As is abundantly clear from the array of topics under this Inquiry and resource design forum, FOSIL is a highly effective tool for approaching any inquiry. But what I wondered was whether I could take the thought process and structure of the FOSIL cycle and overlay it onto the assessment objectives in A Level Politics as part of essay planning and Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT)? I discovered a skills gap in my student cohort when it came to AO2 Analysis and AO3 Evaluation. My students do not seem to engage enough with the rigours of higher-order thinking, something the linear external exams now rely on so heavily; assessment is not a matter of memorising facts but of critiquing, explaining and justifying arguments. What Jenny and I have worked on over the last few months are (so far!) three essay planning wraps that aim to guide students through the cognitive stages of essay writing in a methodical, ‘FOSILised’ way. Therefore, students work through the Connect, Wonder and Investigate stages on the front of their wrap (unpicking the essay question, accessing prior knowledge, thinking about possible skills and knowledge gaps), before tackling the substantial Construct stage in the centre of the wrap (a comprehensive and clear essay planning map). Of course, the Express stage is the writing of the essay itself. The final page of the wrap focuses on Reflect, asking students to mark their own work and justify their self-assessment. Gone are the days of students being set an essay and handing in only the finished article (with no evidence of the thought-process behind it). Instead, students complete the wrap before they even write their essay and hand in both pieces to be marked. Not only is the content of the wraps effective as a scaffold for students, it is also presented in a visually-pleasing format, involving clear colour themes and signposting for each stage, which I believe is essential for the overloaded teenage brain
Jenny’s work on our essay wraps has revolutionised the way I now approach essay writing and assessment. I’m so glad I embarked upon this line of thought and am excited to see where FOSIL can take us next. The evolving nature of our work means that I am now even trying to revamp my own Politics DIRT wrap using Jenny’s incarnations as my guide. I hope to do a Lesson Study into the impact of our FOSIL wraps in the Summer term and will report back with my findings.