Just back from the eduqas “preparing to teach” A Level INSET in London, aimed at introducing and marketing their 2016 specification. In the half-hour I have before running a discussion with our Philosophy Society “Sophos” about Confucianism and its relevance in understanding modern China (!) I will share some of my impressions.
- Religious Ethics
This session held no surprises and for experienced teachers should not throw up any problems. The only novelties were the insistence on teaching modern versions of ethical theories e.g. Singer, Ross, Finnis – this is required by other boards at the moment though, so no chance for those converting to eduqas. The one thing I would say is that the materials and the presenter seemed, as yet, a bit hazy on the details of this new content. I hope that the examiners have a better grasp of the actual subject content they will be marking before June 2017/18!
The presenter was under the impression that none of us had taught ethics before, when most were very experienced heads of department, so this was slightly annoying. Nevertheless, I came away reassured that I would be teaching to the top of the expected range (and would have to be careful not to expect too much – of the examiners, if not the students).
Interestingly, AS will not require students to refer to scholars at all, even to get the top band, but the full A Level will – and to many scholars at that. This presents a challenge to anybody considering co-teaching.
2. Philosophy of Religion
Presented by Gordon Reid, who will be heading up the AS Philosophy of Religion team for eduqas, again the session held few surprises. Nothing surprising about the content – Teleological, Cosmological, Evil, Atheism, Religious Experience at AS with the addition of Ontological and Religious Language at A Level (plus a lot of scholars and detail)…
The big ask at A Level will be students writing for an hour on what might be very focussed questions and getting 60% of their marks for evaluation. The new AS – 45 minutes per question and 50/50 split between knowledge and evaluation is more like the current A Level. Gordon Reid was helpful in clarifying command words at AS and A – Outline/Explain and Assess the view that at AS, Examine and Critically Evaluate at A Level. The key for both levels will be ensuring that candidates give reasons on both sides of the argument and come to a properly reasoned conclusion.
The big change in the Philosophy (and Ethics) papers is the clarification that there will be a compulsory theme on each AS and A Level paper, offering students a choice of two structured questions, as well as 3 questions on the remaining three themes. This is driven by OfQual and prevents centres from being selective about teaching and not teaching topics, as Draft 1 implied.
The vast majority of delegates attended the Christianity sessions as their third option today – probably in excess of 60 out of 80 people at a guesstimate. The explanation given of the Christianity specification was excellent – their new Principal Examiner in this area (Acting) was clear, knowledgeable and treated her audience as the grown-ups they are. She had a difficult job though. The specification is vast and complicated and there will be precisely zero appropriate textbook resources to use until 2017 at the earliest.
One thing that did strike me is the possibility of dividing up the Christianity unit into
- An pacy introduction to the whole course like the old “Foundations for the Study of Religion” paper that OCR used to do (Jesus, Development of Early Church, Concept of God, use and authority of the Bible, divisions in the Church today)
- A range of discrete topics embedded in the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics respectively – e.g. Just War from the Christianity unit being taught with applied ethics and Natural Law in the Ethics unit, Baptism, Original Sin and Atonement being taught within the Problem of Evil section of the Philosophy of Religion course.
- A conclusion to the whole course exploring the state of Christianity today – rise of secularism, liberation theology, prosperity theology etc.
I will think about it anyway!
As an aside, I do wish that eduqas would offer a text paper as competition to Edexcel. Nice an simple – John’s Gospel with comparisons to other Gospels as and where necessary would be good. This would offer a rigorous alternative to what is otherwise a spec likely to be dominated by lightweight comparative religions approach to our subject and would certainly be in order given the claimed justifications for the “reforms” given by the DfE 18 months ago.