It started with a textbook…

One of our big responsibilities yesterday was finalising the choice of textbook. It’s been quite a dilemma choosing the right text, but at least we’ve had a choice: our new Head of Economics tells me that he’s had one inspection copy so far, which – given that their spec hasn’t changed much – seems pretty poor.

After discussion, we’ve decided to use Surridge & Gillespie for the student text, with Wolinski and Coates as an additional teachers’ book. Interestingly, having made the decision, we then had a really useful discussion about how we are going to use the textbook, which then developed into a broader discussion about pedagogy.

Our plan is to get the Y12 to read ahead and to highlight/annote in their books in advance (much as ‘prep’ work used to be; “low-tech-flipped”, if you prefer!) and then making summary revision cards/notes that they can then use for self-testing. I think we’re going to specify that revision notes should be no more than one side of A4, so it’s a real summary rather than a ‘writing out’ of the textbook – after all, if they’ve got the textbook, why would they need to write it out word for word?!

As teachers, we then have to spend spend just the first lesson of a topic clarifying the main issues, before being able to delve off into more interesting discussion work to reinforce the learning. I suspect that it will take a while to build this culture with our new Y12, but at least if everyone in the department is consistently taking the same approach then we stand more chance of embedding it. I’m going to lay out our expectations really clearly in the Y12 handbook (a.k.a. The Oracle), and ask every teacher of Y12 to discuss this during their first lesson with each class.

The other interesting school-wide development that might pair with this is the introduction of Firefly as a VLE, and in the longer-term I see no reason why we shouldn’t magpie assorted videos from youtube as a way to explain the trickier topics alsongside the textbook, in advance of lessons. I don’t envisage us going fully high-tech-flipped (as it were!), but there are some topics where I imagine a videoed explanation could be very helpful. I anticipate this evolving over time, rather than an enforced change: the principles of Kaizen are always useful!

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Building knowledge

I read a blog (http://teachingandlearning.org.uk/2015/05/14/the-summer-exam-season/) the other day that helped to crystallise some of my thinking about building better long-term knowledge. One of my plans is to build a ‘nothing new’ lesson every fortnight into the scheme of work. Half of this lesson is to be spent going back over topics covered earlier in the course. It could be through a case-study, or teacher-led questioning, or maybe some short answers, but whatever the format it should be using concepts developed in previous weeks and months. The other half of the ‘nothing new’ lesson is to be spent on some real-world knowledge, but more of that another day.

I’m also planning to make every end-of-topic test one that covers the entire course, so that students are revising everything every time they prepare for a test: I’m hoping that laying these foundations will make it easier when it comes to preparing for the linear exams. I worry that if we try to do everything in the final months of the course then we will run out of time. For the typical Business student, who tends to be at the weaker end of the academic spectrum, this should hopefully make a big difference.