Specifications that use this resource:

Fieldwork: enquiry process

Strand 1

Suitable question for geographical enquiry.

There are four separate sections within this strand and any of these may be assessed in the exam.

  1. The factors that need to be considered when selecting suitable questions/hypotheses for geographical enquiry.
  2. The geographical theory/concept underpinning the enquiry.
  3. Appropriate sources of primary and secondary evidence, including locations for fieldwork.
  4. The potential risks of both human and physical fieldwork and how these risks might be reduced.

All of the above must be considered from the point of view of the teachers and the students.

1. Factors when selecting questions/hypotheses

a. Question or hypothesis?

b. Link to specification

c. Ability profile of students

d. Possibility of successful outcome of investigation

a. Question or hypothesis?

Teachers

This is a matter of personal preference. A simple hypothesis is an assertion to be tested, a statement that will either be confirmed or rejected. One way to generate a simple hypothesis is to think of a statement relating to a geographical concept or process and then put the word ‘that’ in front of it, eg that hard engineering is effective in protecting the coast at X.  Some teachers use null hypotheses with students. This is a perfectly acceptable approach although it can be difficult for some students to be clear about what they are investigating and how to interpret their results so as to reach a conclusion. The same task could be worded as a simple question eg is hard engineering effective in protecting the coast at X? Only one question or hypothesis would be required for each investigation. The question/hypothesis for each investigation can be determined by the teacher or through discussion with the students.

Students

In the exam, students will have to identify the focus of their geographical enquiries. Only by doing this can examiners check that the answers provided are applicable to the question(s) set.  Students can state the question or hypothesis word-for-word or give a general aim, eg to look at the hard engineering at X. The question/hypothesis might be examined in relation to: geographical theory underpinning the investigation(s), data collection methods, conclusions and evaluations.

b. Link to the specification

Teachers

There should be a clear link between the subject content and geographical enquiries, and the enquiries can be based on any part of the content addressed in units 3.1 and 3.2. (Specification page 24, 3.3.2 Fieldwork.)

There are over 100 fieldwork opportunities contained within the specification content. Teachers can use the information on the Fieldwork planning: opportunities resource to decide on the most appropriate focus for their enquiries.

It is possible to use specification content in a different context to the one specified, eg tourism (attractions, impacts, management strategies) appears within section 3.1.3.4 Glacial landscapes in the UK, but the same key ideas can be tested in coastal locations or urban/rural locations that are not in a glacial landscape.

It is also possible to use specification content at a different scale from that specified, eg impact of urban sprawl on the rural-urban fringe is part of section 3.2.1 Urban issues and challenges and is linked to the case study of a major UK city, but the same key idea can be applied to urban areas that are not major cities.

Students

As students will be directed by their teachers in relation to the focus of the investigation they will not need to check that there is a link to the specification unless they are working completely independently.

c. Ability profile of students

Teachers

With the current controlled assessments, it is not uncommon to find examples of students tackling enquiries that are too complicated for them to understand and so they fail to achieve many of the marks available when working under High Control.  With fieldwork now being assessed through an exam, students are effectively working under High Control conditions so it is important that the fieldwork undertaken has been memorable, understandable and relevant.  The investigation does not have to be complicated. There may be only one or two key concepts involved and one or two data collection methods.

Students

A target grade will have been set for students. The most able students will need to access Level 2 and Level 3 on the high tariff questions on Paper 3 regarding their fieldwork enquiries.  These students must be comfortable with command words such as assess, justify, evaluate, to what extent, etc.  Students who are unlikely to access high marks must be able to address the questions set, in basic terms and accumulate marks throughout the paper.

d. Possibility of successful outcome of investigation

Teachers

Planning is crucial for a successful fieldwork investigation.  Teachers must check that the sites they intend using will provide appropriate opportunities for data collection relevant to the key questions/hypotheses and the key concept(s) being addressed.  Many centres have had unsuccessful field trips because conditions or timing were not considered beforehand, eg the time of high tide was not checked before students arrived at the beach, rivers were too deep or too shallow, there were no tourists to interview as the honeypot site was visited in February, etc.

Students

Unless the work is planned independently by the candidate(s) then the outcome of the investigation is the responsibility of the teacher.

2. Geographical theory underpinning the enquiry

Throughout the specification there are opportunities to use established theories, models or concepts as a basis for a small scale fieldwork investigation. For example:

  • Food web within an ecosystem
  • Longshore drift
  • Hard and soft engineering strategies
  • Managed retreat
  • River processes
  • Migration
  • Urban sprawl
  • Commuter settlements
  • Urban regeneration
  • Sustainable urban living
  • Environmental sustainability

The fieldwork undertaken by students does not have to be based on an established geographical theory or model, but it must be based on a geographical concept or process that is clearly identifiable from within the specification.

