Allowing A-level students to choose their own coursework focus

Teaching History article

Eleanor Thomas, last updated: 12th April 2019

Stepping into the abyss

Faced with the introduction of the new A-levels in 2015 and with a move to a new school, Eleanor Thomas took the opportunity to embrace yet another challenge: giving her students a complete free choice about the focus of their non-examined  assessment (NEA). This article presents the rationale for her decision, acknowledging the challenges that it presented and her initial anxieties as to whether she could support her students effectively if they ventured beyond the limits of her own subject knowledge. Here she explains how she structured the research process and guided the students’ thinking about selecting and evaluating interpretations (within the constraints set by the exam board) and illustrates the benefits she has found in terms of students’ developing the capacity to think and work like historians. 

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