Hints and Tips - 5 minute read
Matt Dilley, OCR Subject Advisor
My second post in the series aims to explore the notion of teaching contextually to support students in answering a question in the same way. It contains ideas and practical ways of making this happen in your classroom.
For students to truly understand how to write contextually I believe that they need to see this skill modelled and have the opportunity to use it in as many lessons as possible, I have summarised some research that also supports my views on this subject.
Studianah (2019) used pre and post testing as well as student participation questionnaires and found that by learning contextually increased cognitive abilities by 55.37% and student participation increased by 40.2%.
Satriani (2012) found that by using contextual learning it supported student’s ability to write exam answers with a significant increase in their ability to recount and structure their work.
Acheng (2016) Observed that by using contextual teaching and learning methods he saw a statistically significant increase in his student’s ability in argumentative writing skills.
The list of research is extensive, and I’m not going to labour the point, needless to say contextual teaching and learning is often seen as a positive way to engage and improve student outcomes.
A simple internet search has given me the following definition of contextualised learning:
‘Contextual teaching and learning involves making learning meaningful to students by connecting to the real world. It draws upon students’ diverse skills, interests, experiences, and cultures and integrates these into what and how students learn and how they are assessed. In other words, contextual teaching situates learning and learning activities in real-life and vocational contexts to which students can relate, incorporating not only content, the “what,” of learning but the reasons why that learning is important.’
This extract explains it very concisely and shows how business studies and economics could be taught. Instead of teaching theory and then applying it to a business scenario, just use a real-life business to explain the theory.
The real challenge in this is getting the resources to be able to do it regularly, we don’t all have access to numerous business contacts who can come to speak to us whenever we want, budgets and risk assessments also prohibit us from visiting large numbers of real life businesses to understand what they do. However, there are some simple strategies teachers can use to “bring the real world to the classroom.”
Free resources from the Business Case Studies website cover all areas of the specification and have a range of interesting and relevant business examples that students will find exciting.
These resources can be used as pre reading before a lesson or used at the start to read through and develop literacy skills together with business knowledge. Once a case study has been used teachers can tweak what they want students to do and questions might change from:
Non contextual question: What do the 4P’s stand for in the marketing mix?
Contextualised question: Explain how business x uses price to market is product?
Remember, students don’t have to define things before they move on. By correctly associating knowledge with an example they are showing you they have that contextual knowledge, and if they apply it correctly you know that they are learning contextually.
Another good point to remember is that contextual answers aren’t limited to written responses, you could start by building up your students’ abilities to answer contextually by asking the right questions and more importantly ensuring that students answer properly. Don’t accept the “one word” answers, make them explain.
Training ourselves to do this is quite difficult, I used to have a poster at the back of my room with the keywords from blooms taxonomy listed on it, and whilst I was teaching the class I would scan it to remind me what words I needed to use when asking high quality questions.
Another resource I used, was to write the names of approximately 20 businesses on separate pieces of paper and keep them in a jar at the front of the room. I would then pose a question such as ‘Tell me 5 types of variable costs for…’ students would then pick a business from the pot and contextualise their answer. It gained much interest and students really enjoyed seeing which businesses came out of the pot.
My final tip in this section is to regularly watch and read the news, make it part of you and your students routine to check the business pages of sites such as the BBC, The Times, The Economist etc.
While writing I checked the BBC and found seven articles which directly relate to parts of the specification for business studies and economics.
It would simply be a matter of printing them off for reading, or if you have the facilities sending the link to your students to read online. They make great starter activities and really support contextual teaching and learning.
I hope that you have enjoyed my post on contextual learning, if you would like to add ideas or comment below feedback from teachers is always valuable and will guide the work that I undertake here at OCR. What resource have you used that has really made a difference to student progress?
As always, we are here to support you and your students if you have a question email firstname.lastname@example.org or send your tweets @OCR_BusEcon where I also share resources and articles. Sign up to subject updates and receive email information about business and economics resources and support.
Matt Dilley - Subject Advisor
Matt joined OCR in April 2020 as part of the Business and Economics advisory team. He has a degree in Accountancy with a focus on Financial Accounting. His work experience includes commercial banking and 12 years as a teacher of Business Studies and Economics where he was a faculty lead. Outside of work Matt is a keen cyclist and supports the mighty Aston Villa.