Emily Oakes, History Subject Advisor
Every year we offer a range of professional development opportunities for both GCSE and A Level history. These range from Q&As with subject advisors and senior assessors to full day and half day training to support teachers delivering our specifications.
In addition to our usual offer, we have listened to teacher feedback and increased the number of twilight sessions for this autumn and spring. We are now offering CPD with a senior assessor on how best to approach the teaching and assessment of specific skills in A Level history, in particular, supporting students with sources, interpretations and essay writing.
Students will be used to analysing sources and interpretations at Key Stage 3 and 4, but extending and developing these skills to match the requirements of A Level standard can be tricky. So, instead of having our A Level CPD arranged by unit groups, we now have three sessions for essay writing, source based questions and interpretations based questions.
We know that students often struggle to get to grips with these key skills. Our examiner reports often pick up on the difficulties students have with analysing sources (AO2) and evaluating interpretations (AO3). Examiners reporting on the NEA from June 2019 commented that to succeed with AO2 it is critical to develop the skills of analysing and evaluating primary sources and in the NEA it is important for students to select a range of diverse sources too.
“The best answers did not take sources at face value. Primary sources were not only considered in terms of nature, origin and purpose but also by looking at contextual information to assess their value and reliability. This analysis is a clear requirement in Unit 1 and it is also an expectation in the coursework.”
In AO3, it was reported that it is more important that students focus on critiquing the evidence base behind a historian’s claim, and use their relevant contextual knowledge, rather than to make judgement based on the historian’s background alone:
“If the Marxist historians of the French Revolution are to be criticised it should be on the basis of the evidence behind their views or on the basis of contextual knowledge seeming to contradict or support their findings, not because of their political views as such.”
We hope that our new CPD offer will go a long way in clarifying how to approach the teaching of these issues and many others with your A Level students.
There is a lot of overlap of skills being assessed between the units, so attending just one of these twilight sessions will support your teaching and your students across their A Level course. For example, we think of source analysis in terms of the Unit 1 assessment but students also need to use these skills in the NEA (Unit 4). Similarly, analyses of historical interpretations are assessed in Unit 3 but these skills are also used in the NEA. Finally, good essay writing skills are a requirement of all four units.
As Mike Wells, our principal moderator, says:
“Better results are likely if learners see the connections between units. For example, the organisation of material and responding to the demands of the question are common features in essays in units 1, 2, 3 and 4 and if skills can be applied to all four units, then this can help student performance considerably.”
Our new A Level twilight sessions will deal with key skills and requirements for the assessments, contain examples and give scope for discussion and practice. There are two dates for each course in the autumn and spring terms. We think that teachers will find them insightful and engaging CPD. Places are limited so please sign up soon.
If you have any questions, you can email us at history@OCR.org.uk, call us on 01223 553998, or tweet us @OCR_History. You can also sign up for subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Emily Oakes has 13 years’ experience teaching and leading in history and as a Head of Sixth Form in the UK along with two years teaching at an international school in France. Emily has a BA in Archaeology from UCL and a MA in Medieval History from UEA as well as a PGCE from University of Cambridge. When she’s not working, Emily likes spending time outdoors with her family, gardening and reading.