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OCR AS/A2 How can you cover everything?!

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by likac66, Mar 13, 2012.

  1. Although I'm an experienced teacher, this is only my second year teaching RE and I teach the Ethics side of A level. I am finding it increasingly difficult to know exactly what I'm supposed to cover on this syllabus. I have the syllabus and the support materials from OCR as well as numerous text books. However, every time I read an examiners report or mark scheme there seems to be more philosophers mentioned than are in the actual syllabus. For example, I gave my students a mock based on June 2010 paper and there was a question on Free Will. The mark scheme suggested students included Sartre and Kant however the specification clearly only mentions Darrow, Hume, Locke and Honderich. I had covered these four as well as Newton, Hospers and Kant (although Kant was difficult as different text books and websites seem to have him names as both a hard determinist and a libertarian!) plus religious scholars. Of course, my students then asked why we hadn't covered Sartre as well. How am I supposed to teach these students EVERYTHING ANYBODY has said on these subjects? It's just not possible.
    Also, the exam board keeps saying how important it is that students answer the question specifically. Again, on the same question paper, one of the questions started with "Assess..." and one started with "Critically assess..." and in the exam report it said how important it is students understand what is meant by critically assess. Well, how am I supposed to KNOW what they mean by "critically" assess? How is it different to just assess? I can take a guess, but how do I know if it's what the board wants?
    Lastly, the latest text book I have bought (Jill Oliphant OCR Religious Ethics) has a sample question "Virtue ethics is of little use when dealing with practical ethics. Discuss."
    Now since when have we been calling applied ethics "practical ethics" on this course? That would totally throw my students as I have always referred to applied ethics (like it is all the way through the syllabus!) Mind you I think it was practical ethics way back when, when I did my degree!
    Does anyone else have similar problems? Can anyone shed any light on the difference between "assess" and "crticially assess"?!
    It would seem students cannot get an A grade (or possible even a C) if you just follow the syllabus! That just seems crazy. I'm trying to teach the whole Ethics course on 2 hours per week and I just keep finding more and more content to cover.
     
  2. Although I'm an experienced teacher, this is only my second year teaching RE and I teach the Ethics side of A level. I am finding it increasingly difficult to know exactly what I'm supposed to cover on this syllabus. I have the syllabus and the support materials from OCR as well as numerous text books. However, every time I read an examiners report or mark scheme there seems to be more philosophers mentioned than are in the actual syllabus. For example, I gave my students a mock based on June 2010 paper and there was a question on Free Will. The mark scheme suggested students included Sartre and Kant however the specification clearly only mentions Darrow, Hume, Locke and Honderich. I had covered these four as well as Newton, Hospers and Kant (although Kant was difficult as different text books and websites seem to have him names as both a hard determinist and a libertarian!) plus religious scholars. Of course, my students then asked why we hadn't covered Sartre as well. How am I supposed to teach these students EVERYTHING ANYBODY has said on these subjects? It's just not possible.
    Also, the exam board keeps saying how important it is that students answer the question specifically. Again, on the same question paper, one of the questions started with "Assess..." and one started with "Critically assess..." and in the exam report it said how important it is students understand what is meant by critically assess. Well, how am I supposed to KNOW what they mean by "critically" assess? How is it different to just assess? I can take a guess, but how do I know if it's what the board wants?
    Lastly, the latest text book I have bought (Jill Oliphant OCR Religious Ethics) has a sample question "Virtue ethics is of little use when dealing with practical ethics. Discuss."
    Now since when have we been calling applied ethics "practical ethics" on this course? That would totally throw my students as I have always referred to applied ethics (like it is all the way through the syllabus!) Mind you I think it was practical ethics way back when, when I did my degree!
    Does anyone else have similar problems? Can anyone shed any light on the difference between "assess" and "crticially assess"?!
    It would seem students cannot get an A grade (or possible even a C) if you just follow the syllabus! That just seems crazy. I'm trying to teach the whole Ethics course on 2 hours per week and I just keep finding more and more content to cover.
     
