First of all I was very uninspired by yesterday’s Philosophy questions (my feeling was a bit ‘meh’). I think they were deceivingly difficult i.e ‘Analyse Aristotle’s four causes’ appears easy but you would really have to work on developing and formulating strong evaluation with so few words to work with in the question. What is also noticeable is that Teleological and POE both came up in the first year’s exam as well. What this means is that there is no correlation between first year and second year questions. I think the exam board are going out of their way to make the questions as unpredictable as possible and thus repeating a lot of the same areas (Bonhoeffer in DCT has come up three times already -there has only been four exams!). But that is now old news…let’s look ahead towards ethics.
Here are the previous questions from the first and second year’s exams:
All that we can learn from looking at these is how the questions are worded. The obvious gaps in the second year are: Sex ethics, SE and Euthanasia and Util and Business. However the way that the examiners are throwing in a few curve balls, you need to go into that exam ready for anything.
Last week I finished my level three Mental Health Training and it got me thinking about how I support my students with exam stress. The answer was ‘not much’. I do the usual revision planners/ timetables but I spend all of my time supporting revision (and finishing the spec) rather than strategies to actually help cope with exam stress. Students have always expressed that they are stressed when approaching their exams, so I use to work through what they had already achieved and how they were going to stagger their revision over the remaining weeks – thus talking through revision strategies rather than coping mechanisms. But how can students revise if they are not coping?
So I decided to start researching into strategies for supporting students dealing with exam stress. The lists of ideas were pretty repetitive and seemingly obvious – but then isn’t everything obvious when you already know the coping strategies? So I am going to go through this ppt with different strategies and tips to help my A2’s with exam stress. The reason I am going to cover this now, is to tackle the issue before it becomes an issue. Helping students set up strategies to support themselves now, before the serious stress hits, I hope will be more valuable in the long run.
I have also created a Revision Planner:
All the resources can be downloaded for free from TES here.
With tight budgets, it is not always possible to attend a lot of conferences, courses and training but I always keep an eye on the OCR CPD feedback sessions, especially when they are more local to Scarbados (e.g. Leeds – London or Manchester make it a very long day!). So I couldn’t wait to attend the session run by Hugh Campbell on ‘Understanding the Assessment’ and really get into the minds of the examiners…until my train was delayed by nearly two hours and my body was finally shutting down with every bug going. I ended up in bed. Worry not though, as a very kind colleague of mine sent me all the information in the post!
Better responses showed a holistic approach – wide ranging knowledge from the whole course (synoptic links are good but make sure they are linked back to the argument/ question).
Effort was made to read around the course material and demonstrated assessment of primary sources (I use a few primary sources and often have students take a quote or snippet of information from them but assessment of these or wider reading…who has the time with such a full spec?).
Still evidence of ‘Blue Peter’ answers – problem with showing model answers (is there an alternative for demonstrating essay technique?)
Prevalence of ‘comparing’ rather than evaluating/ assessing (I think this is a really good point. I think sometimes students think that comparing thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle equates to evaluating, when actually they are just comparing A to B. Assesment needs to take place as to why A is more convincing than B etc).
Still issues of asserting rather than assessing – X says this Y says that and therefore X is right with no sense of why X is right (again I think this is a really valid point. Students often state the views of thinkers and if the view of that thinker is negative e.g. Dawkins this means it counts as evaluation. In fact all you are doing is asserting the view of someone else. Assessing means weighing up why their view works or does not work.)
Better responses sustained a line of reasoning. Thread the argument from paragraph to paragraph – building from one point to the next.
The results are in, now it is time to put the examiner’s mouth to the marks…how did they arrive at these?
The examiners note how the majority of responses follow ‘fairly well – worn tracks.’ Well I felt the same about their comments. On the whole I feel that the examiners are expecting more than these 18 year olds, with three 2 hour exams and 32 topics to remember, are capable of. Does it matter if they follow ‘well worn’ tracks as this is a new cohort with different pressures? Or maybe we should teach it differently (better)?
Showed knowledge from other topics (synoptic links) suggesting an understanding of the holistic nature of the A level
Lack of focus on exact wording of the Q
Long introductions, summaries better left until the end
Most of essay spent on A01 with A02 added at the end – resulting in insufficient depth
Few students showed signs of having undertaken research. What do they expect? How are students meant to cover the already dense spec in the short time provided and do further research and remember it all including the main parts needed? – Very unfair expectation in my view!
Comparing scholars is not evaluation – this is simply comparing viewpoints. Students need to justify which perspective works in relation to the Q.
