Blank Sheet Summary

Last week when attending a conference fea38478898-stock-vector-light-bulb-character-in-moment-of-insight-turing a talk on short and long term memory, I had a lightbulb moment. I realised that the revision I am doing with my students focuses upon developing impressive revision resources such as posters, cards and notes with coveralls and motivating my students to read and memorise the material but then I started to ask ‘how do students actually check that this information is being registered in their memories?’

So for the past few lessons I have trialled a very simple way to test memory recall – the blank sheet summary. After stude59707158_2378210682460170_830716807567376384_nnts completed a ppt or coverall sheet, I gave them 5 minutes to read through, highlight, make notes (whatever it is that students do when revising) and then on a blank sheet of A4 paper they had 5 minutes to write everything they could remember from that topic – no structure necessary just a summary of brain on paper. Once finished, the students then shared with a partner what they had remembered and added in any missing information in a different colour.60258585_2378210719126833_1699873284671143936_n

The students found it extremely useful as a method to consolidate what they could and could not remember. The A4 sheets were filled with information within minutes, demonstrating short term memory was on point. In two days we will do the same test again to see if the information revised is embedded in longer term memory…

This strategy is by no means ground breaking but sometimes the simplest changes can have the biggest impact. An extra ten minutes per topic to consolidate learning and enhance memory recall might make all the difference in the exam. Fingers crossed!

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When in Rome…

I travelled to Rome many years ago with my family and since then I have always wanted to take students there – call it No. 1 on my Teacher’s Bucket list. 298983_248143781900923_773827034_n[1]The history, culture and religious undertones that floods through Rome is just captivating and inspiring. The problem was organising such a big trip! Now maybe it is the philosophy teacher in me but sometimes in life it feels like a window of opportunity opens…well that is exactly what it felt like on a college conference at the end of last school year when I got talking to Claire -a local R.S. HOD who mentioned an upcoming college trip to Rome in 2019. Spotting this opportunity I just casually said ‘Oh well if you need anymore to join you just let me know.’ Well you guessed it…in September I got the email that invited 10 of my students to join them on a 5 day trip to Rome (and me of course)!

Now I don’t know if any of you have organised such a trip before but it is like opening Pandora’s box of tasks from collecting payments, passports details, organising a presentation evening, sending endless emails and updates to students and parents, not to mention filling out all the paperwork, risk assessments and codes of conduct…my list went on. image1 (003).jpegMy saving grace was Claire, who had not only run a similar trip before but organised all the Rome elements from itinerary, accommodation, to transport and trips. Before we knew it the date had arrived, we were all packed and ready (wearing our Rome hoodies, armed with passports and even some homemade cookies and flapjacks from one Mum) and off we went to the airport.

We met the other college at the airport, seamlessly went through customs, had an amazingly easy flight and we were in ROME! Once bags were collected, we met our tour guide and coach and headed to the Catacombs were we wandered through the maze of underground tunnels, studied the art work and remaining visible relics and listened to the history of the many Christian Martyrs and pontiffs once buried there (with some still remaining). Once leaving the labyrinth of passageways (I would not want to get lost down there!) and re-entering the warmth outside we made our way to our hotel.

Up the winding roads towards our hotel, we were surrounded by epic views of Lake Albano, the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo and Rome itself. Our hotel, Villa Palazzola a 13th century Cistercian monastery, was absolutely breath-taking! What a privilege to stay somewhere that housed monks and friars for centuries. Once unpacked we settled in for the evening, lounging on the beautiful terrace together whilst the students played cards.

Continue reading “When in Rome…”

Revision Support

The exams are on the horizon, so starting revision early is crucial. Here are the Revision Textbooks, Guides and Workbooks that might help:

Highly recommend for assessment support:

For a full review of the Revision Textbooks see: Revision Guides: Which ones are worth your money?

Revision Workbooks: These are brilliant for testing your knowledge with short questions, topic support and exam style questions (click on the links below for Amazon).

OCR A Level Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion Workbook

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OCR A Level Religious Studies: Religion and Ethics Workbook

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OCR A Level Religious Studies: Developments in Christian Thought Workbook

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Here is an overview of the Revision Guides:

I have created these Revision Packs for my students containing quizzes, glossaries, summary sheets, essay tips and possible exam questions. It also provides space for notes and outlines the spec requirements. Everything you need to get your revision off to a flying start! If you would like a Revision Pack (for a small charge) please click on the image below:

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For support with Exam Stress check out: How to cope with Exam Stress

The PhilosoCast: Philosophy Student’s Podcast

I have been trialling a number of new approaches this year for incorporating technology into my students’ learning. One idea that has been very successful is ‘Silent Discussions’, posting topical questions onto social media for students to answer and the wider community to view and engage with (check out Silent Discussions on Social Media!) The other new approach this year has been to record my student’s discussions and post on a public forum (YouTube), in order to capture the essence of Philosophy for others to listen to.

Now I cannot take any credit for this idea, as it was my students who took complete ownership over this one. After discussing it with them, we decided that video recording the discussions would be quite off putting (not to mention the difficulties in finding the perfect place in the classroom to film, audio interference etc.). So we decided upon audio recording the discussions instead, creating a podcast called The PhilosoCast.

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Once the cast had volunteered, the topic question agreed upon and the audio recorder set up…off they went and what a surprise I got! Normally in discussions I am the ‘ring leader’ so to speak – I introduce new students into the discussion, I summarise student’s views, I make sure certain students don’t dominate – basically I control the discussion. I didn’t want this to be the case for the student’s PhilosoCast, so I took a back seat.

