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Looking forward to the new A levels Bob Digby University College School, London.

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Presentation on theme: "Looking forward to the new A levels Bob Digby University College School, London."— Presentation transcript:

1 Looking forward to the new A levels Bob Digby University College School, London

2 Acknowledgments and thanks to: –Subject officers at the 4 main English and Welsh subject boards; –Sue Warn, for insight into candidate numbers post-16; –Simon Oakes for the use of his research into HEI attitudes towards school geography; –Matt Gregory at Edexcel for the use of Edexcel research; –The GA and the RGS for their positioning statements regarding Geography and its status; –The RGS for their annual analysis about candidate numbers in Geography

3 1.Where we are now –Revisions to the new A levels for the first time since 2000 –More than just new specifications – an expression of the subject for the next few years –Time scale: submission now, approval June, in schools September 07, first teaching 2008, first AS/A2 awards in 2009/2010 –Compliance with QCA subject criteria e.g. stretch and challenge –One specification per Board, and the implications of that. The death of specifications with low take-up e.g. OCR B? –4 modules not 6; when will candidates take these?

4 2. Questions –Will change actually reduce the burden of assessment? Or will the Boards shoe-horn 6 modules into 4? –No coursework permitted: will this impact upon the number of candidates in Geography? –What happens to fieldwork? How will the different Boards preserve fieldwork as an integral part of Geography? –How far has the introduction of AS/A2 and modularity benefited Geography? –Time to reflect - what have been the advantages and disadvantages of the present system? –We now have a generation of exam-wise year- olds – but are they better geographers?

5 Decline in Geography candidates at GCSE Now 8th most popular subject at GCSE in England and Wales (though 5th in Wales itself) 3.Where have all the Geographers gone?

6 Decline in A level Geography Candidates The 9th most popular at A2

7 But it increases into A2 - where retention is good Geographys popularity decreases from GCSE (8th) to AS (12th) So - those who get it enjoy it and stay with it The problem is getting students on board in the first place - at age 14, then at 16

8 4. Several factors in play –All specifications down except WJEC –Edexcel B is down by about nearly 2000 to a) The loss of large post-16 colleges; AS fieldwork requirements in year 12 a big problem if you have 200 titles to arrange b) The loss of large colleges alone resulted in a loss of nearly 500 candidates in this one specification c) Increases in fees. In my own school; AS units Edexcel B are double the cost; about £ 1000/year on a 2 year cycle. In a large college, that s one teacher. –The ability to get modular marking and appeals right at an early stage in 2001, and the attitude of subject officers to this –School location and catchment, particularly multi-ethnic schools and colleges, in which Geography is a non-option –The impact of changes to KS3 and 4, particularly post-1996; the impact of falling GCSE numbers; numbers fell between

9 5. What s the competition? –The move to IB, especially in independent and traditional schools –Bigger range of subjects available - e.g. the continued rise of psychology –Sexier subjects! Increase in candidates : Media/Film/TV studies; 12.5%. Business and Communication Studies; 8.7%. Information and Communication Studies; 6/9%. Home Economics; 5.9%. –Vocational courses

10 6. The Fieldwork problem –The removal of coursework; how will post-16 fieldwork survive? be assessed? –The issue of coursework and whether its removal will be seen as a plus or a minus by students –Fieldwork and examinations do not have a good track record; exam fieldwork questions tend to be predictable and routine –Will schools and colleges preserve fieldwork as a part of the curriculum - or will it be extra- curricular ?

11 7. What kind of Assessment? Will it matter if two specifications merge? Edexcel researched teachers of the current Specifications A and B; what did they feel were the most appropriate means of assessment at AS?

12 8. What kind of assessment? Edexcel research at A2 into what schools thought was the most appropriate means of assessing candidates at A2 So - marrying two specifications should not present difficulties in terms of assessment style

13 9. How far will the subject get a facelift in the new specifications? Eleanor Rawling s lecture at the 2005 conference highlighted ten concerns Forces of change & public concerns about e.g. globalisation, global warming Spatial awareness of e.g. the new Europe Scale & scale linkage – inter-connectedness Environmental Interaction – footprints and management Technology – opportunities for GIS Greater curriculum flexibility, choice & freedom needed Special contribution to global concepts e.g. sustainability Geographical enquiry – active questioning approach, less didactic Significant changes in university geography (cultural, ethnographic, place ….) awarding bodies have tended to standardise content … fear that innovation will lose customers anxious to play safe & maintain high grades

14 10. How should the subject be updated? The GAs Action Plan and the curriculum work within the GA and the RGS Time for place-focused learning - NOT case studies! Simon Oakes research into the School-HEI Gap (2006) highlights several issues including: Human geography in school out of step Theory levels are poor (compare Sociology) Learning tends to be case-study based, not theoretical - focused on facts, not thinking Little critical questioning of concepts - e.g. of sustainability

15 The new specifications Content of AS versus A2 Assessment type at AS and A2 Styles and Flexibility of assessment Assessment load Wheres the fieldwork? Guidance for teachers? How fresh or up-to-date? How much choice?

16 What kind of content at AS?

17 What kind of assessment at AS?

18 What kind of content at A2? Unit 3

19 What kind of content at A2? Unit 4

20 What kind of assessment at A2?

21 Progression in assessment AS to A2?

22 How much assessment? How flexible?

23 Wheres the fieldwork or research?

24 How much guidance is there for teachers?

25 How fresh or up-to-date are the new specs?

26 How much freedom of choice is there?

27 Final thoughts?

28 11.What of the future? Strengths of the subject –Strengths of the subject shown in RGS findings; numbers hold up once students are on board – but it is getting the students in the first place. –Post-16 teaching is generally good, and remains better than at KS3 –At HEI, geographers retain their employability, and relatively few drop out or switch courses –Teaching quality in HEI is very good

29 12.What of the future? Weaknesses –Geography is perceived as difficult / hard work by students in school. Different subjects make differing demands - my own students claim that responses in Economics require less explanation and content than Geography. –Will coursework do us a favour in disappearing? At GCSE, geographical enquiries tend to be far more lengthy compared with e.g. requirements for History. Dos this put some students off? –The continued encroachment of our own subject – e.g An Inconvenient Truth used in English GCSE and Media Studies

30 13.What of the future? Opportunities –Is this the right time to for Exam Boards to present more of the same? –Or should specifications create a new view and definition of geography for the 21 st century? –There is a market for traditional geography. But – it is worth reminding ourselves that the greatest growth in candidate numbers occurred the 1980s with the syllabus. The risks in updating might be worth taking. –A new generation is gradually replacing an ageing profession. What are recently qualified teachers best qualified to teach? Should we close further the gulf between school Geography and HEI?

31 14.What of the future? Threats. –Is difference between specifications OK? –Do we want to be a subject that presents different interpretations of itself via different specifications? It s not uncommon in other subjects! –In selecting what should be taught, should we go for popular themes? Historians have turned this into strength. –The debate among geographers remains as ever – the pursuit of breadth? or depth? Traditional - or modern? –Whatever we decide will live with us for the next 5-8 years. Let s get it right!

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