Death and Afterlife: Improve your Essay Technique

Please comment on each section of the essay with your feedback. What is good about it, needs work, could be improved and how, how does it meet the requirements of the mark scheme and your general thoughts?

‘Everyone deserves to be saved and go to Heaven’ Discuss.

Taken from Matthew 25, when discussing the afterlife Jesus states ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life’. This clearly eludes to a Divine judgement about which afterlife is suitable to each individual. But how is this decided? Is it possible to change your afterlife or is it unescapable? This essay will explore why not everyone deserves to be saved and go to Heaven and what other options there are.

St Augustine: Improve Your Essay Technique

Please comment on each section of the essay with your feedback. What is good about it, needs work, could be improved and how, how does it meet the requirements of the mark scheme and your general thoughts?

‘Augustine’s view of human nature is deeply pessimistic’ Discuss

St Augustine of Hippo based his pessimistic theology around the creation story of Genesis 1-3, focusing specifically on the state of human nature before and after the Fall. His literalist interpretation of original sin led him to conclude that the human will became damaged and divided, and he is pessimistic in suggesting that human nature, as a result, is dominated by concupiscence. This essay will therefore be arguing that Augustine’s view of human nature is deeply pessimistic, perhaps straying from the true doctrines of Christianity.

Joining the World of Live Streaming!

Thank you for joining me this morning for my first live stream. If you missed it, you can watch it here:

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The next stream will be Monday at 10.00 on Business Ethics and then next Friday at 10.00 on a topic to be confirmed. Keep your eyes on the FB page, Twitter or subscribe to the YouTube channel for all the latest updates.

If you have any live stream requests send me an email or comment below 🙂

Improve Your Essays Using Mark Schemes

For the past year, I have been very interested in the pedagogy surrounding metacognition and how students learn, probably sparked from hearing Bradley Busch at different events (The Science of Learning – What you need to know.) From this, I have been thinking a lot about my students’ essay writing techniques. What I have realised is that I spend a lot of time focusing on essay structure, how to apply critical words, supporting students in articulating a more mature use of language that focuses upon the material covered but are the students really learning how to write an essay? Can a student improve if they are unaware of the writing hoops they are meant to jump through? 

As a teacher, and a previous marker for the exam board, I know exactly what an essay should read like. Plus after all the hundreds of essays I have marked, it also feels like the examiner’s mark scheme is etched into my brain. But this is not the case for the students. They know that line of argument is important because I drill it into them. They know they must answer the specific question asked because they highlight their essays after completion. However what I realised is that they probably don’t know WHY I ask them to do this because they don’t see beyond me marking their essays. My students know of the examiner’s mark scheme (it pops up in lessons sporadically) but they have never applied it to their work with any consistency. Not using the examiner’s mark scheme systemically through lessons feels like a key strategy in self-assessment that I have been missing out on. 

So, nearing the end of last term I copied and pasted the examiner’s mark scheme Annotation 2020-01-14 134937.jpginto a more student friendly table. Front side A01 descriptors, other side A02 descriptors. Each table consisted of 3 columns, first column for the five levels (6 for A2), second column for the descriptions that go with each level and then a final column for the student reflections. Since the end of term often culminates in mock exams and essays, I thought it was the perfect time to pilot the new sheet. So, every student got a mark scheme table sheet and on their unmarked essays (some were second drafts from previous whole class feedback) they highlighted which of the descriptions best suited their work. Afterwards they calculated their mark based on how many points were highlighted within that level.  

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At first the activity did need quite a bit of explanation, further coaching and repetition but the students soon picked up what was being asked of them. The questions that followed were exactly what I had wanted: “what does breadth or depth mean?”, “how many would a ‘range’ of scholarly views be?” and “I haven’t really used the words in the question throughout, so I haven’t really addressed the question well have I?”.  Questions such as these showed me that the students were starting to think like examiners, applying the examiner’s words to their own essay and really reading them from another angle. Once the students had marked their essays and reflected upon what they needed to do to improve, they were given the opportunity to redraft.  

Through students identifying areas to develop themselves, using the language of an examiner and then going away to improve their essays without my input, moves essay writing from the usual teacher feedback transaction into high level understanding.  My job is to step in when a student says, “I know I need to do but I don’t know how”. This means that it is the student who is doing the reflection, even if they then struggle with the next step of their essay writing, which is where the teacher then supports the learning process. Whereas the usual transaction is either the teacher pointing out the errors in an essay and then giving the solutions or pointing out the errors and the student not understanding what the errors are.  

 

What you NEED to know from the OCR Training Course!

A friend from another school has recently been to an OCR training course (My car was stuck in the snow doing wheel spins in sunny Scarborough!) and the major snippet of information is that on the content table of the spec, if it mentions a Bible passage or a text from the Pope for example, this could be used as part of a specific question.

Whilst I have covered these areas within the unit and students know to make reference to them in their answers, I was not expecting them to be part of the wording of questions. This was quite naïve of me! In my ten years of teaching OCR specs I know that anything mentioned on the spec could be used in the exam questions, I am just pleased I am now able to incorporate it into my exam practice with students.

A possible question for example might then be: Critically assess the view that official Christian teachings, with reference to Ephesians, should resist current secular views on gender. To me this sounds quite a clunky question but the powers-at-be at OCR have made it clear that this sort of question is possible. 

Foot note:

I finally made it to an R.S course, well it was more like an intimate get-together in Leeds with about 15 other teachers and author Hugh Campbell (who is always a pleasure and I highly recommend attending anything he is speaking on). Here are some of the highlights and tidbits from the morning – mostly aimed at students:

  • Avoid “Blue Peter answers” – here’s one I made earlier. It is obvious to an examinerheres-one-i-made-earlier-blue-peter when students have learnt essays and try to crow bar them into another question. The key tip: students have to answer the question in front of them. Anything mentioned (whether learnt in that topic or not) is accredited marks if it is relevant to the specific question asked.
  • Weave in evaluation – be critical of scholars immediately e.g Hume is right to say….because…
  • BUG technique – Box in question, Underline the key words, Glance at the question again
  • Always stick to the timings (40mins for A2) never just think ‘oh five more minutes to finish this essay off.’ No!! Why…because you will get more marks writing a second full answer than you would get for completing a conclusion for the 1st answer.
  • Never write in the margins, when exam papers are scanned into computers it cuts them off.
  • Don’t just stick a link to the question in the last sentence of the paragraph -integrate it throughout.
  • Avoid ‘I think’ assertions as this is not academic writing
  • If you don’t finish an answer leave half a page gap and start next question – this way an examiner doesn’t have to scroll through pages and pages on a computer to find the remaining piece of your answer at the back if you add more at a later time.
  • Introduction: define terms in the questions and if a broad/ general question mention your focus, so the reader knows how you have interpreted the question.