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Any History teachers about?

(29 Posts)
MoBiroBo Fri 15-Mar-19 17:38:11

Ds1 is in year 11, he is predicted a grade 7 which is obviously amazing but his teacher said if he wants a higher grade he needs to change his writing style.

He actually said to us at parents' evening that Ds is writing at A level standard and he needs to signpost the answer, literally point to the answer.

We believe this means if the question is "Why was public health in medieval monasteries so good" he has to start each paragraph with some version of "The public health of monasteries was so good because...."

His AO1 is good so it isn't a lack of knowledge or AO2, just the way he writes.

I don't have a WAGOLL for any GCSE history questions, only one on sources provided by school which says things like "I know this...." and then demonstrates some AO1 not in the source, and "this would be a good source for a historian because..."

His exam board is OCR.

OP’s posts: |
Pythonesque Sat 16-Mar-19 08:29:51

Ooh I'm going to watch this thread too ... We've been told that grade boundaries between 7/8/9 can be very close in History, at least on the board my daughter's doing. Sadly it does seem like an awful lot of GCSE preparation is about exam technique, really specifically earning each mark.

SJane48S Sat 16-Mar-19 10:55:11

Hope this isn't majorly unhelpful but doesn't he need to challenge and break down the question? I have a History degree and admittedly it has been decades since I did GCSE or A Levels but in my day, writing an essay starting each paragraph with 'The public health of monasteries was so good because..'wouldn't get you top marks as it's incredibly clunky & a boring read! How about something along these lines:

- Intro para - what he is going to say
- What is meant by good? Differences in our understanding of what good health actually means in 2019 compared to the period of time they are focusing on
- General health of the population (making a point these varied by class/wealth/location (rural v urban) using any stars he has
- Health of the population in monasteries - what do we know? How do we know (pointing out literacy rates, record keeping etc. Throw in example)
- On to the 'Why' - separate paragraphs on monastery funding & wealth, localised heath care (monks trained in health practioning, access to books on medicine, books written by monks on health - refer back to literacy rates), sanitation practises & access to clean water, access to better nutrition (referring to fish ponds, vegetable gardens & food given to monasteries by the local population), closing off of monasteries in disease outbreaks, finishing off with few monks engaged in life threatening or hard physical labour
- Final paragraph - sum up. Health in monasteries not good by our current understanding of the word however thanks to meticulous record keeping, it was comparatively better than much (but not all - the well off would have enjoyed similar health). In conclusion, monks had a relatively privileged existence & more limited exposure to disease & therefore better overall health expectancy etc etc.

Again, hope this isn't incredibly unhelpful & appreciate things could have changed hugely since I went to school. I just find it hard to believe they are looking for him to start every sentence with 'the public health of monasteries was good because...', that's just terrible!!

SJane48S Sat 16-Mar-19 10:56:04

and that was meant to read stats not stars!

JammyDodgersandPeas Sat 16-Mar-19 13:13:40

I'm not currently teaching but from my experience of the previous GCSE papers, I'd say that the PP'S example (whilst being entirely appropriate for A Level and would be interesting to read!) is far too detailed. Challenging the premise of the question can lead to strong pupils losing sight of what the question asks, especially when under immense pressure in the exam hall. It's an excellent example to test his knowledge though!

From a quick look at the mark scheme, this at most could be worth 18/80 and in 1hr45 mins you're realistically looking at 20 mins to write and plan (and that's if I've got the right question number!)

I marked for Edexcel and signposted answers generally score well. They don't make for sophisticated answers but they tend to allow students to show a depth of knowledge and some judgement. When I taught I'd have encouraged "one less significant reason why...." or "the most important reason why...."
Hopefully you'll get some advice from current OCR teachers too, and I'd be asking for model paragraph starters from his teacher too.

BruceFoxton Sat 16-Mar-19 13:31:59

I teach history GCSE and would need to agree that SJane48S‘s advice is more appropriate to A level ( and very helpful for that). The advice to boringly signpost is spot on. Make it impossible for the marker to miss the structure. One of my students pointed out that her answers would become boring. I pointed out in return that getting grade 9 isnt boring. I’d recommend three paragraph starters: one reason that ... another reason that .... a further reason that ... Keeps it tied tightly to the question. If he adds in some connecting words like additionally, moreover, consequently etc then he’s making it some more sophisticated.

SJane48S Sat 16-Mar-19 17:29:42

:-) happy to accept I'm out of touch! Does seem a pretty dull for everyone if they have to structure essays this way & less likely to inspire them with a real love of the subject which is a shame!

MoBiroBo Sat 16-Mar-19 18:53:04

Thank you to everyone including @Sjane48S, I have a degree in English lit and was amazed at how they get marked for GCSE English Lit (DS got an 8 in his mock) happily there is a lot of stuff online for English to show you how to do this (DS is not naturally gifted but has worked his backside off for 2 years for this.)

@BruceFoxton and @JammyDodgersandPeas thank you so much. Yes I used a 10 marker question title, but the 18 markers are the "how far do you agree" questions so he doesn't have long to write.

I think we overshot with the sophistication grin He has a history mock exam in lesson time next week, hence honing his exam writing skills. So we will see how he does. I am really grateful for your help.

We are told 3/1 or 2/2 for/against arguments with a clinching closing. He is getting 15 out of 18 but wants those extra marks as it pulls his grade down.

OP’s posts: |
Oblomov19 Sat 16-Mar-19 18:57:13

Very interesting.

