A profitable combination

21st April 1995 at 01:00
NUFFIELD ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS, Project Team Nancy Wall, Jenny Wales, Stephen Barnes and David Lines Longman

STUDENTS' BOOK, Pounds 16.99 0582 24578 8A.

TEACHER'S RESOURCES, Pounds 17.99 0582 24585 OA

ACTIVITY COPYMASTERS, Pounds 49.50+VAT. 0582 24586 9A.

ANSWER BOOK, Pounds 9.99 0582 24587 7A.

DATA BOOK, Pounds 4.99 0582 24588 5A.

OPTION BOOKLETS:

POVERTY AND WEALTH, 0582 24579 6A

GOVERNMENT OBJECTIVES, 0582 24580 XA

BUSINESS STRATEGIES, 0582 24583 4A

CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY, 0582 24584 2A

RESOURCE AND EXPANSION 0582 24581 8A

COMPETITION AND CONTROL 0582 24582 6A Pounds 8.99 each

John Trevett reviews the new Nuffield A-level economics and business course

What have the following three questions in common? Why have there been bus wars in Darlington? How do supermarkets compete? What effect will price increases have at Teesdale Leisure Centre? They are all questions set by students at Teesdale School in Barnard Castle as topics for investigative work in the first two terms of the new Nuffield A level course in economics and business.

Students may take various paths though the course resulting in an A level in economics, business studies or in a joint award in economics and business. All A level students study six stages over the two years of the course. Those taking the combined AS-level course cover a selection from the first four stages.

The entire course is based on questions and this is reflected in the structure of the Students' Book, which covers the first four stages. Each stage is divided into three units addressing a particular question. The ideas and concepts from both subject disciplines are introduced in a simple and integrated way. As the students progress, ideas are revisited to consolidate understanding and concepts are further developed.

Students find the book easy to read and attractively presented with illustrations, diagrams, cartoons, and pictures. It is mainly intended as a source for background reading to consolidate the knowledge, ideas and concepts that are encountered through active learning and investigation. Jargon is controlled, and when new concepts are introduced, a concise definition is provided in the margin.

There are numerous short case study and data questions which provide an excellent stimulus for classroom discussion and opportunities for students to apply what they have learned. Students are given suggestions about ways to extend individual topic work for the portfolio they produce over the entire course. Suggested answers to these questions are provided in an answer book for teachers.

At the end of each stage there is an extended case study. The Teacher's Resources Book provides suggestions for suitable activities and a book of photocopiable materials is also available. The activities vary in both type and duration. Some are classroom based, encouraging students to use IT skills to deal with financial questions. Some are in the form of a case study with a photocopiable master available. Others are more open ended and suggest activities which involve students in using investigative skills to gather information to address specific questions appropriate to the stage of the course. In addition, the book provides suggestions for a range of other sources such as book references and addresses of organisations.

At each stage, students are encouraged to ask questions and develop their own investigative and problem solving skills. Evidence of class-based work is stored in each student's portfolio and this is supplemented by independent investigative work. Students' own work may range from relatively small items such as an evaluation of a television programme or a news cutting with an explanation of the issues involved, to longer studies addressing specific questions requiring individual research and the application of concepts that are covered on the course.

Students are encouraged to use a variety of research techniques and are given credit for their investigative work. Primary research techniques of survey, interview, visit and questionnaire are frequently used, but students also develop skills in the use of secondary sources. The Nuffield Data Book provides a useful selection of background statistics, together with guidance to students on how to use the data. Students also make wide use of newspaper articles, CD-Rom, SECOS datasets (including one compiled to complement the course) and company reports.

In stage 2, students study two of six options. Each option builds on the content of stage 1 and has its own book. These will also assist self study. The Nuffield project team offer excellent training, support and advice for teachers. A network of regional support groups has been established A joint course is in itself innovative and an opportunity in a school with a small sixth form to offer both subjects. The approach, through high levels of active student involvement, has resulted in above-average levels of student motivation. Numbers are up compared with those opting for more traditional courses in the subjects.

John Trevett is head of economics and business at Teesdale School, County Durham and a Nuffield Economics and Business network co-ordinator.

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