  3. You are not the only one!
    If you have a brief trawl through the forum here or follow the discussions on the OCR e community (or whatever it is called now), you will find that people are having the same problems as you.
    I'm teaching parts of the AS and A2 course and am struggling to get through everything in the time we have. We've also become worried about the marking; expectations from examiners etc etc so from Sept we're off to the WJEC instead teaching Religion in Contemp Society and Religious Ethics - and have almost doubled our uptake as a result!
    S
     
  4. I feel exactly the same - I feel like I have cracked AS (and am happy to share resources) but A2 worries me endlessly - I struggle to get the students to evaluate in the essays as I have spent a year training them to evaluate in a part (b) answer. I teacher the whole course in 5 lessons a week (Jan Ethics entry, May Phil entry)
    Do you want to swap emails and we can have a chat? My A2 results were only okay...I did get an A and am asking for the sripts back so I can see what they did!! Mostly C's, D's and E's

    Jo x
     
  5. Hi Jo - I've just sent you a private message with my email address. Thanks for the offer of help. Last year my AS results weren't great and I'm under a lot of pressure to get the results up.
     
  6. RCMJ

    RCMJ New commenter

    There is of course no way anyone can cover everything, nor should they try. Philosophy (literally "love of wisdom") isn't exactly a new subject, and more than a couple of people have had a stab at it since a chap called Socrates tried an idea or two for size.
    This may be seen as making the A-level an insurmountable challenge, or a sure-to-stretch course that actually lives up to its name: after all, the A doesn't stand for Accessible.
    There are definitely issues with the OCR terminology (how on earth they can ask a question along the lines of "meta-ethics is the best approach to X" utterly defeats me: meta-ethics isn't an APPROACH to anything.) However, the particular term "practical ethics" goes back at least as far as 1979 courtesy of Peter Singer, so it's probably fair to expect students to be familiar with it.
    None of which helps you with the AS/A2 reults-led pressures, for which apologies. Drop me an email, and I'll suggest a couple of tips that help. And failing all else, remember Cicero's observation:
    nihil tam absurde dici potest, quod non dicatur ab aliquo philosophorum
    [there's nothing so stupid that some philosopher hasn't said it already]
    De divinatione ii. 58


     
  7. Hi I've just stumbled on this tread and am having similar issues. I'm teaching the Ethics side of both the AS and A2 OCR course for the first time this year and having similar issues.

    It would be great to have some people to email with a couple of questions and to maybe swap some resources. I studied philosophy for my degree and have been teaching RE for a couple of years but still finding it tough to come up with interesting ways of delivering some of the content. Plus the issue of not fulling understanding what students need to know.

    I've just finished Meta-ethics with my A2 class and only just finished Natural Law with the AS class. Both of these have been fairly difficult modules and I was wondering which modules are a little easier? I'd like to simplify the content to boost students confidence!

    If someone wouldn't mind saying hello with their email address that would be brilliant.

    Thanks!
    Ollie
     
  8. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Lead commenter

    What I think might be required is the teaching of any philosophers specifically mentioned in the syllabus together with a selection of the views of other contributors to the territory. So mention of Sartre in the mark scheme is merely a suggestion for the topic Free Will and Determinism.
     
  9. RCMJ

    RCMJ New commenter

    NMT has a valuable point here. There is a country mile between names that are on the spec (let's take Copplestone & Russel for the Philosophy AS) on the one hand and names of philosophers that could usefully/impressively be drawn upon on the other. The first could be incorporated into a question, and if you haven't studied that radio debate then woe-betide you. The second (rather larger) category is a suggested list of philosophers/schools tharet could perhaps be drawn upon to illustrate a point, but need: contingent, if impressive, rather than necessary.
    From my point of view, it would seem bordering on the reckless (to say nothing of intellectually nugatory) to write about ideas of freewill without dragging in Sartre, but that's my very personal view, and merely a reminder that I believe that any late-teenager studying philosophy is duty bound to be an existentialist for at least a fortnight of her/his 6th form career. Just as politics students should sleep with a copy of the Manifesto on their bedside table <smiles>. Oh, and the fact that I believe the Boulevard St Michel is perhaps the most conceptually rich area in Europe, and J-P & S de B's beloved Les Deux Magots cafe is merely the icing on that particular philosophical cake.
    To put it another way, there may be a Form of an A* essay (sorry, betraying my ontological sympathies there <grins>), but it can be reflected in many ways and realised in an almost infinite number of particulars.
    It's almost as if they give the students some credit for thinking - oops, sorry: nearly muttered heresies there!


     
  10. I cover everything that is on the spec and make my resources using 4 different textbooks and I encourage my students to do additional reading as well (some do, some don't).
    I personally have never taught Sartre for example as part of Free Will but I do teach all of the philosophers mentioned on the spec. I find what really stops the students getting the top grades is not having failed to mention whoever is randomly thrown into the useless mark schemes but not having properly using the question in their responses. My A2's last year performed poorly on the ethics paper in Jan so I got their scripts back, analysed them and noted their lack of AO2 across the board. Having done this they all went on to get A's in the Philosophy exam in June - I didnt teach any different content to usual, they just adapted how they answered the question. I make them mention the question in every paragraph and AO2 in every paragraph - I highlight their essays pink for AO1 and yellow for AO2 and it really makes it obvious what they missing out.
    What annoyed me was the AS scheme for Philosophy with the Augustine question - it was a very specific (stupid) question anyway and I KNOW my AS students didnt mention any of the obscure arguments in the mark scheme because I didnt teach them any of them! I did however teach them other details about Augustines beliefs regarding the origin of natural evil and out of a class of 26, 17 of them got an A and they ALL answered that question!
     
  11. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Lead commenter

    That's a really good tactic joeybird. Thanks for mentioning it.
     
  12. RCMJ

    RCMJ New commenter

    The Game of Threes can work quite well to develop AO2 if that's what particularly concerns you.
    The exercise is in pairs/as suits your numbers best. Let's say it's a class of 9. 3 tables, each with a different thematic essay title written/typed in the middle of a sheet of A3.
    Step 1: Each group of 3 to a table, and they have to draw three short lines (as per a Mercedes/CND badge), each with an initial line of response. Nothing difficult so far.
    Step 2: Each group moves round 1 table, and draws 3 lines of implication/development/expansion from each of the three lines they find to produce (unless my maths is shakier than I remember), 9 points.
    Step 3 you can probably work out for yourself: 1 more table round, and each of the 9 split further into 3 points to produce what is in effect the contents of a rather good essay.
    They - and hopefully you - will be surpised by their latent ability to drag in thinkers and theorists from apparently wholly unrelated areas of the spec (even across the 2 papers), and by their ability to write really quite crunchy paragraphs on an apparently challenging title.
    The side benefits are many: you can obviously shuffle around the tables and give as much help/encouragement/provocation/name-dropping/leading as each group needs; they find out that they DO know the stuff, they just need to APPLY it; by the time they get out to Step 3, they are necessarily producing what are effectively paragraphs, so you can easily reinforce the "have you referred to the question?" element of the lesson; huge potential for wanton academic name-dropping - one of my students was particularly chuffed (when she managed to accuse a critic of Rawls of making a Ryle-style category mistake that could only have been made by someone who didn't understand the concept of a thought experiment and ergo needed to be introduced to the Plato's analogy of the Ccave. Not bad to be able to get all 3 of them into an essay on business ethics <grins>.
    Obviously they make hugely useful revision sessions and notes to go with them that you/they can copy/type up/convert to an actual essay. And - most importantly of all - they come to realise that Whitehead WAS correct, you CAN drag the old boy in to any essay, and all Western philosophy really IS a series of footnotes to Plato.
     

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