So here we go… we’re all about to embark on teaching the new AQA specification. Which of these two statements best reflects your feelings?
A: I cannot wait to get started! A new specification is a wonderful way to throw out the old and design the new! What a wonderful opportunity to update my schemes of work, transform my lesson plans and use everything I have learnt so far in teaching to ensure that the learning in this new course is going to be amazing!
B: Arghhhh! I’d only just got my head round the old specification. I’m really happy with my lessons and the assessment criteria and now it is all changing again. I’m nervous about the new topics and anxious about the inevitable workload that a new specification entails.
Well, of course, that is a false and silly dichotomy. I suspect we’re all feeling a little bit of both BUT I would suggest feeling like statement A is a good way to approach it if you can!
For those migrating from AQA ‘A’ or AQA ‘B’, the content isn’t radically different and the specification appears to be an amalgamation of both. This document compares the new specification to the old specifications – I have found this to be an invaluable resource for planning because I can go back and look at the AQA ‘B’ past papers (I have taught AQA ‘A’) to get a good idea about the nature of the assessment. I therefore don’t feel quite as burdened by change and the unknown as I might have done.
I am genuinely looking forward to teaching the new specification. There were elements of my old schemes of work that I felt worked really well and other parts I used to dread teaching every year. What I have learnt most over the past few years is that teaching and encouraging the development of student skills is more important than wading through the content. For example:
- encouraging psychology students to think like scientists (see next blog post)
- helping students experiment with different ways to retain knowledge (even more important now that assessment is linear)
- developing students’ abilities to write in a sophisticated way and to include key terminology
- ensuring that students can elaborate their evaluations of studies (we discuss the ‘ladder technique’ in The Complete Companions: Year 1 and AS Teacher’s Companion)
- making sure that students use research studies effectively to evaluate psychology theories/models/therapies, etc (we outline the ‘Burger Technique’ in the Teacher’s Companion)
- finding a way to get students to effectively answer application examination questions (we outline ‘the two-sentence technique’ in The Complete Companions: Year 1 and AS Teacher’s Companion).
So, why am I oddly excited about planning for the new specification?
Well, I can map out the first year and think carefully about focusing on particular skills to ensure I prepare my students effectively. I can start from scratch and really think through ‘the big picture’ rather than simply wading through the next page of the textbook – instead I can design something based on my previous experience that I feel will produce ‘outstanding’ results for my students. I’m going to take my students on a skills-based learning journey….(vomit)….. and here is my rough plan for the year (feel free to steal, edit, delete, laugh at, criticise):
The above plan, of course, is not as rigid as it looks – the students will be developing different skills throughout the year. It is also based on teaching on my own but I would encourage you to map out the year with your colleagues who you share classes with. However, the point is that throughout that topic there will be clear skills that I am aiming for them to develop, practise and hone.
Based on the plan above, I will spend a disproportionate amount of time teaching the first few topics, taking care to create opportunities to develop students’ skills. I’ll then whiz through the later topics under the (possibly misguided) assumption that the students can use those skills to success in these areas when tested.
Over the next weeks and months, Ros Geillis and I will be sharing our ideas, lessons plans, resources and musings on how to make all of this happen! We hope you’ll find it helpful and would really welcome feedback.