There are a number of techniques I use when setting an essay for homework:
- I give students a choice of questions (e.g 1 from 3). Not so they have a choice (even though this is similar to exam) but because I get a wealth of material that covers more areas of the spec as examples – it also breaks up the marking a bit!
- I start by setting essay writing homework for just the introduction and first main paragraph. Why? So I can check the essay writing technique is correct first. I don’t need to read 2/3 sides if the student has not understood the paragraph technique (point-explain-example- layered evaluation, with a 25% A01 vs 75% A02 split).
- Students do not complete these under timed conditions and can use class notes/power points because it is important that students first of all develop the right technique. Once the students have learnt this technique it is then possible to start bringing in timed conditions.
- On deadline day I give the students a number of highlighters. So in this case one highlighter for the main words (I pick) in the question and any use of critical terms. This shows me quickly if they have answered the question and evaluated. If there is a gap in highlighting I give them an immediate chance to re-drat. There is no point me marking work to state the obvious, it is also a very valuable self assessment process they need for the exam.
So here are some examples taken from my students’ work covering two DCT Pluralism questions:
There is no other means of salvation but through Christ.
This is a sophisticated introduction for a few reasons. It is not the quote or definition that makes this sophisticated but the way the student links the quote and definition back to the question in both cases (light blue). This introduction also has an evaluative tone (purple) and engages with the question (yellow – I picked ‘ no other means’ to highlight, whereas students had focused on ‘salvation’ and ‘Christ’, so this shows them to never ignore words in the question).
The first main paragraph of this essay reads:
The structure for this paragraph is very clear. The theme is Kreamers’ exclusivism with Hick’s pluralism against it. There is an evaluative tone throughout (but clearer seen with the purple) with over half of this paragraph being used for or against Kreamer and his view that salvation is just through Christ.
The second essay option (and quite a bit more popular) was:
‘All good people should be saved regardless of which faith they follow.’ Discuss.
These three introductions all demonstrate good technique. Each one uses a wider reading source (quote or Biblical passage) that is directly linked to the question, integrating it with the key thinker’s ideas (light blue). There are some links to the question (yellow) I would like more use of the examiners wording but the introductions themselves are clearly relevant to what has been asked. There is also an evaluative tone in two out of three of the introductions (purple). This is not necessary in an introduction but it is good for the student to start thinking critically about the question as early as possible to ensure the split between A01 and A02.
An example of a main paragraph:Whilst there are only a few critical terms (purple) there is a clear evaluative tone for the main part of this paragraph (light blue). This paragraph has a clear theme – Hick’s pluralism which the paragraph does not deviate from. This paragraph could have had more specific links to the question (yellow) to show the examiners how the points made link directly to what has been asked.
Another example of a main paragraph:
This is a sophisticated paragraph because the evaluative technique (A02) can be seen throughout. There are a lot of critical terms used to enforce the points being made (purple) whilst still incorporating a lot of wider reading and details (light green). This student shows very good written control and the theme of this paragraph (Dr. Bannister’s exclusivism) is focused on throughout.
Thank you to my students for letting me use their work 🙂