Key Principles for teaching Thematic Studies at GCSE

GCSE Guidance

By Melanie Jones, published 15th July 2016

Thematic Studies

For many teachers the thematic study is the most new and most troubling unit of the new GCSE specifications. By following this link, you will be connected to an article that appears on  This free website for teachers is maintained by Ian Dawson.  In this article Ian works with Dale Banham to share their years of expertise in planning and delivering thematic studies.  They explain strategies that you can use to help your students to overcome the major problems that thematic studies pose them.  These are sub-divided into the following topics:

  • Diagnosing weaknesses in students' chronological knowledge and understanding
  • Establishing the big picture immediately
  • Following a core enquiry for coherence
  • Introducing the factors early in the course
  • Using stories and engaging activities
  • Using individual people to help students remember and revise the big stories
  • Explaining the purpose of a theme through time

They give explanations of and specific examples for all of these from their recent work for the newest specifications.