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Many centres are now turning their attention to planning the delivery of units 3 and 4 of the A Level. We are busy producing resources such as schemes of work and delivery guides for the options at unit 3, and for the non-examined assessment in unit 4; a very interesting guide to writing coursework for students is already available on our website.
At OCR, our passion for our subject is what sets us apart, and in this blog, we discuss which topics in unit 3 would appeal to our own individual historical interests. With 21 topics available, there’s surely something for everyone – and some topics that aren’t…
Mike Goddard: the number of medieval options is good to see, as is the fact that quite a few schools are opting for them (particularly the Vikings, though I’m not aware of anyone yet going for the Early Anglo Saxons – correct me if I’m wrong!). I’d be tempted by one of those – there are some great stories to be told in the medieval heresy unit for example. Especially if I was teaching the Luther option in unit 2, I’d seriously consider that. But, ultimately, like we hear from a lot of centres, that would only be in an ideal world – one in which my own subject knowledge of the topic was stronger and there were more textbooks more readily available. So my choice, like that of approaching 10% of departments (a level of popularity that surprised us), would be for the witchcraze option.
Again, because of the fascinating, at times horrifying stories, but also the different types of history that it entails – gender, popular culture, psychology. It’s also a great topic for bringing out patterns and themes, a real ‘bums on seats’ topic. And who wouldn’t want to do a depth study on Matthew Hopkins (ideal chance to watch Witchfinder General – one of the creepiest and best British films ever). Also, because it spans two centuries, you solve the 200 year rule in one swoop. And there’s a new edition of the relevant Hodder textbook coming out. All in all an easy decision.
Asher Goodenough: I agree there’s the age-old problem: ideal world versus real world. In the ideal world, I like the idea of the Catholic Reformation topic – the chance to see the how the forces of religion, money, power and protest come together and challenge each other across sixteenth century Europe, and it would also be a great complement to the Luther option in unit 2, as well as a chance to compare and contrast the experiences of different European countries. But I would probably choose something I was more familiar with in terms of teaching and learning, which for me would be Britain and Ireland 1791-1921 – a fascinating period of rebellion, tension, famine, violence, and the changing relationship between the two nations. Here also, the relationship between religion, culture and power is explored, but also some very relevant discussion points – how and why do people protest and revolt, and what happens when British governments’ authority and legitimacy are questioned?
Grant Robertson: My colleagues raise two very interesting and compelling points and while I agree with much of what they have to say, my own views are somewhat different. Asher makes the point about ideal world v real world, something I can very much get on board with. While personally I find the medieval period interesting, I have never taught it in any particular depth and so would not be choosing any of those options unless I truly felt it was for the good of the learners. Since my own A Level studies I have always been fascinated by 19th century Germany, so much so that the 1848 revolutions in Germany became the focus of my dissertation at university. Having a strong interest in politics, and in particular in political thought and ideologies, perhaps sways me to look out for those topics where political theory can be found at the heart.
The fact that, despite the often violent responses from the established powers, ideas like democracy and liberalism gained increasing popularity proves, in my eyes anyway, to be an interesting study. Despite the failings of the revolutions in Germany and across Europe, these ideas and concepts continued throughout the century and have become the ‘norm’ today. Other developments in this period are equally interesting. The creation of a nation is no mean feat and the German nationalists faced many challenges along the route to unification. Having said that, and speaking from a purely practical point of view, I would probably end up teaching the topics that my learners would be most engaged with, so ultimately I would choose either US Civil Rights or Tudor Rebellions. I’ve had experience with both of these and for the US in particular I know the learners I have taught would be able to both engage and achieve.
Of course, that is not to say that I consider these topics to be the ‘easier’ options, indeed, all topics are comparable in demand to each other, but from my background, teaching in the schools I have taught in, I feel these would be the more suitable options for my learners, and of course if I were still teaching I would have the resources and materials already, saving the budget for a bigger change at GCSE. As a final point, teaching the US civil rights, in particular, would complement my choice of Unit 1 – England 1445-1509: Lancastrians, Yorkists and Henry VII and Unit 2 – Apartheid and Reconciliation: South African Politics 1948–1999 providing a nice theme of rebellion, challenge and struggles from a variety of viewpoints and time periods.
We are busy producing resources to support all Unit 3 topics, and we’re always keen to hear from you if you may want to be involved.
Asher Goodenough - Subject Specialist - History
Asher has worked at OCR since September 2015, and is a History Subject Specialist and also looks after Critical Thinking. His degree is in Modern History with a focus on British and American history since the 19th century. Previously, Asher was a teacher of History, Co-ordinator of Critical Thinking, and Head of History, working in schools in England and Germany. In his spare time he is an avid cricket, travel and cooking enthusiast.