It was my TA that did it.
Whilst working on a series of revision sessions for a small intervention group that I did not personally teach, and juggling a number of absences, I got into the habit of sending her what I had planned a day in advance.
She would look things over and generally agree that what I had planned would be suitable, and that she (an aspiring history trainee) would be able to cope with anything in my absence. But there was once when she responded:
“I think this is too complicated. Can’t we just deal with their confusion between hyperinflation and depression?”
But of course! EVERY YEAR, I spent time correcting students when they said one, meaning the other. EVERY YEAR I tried to demonstrate that whilst the consequences (unemployment and an unstable Germany) were similar, the causes overlapped far less. NO! Not 1923, 1929. NO! Stresemann has died by this point.
But having my TA point this out to me so brutally, honestly, meant I sat up and did something about it then and there. I constructed a REALLY simple table that from a quick show of hands would demonstrate what level of misunderstanding I was dealing with here – this was true, immediate, purposeful AfL.
And that was it, really! Since then, I have been revisiting old schemes of work and creating new ones with a specific column – misconceptions. I make them part of my planning and try to pre-empt the problem. I design tasks that attempt to assess whether that has been successful, and if not, I do something proactive about it as soon as possible. It has got me talking to my colleagues in more detail about the history rather than the specification or that exact exam Q, which I am really enjoying- together we have amassed great knowledge on the topic of common misconceptions and the things students find hard. We are able to help students before they flounder. We are able to advise trainees so they deliver more successful lessons. And we are saving ourselves a lot of work when it comes to review and revision.
I implore you to try it – devote five minutes of your next department meeting to sharing what your colleagues know to be areas of difficulty in the curriculum. In times when CPD is less easily provided and paid for, supporting one another and not just carrying on regardless are easy wins.
For more simple and effective practical teaching ideas in regards to ensuring student knowledge, visit: https://www.history.org.uk/secondary/resource/4601/fact-based-quiz-ideas-for-turning-d-grades-into-cs
For a multitude of CPD ideas and events, please visit the HA website:
And do follow the HA on Twitter @histassoc for more updates, to send comments and to share ideas.
Thanks to Zoe Howells, History Adviser Harris Federation, for this post.