I have found this step of planning my A-level history course the most challenging. In some ways, this step could be dispensed with relatively quickly and in quite a simple fashion. The more you know, the more complicated one can make an issue and in my case, decisions can quickly get put off. I hope that this post might encourage beginning teachers to simply make some rapid decisions which can be amended later.
Having developed something of an outline of the course I need to deliver, the next logical step is to start thinking about what the lessons might look like. It is particularly important to consider how much time is available to deliver the course, and thus to start parcelling out time to the various chunks of the course. It seems an increasing rarity that the number of learning hours available matches the ideal amount of time to deliver a course. Other considerations I wanted to make at this stage included thinking about the enquiry questions to use and how to start building in opportunities to connect knowledge over time.
When delivering previous A-level history courses, I have not thought of enquiry questions in quite the same way as I might have done at Key Stage Three. First of all, the enquiries are much shorter, taking the form of a one, two or three lessons rather than unfolding over a longer period of time. This way, a key historical question can be focused on, with a punchy focus on some substantive content and a second-order concept. This second challenge at A-level, particularly it would seem when delivering the thematic approach, has been to ensure that content is delivered in such a way that students could re-formulate the historical events to meet an alternative substantive concept. For example, when teaching about the Liberal social & welfare reforms, the content needs to be taught in such a way that students can later explain the reasons for those reforms, evaluate their effectiveness and analyse their significance. This is hard to capture with just one question so I’ve preferred to either discuss multiple questions within an individual lesson or take a slightly arbitrary approach and offer a big picture overview, and then have students select content from that to match a particular enquiry question.
At this stage of planning the A-level, I have had to remind myself that any lesson overview will be provisional in nature. I know I will need to use the summer term to re-evaluate this plan, as I naturally would, each year, anyway. My two concerns, thus far, have been to put together an order that allocates an approximate amount of time, while thinking about the key questions to arrange the content around as well as sequencing the content.
This task would easily expand to fill the amount of time given over to it, whether that be an hour, a day or a week. I’ve therefore been rather ruthless and would hope that suggesting as much would encourage beginning teachers to have the confidence to do so. I have lent heavily upon one particular textbook, the Oxford University Press book, to sequence the content. I accept that in the first iteration of teaching this will be imperfect. The experience of teaching the course will allow me to tweak the order a little later on. Second of all, any issues arising within the year can be dealt with by planning to periodically review the content and connect it together under the six big themes of the course which can bring further order to the chronological flow of the course.
Dedicating an amount of time to different historical events has also remained something of an arbitrary process. I’ve used my teaching experience to approximate how long to spend on each issue but again, I recognise that a year of experience will encourage me to shrink somethings down and expand others. The tentative overview I’ve come up with can, therefore, be found here: potential lesson sequence. However, I still do not think I’m ready to plan some lessons. There are a couple of individual layers to be added to the plan!
An index to this blog series can be found here.