Tag Archives: GCSE

GA conference 2015 materials #GAConf15

Well it’s been a long time coming but I’ve been a wee bit distracted with leading an Iceland trip and getting back to school mode! The Geography Association conference this year was ace. Really enjoyable. Thank you so much to all of you who came to my Revision Games workshop! I was truly surprised to have standing room only and flattered by the lovely comments you gave in feedback. I really hope that you can find one tiny thing that is useful and then take it and make your own.

Below is the presentation from the Revision Games session. If you download the file you can see in the comments box in powerpoint which explain each section.

I was also privileged to help with delivering a Discover the World workshop alongside Simon Ross sharing the website resources from Discover Geography . This excellent site shares teacher resources for Key Stage 3 – 5 for a range of locations including Iceland, Norway, Azores, etc. that have been created by teachers from experiences in the field and can be used before, during and after trips or as virtual fieldwork and just great case studies. I shared some materials from the website that had been created from a teacher inspection trip to the Azores, and just explained how I have modified and used these materials for myself in the classroom. If you want to have details on the different sites and what we saw in the Azores, then check through my posts from the visit in April 2014.

Finally, this year’s GA conference saw the first ever TeachMeet courtesy of David Rogers‘ badgering which was an epic success. Lucy Oxley and the GA team organised a fantastic event, and it was thanks to sponsorship from Discover the World. When we first stepped into the venue I got nervous – worried we wouldn’t pull it off, that nobody would come, that it was such a big room and I would muck up, all sorts! But it was so so good. The reason it was good? Purely down to the range of presenters in the room, the Twitterati interacting online (thanks to Rich Allaway for live streaming it), and the networking and rapport going on in the room itself. Particular credit has to go to Alan Parkinson for sharing some great ideas in a hilarious way (‘who is David Rogers anyway?’!) and to Paul Berry for closing the show in style. I had known Paul as a fairly quiet, unassuming, gentle kinda chap with a cheeky smile and penchant for vino…but he blew me away with his presentation at the end. Coming up to retirement in a few months he bounced all over the stage squawking blow-up parrots, throwing inflatable globes around, sharing all sorts of whacky and brilliant ideas, and showing that he is a brilliant educator. Loved it. All the other presentations were fantastic as well, and great to see new people who haven’t spoken before too – I merely mention Alan and Paul because they made me laugh so much. Epic evening so thank you all. David has a full run down of the event and the Google Hangout video archive on his blog here. Cannot wait for next year’s!

My own TeachMeet 6 minutes was based on a title thrown on me: ‘Bill Shakespeare was a Geographer’ and just has a few ideas with quotes from text for how to embed good old Bill and literacy in general into geography lessons. Ticks the boxes of ‘literacy in every lesson’ and ‘we are all teachers of English’ as well as just being good fun, useful, enlightening, and ultimately improving literacy and writing analysis which good geographers have to be able to do. If you want to know what I was rambling on about during each slide then look at the video on David’s blog, scroll to about 44mins and you’ll be able to hear some waffle.

All in all, GA Conf 2015 was great. Really enjoyable sessions attended and great to take part in. Roll on Derby 2016.

#BETT2015 Creative GCSE presentation

So this weekend I visited the BETT exhibition and TeachMeet. I haven’t been to #tmbett for a couple of years and had remembered it as being overwhelmingly big, impersonal and too rushed. Friday’s TM was, however, a good event. The atmosphere was buoyant and cheerful, there was jovial conversation between everyone there, the presentations were light but meaningful, and I even learned a few things from them. Huzzah! And of course @lisibo made some amazing cakes 😉 So thank you to the likes of Ian Addison and Dawn Hallybone for arranging it all.

On the Saturday I spent some time on the RM Stand with @ukedchat for a live chat with Andy Knill about our favourite apps in education, particularly in Geography and this will appear on the site later in the week. It’s always good to talk about what we use and how as it forces you to more critically evaluate the purpose of something. Do I use Twitter in the classroom for real benefit or because it is trendy? Are apps / sites / tech used wisely? Does what I do encourage engagement and achievement or is it just a gimmick? Having to rationalise and reason what I do and why is quite invigorating; a good reminder to myself if nothing else.

