Exam Boardroom: The gloves are off!


The all-you-can-eat buffet of exam boards is over (I’ve just returned from Oxford for the Academy Conferences R.S exam boards meeting) and the verdicts are in. OCR offers a content challenging course with clean lines and a seemingly manageable overlap over the two years. AQA appears to offer more questions than answers, with complex layering of exam questions with minimal choices but more manageable content to cover. Newbies Eduqas present a very open, honest ‘we are here to help you’ approach but how transparent is the exam questions and content is unclear over the two years. Edexcel offers a tempting Anthology of original texts to co-teach alongside the main theories, which wets my degree appetite but maybe not my students. And finally Pre – U Cambridge International Examinations (never heard of them – neither had I) offers text based study with Pass/Merit/ Distinction grading but seems to be blissfully unaware of the actual abilities of most 16 year old R.S students (pitching more for public school rigidity and work ethic rather than the reality of the classroom.)

Here is a more in-depth exploration of what is on offer:

OCR (presented by Hugh Campbell)

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  • Current OCR textbooks can be used – still relevant for new spec changes
  • Old DCT text book by Michael Wilcockson provides relevant support
  • A2 writing style prepares students for higher level degree writing.
  • OCR aims for a holistic approach with overlap between topics over two years
  • Text book is currently underway by Hodder
  • Inset training starts hopefully in June
  • Currently awaiting accreditation
  • For a more in-depth exploration of OCR please see my earlier blog on: Out with the Old and in with the New: OCR Spec Changes

AQA (presented by Dr John Frye)

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The Hunger Games Technique

I remember the days when I use to go to the cinema and sit back, trough popcorn and enjoy the entertainment. Now I’m not so lucky. If my mind is not inundated with philosophical links or religious connotations it is lesson techniques. The Hunger Games was no different (thankfully Bond was just James Bond.) An idea started brewing that I could utilise a bit of ‘healthy’ competition if I pitched my class against each other during an assessment homework. The challenge: write a better answer than the students on the other side of the classroom. Simple really. Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 19.19.21.png

I set the scene (and yes i did link it to the Hunger Games). I split the class in half. I explained that points would be deducted for any team member who handed the work in late.  I set each side a different but related question. The teams could work together but needed an individual piece of work to hand in. Finally (and most importantly) the best side wins a prize – other than just knowing they are the best (Chocolate Dips worked a treat).

The result: Well I would’t be blogging about it if it hadn’t of worked. Give it a go!

Adding the ‘power’ to your PowerPoint

I’m sure by now using powerpoint is so passé and there is a new ‘fashionable’ technique taking the world by storm (I’m just learning what snapchat is – still not really sure the point of it?) but as i live under a technology stone I’m going to stick with powerpoints. Using powerpoint is an easy resource to display a significant amount of material in creative and memorable way. So here is what I have learnt over the years…

1. Picking the perfect background: I always try to find a background suitable to the material being covered. The reason for this is that your background will play as a memory trigger as well as looking more interesting. If you google: free microsoft templates powerpoint this gives you a lot of websites to browse. I use https://templates.office.com/ but has a limited range so I often turn to www.smiletemplates.com/free/powerpointtemplates/0.html for more variety (only the first three slides are free but just copy and paste). Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 18.36.50.png

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What can I do with an A Level in Philosophy, Ethics or Religious Studies?

Answer: What can’t you do with an A Level in Philosophy and Ethics?

Harrison Ford Degree in Philosophy at Ripon College Wisconsin

One of the most common questions I get asked on open evenings, taster days or conversations with parents is: “what can my son/ daughter actually do with a qualification in your subject?” Philosophy, Ethics and Religious Studies is one of the more underrated subjects because of mass misunderstanding. The focus is not just on religion nor is it an extension of GCSE RE, the course offers so much more. Most importantly Philosophy, Ethics and R.S at A level provides you with the opportunity to develop key skills that are absolutely essential for success on most degree courses.

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Welcome to the Boardroom: Discussion Activities

Discussions are a fantastic teaching tool to engage all students, through connecting the subject material with the students’  own thoughts and experiences. This means that their learning is memorable.

  1. Conventional Discussion with a Twist. Students present their perspectives either verbally, written or physically in a discussion line then the teachers role (or a very confident or high achieving student) plays Devil’s Advocate. The students know what to expect (so the points are taken seriously but not offensively) and the students must justify their views in light of the further ‘controversial’ points raised. Review: very good for challenging high ability or verbal students.

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“But Miss it’s the end of the lesson!”: Perfect Plenaries

The end of a lesson can creep up on you like the rain in Scarborough (those of you familiar with the sunny seaside town will know that however well prepared you are the rain always catches you off guard.) I find plenaries exactly the same. However well I plan, however much I closely monitor the length of tasks, I just never seem to get round to my plenary (probably why I have so many starters – as my plenaries often become my starter activity for the next lesson. See post: Starters that Never Fail!)

But on those occasions when your lesson is rounding off nicely, you have five minutes left  to fill (while you desperately wait for your next caffeine fix) these plenaries I have found work a treat (by ‘treat’ I mean put students on the spot to test their learning from that lesson):

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Give them a try!

For further ideas why not try: