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Philosophy at A-level and SIxth Form Conference Days

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by celestialdreamer, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. Hi all!
    I am considering offering Philosophy at A-level and just wondered how those who are already teaching it find the course and how well received it is among students. My department currently follows the WJEC Religious Studies A-level course with Philosophy and Ethics studied at AS level and Philosophy at A2. I guess it may seem a little odd to offer Philosophy as a distinct subject with some of the course content already being covered by the RS A-level, but it is Philosophy of Religion that is studied here as opposed to the wider areas explored by a Philosophy A-level. Maybe offering Philosophy as a distinct subject would allow my department to explore other RS modules on offer? You can see i'm just playing with options at the mo. and so would be greatful of any ideas that you guys have.
    I would also like to know of any ideas for topics to be examined in the context of a Sixth Form Conference Day. Did one last summer on sexual ethics ( I know I should be doing more a year, but SLT can be an obstacle sometimes ) and it was a real success with guest speakers ranging from the Bishop of St. Asaph to Martin Reynold of the LGCM. Students and staff raved on about it for weeks afterwards! Want to keep the momentum going here with ideas that are relevant to 16-18 year olds and also a little edgy ( I find being a little controversial helps raise profile of the subject a little) . I had thought about something along the lines of Christian atttitudes to Paganism or new spiritualities as i'm finding i have loads of kids asking questions on these topics at the moment. I don't know much about them myself, so thought it could be a way for me to learn more in this area? Got a new head right now so will also have to consult with her, but any ideas that you guys have put into practise in this area and that have worked well would be much appreciated.
    Thanks in advance for your responses!
  2. jerseyperson

    jerseyperson New commenter

    Hi Matt,
    I've taught Philosophy A level for 3 years now and I wouldn't really recommend it. First of all, it is significantly more difficult to get the top grades in it (trust me, I'm one of the examiners). An A grade student at RS A level can expect to finish often with a grade lower in its Philosophy counterpart. Secondly, it is resourced poorly. The official AQA textbook veers from way too brief/almost simplistic to completely inaccessible and, from time to time, can be found to have errors in it that then whole classes/centres make in their exams (again, trust me, I'm one of the examiners).
    My main concern- the grade boundaries are unpredictable and a raw mark that would secure a student an A one year could get them a C the next (this actually happened between Jan and June 2009). Dealing with parents asking why children were predicted A grades and ended up with C/D is gutwrenching.
    Lastly, the mark schemes need significant reworking as the last 3 seasons have solicited a considerable number of complaints that questions which came up simply couldn't have been prepared for. When you see the mark schemes, the expected answers seem to require you to have some sort of psychic foresight that this one sentence in the specification could become a 30 mark question and the exam board's idea of what makes a good answer is -more often than not- undergraduate standard.
    The content is fascinating and I love teaching some elements of it- especially the Philosophy of Mind which is so different and really thought provoking. The students often like learning the topics but it is very difficult for any but the very brightest to get to grips with the REAL issues being raised. In addition, the compulsory unit 'Reason and Experience' is tough going and can be very dry.
    I know of some teachers who really enjoy it (see my 'is Philosophy A Level the work of Satan?') thread and if you're not concerned about its unpredictability then give it a try. It's a great idea but organised TERRIBLY.

  3. Thanks ever so much, "jerseyperson", for your thoughts and advice on the possibility of teaching Philosophy. You have certainly given me food for thought and I will discuss your advice at a future meeting with the rest of my department.
    To be honest I had looked at the AQA Philosophy spec. and was aghast at the amount of material that needed to be covered and also the level of difficulty; with some of the subject content covered in A2 RS found at AS level here. However, I do love Philosophy and would relish the prospect of teaching it but, as I said, I will need to discuss the matter further with the rest of my team.
    Thanks again!
  4. By the way don't be too put off by the amount of content. Most who offer it teach no more than 3 "themes" in each of the two units at AS and from marking I'm guessing the majority of schools just teach for 2 questions, not really giving students any room for choice.
    If I can help with any specific questions, just message me- I'm happy to answer anything.

  5. By the way I am jerseyperson- it's not that I lead an interesting double life or anything, just keep forgetting my logins and having to set up new accounts!
  6. Have a look at Facebook 'Campaign to Improve AQA Philosophy' before making any decision!
  7. Hi there I was wondering if you has any comment on January 2012 Reason and Experience O1 as this reflects something you wrote in the above reply - "the expected answers seem to require you to have some sort of psychic foresight that this one sentence in the specification could become a 30 mark question". Apart from the fact that it was a 15 mark question this is exactly what happened in this case - the wording of the question was lifted from the Map to Specification and the words tautological and introspection do not in fact find their way into Section 1 of the endorsed text book at all (Introspection is in Section 2 and tautological does not even make the Index!). My concern is that a precise understanding of these words is crucial to accessing the question in any meaningful way. Students who lacked those definitions were left with the word "certainty" to try and work out what the question was driving at. To me another example of the failure of the text book to adequately or in this case fail to explain key concepts specific to the relevant topic being examined. This is another case of the needless over-complication of questions which only succeeds in panicking students at the start of the exam and leaves them floundering their way through the rest of the exam. Incidently I have noticed that this is much more of a problem for AS than A2. What do you think?
  8. I am very concerned about all of these discussion threads about aqa philosophy. I have had ten very successful years teaching OCR RS(philosophy and ethics) and like many contributors love philosophy.
    My school is currently pushing STEM subjects very aggressively. Many parents are dissuading students from doing an A level that has "religious" in the title, particularly since the report produced by the Russell Group which exemplified subjects like history as academically worthy facilitator subjects. I find my A level no longer offers groups that are big enough for my school "ACADEMY" to consider economically viable.
    Many students think that the subject that they want to do is Philosophy A level and this is the one that I am now going to offer. If this is unsuccessful, I fear for my students' grades but also for my own job and that of my colleagues.
    I have heard of the problems and have asked AQA for reassurance but they do not seem able to give it.

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