I also enjoyed some time on the Microsoft Education stand catching up with folks. Minecraft seemed to be the most popular part of the show with Ray Chambers doing a grand job explaining how he’s used it in class. This is something I’m starting to play around with myself. I can see the benefits of encouraging collaboration, and obviously learning coding, and have seen some very low ability children voluntarily create whole landscapes and then be able to talk about them and this lead to a greater depth of verbal and written literacy as a result. Something to consider anyway.

I was really honoured to be given the opportunity to present at BETT myself, in the Learn Live Secondary area. I was pretty nervous beforehand but had a lovely audience who smiled at appropriate moments and even forgave me when I threw the remote clicker around 😉

Below is the presentation I shared, and a rough transcript of what it was about.

Slide 1 – Self explanatory!

Slide 2 – Just showing some of the main thoughts or concerns that teachers have been sharing about the new GCSEs. The focus of my talk was to hopefully encourage that there is still room to be creative, and that we as educators have a responsibility to be developing more skills in all students through any means, not just for the exams culture.

Slide 3 – Linking to Google Teacher Academy and the fact that no matter what country we came from, what phase we are, or what subject we teach, there is still a consistency that teachers (and students) are risk averse. We live in a bubble where we are aiming for a mysterious outside world that is reliant on getting certain grades, and while I’m not disputing this or down-playing it I believe that teachers have a responsibility to bend and break the frameworks in order to develop other skills. Tech is all well and good but at the end of the day students sit exams with a pen and paper. And passing a written test is all great but in the workplace you need to problem solve, collaborate, deal with failures. And being able to build relationships, communicate, play, is all part of growing up too. So (to quote David Rogers) we have a duty to subvert the statutory, in order to create what should be mandatory.

Slide 4 – We need to build time for messy learning in. It helps to break up the stress – for everyone concerned!

Slide 5 – BETT is full of shiny new electronic tech, but there is plenty of fun to be had with good old fashioned tech as well.

Slide 6-7 – Jigsaws. Blank ones available on eBay (other retailers also available!). Students can make revision mindmaps, diagrams, Q+A patterns and then play together. In one of my favourite examples I’ve seen a ‘jeopardy’ style jigsaw with the questions and answers mixed up.

Slide 8 – Snakes and Ladders. Decision making. Students have to create ‘chance’ or ‘event’ cards before hand, e.g. ‘earthquake strikes Haiti’ or ‘international aid sent to Japan’. When they land on a snake or a ladder they take one of the chance/event cards. If it is something positive then they can go up, if negative then they have to go down.

Slide 9 – Artefacts. Get hands on and messy! In Geography I’ve used bags of sediment from a river and keywords then students have to sort them into the correct order for a river profile. Or using food to make models, like coastal cake craft or model coral polyps. Getting hands on builds picture and muscle memory, helps to visualise, and makes abstract concepts more manageable.

Slide 10-11 – Scrabble. I’ve used in Geography and in my Numeracy intervention sessions. I was surprised at how much kids like it! Keyword building and points make prizes. Speed scrabble to make as many words as possible on a particular topic, e.g. hazards.

Slide 12-13 – Musical Chairs. I’ve mentioned these before at my TLAB session as a revision tool. Again this is just another method for Q+A but does work. Students take part in having to create the questions as well as the answers, and the musical but is just for fun but surprisingly makes them feel very under pressure.

Slide 14-15 – Paper Planes. Ever had a problem with these in school?! More often than not the most dangerous thing in the classroom for disruption is the humble pencil/pen and paper. But these can be harnessed. For example, a student writes a question or statement on a piece of paper, turns it into a paper plane and throws to someone else to ask it. Or the case study option: student answers a case study question in full then throws to three other students who in turn, with different colour pens, highlight ‘key words’, ‘place specific fact’, and ‘developed points’ before the last person gives a final score and a comment then returns it.

