I have been asked to lead an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) group at level 2 (GCSE). The group is made up of 10 y11 pupils who have taken a GCSE early and are considered “safe” for five A-C with English and maths. I have a triple lesson, 150 minutes, with the group on a weekly basis and the qualification will lead to half a GCSE if they pass the course. Pupils will produce a sort of mini-dissertation (2,500 words approximately) on a topic of their own choosing, with skills being taught by myself and pupils taking responsibility for their learning.

So What?
This represents a significant challenge for me in a number of ways. It is, firstly, a fantastic opportunity for me, and therefore the Library, to contribute to the Academy’s GCSE results. The course itself also reflects the importance of the Library and Librarian to independent learning skills, and it will hopefully lead to the development of these skills for the pupils involved in preparation for A-level study.

There are a number of challenges of running the EPQ course, and these are

– managing a 1/2 GCSE course
– planning a course that runs for the majority of an academic year
– planning a weekly triple lesson (150mins) for the group
– balancing the taught element of the course with the necessary independent learning that needs to take place
– developing sessions that address the necessary information literacy skills, for a group of pupils who will be researching a range of different topics
– marking and moderating the work of pupils

While I have some experience, of some of these items, having to put this all together represents quite a challenge on my part.

In order to tackle this, I planned the timescale required for each of the stages of the project that the pupils would need to complete. Once I had these timescales, I outlined the range of tasks that would need to be carried out by pupils at each stage, and the activities and skills that they would need in order to complete these tasks.

Up to now, I have taught sessions that have introduced pupils to the qualification and given them a tasters of the course with tasks around the August riots; looked at how to develop good questions for EPQ; reflection activities on pupil interests and strengths and brainstorming ideas for areas of research; and reflective learning journal writing.

What next?

The challenge will be to begin to plan lessons for the next stage of the course. After completing the planning stage, pupils will then move on to begin their research, which will take place up until Christmas. This will then be followed by the essay-writing stage between January and February, and then presenting their projects to the group at the end of March.

During the next stage then, I will be looking to deliver lessons that support pupils’ information literacy and research skills. I will be including activities on using particular databases subscribed to by the Library; keyword and searching techniques; assessing sources; close reading, note-taking and analysing; recording bibliographic information.

These sessions will need to be general enough to apply to all pupils on the course, which will then be followed up with more detailed discussions with pupils on an individual basis to advise and support.

Delivering this course will be building on skills and knowledge that I have to varying degrees, but applying it on a larger, more ‘formal’ scale. I hope that, if carried out success, it will hopefully lead to pupils gaining an insight into the process of independent learning and research, and what will be expected of them at A- and undergraduate-level study.