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Lang/Lit A-Levels: which to choose...

Discussion in 'English' started by Foxton_Spaume, Dec 13, 2019.

  1. Foxton_Spaume

    Foxton_Spaume New commenter

    I've been asked to investigate the possibility/implications of switching from distinct Language and Lit A-Levels (OCR currently) to a combined Lang/Lit award.
    Just looking for people's thoughts, experiences, advice, warnings? Are there boards to avoid? Hidden pitfalls? Stories of shining success?
    All input gratefully received.
  2. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    Why are you changing?

    A couple of things to consider:

    What would switching A-levels do for student retention? Do you think more A-levels students will pick the new A-level or do you think it will shrink the amount of post-16 students? One year, we had lots of Lit classes and barely any Lang classes. Our results were scrutinised because our A-levels weren't as high as the previous year (less students - I know, it still doesn't make sense).

    Staff and learning. When I was HoD, the school had an A-level power trip and decided we needed more A-levels in almost all departments. We had to add Lang/Lit and Creative Writing. Although I taught Lang and Lit, teaching the combined A-level was very different. All of my dept felt the same. We did a 2 year trial run and after that, we took it off the curriculum because we just didn't like teaching it and our students found it difficult to engage with it (because of the way we taught GCSE English). Would it cost your dept. more if you needed your dept. to go on training courses?

    SoW. Any SoW from Lang and Lit A-levels you could use? If not, adding a new A-level can be costly, esp if there's no real or adamant urgency to change course. New books, new anthologies, etc all add up.

    Your students. Another main reason we didn't keep with the A-level was because we believed the separate A-levels prepared students more for uni courses. A-level Lit prepared students more who wanted to study Lit at uni and the same for A-level Lang for Lang/Linguistics at uni. The combined course offers students breadth for sure, but the separate A-levels offer students depth. I'm sure students can get into a Lit uni course with A-level Lit/Lang but for our students, they felt more comfortable with the separate A-level. Above all else, it gives both teachers and students a choice if you kept Lang and Lit. The majority of our students either hated GCSE Lang or Lit. When asked "why did you pick Lang or Lit" they said "because I hated the opposite one at GCSE". Giving them the option to choose one or the other, or indeed both, would be more inviting to students and not let them feel as though you can't study one without the other.

    Also for teachers. My dept. had a range of diff backgrounds - some studied pure Linguistics, Literature and everything in between. We also attracted a lot of Linguistics/Language specialists when we recruited because of the chance to teach A-level Language. It put less pressure on the teachers who had literary backgrounds when teaching and creating SoW for KS3 and 4. I liked having my dept. teach one or the other (sometimes both) because it also made timetabling a lot easier and gave them room to breath from teaching both at GCSE level.

    I can only comment from the perspective of being a former HoD. I can't comment on which exam board to go with. Hope I've helped anyway.
    tb9605 likes this.
  3. blanched

    blanched New commenter

    Hello - been teaching the combined lang/lit course for about 7 years (ish) now. I was a confirmed Lit teacher beforehand but I have found that studying Lit with a more linguistic focus gives students something extra. For example, I teach A Streetcar Named Desire to both Lit and Lang/Lit classes and it is quite different. Lang/lit students still do themes, characters etc but also look at talk features and applying linguistic theories. I feel this is a richer way to approach the play and actually in some ways more challenging (I don't agree with view held by some that lang/lit is 'easier'). The coursework is very engaging and is unlike anything they will have done lower down the school. For example, applying genderlect theories to conversations about marriage in Pride and Prejudice and comparing the findings to a transcript of real life talk of a group of adults discussing marriage today.
    Students enjoy the course and we get good outcomes. I would find my teaching diminished if we lost the course and went back to solely teaching Lit.

    One thing to consider is that Lit is a facilitating subject and Lang/Lit is not.

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