Aim: To determine what impact Key Stage 3 schemes of work had on students’ perceptions of the value of History relative to other subjects.
Background: The department had adopted a competency-based scheme of work for Years 7-8, which seemed to make the subject more enjoyable and accessible while still providing stretch and challenge. The research sought to determine the validity of this hypothesis.
Year 1: A questionnaire was designed for students to complete online at the beginning and end of the year to record their perceptions about aspects of the subject, including its value, its difficulty and the skills they anticipated developing. Data from cohort A (Year 7) informed a report about students’ perceptions of the subject on entering secondary school.
Year 2: Data from cohorts A (Year 8) and B (Year 7) were analysed.
Year 3: Data from cohorts B (Year 8) and C (Year 7) were analysed, and cohort A (Year 9) were asked additionally whether they were likely to continue with the subject into KS4.
Evidence: Student questionnaires.
Impact: At the start of Year 7, all cohorts perceived History as difficult, boring and unimportant, but they anticipated gaining research skills through its study. Over the three years, there was a marked deterioration in the anticipated level of enjoyment for those entering the school.
The Year 7 scheme of work did not affect the perceived importance or usefulness of the subject, but cohorts A and B found History relatively more interesting, easy and fun. Cohort C found it more difficult, as a literary-based traditional approach was adopted for them, and while many still found History interesting, a significant number found it boring. The number of students in cohort C who did not anticipate future success in History was double that of A or B.
In Year 8 the aim was to stretch and challenge students in terms of content and skills; for cohorts A and B the subject was seen as more difficult and there was a small drop in terms of how many found History ‘interesting’, with fewer students anticipating enjoyment or success in the next year and some students describing History as ‘boring’.
By the end of Year 9, cohort A ranked History as the 2nd most enjoyable subject (8th at the start of Year 7). ‘Interesting’ and ‘fascinating’ remained the most popular words to describe History, and ‘challenging’ replaced ‘boring’ as the third most popular.
Reflections: Most significantly, for Year 7 students, challenging content and skills can be made so accessible through the teaching method that students find the subject easy. However, the growing disenchantment of Year 6 students with History and Humanities is a concern. Happily, this research has also given us the opportunity to evaluate the impact of schemes of work in Year 7 and to consider some remedial action to re-engage cohort C in Year 8.
Contact: Helen Weston, firstname.lastname@example.org