Posted by: markhowell101 | June 1, 2010

OCR B Fieldwork Focus controlled assessment – Some reflections on a process

Being essentially a 1 man geography department (at GCSE level anyway) I was charged this year with making the transition from coursework to controlled assessment. At first glance it seemed very similar with the only exception being that students wrote their analysis and evaluation under exam conditions. However this subtle change had a number of knock on effects. What follows is a guide to the process I went through and some thoughts on its success. Hopefully this can help others embarking on this without much idea of what to do.

We do the OCR B spec course and my initial reaction to the course so far is positive, certainly in terms of content. Although it increases our work I like the idea of titles changing every year. I am also very positive about the research project which we are set to do in September. Again I think that there is great mileage in that and it is exciting that it changes every year. As we do a field trip to Hunstanton every year we decided to do the title “How and why do coastal features change along a stretch of coastline”. The coast at Hunstanton varies in a short distance from wide beaches and dunes, to narrow beaches and eroding cliffs to heavily defended promenades so lends itself well to this work.

In preparation for the fieldwork focus we clearly taught the rivers and coasts topic from Christmas to Easter and carried out the fieldwork immediately after easter. I decided that at 3 sites along the coast we would conduct beach profiles, pebble analyses, field sketches and a wave count.

The new controlled assessment requires that students write an introduction and description of fieldwork methods. This must be done before the controlled part of the assessment in order that a decent evaluation can be undertaken. I elected to make them do both these stages before we went on the trip. For 80% of students this proved to be a wise move as it got a significant part of the work done before we even went. For the other 20% this perhaps was not a such a wise choice as they struggled to understand the purpose of the fieldwork. Perhaps having done the trip first would have focussed the mind a little. This meant that in the 2 days before the trip I had to run a couple of after school catch up sessions for the stragglers to get their work produced in. As anticipated 1 or 2 weaker students really struggled and with this being controlled work I could be only limited in my advice and help. I decided to get them to write an introduction in a traditional way whilst I got them to fill in a grid for their fieldwork methods. This was based on advice from the board who suggested this as good practice. You can find a blank copy of the grid for the fieldwork methods at

Students then had to present their data. Again I elected to do this based on advice from the board. I elected to demonstrate beach profiles and allowed class time for these to be done. I also offered lots of help in producing these. Clearly because of teacher input this was only a level 1 skill. I also demonstrated field sketching in class but told them to produce these at home, without help. This enabled students who did this to access level 2. To access level 3 students had to show initiative and imagination so I offered no input at all on how students should present wave count and pebble analysis data. Students who presented this data in a relevent way (box plots, scattergraphs or using some statistical analysis) were then able to access level 3.

I insisted that all of the above was complete before we started our analysis and evaluation, phoning parents and keeping students in after school to get this done. I felt it was essential that all this was done before the controlled part. This exam board have specified that when doing analysis and evaluation (A+E) students must not have guidelines or a writing frame or any real teacher input. This presented a challenge for me in terms of how to get them to understand what was required of them. I therefore wrote a sample piece of assessment on population. It has sections 1-3 similar to theirs but obviously about a totally different topic. It then had an A+E part written with sections done as a demonstration to them and other sections for them to complete. After a couple of lessons doing this I got them to peer assess each others A+E of the dummy assessment. I then asked that they transferred this knowledge of how to do a A+E when it came to their Hunstanton work. For 90% of students this dummy assessment process seemed succesful and they understood what was asked of them.

After a coasts revision lesson we did the controlled sections in 2 double periods which turned out to be enough time for all students. Students were spread between 2 class rooms with invigilators and myself bouncing between the rooms as, unlike an exam, we can offer limited support. Having not marked properly but having flicked through work my initial feelings are that controlled assessment makes it easier for bright students to access better grades, with the margins between level 2 and 3 being very fine. I have found that many of my B and C grade students have perhaps achieved better than I would have anticipated. However, I believe that this style of assessment may lead to a polarisation of grades. A handful of my students did not use their time wisely in the controlled sessions and they clearly only get one shot at that. This was in spite of my constant reminders that this was their only chance at this work. Obviously this has lead to a handful of students underacheiving. In previous years clearly we would work outside of school with these students and drag them up to a Cish grade. Clearly this time around this is not possible.


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