1. ‘The best approach to understanding religious language is through the cataphatic way.’ Discuss
Good use of Aquinas’ analogy of attribution and proportion, Ramsey’s Models and Qualifiers, alongside own examples or those of Aquinas’ bull/urine or Hegel’s faithful dog
Close comparison (and therefore analysis) between the cataphatic and apophatic ways
Symbol used effectively
Description of examples with no link back to the Q
Demonstrated more knowledge on apophatic way
Symbol confused with myth (no longer on spec)
2. To what extent does Hume successfully argue that observation does not prove the existence of God?
Variety of Hume’s criticisms, relating them to succinct summaries of the Teleo and Cosmo arguments. (Satisfactory answers wrote copious amounts of descriptions for Aquinas and Paley, leaving little room for Hume).
Darwin and Tennet’s anthropic principle when used in relation to Hume.
Analysed Hume’s criticisms, weighing up how successful they are.
Juxtaposing alternatives such as Big Bang without justify any reasoning as to why applying them.
Accepting points without question such as Hume’s Epicurean thesis.
3. Assess Boethius’ view that divine eternity does not limit human free will.
Least popular and least well done- insufficient knowledge of key theory.
Whilst travelling down to the NATRE conference in Cheshire on the train, what better than the examiner’s report from 2018 to keep me busy? No huge surprises (but a few concerns) from the first year Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought reports. So here is a summary of the best bits or the bits you need to know if you haven’t had chance to read them:
A significant number of essays had little to no evaluation
Distinct lack of scholarly views
Make sure examiners can read your handwriting!!
1. “Conversion experiences do not provide a basis for belief in God.” Discuss
Clear focus on conversion
Developed evaluation of the effects
Effective use of William James, Swinburne and Freud
Long descriptive accounts of conversion, mostly St. Paul and Nicky Cruz
Thinking that St Paul was an atheist before his conversion
Not applying Swinburne’s principles to answering the question.
2. Critically discuss Aristotle’s understanding of reality.
Very good accounts of Aristotle’s empiricism, explanation of four causes and prime mover (who draws things to him in a disinterested manner).
Used Plato in an evaluative way in relation to Aristotle scored higher bands
Confusion between efficient and formal causes (note: this has been an issue throughout the legacy papers as well)
Wrote all they knew about Plato and only compared with Aristotle in the final paragraph.
3. To what extent does Kant successfully criticise the ontological argument?
This section stopped me in my tracks. The report starts by saying “while a popular question, candidates struggled to produce good responses and very few recognised that Kant is critiquing the Cartesian version of the ontological argument.”
Now this annoyed me slightly. I cover Descartes in passing as I think he presents interesting links to the concept of predicate, using his example of the triangle and valley (I often find it helps students understand the concepts further). However Descartes has been completely removed from the spec and makes absolutely no appearance in the new spec (not even in the discussion pointers or recommended books).
So if you are new to the spec and don’t realise Kant’s links to Descartes and/or do not cover Descartes at all and closely follow the specific wording of the spec (as time does not allow us to cover all and everything!) then the examiners were expecting something not made clear and marked according to (I think) an old spec mark scheme not a new one. When I teach Kant I explain his views on predicates and get the students to link back to Anselm (who is on the spec) with Descartes links as a passing activity/ mention. I think the question is fine, I think the examiners marking/ report is way off!
Last year we were all well and truly in the dark when approaching the first Christian Thought paper. A year on (and maybe a year wiser) we can certainly learn from two areas: the examiners report (see: Examiner’s Report 2017: What can we learn?) and last year’s questions:
Now so far in the first year exams it seems that the areas that were asked last year have been avoided so far this year. OCR are very clever though – they will know this too, which means they might throw a curve ball in and ask the same topic again but a different area.
However going by the pattern so far this means that Augustine, Natural and Revealed Knowledge of God and Moral Principles has not been asked. My gut instinct is that the examiners will not ask a question on both Natural and Revealed and Moral Principles as these are very similar topics (in my view) and both quite dry.
I think if the examiners asked you a question on Natural and Revealed (such as ‘Knowledge of God can only be revealed.’ Discuss – wording would obviously be a little better) and then a question on the Bible (such as ‘The Bible is the only authority for Christian ethical practices.’ Discuss – wanting you to discus the different denominational approaches) I think that would be a really mean paper!
But….your Philosophy and Ethics so far has been pretty nice. My mantra: Prepare for the worse and hope for the best.