Effic Sat 16-Mar-19 19:07:31

DS has had the same advice about science subjects and geography. Apparently he loses marks because he “doesn’t state the obvious” so even though it’s completely clear from his answer that he understands the concept and can explain in detail, because he doesn’t just state the definition and use the formulaic openers given by the teachers, he doesn’t get full marks. Apparently that’s the rules and the mark scheme doesn’t allow any common sense.

JammyDodgersandPeas Sat 16-Mar-19 19:50:44

The markers get paid far less than they should to wade through minimum 1000+ questions so there's an element of "make it easy for them". No, it shouldn't matter, and yes we should be encouraging creative thinking and deeper analysis - but that's not the current GCSE climate unfortunately. Most students aren't going to get a 7+ so familiar question types where they know the expected structure give them the room to show off what they know and understand in the exam hall, when they're feeling nervous and stressed.

@mobirobo, I'd definitely ask for more guidance from the teacher, as I said I've not taught this paper, but for 18 marks I'd be focusing on the "how far". So which factor has the most weight, if you've got 3 against and 1 for, you might still come down on the for side because that factor is most significant. That's v poorly explained (major sleep deprivation here) but hopefully it makes sense. The mark scheme also talks about sustained arguments throughout, so referring back to your line of reasoning in the intro and leading sentences of each paragraph is a good way to flag this.

MoBiroBo Sat 16-Mar-19 22:10:36

@Effic omg Ds1 has this exact thing with science.

The question was What are the benefits of the contraceptive patch?

Ds wrote "not needing to remember to take a contraceptive pill every day."

The correct answer in the mark scheme said
"not needing to remember to take a contraceptive pill every day if you have the patch"

How bloody obvious is that?

@JammyDodgersandPeas I think the pressure on markers is ridiculous, I find it really hard to check a maths mark scheme and there is only one correct answer but sometimes 4 different ways to achieve it grin

You explained the reasoning bit perfectly. Thank you. Ds is at a revision session next week where his teacher is trying to tailor stuff for him, it is a mixed ability class where some children are trying to just get a 4 and then a few right at the top and a lot in the middle. He has time before the test to run a past paper question past his teacher.

Hopefully others have found all this helpful too.

OP’s posts: |
BruceFoxton Sun 17-Mar-19 06:53:22

Final word - as Dodgers said if it’s a how far question he must give an evaluative answer eg to a great degree or to a small degree. There can be a lot of marks at stake for that detail. Don’t put ‘a certain degree’ as it’s not clear enough.

TapasForTwo Sun 17-Mar-19 07:34:52

I remember my home economics teacher way back in 1977 saying "never be afraid to state the obvious".

Re the marking of science papers, it becomes even more specific at A level, especially for biology.

DD's bf is obsessed with history. He never achieved the highest marks in spite of his encyclopaediac knowledge because he didn't really answer the questions. The teachers told him that his work was at degree level detail but not what the examiners were looking for.

TwittleBee Sun 17-Mar-19 07:38:55

Not a History teacher but done history GCSE and A level. Our teacher told us to always top and tail each paragraph and then reminded us to always use the "TMT" phrase - "This meant that" (didn't mean only use that phrase exactly but make sure we always clearly justified each point)

FaFoutis Sun 17-Mar-19 07:43:39

There isn't much (any) room for independent thinking in GCSE or A level history. You have to jump through the hoops and identify each hoop as you jump through them. Stating the obvious is necessary. I mark them and I teach history at university level - university is completely different.

SJane48S Sun 17-Mar-19 08:09:15

Even at A’Level? We were always taught to pick apart the question e.g ‘The Russian Revolution was inevitable’ & then argue whether we thought it was inevitable or not or even if it was a revolution! That’s what made it stimulating & we were marked on making coherent arguements. It sounds like things have gone backwards!

FaFoutis Sun 17-Mar-19 08:17:33

For my exam board you would still be putting forward arguments, but they would be the ones you were taught rather than your own. Using historians you don't argue with the historians either, you just need to know the historiography rather than engage with it.
Yes, backwards SJane.

SlinkyDinkyDoo Sun 17-Mar-19 08:23:23

This is depressing. My dd has just started secondary and from what it says here it's all painting by numbers with no room for critical thinking at all.

SJane48S Sun 17-Mar-19 08:24:57

:-) whereas at degree level it’s a continuous circle of the new generation of historians disagreeing with the previous generation & history is never static. Shame FaFoutis & must be rather boring for you to read multiple tick box exercises!

FaFoutis Sun 17-Mar-19 08:30:43

My main job is university teaching so actually the tick box marking is a nice change. Not so good for the GCSE / A level students though, or for society in general. You teach people not to think critically and what happens to politics and the media?

FaFoutis Sun 17-Mar-19 08:34:00

Slinky - it's sort of an advantage if you want to get top grades and will work hard. If taught well (that means taught to pass the exam) your daughter will know exactly what to do to.

That's not the case at university. Working hard isn't enough for top grades (no grade inflation where I teach, I know it is different elsewhere).

brizzlemint Sun 17-Mar-19 08:34:52

https://www.mytutor.co.uk/answers/7969/GCSE/History/How-should-I-structure-a-history-essay/

SlinkyDinkyDoo Sun 17-Mar-19 10:32:34

What's the point though if by the time they get to University they have no clue how to go about it because they've not been taught to do so? Fafoutis surely that makes Uni even more of a struggle? Shouldn't we be teaching them this as they go along?

TwittleBee Sun 17-Mar-19 10:42:20

This isn't even just a History issue. I done Politics and Sociology at Uni and lecturers had to get us out of the A Level style of writing which is hard to do! So I wonder if it's an issue across subjects?

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