The very vivid and very full back to school nightmare last night has prompted me to spend much of today working, which has been something of a guilty pleasure. My school has a slightly earlier summer finish so I have now already been off for six weeks; it’s not surprising that my brain is a little confused.
I’ve alternated school books with personal reads this summer and that, combined with an excellent Sutton Trust/Durham University conference last week on independent learning, has prompted me to make some plans. Here they are in various states of development:
Assessing Sixth Form
The lecture on transition issues at Durham, led by the enthusiastic Dr Jacquie Robson, made it clear that independent research leading to better understanding as opposed to a shorter-term high grade was something that first year undergrads struggle with. This chimed in with a conversation I had with a history lecturer back in July, who said in passing that they spend about 18 months unpicking school conditioning in their undergrads; and with a conversation I had with a social policy lecturer years ago who expressed incredulity that her students were using her past papers to inform their revision (“Why?! They can’t do those past papers because we never covered those topics, but those topics are not going to come up because I write the paper!”). It also fell neatly alongside Christodoulou’s comments in Making Good Progress? about not playing a whole baseball match to practise hitting one type of pitch (I paraphrase, in the manner of a butcher) and the session I attended at the WLFS conference about using narrative. I had a nice tumblers-falling-into-place epiphany halfway through the last Durham lecture, which was inconvenient because I really struggled to focus on it.
So, my intention with year 12 next year is to have them research two small projects alongside their studies – one on each Henry, which will work well with the Tudors course. I will attempt to run these as small-scale NEAs. I think what I’m going to do is provide a bit of scaffolding and maybe even topics/questions for H7, but less for H8. Each project will require at least five readings. Their performance will not receive an individual grade, but will go towards their end of y12/UCAS predicted grade. This hopefully will, in no particular order:
- Make them do some wider reading, thus improving their knowledge, thus leading to a better grade at the end
- Give them a better understanding of how to use a library
- Prepare them for the NEA
- Provide me with some insight into how well they understand the course
- Provide me with significant body of work that I can include in my UCAS references
- Remind them that they really love History (or indicate to them in a timely fashion that, well, maybe they don’t)
On top of that, I’m going to require an ongoing narrative account of the Tudors, written in the style described by Vartan Tamizian at WLFS. This is mainly to help me see that they understand the basic facts of the course.
I’m still batting this about. I am toying with the idea of also requiring the narrative from Y13 but making the projects optional, since they will be doing their real NEA. I think I might have to wind back from my rule of at least one exam question a fortnight for Y12 in order to give them the space to complete this, but I think that is OK, especially with the new linear course. I think I’m gutsy enough to be able to defend against the inevitable outcry at doing work that isn’t marked to an exam board scheme. I do need to discuss it with my A-level co-teacher, though.
I’ve got two year 10 classes next year. I’m going to teach one Medicine thematically and one chronologically, to see if it makes a difference in their understanding. I would also like to assess each one differently, to see if that helps their progress, once again inspired by Christodoulou, but it doesn’t seem wise to do both of these things at once. Maybe I will do that for the later year 10 unit.
Meanwhile year 11 will benefit from my speed-reading of Willingham’s Why don’t children like school? – I’ve planned something for them on chunking and automating processes that will hopefully be useful for their revision and may lead to an adjustment in how I teach them to remainder of the course. There wasn’t much in Willingham that was news to me but chapter 5 was a real stand-out. My notes on chapters 1-4 are 2-3 lines per chapter. Chapter 5 runs to 6 pages, including sketches of lesson slides.
I continue to plug away at thematic units for KS3. I have three that work reasonably well and I am hoping to trial two more this year.
I am aiming to attend 15 CPD things across the year. I have tickets to ResearchED in London and TLT, for term 1, and there will be pizza group again. There were also some great local insets run last year by Bristol Museums so hopefully there will be something similar I can get involved in. Also I need to update my First Aid – that counts, right?!
I’m hoping for a PGCE student after Christmas. There will be more exam board work, which only becomes more interesting. I’m working on another book, with a March deadline. A few more trips would be nice – little local ones seem so achievable.
I’m interested to hear what other people are hoping to do: please share.