Slide 16-18. Keyword twister and Jenga. You can see these explained on another post here.

Slide 19 – Lego. Good for construction and for numeracy! I’ve used with making models of settlements or earthquake proof buildings, but also in numeracy. For example, you allocate different lego piece shapes or colours with a numeric value then students have 2 minutes to make the shape of an animal or a building, then at the end of the time have to calculate the value of their shape. Highest value wins.

Slide 20-21 – Board Games. Make your own version of classic games. The aim of Pointless is you ask questions on a topic and students have to get the most obscure answer possible (so if you ask the whole class then students who have unique answers will win) – the lowest points win. 5 Second Rule: literally a naming / stating game. You are given a category (e.g. name 3 river landforms) and have only 5 seconds to name all three. Articulate is a describing game based on key terms, definitions, case studies and similar to Taboo there are words you cannot say. And Charades is the same but acting out!

Slides 22-23 – Balloons. Students write questions on a balloon, blow it up (with a pump!) and throw to someone else to answer. Use soft felt pens so it doesn’t burst!

Slide 25-26 – Using OneDrive for collaborative revision. OneDrive is available as part of Office 365 or you can get a free Microsoft account to create documents online and store in the cloud. You can share these documents and collaborate live with others even if they do not have an Office account. In school, Year 10 and Year 11 have a shared folder with past papers, model answers, example lesson ppts and more importantly collaborative revision work. For example, year 10 were working on Settlement and at the end of the unit worked in groups to complete a OneNote notebook with different sections of the topic so that they can all share.

Slide 27-30 – Triptico. Has a free version or paid version. A web based app that can be downloaded and includes various tools from timers to photo selectors or quiz makers.

Slide 31 – Fotobabble. Available on any platform and web-based. Take a photo on a device, then record audio over the photo for up to a minute. Great for revision ‘speaking flash cards’. These can then be shared with others via email. Also good for virtual fieldwork!

Slide 32 – Photosynth. Another photo tool, this one from Microsoft and linked to Bing maps. You can stitch and create amazing 360 panoramas using a guided photo app, then when it is stitched you can zoom in and out of areas. Good for virtual fieldwork and as a prompt for revising landforms, places, processes, etc,.

Slide 33 – Minecraft. I’m only just starting to dabble with this. I’m not a coder or anything like that but students came to me a few weeks ago asking if they could use Minecraft for their homework. I said yes and they brought in a video tour of their landscape that was a real access-point to their own verbal literacy. They could articulate what they had created, the landforms and features, why they had chosen then. And they had collaborated to do this. The website minecraft.edu has various resources and tutorials available that other teachers have shared, and there is a programming book available from Microsoft Education via Partners in Learning. The minecraft.edu site has resources such as example worlds like the Tropical Rainforest challenge that guides students through challenges and concepts such as resource management, tribal conflict, land use, deforestation, etc,.

Slide 34-35. Microsoft Partners in Learning free tools reminder. Join the network and find free resources, software and case studies of what other teachers are trying.

Slide 36 – Google Forms. Use this tool to make simple quizzes, or get students to create them for each other. Really only takes minutes and share-able.

So there we go. Basically just different random ways of asking questions or knowledge checking, but it all helps to break up the normal routine. Plus having time constraints or ‘competitive pressure’ like that found in games situations helps with learning how to cope with exam pressure and stress. So, don’t be risk averse, just have a go. And if it doesn’t work? No matter, learn to fail and then get over it. Build some ‘bounce-back-ability’.

“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” C.S.Lewis

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Getting messy to get to grips with rivers

I don’t know about yours, but sometimes my students struggle with visualising what features and processes look like in real life. Mention a cross-section or long profile of a river and you’re likely to see a mass of blank faces. Having checked through my year 10 books at the weekend I noticed a lot were struggling with the concept of river transportation, how sediment varies along the course, and how the river profile changes. So I decided to get a bit messy.

