Updated: Jul 20
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OK so context cubes © is a term I have made up to lure you into reading the blog but now you are here let’s talk about the lack of context in GCSE and A Level Business exam essays.
I am just finishing marking three different GCSE papers and one A Level paper and this year I have been surprised at the polarity of answers. Some students have nailed the concept of context and then others it is nowhere to be seen, with no in-between.
I have been working with schools and colleges all over the UK this year, doing revision sessions with students where the teachers specifically want to focus on context. I used to get requests for evaluation and conclusions but this year it appears that many centres have had a battle with getting students to use the case material.
As an example, students have learnt about costs, revenue and profit and seem able to chat happily for three pages without one single reference to the case material. Giving generic answers with no use of the data, and no quotes from the case. Often students will only get 3 marks out of 12, despite writing long essays. If only there had been more application, and more context in the answer it might have moved to a higher level.
Just to clarify if students write an entire paragraph and only name-drop the company this is not context. Teach the TESCO test to help students that are inclined to do this.
To get to the higher levels, students should include context in every paragraph. Once it becomes generic they are losing important application marks, and moving away from answering the question.
So what is a context cube (c)?
So, as I was marking it occurred to me that there are some ways to introduce context into lessons. I think as business teachers we often focus on getting through the content and whatever the latest SLT buzzword is. Currently, it seems to be interleaving and retrieval. My suggestion is to also make context part of every lesson.
So start small with context cubes © in the form of starters, home works or plenaries. Nothing interferes with the flow of your lessons, to begin with, then build up from there.
So here is a PDF with four suggestions on how to pop a context cube into your lesson. It's free to download, no email required, no signup, no subscription, just free. Let me know how you get on. If you have enjoyed this blog and found it useful then please feel free to retweet, share, rethread etc.
Sarah is the resource writer for Revisionstation, she is also the Hodder Education and Keynote Education business teacher trainer. She has taught business for 23 years and has been a business examiner for 20 years.