3. Appropriate sources of primary and secondary evidence, including locations for fieldwork.

Fieldwork overall should include exploration of physical and human processes and the interactions between them and should involve the collection of primary physical and human data (but these requirements need not all be addressed in each piece of fieldwork). (DfE Geography GCSE subject content pages 5-6.)

The requirement for primary data is clearly referenced within the DfE subject content and this is reinforced on page 24 of the GCSE Specification.  The primary data must explicitly address the key question/hypothesis and key concept(s) and/or theory underpinning the investigation.  Data should not be collected simply because it is possible to do so at the location(s) used for the investigation.  Teachers might ask themselves the following questions:

  1. What is the question/hypothesis going to be?
  2. What is the key geography involved?
  3. What primary data will be needed to specifically address the geography identified in ii)?

Secondary data can also play a part in allowing students to complete a successful fieldwork investigation.  For example, reasons behind an urban regeneration project may be researched before the fieldwork is carried out.

Locations must be selected with care to ensure that they will be:

  • safe
  • accessible
  • providing appropriate information for the investigation(s) involved.

4. The potential risks of both human and physical fieldwork and how these risks might be reduced.

Teachers

The information below is important for teachers when planning fieldwork.

Risk Assessments

The Field Studies Council has published the following advice with regard to risk assessment for field visits.

Risk assessment is the fundamental tool to ensure safety is effectively managed. The purpose of the Risk Assessment process is to identify hazards; assess who may be harmed and how; and manage the hazards through safe systems of work.

In line with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines, centres should follow five steps to risk assessment:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
  4. Record your findings and implement them
  5. Review your assessment and update if necessary

The likelihood and severity of the hazard occurring can be scored numerically (one equals low, five equals high), with resultant risk being assessed as:

  • More than ten – Take immediate action to either remove or control the risk, for example a less risky option, prevent access to the hazard
  • Eight to ten – inform people of the risk and look at ways of reducing it
  • Less than eight – monitor the situation more closely and aim to reduce risk over longer term.

All significant findings should be documented and periodically updated unless changed circumstances dictate an earlier review.

Teachers might wish to use the above information to plan discussions with their students in relation to the enquiries they will be undertaking. Tables of risk can be created, possibly as indicated below:

Risk/Hazard

Who might be involved

Level of risk

Precautions

Getting caught in waves when measuring beach characteristics

Myself and other students

1 = Low

Always collect data from at least 5 metres above the swash zone

Students

Questions relating to possible risks when carrying out human and physical geography fieldwork, and how such risks may be reduced, can be tested within the fieldwork section of Paper 3. Students must, therefore, be able to write about such risks and identify precautions and/or strategies for dealing with these risks.

Strand 2

Selecting, measuring and recording data appropriate to the chosen enquiry.

There are four separate sections within this strand and any of these may be assessed in the examination.

  1. Difference between primary and secondary data.
  2. Identification and selection of appropriate physical and human data.
  3. Measuring and recording data using different sampling methods.
  4. Description and justification of data collection methods.

All of the above must be considered from the point of view of the teachers and the students.

1. Difference between primary and secondary data

Teachers

The fieldwork enquiries undertaken by students must each have at least one primary data collection method (Specification page 24).  Secondary data may also be used but this is not an explicit requirement.  Students must, however, know the difference between primary and secondary data.

Primary data may be defined as: data collected that are original and collected for the first time, eg fieldwork data.

Secondary data may be defined as: data collected by using already available sources, eg published materials.

A range of activities can be organised to ensure that students are clear as to the difference between primary and secondary data.

Students

Definitions of primary and secondary data are not required as part of the assessment, rather students must be able to distinguish between sources of data and be clear as to which are primary and which are secondary. This type of task will test applied understanding rather than knowledge.

2. Identification and selection of appropriate physical and human data

Teachers

For all fieldwork enquiries there are options in terms of the data that may be collected. The key word in the statement above is appropriate’. Collecting inappropriate and/or unnecessary data is not helping the students. Initial planning will have determined a key question or hypothesis based on part of the specification content, and at least one geographical concept, theory or process will have been identified. Discussions with students should then focus on the data required to address the key question/hypothesis. This will result in a range of possible data being identified, some of which may have no relevance to the task, and then selection of the most appropriate data can take place and methods for collecting this data can then be determined.

Students

Understanding why specific data are appropriate for particular enquiries is very important. For example, why footfall results can help explain the success of a regeneration project or why river velocity data can be used to explain changes within a river channel.

3. Measuring and recording data using different sampling methods

Teachers

Fieldwork information will be measured and/or recorded in some way. The greater the amount of data collected the greater the accuracy of the final outcome(s) of the investigation.  It is not possible for students to collect large amounts of data as time will be limited as will their ability to process, present and interpret their findings.  Students must, however, have some understanding of what constitutes an acceptable sample size for their data collection method(s) with due consideration given to the accuracy of the data collected. Inevitably some form of sampling will be required.

