Posted by: markhowell101 | October 28, 2010

OCR B GCSE Geographical Investigation. Reflections on the process

Being one of the first to finish the fieldwork focus task for 2011, I posted a blog reflecting how I went about it and this seemed helpful to a number of people. Having just finished the second part of the assignment, the geographical investigation, which is a research project, I thought I would post how I went about this and what was successful or otherwise.

The first thing to say is that in principle I love the idea of the investigation. When I went to the OCR day and first heard about the concept I thought it was an excellent way to contemporise both the course and the learning that takes place on it. I was even more pleased when I saw the list of topics which we had to choose from this year which was extensive and interesting.

The first choice to make is how many of these titles to offer and there are of course a number of things to consider when deciding this. Obviously to offer all 18 would be great and would ensure that all students can find one that suits their interests and skills, however to moderate and mark 18 different topics would be impossible. Equally, I felt that to only offer 1 defeats the whole point of this task which was to make the course more relevent and interesting. I therefore opted to offer 3 titles and allow students to make the choice provided that at least 5 students wanted to do that topic, which fortnately all 3 titles did get. I chose the gun crime in the UK, venues for F1 racing and London Fashion week topics and proceeded to do an introductory lesson on each.

Each lesson I introduced one of the titles and got students to carry out a task which I thought would not only introduce the topic but also something which could be included in their final report. For example with the F1 topic I got them to map locations of F1 venues in 1970 compared to 2010 and begin to discuss the changes. At the end of the 3 lessons students got into groups of 3-4 people who were all doing the same topic and had some time to brainstorm the key questions they might wish to answer in order to complete their assignment. I encouraged students to let these questions form the structure which they built their assignment about and many chose to do it in this way.

Armed with a brief reading list (4 websites) I then allowed students 2 lessons plus homework to produce a pack of research. I instructed them that just copied and pasted whole articles was not ok and they needed to select data, images, quotes etc from the interent and record everything they researched. This pack of research then had to be handed to me and checked before the write up phase began, it would be handed to them in the controlled conditions and they would complete the assignment from this. I added that they could do more research throughout the process provided always that it was checked by me before being included to avoid plagerism.

The write up process then began in a computer suite and it took 5 lessons. For me it needed to be in a computer suite to allow students to complete their work in different ways, in the end though the students all did the work in a report format, opting not to do powerpoints, websites etc. In future years I think I will do more to encourage a variety of outcomes, I especially feel that a powerpoint would allow weaker students to access better grades. The process seemed to go well throughout and on the face of it I saw no reason not to repeat it in this way again next year.

However, problems came to light when I came to marking. The most obvious problem was that students scored relatively lower on this project than their fieldwork and with considerable analysis I have narrowed this down to a number of causes, some of which can easily be fixed for next year others not so.

The first problem was that too few of the projects included much geography. I had stressed throughout the need to include geography and concepts that we had studied. In my nievety I had assumed that this would be second nature to my students by now but although most had produced well constructed arguments few had used much geography. Potentially next year this can be fixed as I will spend time next year looking at past work and demonstrating that good examples include geography. I will also suggest that students brainstorm what geographic ideas relate to this project and try to include 3 or 4 in their assignment. Perhaps even get them to go through a text book and highlight pages which relate to their project. I will also be more careful selecting projects next time which require the use of geography we have already done lots of (perhaps the coast one as we do a coast fieldwork).

The second problem was use of research. The vast majority had researched a decent range of sources and had a good amount of researched material. However, they struggled to use it properly throwing in irrelevant bits of information of using relevant items and not offering any explanation as to how it was useful. I think this is a problem with is more with the system than anything else as our current year 11 have been exposed to far less indepedent learning throughout their time in school than years which follow. This means that whilst they do have independent skills they are a long way from being able to properly use them in an examined environment. For example there were no KS3 geography assessments which tested enquiry skills in place in our school until this year so pupils have had little chance to develop these skills. I suspect that each year that follows will show an improvement in independent working and this will fix itself over time.

That said there were great success stories and I sturuggled to take marks away from 2 students, giving them both 23 out of 24 in the end and in total around a third to a half of the group will be pleased with their result but for the majority their overall controlled assessment grade will suffer as a result of this assignment. 2 students failed to include any of their own thoughts and only included information, quotes and analysis they found on the internet and added no ideas of their own. I am yet to decide if these students score 0 of if they can get some marks for gathering good research SPaG etc. Any advice on that would be helpful.On the positive side, their ability to find useful resources was also good as was their referencing (which I drilled them on at the start of each controlled session) and because they chose their project most entered into the whole process with enthusiasm and were keen to explore the work.

Hope this is slightly helpful to someone, feel free to ask anyquestions.

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