After a nice walk with the dog, I collected a load of different material from a nearby river (with some substitutes from my garden to top it up!). When students came in to the class they were working in groups. Each group had:

1 x A2 sugar paper

A Selection of felt pens / glue / sellotape

1 x bag of likely river materials (a mixture of sand, mud, silt, shingle, different sized pebbles, twigs)

1 x plastic wallet filled with selection of keywords (e.g. traction, suspension, river cliff, meander, deposition, etc,.)

1 x image of large boulders with a scale (I wasn’t going to carry any boulders in now was I?!)

I set students the challenge of using the materials and resources to create a 3d cross-section of a river, showing how sediment varies along the profile of a river. They had to annotate the cross-section with keywords and describe what happens in the different courses. They then went around and evaluated each other’s work. The follow-up after the messiness was a piece of extended writing with a bingo element.

Some images of their work are below:

‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’ (Benjamin Franklin)

Coastal cake craft challenge

We kick off GCSE Geography with the Coasts unit and study the OCR B course. Although doing this unit first gives us the opportunity to get out in the field and practise fieldwork skills, students (and maybe teachers!) can sometimes find it quite dry and repetitive. Not much chance maybe for different activities, more just learning a lot of processes and landforms and keywords? I would always class myself as a physical Geographer first, but I can see that it might seem repetitive or dull just learning step-by-step how something is created. Maybe more interesting once you can put all that background theory into context when visiting real places, or by doing decision making exercises about coastal management. Anyway.

We’ve always done the tried and tested (and tasty) Angel Cake wave cut platforms suggested by Tony Cassidy which works a treat. Model the step-by-step erosion and creation of a wave cut notch / platform with cake and show this under a visualiser to the class. Then if you’re feeling kind let them have some cake. Works!

This year we thought we’d let students have a go themselves. Classes worked through the theory as a class first, following traditional exam questions / discussion / explanation from teacher and group enquiry (see lesson powerpoint below – NB, this isn’t all done in one lesson!). When we got to the wave cut platforms part we just discussed the process as a class briefly, showed an animation and then I set the challenge.

Students had at their disposal the following resources: cake (ideally layered cake like angel cake or mini slices cakes), a selection of sweets, paper, pens, mini whiteboards and pens, a flip camera or tablet or mobile, and textbooks. The challenge was to create a resource that demonstrated the creation of a wave cut platform and evolution of a headland to then be recorded somehow and shared. Students were not allowed to eat anything until they had completed the resource, shared, and completed a follow-up exam question. Mean I know.

Two classes were doing this activity in parallel so myself and Sam Atkins were flitting in between, cajoling and cheering students on, adding an element of competition as to which group would produce the best resource and checking on knowledge.

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Some examples of videos produced are here (apologies for the sideways angle!) :

Once the students had completed and shared their resources they had to be able to explain the process step-by-step and complete an exam question. This will also be followed up again with a starter exam question next lesson asking for an annotated diagram to explain the process. We did note that the lower ability children in particular seemed to grasp the overall process better following the making of their resource, whereas we had to push higher ability learners to remember to still use keyterms even though they were playing with cake! Overall, some great results and better quality answers.

NB – it was pointed out that I forgot the customary quote…so, far be it from me to not learn from constructive feedback! Here goes:

“Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than passive process” (Euripides)

or, if we feel less cerebral…

“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it” (Boris Johnson)

Revision games #ukedchat

Tonight’s #ukedchat focus on the role of play and games in learning was really interesting. Some quite polarised views on the validity of games and playful learning, and perhaps some misconceptions by others about what is meant by play. Anyway, this isn’t to discuss all that. You can read the thread on twitter. My view is that there is a role for games and play in learning, just as there is a role for pretty much anything. My mantra : learning, by any means. Games and play aren’t the destination, and should not be the focus, but they are can be a means to an end. Whether those games be simulations, trading games, xBox, dice, snakes and ladders, whatever – if the focus is on clear learning outcomes, and if expectations are high, then there’s nothing to lose. Well, except the game itself. And that in itself is a learning tool. Learn by failing or fail to learn.

