It's a lot harder than politics'...students' experience of history at Advanced Level


By Barbara Hibbert, published 1st December 2002

Does the experience of studying history in the sixth form prepare students adequately for study at university? There is plenty of attention given to the issue of continuity across the Key Stages but much less attention given to the transition from school into higher education. It is largely assumed that 18-year-olds can easily adjust to new ways of learning. Is this the case, however? This is the question that Barbara Hibbert, an experienced A Level teacher, was interested in exploring - so much so that she embarked on a PhD to find out more about the similarities and differences between A Level and degree level study in history. Her findings led her to conclude that, whilst most of the students she interviewed had enjoyed history at school, some had found the transition to undergraduate level a difficult one to make. Her article presents us with a strong argument to develop greater independence amongst our A Level learners and to cater for the variety of preferred learning styles that were apparent in the interviews she conducted. Not only will this better equip students for university but it will also make A Level history more engaging, more meaningful and ultimately more accessible, leading to better results across the ability range. Drawing on recent articles in Teaching History, Barbara provides us with a timely reminder of the kinds of A Level teaching strategies which owe much to recent developments at Key Stage 3 but which also develop independent learning skills and help to move students’ understanding of history onto a more sophisticated level.

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