I wanted to take this opportunity to give some teacher feedback on the SCLY 4 paper that our students sat this summer. I have been a social science teacher for over 16 years, for most of which I have taught AQA. On the whole, I have been very happy with the experience that students have in their final exams. However, I felt that this particular paper was one of the more difficult ones that I have ever seen for a number of reasons that I wanted to feed back my anxieties and observations. I am not against challenging questions, in fact at times I prefer them as they give young people a chance to shine above the usual textbook heavy answers. However, I feel that the questions and assessment objectives should be available to all students.
My anxieties about the paper is that on reflection it seems to draw from an extremely narrow part of the specification. Examiners clearly have the right to ask any question from any part of the specification, but one would hope for a more equitable spread of topics.
In particular, I felt that state crime whilst an excellent topic is difficult for most students to achieve A02 marks. Whilst there is lots of analysis in the topic – the critical evaluation is limited, particularly for those students who rely on the main AQA endorsed textbooks.
Furthermore, the theory & methods question on postmodernism was clear but a topic many students at undergraduate level fail to fully comprehend. Again, I feel the exam board is right to set challenging questions which stretch the most able, but one would hope that the other questions on the paper felt less scary and were more doable. Some of my students felt devastated by the paper and even my top mark band students may not have been able to show you how excellent they really are.
I will look forward to the examiners report and any feedback from the board about the performance of this unit and advice on the ways in which I can improve my delivery, but from the average students perspective that was a very challenging paper which did not have the same feel to previous papers. I recognise this may sound like teacher sour grapes, but I genuinely enjoy teaching this specification. I take full responsibility for preparing my students for this exam and it is up to me to make sure the specification is fully taught. I also have no right to dictate the questions and there is always an anti-climax after the exams but after some reflection there is still something about the paper which did not feel right. It might just be me, but then again maybe not.
A well written concern which I hope that AQA take seriously. Like the writer I have been teaching AQA Sociology for a long time, 27 years in fact. I have also been employed as an A2 examiner for 19 years.
My experience of teaching and marking has given me a lot of insight into the huge amount of AO1 students consume and fret about remembering before they even feel comfortable enough to evaluate.
The questions on state crime had little AO1 and limited A02 scope other than methodological issues, some brief postmodernist and Marxist links. And the postmodernist question lent itself to more A02 than AO1, as one of my A grade AS students commented after the exam “I evaluated more than I showed I knowed”.
All in all this was an unprecedented super demanding paper for which no amount of excellent teaching and committed learning could have prepared the notional 18 year old for.
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Thanks Gill, it is reassuring to hear others feel the same. I am just disappointed that the examiners will not see them shine as they could have … I mourn the missed opportunities. A sad end to a specification I have enjoyed so much.
#scly4 Twitter feed fed by students has several links to a Change.org petition to request a lowering of the grade boundaries. Reading the petitions has made me angry on behalf of some very fretful students. It also appears that some teachers gambled on the insignificance of state crime, given its limited coverage in all textbooks, and didn’t even teach it. I thus fully agree with you that the paper was unbalanced and unnecessarily thin in accessibility.
Ps I now face the task of marking the same exam!
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