There are three main types of sampling:

  • Random sampling: this is the most accurate method as there is no bias involved as every person or place has an equal chance of being sampled.
  • Systematic sampling: this is a quick and easy method to usewhere a regular sample is taken, eg river depth readings may be taken every 50cm across the channel. This type of sampling does not always work well with questionnaires as it may not be possible to ask every 10th person, for example, who enters a shopping area.
  • Stratified sampling: this is where people or places are deliberately chosen according to the topic being investigated; for example, a questionnaire about a regeneration project might be asked to an equal number of males and females within pre-determined age groups; eg five males and five females aged 20-39, five of each gender aged 40-59 and so on. This can also be used alongside random or systematic sampling.

Once the required data have been identified, suitable methods of recording the results can be determined and students must have the opportunity to design their own data recording sheets.

Students

It is important that the different sampling methods are understood, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each. Why one sampling method may work better than another in a particular investigation may be part of a fieldwork assessment task. Appropriate and realistic sample sizes and factors affecting the accuracy of the results obtained must also be understood.

4. Description and justification of data collection methods

Teachers

Description: when preparing your students for their fieldwork enquiries they must understand how they will collect their data. This may be a step-by-step approach, eg first determine a transect line across the woodland ecosystem; secondly, place a quadrat on the ground to the right of the transect line at the starting point; thirdly, … and so on. By ensuring that students are very clear as to how their data will be collected the probable success of the fieldwork is greatly enhanced. However, the students cannot be assessed on their methods in such a way that a basic description of these methods earns credit as this is simply knowledge and none of the questions in the Fieldwork section of paper 3 can assess this assessment objective. Justification: What is more important at assessment level is that students understand why each aspect of their data collection methods is being carried out, eg why use a transect across a woodland ecosystem? Why use a quadrat to measure plant cover? Why sample every 20 metres? Why is this sample size appropriate? When working with students in the field teachers should be talking to the students and asking questions such as those outlined above.

Students

Description: It is important to understand how the data collection methods are carried out if the fieldwork is to be successful. However, it is the justification of these methods, the why behind each part of each method that must be understood. Students should keep asking themselves, and the teacher, ‘why are we doing this?’ but they must go further and ensure that they understand the answer to each question. This is the justification of the data collection method(s) and it is this that may be assessed in the exam paper.

Strand 3

Selecting appropriate ways of processing and presenting fieldwork data.

There are three separate sections within this strand and any of these may be assessed in the exam.

  1. Appreciation that a range of visual, graphical and cartographic methods is available.
  2. Selection and accurate use of appropriate presentation methods.
  3. Description, explanation and adaptation of presentation methods.

All of the above must be considered from the point of view of the teachers and the students.

1. Appreciate that range of visual, graphical and cartographic method is available.

Teachers

Students will collect raw data as part of their fieldwork activities. This data can be collated and shared for a number of reasons:

  • to increase total sample sizes, eg each student completes two questionnaires and the results for the whole class are collated.
  • to increase range of data, eg groups collect data at locations along the course of a river and share results to demonstrate changes over a greater distance than can be obtained by a group working in isolation.
  • for comparative purposes and to determine patterns, eg pedestrian counts taken at 20 locations at exactly the same time to find patterns of pedestrian density in an urban area.

Results can be entered onto spreadsheets by the students, or another person, and copied as required.  These results may then be presented by a range of visual, graphical and cartographic methods such as those listed below.

  • Visual – diagrams, sketches, photographs.
  • Graphical – line graphs, bar graphs, pie charts, pictograms, histograms (with equal class intervals), divided bar graphs, scattergraphs, population pyramids, dispersion graphs.
  • Cartographic – sketch maps, choropleth maps, isoline maps, dot maps, desire lines on maps, proportional symbols located onto base maps and flow lines on maps.

All of the presentation methods identified above are listed within the specification and, therefore, may be assessed at some point within the life of the specification. Students will not address all of these presentation methods when completing their fieldwork enquiries, but teachers must ensure that students have seen or used each of the methods listed at some point during the GCSE course.

Students

Having experienced all of the presentation methods identified within the specification (and listed above) students must be aware that there are always choices to be made when deciding how to present their results. Appropriate is the key word in the descriptor for this strand and students may consider appropriateness in terms of the following aspects of the presentation method(s) used:

  • That it is correct for the type of data involved.
  • It allows for clarity in terms of displaying the results.
  • It aids interpretation allowing patterns and anomalies to be determined.