So, here are some games / play type activities I’ve used for GCSE revision. I’ll also happily crack out the playdough, or dice games for learning grids and literacy etc,. but this is revision. In our classes, we teach A*-G in the same group. Quite a challenge. How do you differentiate? Simple: jenga, twister and bunting 😉

This was from the last #tmpompey where I shared the story.

Jenga:

Keyword Jenga

So how does it all work? I have to admit I got the idea from the fabulous work of John Sayers during #TLAB13 (an awesome event in itself, get yourself along to #TLAB14  – sign up here) when he spoke about using jenga at times. And in true professional manner I just took some genius idea that somebody else had, and (to quote Louis Walsh) made it my own.

I used this with my GCSE classes, and with a class I taught at another school whom I had never met before. Trialled it and then bought sets of the stuff off eBay for the department. The basic principle is keyword practice. I used stickers for keywords and stuck them on the ends of the jenga pieces. Since the nature of jenga is to remove pieces and then rebuild the structure you need to think about making the game last – it would be somewhat demoralising and pointless for it to be over in seconds with it collapsing. To help with this, repeat the keywords about 3 or 4 times throughout the box. I use about 15 keywords for each set and just repeat them. Then make sure they are muddled up when the set is built!

The first time I used this game was to revise coastal processes and landforms. We had keywords like ‘stacks’, ‘hydraulic action’, ‘longshore drift’, etc,. There are two ways you could run the game that I’ve tried.

1) Students work in a group (about 4-6 ideally). One student is the quiz master and has the list of keywords. On rotation, a word is called out and a student has to remove one of those keyword pieces and then define the word out loud. Another student has the proper definition and acts as the checker. If the player defines correctly, move on to the next go. If not, they may ask for help or attempt again. Keep going until the structure collapses!

2) Alternatively. Students are still in groups. You are the quizmaster general. Games are being played by the groups concurrently. You read out a definition or description of a word, being as vague or specific as you wish, and students can work on their own or discuss as a group to define and choose the correct word and then remove it.

revision jenga

Either way, it works well if you have simultaneous games going on around the room as you can act as the compere and provide more competition between them – “Team 1 have built to 17 stories high – can you beat them?!” or “Team 3 is struggling to define X, bonus piece if you can define it for them”. I tried this with both year 10 and year 11, and then the following week’s lesson started with a keyword test – with significantly better results! Students said they felt much more confident.

Twister:

Revision twisterOk, I suppose this game should come with a health warning. No students were harmed in the process. I fully risk assessed the area and chose a suitable location. Promise.

Now I’ll assume we’ve all had a flirtation with Twister at some point? So how can you make this relevant to revision? Simple, link short answer exam questions / case study facts / keywords to the spin of the dial. For those of you who don’t know, Twister is a mat with dots on it of 4 different colours. There is a spinner dial with the command ‘right hand’, ‘left hand’, ‘right foot’, ‘left foot’ and a corresponding colour.

twister

A games-master spins the dial and reads the command to the victim, sorry, player. So, for example, it could be Right Hand on Red. Players then take turns to follow commands and gradually become more and more muddled and twisted until someone drops out. Survival of the fittest.

Again, this is a team game. You can choose to give more or less support depending on your students – differentiate. Students can either figure out answers alone or with help, and you can provide tips or suggestions to help out as needed.

So, in groups of about 4-6 again, you need a games-master in charge of the spinner and a quiz-master to pose the questions and judge answers. The quiz master is given a set of questions, and some possible answers. This could be definitions, factual recall of case study detail, place specific information, processes, etc,. For example, Q1) What term means the proportion of a population working in industries such as mining or farming? A1) Primary employment. The games-master spins the dial, the player moves into position, the quiz-master poses the question, and the player has to answer.

