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How to steer coursework

THE DRIVE to improve GCSE scores is preventing pupils from reaping the full educational benefits of coursework.

Exam boards incorporated coursework into GCSE syllabuses in an attempt to promote transferable skills such as critical thinking, creativity and independent learning.

But, according to a new report, the prevailing achievement-driven culture in schools means that teachers and students are more focused on exam results than on the thinking and learning opportunities that coursework creates.

A study carried out in the English and geography departments of six schools found that, while students consider coursework to be motivating and potentially liberating, they tend to play safe in their analysis and writing.

Teachers are partly responsible because they invariably control the dirction of coursework. While aware that pupils should be allowed to develop ideas, teachers feel it is necessary to make choices for them, particularly on the structuring of coursework.

Lower-ability students are given less freedom than more able teenagers, and this hampers their creativity and independent thinking.

Learning from GCSE Coursework: Fostering Independent Learning, Critical Thinking and Creativity? by Susan Martin, Alan Reid, Keith Bishop, Kate Bullock, University of Bath. Correspondence:

Education researchers who wish to disseminate their findings in The TES should send summaries of no more than 750 words to David Budge, Research editor, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Tel 020 7782 3276 E-mail:

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