A new generation of researchers

28 September 2018

It’s not often that I envy our sixth form students. Decisions about the future; teenage angst; expected to be simultaneously child and adult; the thought of leaving home and friends to begin the unknown at university and the all-consuming A Level examinations are, thankfully, in my past. EPQ however is an opportunity for our students that I do envy. 120 hours (30 guided and 90 independent) to research a topic on absolutely anything, to develop passions and become an expert in a limitless choice of questions and topics.

As a moderator and centre coordinator for the Extended Personal Qualification, I have read hundreds of projects. The benefit for me is that my general knowledge has increased exponentially. I now have an understanding of the jellyfish population and an opinion on whether Anne Boleyn was a saint or sinner, whether dairy farming is economically viable and how to design an electric guitar.

I have watched information videos about the dangers of social media and illegal drugs. Enjoyed a liturgical dance and a modern version of Little Red Riding Hood. I have read children’s books and short stories and appreciated original pieces of art and design. Students have investigated the impact of fracking on the environment and how to engage boys in poetry.

This year Elane wowed the staff with her original protest song, inspired and encouraged by Billy Bragg who agreed to meet her to discuss the project. Vernel set up a focus group as part of her research to design a common room using CAD and mini models. Natasha worked with health professionals to create a booklet designed to give help and advice to parents whose children were self -harming. Brandon set out to discover who killed the Red Baron and Charlie wrote a fictional story and planned a lesson to teach children about alcohol misuse.

The EPQ is a challenging qualification, not least as the students are expected to juggle their research with the demands of 4 A Levels. However, it is not surprising that Universities welcome applications from students with this qualification.

Our students learn to research effectively and to avoid plagiarism, to set clear objectives and to monitor their progress against them, to set their own deadlines and to avoid the rabbit holes of research and procrastination. The qualification also provides the students with UCAS points and a wide and varied knowledge of a subject unrelated to their A Levels to share at interviews, and I never fail to be impressed at the sheer variety of subjects and topics the students choose to research.

As we at Blackpool Research School support our students in their EPQs, begin as teachers our own ‘Disciplined Inquiry’ projects, and support teachers in other schools to do the same, it begs the question: “if you had a spare 120 hours, where would it take you?”.

Blog Post CGR

Posted on 28 September 2018
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