Twister Q+A

If they answer correctly, move on to the next player’s move. If incorrect, spin and quiz them again or they can ask a friend for a clue. This works simultaneously with ‘Taboo’ really as you don’t want other students giving the answer away by saying the actual words.

I built my questions so that the were a range of either short factual recall style questions, or case study detail questions. You, as the overall Quiz Master (or Mistress) supreme, get to move around each group checking answers are up to scratch and reminding them of how many marks each question would be worth in an exam or what grade they equated to.

Of course, this gets messy. And loud. We took over the dining room during the last lesson of the day and I’m not sure the Head was entirely convinced at first but he did visit them in class the next week and seemed satisfied.

Now, I like games and playing as much as the next girl, but there was a moral to the end of this story too – they had to learn! I took them back to the classroom with 15minutes remaining and they all thought that the working was over…until I presented them with a timed case study exam question. questionsThey had 12minutes to complete, and had to include as many of the answers from the game as possible – games building on top of games because now they were kind of playing Bingo (which is also another great tool to include in helping with extended writing and developing literacy, but that is another topic). They moaned and groaned at first, but then produced great quality answers. And it wasn’t just short term either – they still remembered the case study detail the following week. Hoorah!

Bunting:

Ok, maybe not a game as such but still playful learning. I fully expected this to only be popular with some students and was surprised when they all got into it. Must be the vintage / retro era we are in! The basic premise is just to make revision a bit more interesting, and to share.

Bunting

I did this with my Year 11s when they were starting to get a bit frazzled, and some were in and out doing exams elsewhere. I put a selection of processes, case study names, landforms and topics into a hat (literally) and then students pulled a piece of paper out and were then in charge of producing a piece of revision bunting on that topic. They could use any resource they wished in order to complete the mission (textbook, mobile device, internet, etc,.) – the only rule being that they were now in charge of helping someone else’s revision and so it must be good quality. Corporate responsibility. The one example of a poor piece of work (from a cheeky lad who decided he’d try to be daft) I hyped up as being a fine example of what not to do, and told him I’d be leaving it on the wall all year as a reminder to others to do better. The boy was in my tutor group and I knew him very well so he could take the banter, and proceeded to then produce two quality pieces and proved himself (but I still left the original shameful piece on the wall as a reminder to him to not cut corners!). As I said, I was surprised at how they got into this and the bunting went on display around the room for them to all visit and learn from. Most of them took photos of sections to take home with them. It could be a good little end-of-topic piece to do.

 

That’ll do for now. As I said, the games and the playing are a means to an end. But a very welcome one and some relief to students who are getting stressed or struggling with concepts. And for those visual and kinaesthetic learners out there! But keep in mind there always needs to be a clear focus, clear outcome, and some sort of follow-up in a more traditional sense. At the end of the day, they still have to sit a written exam!

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” ~ General Colin Powel 

Response to proposed GCSE 2015 reforms

Firstly, it’s been a while. I’ll make excuses for that in another post later and try to catch up on the last few months events.

Image

I was asked to write a commentary on the proposed GCSE reforms for the Guardian education section and after doing so figured I may as well share the whole thing on here. Apologies for waffle, it’s kind of a thought process as well. And I’m not suggesting I know it all, I’ve merely looked into it a little.

Having said that, here we go.

At present many will panic with concerns for overall changes (I know this because I am one such person who may panic – especially as a new head of department following some fairly big footsteps), and I don’t support a lot of what Gove says. However, it is more than likely that once the reforms have been moulded into detail by exam boards, and syllabuses created, that the actual implementation will appear more manageable. In the meantime…

General thoughts:

–          Having a greater focus on extended writing, data handling and problem solving will continue to ensure & improve rigour. Geography is already seen as an employable subject and well regarded by universities, and this can only benefit.

–          The content is still open to interpretation. Yes, we have to include two ‘globally significant countries’ as well as the UK, geomorphic processes, development, etc, – but Geography has always been about places, scales, processes, interactions.

