GCSE A-Level

What I learnt from Coursework 2018

It was always going to be tough, no matter what exam board you do! A new specification means a new mark scheme and a new admin structure! It means getting your head round a lot of new things as well as getting all the work in. I wanted to share with you the things I learnt from Coursework 2018.

I learnt a lot from the 2018 coursework season and I wanted to blog my thoughts, not only for your benefit, but for my own. At this time of year it is good to think back to last year and consider what you learnt!

Ten Things I learnt from Coursework 2018

  1. I made it to the end even though in April I thought it was all going to just fall apart. I got the work in and the students managed it! I think it is good to remember that we do survive and it is achievable. There are some dark times in the coursework period and I always think that I am never going to reach the end. The date of submission seems to get closer and closer and I still have so much to do. But then suddenly I am in the exams office and it is being sent off. I need to remember this every year.
  2. Mark Schemes can and should be our friend and we need to remember them when we next teach Year 10. I guess what I mean is that when we are in those long marking sessions just before we send off the work, we really engage with the wording of the mark scheme. I just wonder if we need to get students doing that as well. I obviously show my students the mark schemes, but what I have learnt is that I want them to truly engage with them. I want them to see work from this year and look at why it got the mark it got.
  3. Texture in composition is important and students need to understand how to explore it and vary it in their compositions. I always get my students to think about texture, but I wonder if I could do more and give them more examples of how texture can be truly and uniquely explored in their work.
  4. Structure in composition – I found that some of my students needed help with their compositional structure. The main issues was where structures were too basic, predictable or “standard”. I think I am going to get my students really thinking about how to structure their pieces and what structure really means.
  5. Form filling in is always a pain and even after several years of teaching I still leave it too late. This year I am going to make sure that students fill things in from the start and give me sheet music straight away. General admin is something I can always get better at – but I am sure I said this same thing to myself last year.
  6. Last year I realised that a moderator buddy is a really good idea, someone on one of the facebook groups or a colleague/friend. I wonder if I could start a social network movement where we all get a buddy and we share work and help each other with moderating? Just a thought. But I learnt that getting opinions is a good thing and I should do it more, and sooner.
  7. Getting students to aim high with performing is useful, but they do need to make sure the music is within their ability, otherwise you end up doing lots of recordings!
  8. I learnt the hard way that I need to start ensemble performances earlier as they can get quite tricky. I have said this to myself before, but I really felt the pinch this year what with the new spec and new requirements.
  9. I learnt that students really do need to understand the briefs that they set themselves or the ones that are set by the board. I think I need to get them making clearer plans of what they are going to do so that they are clear from the start.
  10. I learnt that A-Level Recitals are quite hard and need more time so that students get the most out of them. I have learnt that recording in one take is tough and needs practise and planning. I will do things differently this year and allow more time for recitals.


I learnt lots last year, and I am glad that I am now in the second year of the new specifications. Coursework is a great way for students to achieve and I guess that the biggest thing I have learnt is that I teach amazing students with so much talent. It is good to review things and I believe that I am always learning and growing. I look forward to learning more this year, and next year. And then they will probably change specifications again and we will all go back to square one!

Happy Coursework Season everyone!

1 comment

  1. Thank you for these valuable insights, James. I’m certain your students have benefitted greatly from your considered, thoughtful approach to the work and this will be demonstrated in their results. I hope the current course iteration can remain in place long enough to allow you, colleagues and students to gain through further experience and the development which grows out of this.

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