What happened next was amazing! The students took control, working out ways to signal which student spoke next, taking charge over who introduced and closed the discussion and who started the discussion off. The students did not speak over each other, they were articulate and clear, they listened to each other’s points and engaged with them, they drew the points back to the question and took it in turns to fairly share their points.

Overall a massive success! I hope the cast will continue to develop these podcasts throughout the year. It does take a certain kind of student dynamic for this sort of idea to work but I highly recommend giving it a go!

To listen to the two produced so far, check out:

Well done to all involved!

For other ways to promote the subject, check out: Fourth Subject Choice – Will this be the end of R.S?

Silent Discussions on Social Media!

so.pngThis school year I have thrown myself down the rabbit hole of reinventing the subject. One big area of development is through using social media, especially FB and Twitter as part of students’ learning. The spin off bonus from using a public forum = lots of promotion!

op20blogtoonparkerStudents’ lives are in-severable from the internet, their mobile phones are an extension of their arm and often now an extension of their personalities. It is the way they see the world. Rather than approaching this reality through the tainted view of an older person, who is stuck in their ways of ‘put your phone away’, ‘have a proper conversation’ or ‘social media is ruining teenagers’ – why not adapt to the undeniable changes of the millennia generation? With this in mind, what better way of promoting learning and satisfying students’ need to use their phones, than combining the two things… discussions with FB/Twitter.

Things you need:

  1. A FB page and Twitter page that students can join.
  2. School/ College permission to use social media in lessons.
  3. A way for students to access FB/ Twitter during lessons.

Setting up a discussion:

  1. Post a question that is relevant to the topic area being discussed in class. I often post between 2-4 questions over FB and Twitter, to give students a selection to engage with.
  2. Set ground rules- this is very important:
    • No memes
    • Full sentences – no one or two word replies
    • Use scholars and evidence to back up your points
    • Students do not have to join if they do not feel comfortable
    • This is a public forum therefore other people can read and join in with the discussion – do not use swear words, offensive language or display anything that may be misinterpreted.

Note: as the creator of the FB/Twitter accounts you have the power to delete/ block any students who are incapable of following these rules.

3. Sit back and enjoy the discussion (and silence).

Example from Facebook:

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Example from Twitter:

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I highly recommend you give it a go. Not only does it develop students’ essay writing skills – they are formulating arguments in a way that doesn’t seem like work, they are learning different views from each other and there is a paper trail they can refer back to at a later point. It is also a fantastic way for other students in the wider community to experience what Philosophy is like, in a way that makes sense to them.

Let me know how it goes if you try it 🙂

Please feel free to join in any of our discussions posted on (or advertise to your students):

FB and Twitter

Just in case you are interested in other ways of using mobile phones to promote students’ learning, here is an earlier blog I wrote “Put your mobile phone away!”: Are you Kidding?.

If you would like more ideas of ways to promote Religious Studies see: Fourth Subject Choice – Will this be the end of R.S?

Examiner’s Report 2018: The Highs and Lows

The results are in, now it is time to put the examiner’s mouth to the marks…how did they arrive at these?

The examiners note how the majority of responses follow ‘fairly well – worn tracks.’ Well I felt the same about their comments. On the whole I feel that the examiners are expecting more than these 18 year olds, with three 2 hour exams and 32 topics to remember, are capable of. Does it matter if they follow ‘well worn’ tracks as this is a new cohort with different pressures? Or maybe we should teach it differently (better)?

General comments:

  • Showed knowledge from other topics (synoptic links) suggesting an understanding of the holistic nature of the A level
  • Lack of focus on exact wording of the Q
  • Long introductions, summaries better left until the end
  • Most of essay spent on A01 with A02 added at the end – resulting in insufficient depth
  • Few students showed signs of having undertaken research. What do they expect? How are students meant to cover the already dense spec in the short time provided and do further research and remember it all including the main parts needed? – Very unfair expectation in my view!
  • Comparing scholars is not evaluation – this is simply comparing viewpoints. Students need to justify which perspective works in relation to the Q.

Philosophy:

1. ‘The best approach to understanding religious language is through the cataphatic way.’ Discuss

Good points:

  • Good use of Aquinas’ analogy of attribution and proportion, Ramsey’s Models and Qualifiers, alongside own examples or those of Aquinas’ bull/urine or Hegel’s faithful dog
  • Close comparison (and therefore analysis) between the cataphatic and apophatic ways
  • Symbol used effectively

Bad points:

  • Description of examples with no link back to the Q
  • Demonstrated more knowledge on apophatic way
  • Symbol confused with myth (no longer on spec)

2. To what extent does Hume successfully argue that observation does not prove the existence of God?

Good points:

  • Variety of Hume’s criticisms, relating them to succinct summaries of the Teleo and Cosmo arguments. (Satisfactory answers wrote copious amounts of descriptions for Aquinas and Paley, leaving little room for Hume).
  • Darwin and Tennet’s anthropic principle when used in relation to Hume.
  • Analysed Hume’s criticisms, weighing up how successful they are.

Bad points:

  • Juxtaposing alternatives such as Big Bang without justify any reasoning as to why applying them.
  • Accepting points without question such as Hume’s Epicurean thesis.

3. Assess Boethius’ view that divine eternity does not limit human free will.

Least popular and least well done- insufficient knowledge of key theory.

Continue reading “Examiner’s Report 2018: The Highs and Lows”