–          Explicit studying of a range of biomes & resource management (as well as everyone’s favourite: climate change) is welcome in my opinion; after all, the next generation are growing up in a changing world with resources dwindling and we do them a disservice to not consider such issues. They’ll be the ones wanting to know why they can’t afford petrol!

–          The new A*-G grades being replaced with Grades 1-8. I may be naïve, but this is still a ranking system isn’t it? Is it not just replacing a letter with a number? So what’s the fuss?

–          Modular system being replaced with terminal exams. We have never allowed resits anyway, and the re-sit culture just leads to students not putting full effort into the first time around anyway. We have often felt the knock-on effects from other subjects where resits have been allowed, with students saying ‘Oh well, can’t I just have another go?’ This isn’t setting them up fairly for life, where more often than not you need to throw in 100% effort first time round.  Additionally, many children benefit from that extra development time allowed through terminal exams in order to succeed in their final exam – simply having time to make that transition into GCSE and practise their skills in a more mature way.

Nuts and bolts content (thanks to TES crib sheet):

–          Location knowledge of 2 ‘globally significant’ countries in addition to the UK

–          In depth knowledge and understanding of UK physical & human geography

–          Geomorphic processes and landscape (up to interpretation)

–          Migration (range of scales)

–          Changing weather and climate (including climate change over last 2million years)

–          Global ecosystems (biomes of different scales)

–          Resource management

–          Cities in 21st century comparing MEDC / LEDC

–          Development and uneven development

–          Map skills including GIS

–          Data collection and handling, primary and secondary

–          Fieldwork worth 15% marks (but externally assessed)

–          Geographical argument

A lot is still essentially the same and remains open to interpretation by exam boards and teachers; knowledge, scales, understanding, interactions, fieldwork, data handling, application.

Some concerns though:

–          There is a risk that exam marking may become less reliable and more inconsistent. Having more extended writing & ‘argument style’ exam questions (which, yes, can be more rigorous as they require application rather than memory) there will be a call for examiners to make a more subjective judgement, which can in turn lead to more disagreement and less parity amongst markers ergo a risk of students being unequally assessed. (Dare we mention the English fiasco?)

–          Having more complex and less constrained question styles could lead to greater variety in interpretation amongst teachers (in terms of how to interpret knowledge and skills required for the exam and how to impart this) and will make it harder to judge and compare how good a response is to a mark-scheme since said mark-scheme will then be less prescriptive. This is already the case with the extended writing exams such as Decision Making papers, and there can be great variety in the quality of exam marking, and in teacher delivery. Therefore essay style questions may require mark-schemes that allow great examiner discretion – which carries a potential risk of disparity for those being marked.

–          Although fieldwork is still being given value (well done to the GA and RGS for pushing this), it will now be externally assessed – likely through a skills terminal exam worth 15%. The problem here is whether such assessment can be rigorous and in-depth enough; current controlled assessments are very demanding of skills and application, as well as simultaneously teaching children to self-manage, motivate, balance workloads, work to timescales, etc,.).

–          Removing tiered entry will prove difficult for those who struggle with literacy but who have essentially good geographical knowledge, and often feel that the phrasing of exam questions is difficult to interpret but once ‘translated’ they know the actual Geography. But it will raise the bar for literacy skills and mean that all courses are comparable

In summary, I/we need to keep involved with the consultation process and up-to-date with proposals, but holding off the panic until there are draft GCSE syllabuses from exam boards to consider. If you want to read a better thought out consideration, check out David Rogers’ blog here.

But the age old concern will remain: are we just training children to ‘pass the test’ for the sake of it, will it actually lead to greater love of learning / lifelong learning? Are we actually including the work-related skills that future employers seek? Or will these reforms lead to children simply ‘doing’ what needs to be done to get a piece of paper and then forgetting it all? The GA states that “a change in qualification alone is unlikely to raise standards” and I would tend to agree.

“I studied every thing but never topped…. But today the toppers of the best universities are my employees” Bill Gates