Asher Goodenough, History Subject Advisor
The OCR History web pages contain some really practical information that you can use in the classroom with your students. As the new term gets underway I want to bring to your attention one resource that you will find invaluable and that I used to great effect as a teacher.
In my experience the examiners’ reports are invaluable, providing the level of depth of insight about the quality of candidates’ responses examiners have seen. These responses allow you to offer the proper advice and feedback from detailed accounts, particularly for A Level subjects.
If you haven’t read an examiners’ report before, they go through each exam question in minute detail, highlighting what candidates did well and what they should improve upon. The reports feature trends and reveal patterns that occurred during the previous year’s papers.
This insight can then be shared with your students so they can hear and learn first-hand about the overall exam experience, helping your students avoid similar situations when sitting their own papers.
You could use the examiners’ report for a previous A Level exam alongside the past papers (available on Teach Cambridge) as a revision tool for your students. You can either read the relevant sections of the report and then get your students to have a go at the corresponding past paper, or use the report afterwards to check their work and help improve upon it.
It’s also well worth looking at this report and seeing if you can apply this insight to fine tune your own teaching methods.
Many of my students valued the comments of the actual examiners more than my own advice, even though we were saying the same things. I also found students really heeded comments from the report. For example:
“Better responses weighed up responsibility and made informed and well supported judgements with detailed knowledge used to analyse the issues in the question. These answers were generally confident and assured in their approach and well-structured with a persistent line of reasoning and a wealth of support and evidence. Weaker responses provided descriptive and narrative accounts.”
Using the examiners’ report you can take a similar approach when preparing your students for the coursework too. A huge variety of topics and questions worked really well this year, and it was really pleasing to see that teachers and students had come up with some fascinating topics that will really make students stand out in university applications.
It is very important that the question allows students to access the full mark range, and most of the discussions we have had with teachers trying to sort out questions for their students are around whether historians have really debated the topic in question. (A Level Examiners’ Report June 2017)
In particular, it would be well worth getting your students to read the sections on AO2 and AO3 so they better understand the requirements for these assessment objectives. Comments such as:
“Many candidates had obviously relished the opportunity to research in depth and there were many scholarly and critical answers which showed what was obviously genuinely wide reading.” (Y100 Principal Moderators’ Report).
Hopefully these comments would reassure students that the approach they had taken was the correct one, but also the report could be used by your students as a handy guide to checking the quality of their own work, given the amount of teacher input that is allowed.
If students ask questions of themselves such as “have I actually evaluated primary sources or just used them for illustration?” and “have I evaluated different historical interpretations or just juxtaposed them or mentioned them?” hopefully they can improve their own work in the drafting phase. It would also prove a useful document to have to hand during the teacher-student meeting as conversation pointers for students to check their own work.
We know that you regularly read and digest the feedback given in examiners’ reports in order to aid your own understanding of the requirements of the mark scheme. Hopefully, you will find innovative ways to use them in the classroom too, so that students can directly receive advice and guidance on the work they are doing.
We have worked hard to improve examiners’ reports over the years so that they report not just on where students didn’t achieve the higher levels, but also where students did perform well, in addition to using examples and indicative content to illustrate the points the examiners are making.
This improved approach makes using examiners’ reports in the classroom even more straightforward and valuable. If you have found ways of doing this that have been beneficial, do share your experiences in the comments below.
If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_History. You can also sign up to receive subject updates to keep up-to-date with the latest news, updates and resources.
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.