Hints and Tips - 5 minute read
Matt Dilley, OCR Subject Advisor
My first blog is centred around context - what this means when planning for delivery and how careful planning can benefit assessment. There's also some expert feedback from our examiners reports to help support your students with their exam preparation. During September I'll be publishing two more blogs in the series on the topic of context:
Please feel free to take what information you want and, more importantly, use whatever you think will work in your centre and with your students.
Aspiration, engagement, intent, implementation and impact are some of the word’s teachers will have heard recently and will play a role when planning for the delivery of the business and economics curriculum.
Arguably the impact of your planning on student outcomes is where the effectiveness of your work will predominantly be measured. But what is the intent and how do you implement something that will have a positive impact?
From the perspective of assessment, which is largely how the impact will be judged. I like to look at the situation in reverse and ask the question – what makes the difference to students in an exam? By understanding how students can succeed in terminal exams you can plan a curriculum to deliver high quality outcomes.
By looking at examiners commentary there are some key areas where students lose marks in examinations, I have included the following quotes from the 2019 Business and Economics A Level commentaries
‘…there were also a good proportion of candidates who simply gave theoretical answers or only mentioned the owners name. Responses which only mentioned ‘Ross’ were not able to achieve the contextual application marks meaning that they were also unable to gain the marks for analysis and evaluation.’
‘weaker responses tend to be descriptive in all sections of the paper’
‘candidates need to be aware that a summative conclusion in Sections B and C does not qualify as a judgement and they should try to weigh up arguments, consider the significance of what is written in different market contexts and consider the circumstances in which some arguments are more important than others’
All these extracts feature the issue of contextual writing. In the case of the second quote, students were weaker when they were descriptive, indicating that they possibly had some knowledge of the content, but were just unable to meet the needs of the examination by writing in a contextual way.
In my opinion the question shouldn’t be “why can’t they?” But should be, “what are we going to do about it?”
The dictionary definition of context is here:
‘The context of an idea or event is the general situation that relates to it, and which helps it to be understood’
I like the end of the sentence ‘which helps it to be understood’. It reminds me of a lesson observation I completed a number of years ago.
The subject was start-up and running costs, the lesson was going well. Students could define a start up and running cost without issue, they were given as task to categorise the types of cost for a gardening business which given their subject knowledge seemed quite straight forward. Once they were given the task a hand went up; “Sir, what’s a lawnmower?”.
At that moment I had a realisation about my own teaching practice as well as what I was observing, the students lack of exposure to what could be considered a “normal” business example was no-ones fault, but did stop him answering the question.
It made me think about the divide my curriculum plan had created between business knowledge and application of this knowledge. Essentially teaching the textbook definitions of business theory would only get students so far.
I’m not suggesting that as an educator we can cover every eventuality students are likely to come across in their lives, however it is possible to have the intent to develop their wider knowledge and to implement this by exposing them to as many examples as possible during the course of our teaching as possible. Surely this exposure will widen their knowledge, help them to understand and hopefully allow them to answer a question contextually?
Business studies and economics are two wonderful subjects which are influenced by daily events around the world, therefore it is right that they are assessed in a similar way, using case studies and expecting students to write contextually is a key part in showcasing skills and knowledge.
My belief is that as teachers of these subjects we can add a huge wealth of knowledge to students lives and expose them to so much that is happening in the world. The contextual learning is vital in making this happen, my belief is that context isn’t an exam skill that should be “taught at the end”, but that it needs to be incorporated into all planning for it to be truly effective.
In my next blog I’ll look at what it means to learn contextually, if the evidence shows that it is effective and tips on how to make it happen effectively.
Tell us how you add context to your lessons in the comments below. As always, we are here to support you and your students if you have a questions 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.