I have yet to introduce myself on the forum but my name is Michael Carter and I am a Teacher of Economics at Oakham School. I worked with Jenny on this project as the subject lead and would like to add my thoughts from a teaching perspective.
This project was all about providing students with a more focused start to the course and to set the standard for studying economics at A-Level. I had no prior experience of spider-web discussions, or indeed of executing an inquiry based project at A-Level, so it really was new ground for me and our department.
The project really started to take shape once I had noted down my initial ideas on what knowledge I wanted students to take away from the two week inquiry. This was when I realised we had something both engaging and achievable. It also gave Jenny something concrete to work with and the articles that she found worked really well in providing a range of view points. Some articles were more difficult than others, but this was a good way to differentiate and provided the element of challenge we were looking for.
We were pleased with how students engaged with the reading early on and, when necessary, we used a bit of lesson time to talk about the articles and support them in drawing out the key arguments. The mini discussion half way through was a good opportunity to test the water, and to be honest, I came away with slight misgivings over whether a Harkness type discussion was going to work. The students preferred a debate but I felt they were underestimating themselves. After talking to Jenny and colleagues we decided to continue with the plan, on the basis that we would build their confidence with a preparatory lesson immediately before where they could become “experts” on a particular topic and practise making their point in smaller groups. As Jenny has said, this addition made all the difference and enabled all students to participate in the final discussion.
We were genuinely impressed with the quality of the four groups’ discussions and the involvement of all students. It was a real pleasure to see the students leave the room visibly energised by the experience and being proud of what they had accomplished.