Planning

Planning at A level takes several forms. Awarding bodies offer quite different specifications, and choices within these specifications. However, there are also strict requirements common to all, including the teaching of material that covers a minimum of 200 years and the teaching of British history. The decision about which specification and which topics to teach will require consultation, careful attention to the resources available, and a clear timetable for implementation. There are then decisions to be made, some of them in consultation with senior leadership, about AS and A Level, and the scheduling and balance of time given to the different components of the specification. Individual teachers will need to plan to teach the topics in ways that enable their students to meet the assessment criteria and develop their historical thinking.  In this section you will find helpful articles, guides and resources to enable you to plan your A Level teaching.

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  • Cunning Plan 175: Using the England's Immigrants database

    Article

    Ever wondered if there is a streak of masochism in those designing A-level history syllabi? The absence of the Spanish Armada from the current Edexcel breadth study in favour of (among other delights) ‘the new draperies’ prompts this question. But the challenge of enthusing modern teenagers with woollen cloth can...

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  • Allowing A-level students to choose their own coursework focus

    Article

    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...

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  • New, Novice or Nervous? 172: Curriculum planning

    Article

    This page is for those new to the published writings of history teachers. Each problem you wrestle with, other teachers have wrestled with too. Quick fixes don’t exist. But in others’ writing, you’ll find something better: conversations in which history teachers have debated or tackled your problems – conversations which...

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  • Couching counterfactuals in knowledge when explaining the Salem witch trials with Year 13

    Article

    Puzzled by the shrugs and unimaginative responses of his students when asked certain counterfactual questions, James Edward Carroll set out to explore what types of counterfactual questions would elicit sophisticated causal explanations. During his pursuit of the ‘gold standard’ of counterfactual reasoning, Carroll drew upon theories of academic history in...

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  • Polychronicon 170: The Becket Dispute

    Article

    ‘The Becket Dispute’ (or ‘Controversy’) refers to the quarrel between Henry II and Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, which dominated English ecclesiastical politics in the 1160s. It was a conflict with multiple dimensions: a clash of Church and State; a prolonged struggle between two prominent individuals; a close friendship turned...

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  • 'I feel if I say this in my essay it’s not going to be as strong’

    Article

    Jim Carroll was concerned that A-level textbooks failed to provide his students with a model of the multi-voicedness that characterises written history. In order to show his students that historians constantly engage in argument as they write, Carroll turned to academic scholarship for models of multi-voiced history. Carroll explains here...

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  • Polychronicon 166: The ‘new’ historiography of the Cold War

    Article

    A great deal of new writing on the Cold War sits at the crossroads of national, transnational and global perspectives. Such studies can be so self-consciously multi-archival and multipolar, methodologically pluralist in approach and often ‘decentring’ in aim, that some scholars now worry that the Cold War risks losing its coherence as a distinct object of...

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  • ‘If you had told me before that these students were Russians, I would not have believed it’

    Article

    Bjorn Wansink and his co-authors have aligned their teaching of a recent and controversial historical issue – the Cold War – in the light of a contemporary incident. This article demonstrates a means of ensuring that students understand that different cultures’ views of their shared past are nuanced, rather than monolithic – a different concept in philosophy as well as in...

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  • Teaching, learning and sharing medieval history for all

    Article

    Medieval history is on the rise. Among the many recent reforms in the history curriculum is a requirement for medieval themes at GCSE and across the country the new   linear A-level offers fresh opportunities for teachers to look beyond the traditional diet of Tudors and modern history. The huge divide...

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  • 'Victims of history': Challenging students’ perceptions of women in history

    Article

    As postgraduate historians with teaching responsibilities at the University of York, Bridget Lockyer and Abigail Tazzyman were concerned to tackle some of the challenges reported by their students who had generally only encountered women’s history in a disconnected way through stand-alone topics or modules. Their response was to create a...

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  • Triumphs Show 164: interpretations at A Level

    Article

    Julia Huber and Katherine Turner found that their A-level students struggled to identify the line of argument in a passage of historical scholarship, an essential prerequisite for answering their coursework question. They devised an activity that helped students to unpick and visually contrast historians’ interpretations of the relative importance of...

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  • Cunning Plan 163.2: Developing an A-level course in medieval history

    Article

    Medieval history has always been a Cinderella era for post-16 students. Some schools offer A-levels in classical civilisation, but most A-level history courses focus on the early-modern and modern periods. A few schools teach an A-level medieval module, with the Crusades being a popular choice. I was therefore excited at...

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  • Learning to love linear?

    Article

    This workshop took place at the HA Annual Conference May 2016 in Harrogate. Some ideas for the successful introduction of the new A-levels. Diana Laffin, The Sixth Form College Farnborough This workshop provided some ideas for meeting the challenge of the new linear A-Levels.  It included strategies for tackling the...

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  • Using nominalisation to develop written causal arguments

    Article

    How nominalisation might develop students’ written causal arguments Frustrated that previously taught writing frames seemed to impede his A-level students’ historical arguments, James Edward Carroll theorised that the inadequacies he identified in their writing were as much disciplinary as stylistic. Drawing on two discourses that are often largely isolated from...

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  • Using databases to explore the real depth in the data

    Article

    Is it a good thing to have a lot of evidence? Surely the historian would answer that yes, it is: the more evidence that can be used, the better. The problem with this approach, though, is that too much data can be overwhelming for the history student - and, in...

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  • Achieving higher-order thinking with sixth-form

    Article

    Hark the herald tables sing! Achieving higher-order thinking with a chorus of sixth-form pupils On 9 April 1930, a philanthropist called Edward Harkness donated millions of dollars to the Phillips Exeter Academy in the USA. He hoped that his donation could be used to find a new way for students to sit around a table...

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  • What made your essay successful?

    Article

    I ‘T.A.C.K.L.E.D' the essay question! Teaching in Singapore, Tze Kwang Teo cannot conceive of a history teacher unfamiliar with the mnemonic ‘PEE' (or ‘PEEL') used to structure students' essays. Its ubiquity is testimony to its power, reminding students both to explain and to substantiate their claims. Yet, as Foster and Gadd have argued, its neat formulation can restrict and distort historical thinking. Building on their critique, Teo...

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  • Developing transferable knowledge at A-level

    Article

    From a compartmentalised to a complicated past: developing transferable knowledge at A-level Students find it difficult to join up the different things they study into a complex account of the past. Examination specifications do not necessarily help with this because of the way in which history is divided up into...

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  • 'But why then?' Chronological context and historical interpretations

    Article

    When Michael Fordham was introduced to Dr Seuss's Butter Battle Book he immediately recognised its potential value in the classroom as a popular interpretation of the Cold War. Wanting his Year 9 pupils to explain how and why the past has been interpreted in different ways he shows the potential pitfalls...

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  • Waking up to complexity

    Article

    Waking up to complexity: using Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers to challenge over-determined causal explanations Teaching student to construct causal argument is a staple of history teaching and, in this year, questions about the causes of the First World War are particularly pertinent and once again the public eye. Claire Holliss,...

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