Abstract from Guy Couper-Marsh

The Biology department begins teaching the CIE International A-level qualification from September 2013 and consequently staff will be developing a number of new teaching resources and methodologies for lesson delivery. In order to inform the planning process and identify key areas for resources provision an audit was conducted of the resources and teaching methods currently in use. This involved surveying the current year 12 and 13 Biology students and finding their opinions of current resources and teaching methods, and asking them for suggestions for improvement. The results were analysed and used as the basis for departmental discussion. The outcome is that the department has taken on board a number of the recommendations, such as the provision of extension classes, reorganisation of the departmental intranet site, improvements to the resources that we provide and improvements to departmental notice boards.

Update from Matthew Fox

“The changing architecture of the Geography classroom; student perception on the effects of layout on learning”

The research investigated how students perceived which classroom layouts furthered learning most effectively for different types of lesson activities. Three layouts (horseshoe, pairs and modular) were trialled on a Y9 Geography class for individual/pairs based work and group work (four or more). After each trial lesson the students filled in a questionnaire assessing their participation, collaboration and progress in the lesson. After the trial lessons a focus group with a few members of the class was also conducted. The results showed that for a large proportion of students they don’t believe layout affects their learning. However, they also indicated students perceive they participate more in the horseshoe layout for individual/pairs work whilst they collaborate more in the modular layout for group work.

Update from Ben Wingfield

Questionnaire answers from my Y9 class has yielded the expected answers to take through to my strategy of implementing a standard compositional template. A group of 6 pupils have now started work on a new composition using the template, recording their feelings towards the process in a log at the end of each lesson. Let’s see what happens in the next few weeks…

Findings and Analysis

Before turning to a presentation of my findings and an analysis of them, I present an overview of real and potential problems with my research, which ensure than any conclusions drawn from my findings must be considered provisional. As my research was based on one class in one school, the extent to which my findings apply more generally, beyond the specific context I investigated, may be questioned. Despite this, as a detailed study of one class, I hope that my findings will at least be of interest to those in other situations who may be faced with similar problems. Indeed, as Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2007, p. 148) note, even if “the premises of naturalistic studies include the uniqueness and idiosyncrasy of situations, such that the study cannot be replicated… that is their strength rather than their weakness.”

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Methodology and Method

My research therefore had two principal aims. First, I wanted to investigate students’ response to learning about Roman civilisation without using the ‘background information’ section of the textbook (or, for that matter, the “Political Life” video available on the CLC e-Learning Resource (CSCP, 2005)), but rather by allowing the issues to arise ‘naturally’ through reading the stories of CLC Stage 11. Second, I wanted to see the extent to which such a reading of Stage 11 could then be used as a springboard to developing students’ understanding of modern politics. On the one hand, therefore, my research contributes to ongoing work on how Classics can best contribute to the teaching of Citizenship; on the other hand, my research also investigates the pedagogy of Classics itself.

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Literature Review

Although calls for “Citizenship” to be part of the school curriculum have been made since at least the 1930s, this subject has only become formalised in British schools since the introduction of the Citizenship cross-curricular National Curriculum ‘theme’ in 1990 and, above all, since “Citizenship became a Foundation Subject of the National Curriculum at key stages 3 and 4” in 2002 (Beck, 2003, p. 159). Although there continues to be some debate about what Citizenship should be – “is it a conglomeration of facts about the democratic system of government in the UK which are to be learned, or an opportunity to participate in the democratic process, or a mixture of both…?” (Brandom, 2007, p. 275) – programmes of study now exist for the subject (QCA, 2007), and it is a statutory requirement for schools to teach Citizenship to their pupils. As noted by Brandom (2007, p. 269), “the model of citizenship education put forward in the Orders emphasizes the need for pupils to have knowledge, skills and understanding of their role in society in order that they might better understand what participation in a variety of arenas might actually look like.”

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