I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to pop along to Marling School this afternoon to hear Stacey Hill, AQA’s Head of Curriculum for Geography, speak about ‘Improving performance on key themes from summer 2018′.
The session was divided into four parts, namely:
- Key outcomes of summer 2018: Including using geographical terminology.
- The use of stimulus material in GCSE papers – their role, significance and how they can be used to support Grade 1-3 students.
- Approaches to answering 9 mark questions.
- Progressing student responses in fieldwork.
Stacey began by providing an overview of the 2018 summer series. She highlighted the things that students did well, one of which was a ‘good range of locations chosen to exemplify case study requirements’. She suggested using local case studies wherever possible; students can recall these well, having experienced them ‘first-hand’ and, often, on many occasions. Stacey then discussed things that students could improve on. 10% of marks are related to pure mathematics; last year, this was mostly on Paper 2. Students displayed difficulties in carrying out mathematical calculations at times, e.g. mean; median, and lost marks when rounding. She suggested liaising with the maths department in school to check that all the necessary requirements have been covered and these can then simply be reinforced within geography. Pupils also struggled to make full use of images, particularly when evaluating photographs. As teachers, we should aim to provide as many opportunities as possible to analyse photographs together, encouraging students to refer to what they can see. She also prompted us to re-visit key words on a regular basis as there were clear issues with pupils’ use or understanding of geographical terminology.
Next, Stacey emphasised the widespread use of stimulus material in GCSE papers. In last year’s exam series, there were 68 questions that were based on figures, with 138 marks allocated to these. Thus, teachers should aim to integrate stimulus material into lessons; they can make great starter or plenary activities, of which she provided a few examples. Stacey also drew our attention to a couple of pages in the specification, entitled ‘The skills requirements of the specification’, and to check that we have embedded activities within our schemes of work that enable the development of such fundamental skills. Within the NEE case study document, there are examples of how skills can be incorporated within delivery, which could be utilised for revision practice. Some stimulus questions target multiple objectives. Stacey reinforced that students are able to progress to a Level 2 without engaging with the stimulus material provided or referring to a case study. Sometimes, stimulus material may be included, which may not relate to content that has been covered; this is simply testing skills instead. Examples of good answers were also shared and an explanation given as to why this had reached the top end of a Level 3. When answering longer tariff questions, Stacey reiterated the importance of deconstructing questions with pupils, as well as employing strategies, such as PEDaL (point; example; develop and link) and structure strips. We were also given a list of openings to utilise when posing questions of our own, e,g. Analyse the impacts on …; Suggest why …; Assess the effects of … . It was proposed that we should aim to integrate skill development into Key Stage 3, as opposed to stretching out the content over three years.
In conjunction with Paper 3: Section B, best practice for ensuring that students are prepared for the new assessment of fieldwork is to focus on the WHY, not WHAT, e.g. Students will be asked ‘WHY did you do this?’, not ‘WHAT did you do?’. 6 mark questions often begin with ‘Explain how … ‘ too. Stacey told us to keep fieldwork titles simple. If asked about human geography fieldwork and students write about their physical geography experiences, then they cannot go beyond Level 1. For the 9 mark question, with a further 3 marks awarded for SPaG, Stacey suggested sharing a few sentence starters with pupils, e.g. This clearly allowed me to …; It was extremely easy to see that …; The information was hard to compare effectively …; It was much easier to plot all of the data …; This method allowed me to make a more clear judgement … .
Stacey summarised how centres are ‘getting it right’ in four points:
- Practice using stimulus materials in a variety of ways that address different combinations of assessment objectives – including lots of practice.
- Using strategies to help students in accessing aspects of longer tariff questions – deconstructing the question; PEDaL.
- Developing decision-making skills through non-exam question engagement with content – consider the enquiry-based approach to content delivery.
- Detailed and relevant thorough planning of fieldwork – covering all aspects before, during and after fieldwork takes place in a way that is aligned with the new way of assessment.
Not only did this Teach Meet provide further insight into the GCSE specification, but it also gave me a chance to network and share ideas with other geography teachers in the area. I will now take this information back to the Al-Ashraf Secondary School, whom I am currently supporting with school improvement and the teaching of their Year 11 students.
Many thanks, Clare, for facilitating this session. I look forward to the next meeting in June.