“You are going to be teaching the Year 9 social science course next year and although we have a programme, it really needs a revamp, so you can do whatever you want with it.”
… my Head of Faculty said to me this just before the May half-term last year, and initially, I was so excited about the prospect. The opportunity to write my own course without a specification or programme of study being dictated to me, it’s a teachers dream, right? In some ways, yes, but in others, it was a little bit overwhelming.
I was given a very open remit with this course. It needed to:
- Prepare the students for GCSE Sociology (which they will start after Easter of year 9)
- Be an introduction to all the social science subjects we teach in the school (sociology, psychology, law and politics)
- Engage and enthuse the students about social sciences.
Other than that, it was really up to me as to how I wanted the course to look. GULP – where do I start? I started by looking at what I want to include in the course in terms of my own teaching philosophy, which meant some form of project-based and research-based homework, which also links current affairs and the students own curiosity. I didn’t want the course to just be prepared for an exam in three years time, but it did need to do that as well, so I needed to think about the GCSE course and where the students needed to be at the start of that.
Therefore, my starting point was the GCSE sociology course to see what sort of skills they were going to need to be successful in that course. From this, I was able to see the assessment objectives and decided on my assessment format. As the students would eventually be taking the GCSE examination I decided to stick with that exam format for my assessments, that way the students would get plenty of practice and be completely comfortable with the format before taking the exam.
I kept the same assessment objectives as the GCSE course:
- AO1 – Knowledge and Understanding,
- AO2 – Application
- AO3 – Evaluation
And I was very lucky in that my Head of Faculty and Department Fellow spent some time transferring these to the new 1-9 grading system which saved me a lot of time.
Next, I looked at the content of the GCSE course, partly because I didn’t want to cover too much of that and then have it repeated in year 10 or 11, but also so that I could pick out some of the core elements that could be applied to all 4 of the social science subjects. It was during this process that I decided to take a thematic approach to the units. I didn’t want to have standalone units on each subject but rather have units that covered all 4 subjects but had a sociology slant as that is the GCSE that they are going to do.
With this in mind, I decided to look at the key sociological concepts that permeate through the subject and see how they interlink with the other three subjects. The first two units were quite easy to come up with in terms of focus however the second two were a little more difficult as I wanted to use topics that the students could really get their teeth into and also apply what they learnt in the first two topics somewhat.
The four topics I came up with were:
With the topics decided it was now time to get into the nitty-gritty of the content of each unit. With no textbook for support, it really was up to me to decide what I wanted to teach within each one.
I wanted to make sure that the content was just as interesting to the students as it was to me and in order to make sure I stayed focused, I used a key question for each learning phase (there are up to 5 per unit) which will also be the extended answer question in the assessment.
Overall the experience has been a good one as it has really made me think about what I am teaching and why am I doing it. I didn’t like the idea that what I was doing was simply to prepare them for an exam, I wanted to spark the student’s curiosity and appreciation of what is happening outside the bubble of their lives. I hope I have achieved this with this course and I am really excited to teach this new course now, but the proof on how well it works will take time and need quite a lot of reflection by me as we go.
The full version of this article was originally published in the November 2015 Edition of our UKEdMagazine
Kim Constable is a teacher of 10 years of experience based in Norfolk. She teaches multiple subjects currently including Sociology, Psychology and PSHE across Key Stages 3 to 5. She blogs as Hectic Teacher and can be found on Twitter at @hecticteacher or on her website: hecticteacher.com.
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