is far better than written comments
- That said, for timed essays we will also be developing a feedback sheet that enables us to highlight phrases from the exam board mark scheme, jot down a couple of key messages and, most importantly, leave space for the students to write down action points. Once we have action points it is important that we give students time and space to write improved sections in class.
- There are also some excellent ideas of feedback here from @MrsHumanities which I have blogged on before. HERE
All of this might mean that some of the content gets pushed outside of class. One of the key messages of the new A-levels is that students need to be doing more outside of class.
Finally : The final thing that we are doing an RS is that we aim to have all of the content covered by early March. This leaves us at least 10 college weeks to review topics in class, practice essays and get ready for the exam. During this time I would like my students to be doing at least one timed essay in class each week. They are in a national competition so needless to say the messages about Mindset, Work ethic and organization that we deliver in induction have to be constantly reinforced.
If you’ve managed to read this all the way to the end, I hope my ramblings have been of some use and that you have an enjoyable and fruitful year of linear RS.