2. Selection and accurate use of appropriate presentation methods.

Teachers

Selection of appropriate presentation methods can be determined by the teacher on behalf of the students.  Students, however, must understand why the method(s) selected are appropriate for the data concerned.  A range of potential presentation methods may be discussed, the strengths and weaknesses of each identified, and a final selection made.  As students will not be presenting a final report on their fieldwork enquiry, the presentation methods they actually used will not be assessed as part of the GCSE.  It will be important, however, that presentation methods are completed properly to allow accurate use of these methods when students interpret their findings.

Students

The students must be able to apply their knowledge and understanding of the presentation methods listed within the specification to be able to select an appropriate method for a given set of data. Reasons why the method is appropriate may be required.  There may be instances of students being required to complete presentation methods that have some information missing.

Accuracy in completing the presentation method will be important for two reasons; 1) to ensure that any marks allocated to this task are gained, and 2) to allow for accurate use of the presentation method in any follow-up question relating to the results displayed.

3. Description, explanation and adaption or presentation methods.

Teachers

Students can be asked to describe a presentation method that is provided for them on the exam paper as this addresses Assessment Objective 3 (AO3), applied knowledge and understanding, but they cannot be asked to describe a data presentation method they used in their own enquiries as this would address Assessment Object 1 (AO1), knowledge, and there are no marks allowed for this Assessment Objective on the fieldwork section of Paper 3.  Similarly, students can be asked to explain why a particular presentation method is appropriate for a set of data provided but they cannot be asked to explain their own presentation methods.  Adaption of presentation methods can be straightforward, for example, taking a number of individual bars from a bar graph representing a particular data set (total environmental quality scores for a number of locations) and locating individual bars onto a base map to show distribution of these total scores.  Such an approach provides additional meaning to the results as patterns and anomalies over the locality can be identified.

Students

The students must be able to describe a presentation method provided for them in the exam paper, and offer explanations as to why the method is appropriate or, possibly, inappropriate for the data displayed.  There may be an opportunity for the students to adapt a presentation skill to increase its accuracy and/or appropriateness, eg change the class intervals on a histogram to make them equal and comparable.

Strand 4

Describing, analysing and explaining fieldwork data.

There are four separate sections within this strand and any one of these may be addressed in the exam.

  1. Description, analysis and explanation of the results of fieldwork data.
  2. Establish links between data sets.
  3. Use appropriate statistical techniques.
  4. Identification of anomalies in fieldwork data.

All of the above must be considered from the point of view of the teachers and the students.

1. Description, analysis and explanation of the results of fieldwork data.

Teachers

Description is where students state what their fieldwork data show. This data may be in the form of raw data, a table of results or a presentation method produced to display the results in an appropriate manner.  Students may state what the presentation method shows, offering information about the method as a whole and/or about separate components within that method, eg what information a pie graph is showing with observations about particular sectors within the pie chart such as which is the biggest sector and which is the smallest sector. Analysis is where students use some techniques, numerical and statistical, basic or complex, to examine the data or components within the presentation method to provide precise information about their fieldwork results, eg range, ratio, mean, mode, trend, percentage increase or decrease etc.  Explanation is when students offer meanings for their findings. All of the above will allow students to reach conclusions regarding the initial aim of their enquiry.

Within the exam students cannot be asked to describe their fieldwork data as this would test knowledge (AO1) and understanding (AO2) and there is no scope for assessing these Assessment Objectives on the fieldwork section of Paper 3. However, students must learn how to describe and analyse fieldwork data as they may be asked to apply their knowledge and understanding of how to do this to results that are from an unfamiliar context presented in the form of raw data, graphs or maps presented within the exam paper.  Students may be assessed on the conclusions they reached in relation to their own enquires. See Enquiry Strand 5.

Students

Having collected their fieldwork data students will, in all probability, have processed this data in some way and then presented the results in a graphical or cartographic form. They might start describing their findings by stating what the graph or map is about, eg ‘the pie chart shows the reasons people gave for visiting the tourist area at X’. They may then go on to state ‘the biggest sector of the pie chart is…’ thereby identifying the main attraction for tourists visiting the area involved in the enquiry.  Similar descriptive statements might be provided for other sectors of the pie chart. Analysis will be evident once students add precision to their descriptions by means of some numerical or statistical techniques. They might identify that one sector of a pie chart is twice the size of that of another sector (basic ratio) or they might use percentages to identify range within the responses. On other presentation methods they might identify the mean value of the results obtained, calculate percentage increases or decrease or identify the inter-quartile range. Explanation is offering reasons for the findings obtained, eg ‘72% people were at location X because...’.

The ability of students to describe and analyse fieldwork data would be assessed using materials from an unfamiliar context. Students would not be expected to replicate descriptions of their own fieldwork data within the exam. They would, however, need to have a good understanding of the overall results of their enquiries and the conclusions reached.

2. Establish links between data sets.

Teachers

Students are usually very good at describing and analysing single sets of information, for example the patterns of pedestrian density within an urban area.  Finding links or connections between data sets is more challenging.  When students start to explain their findings from one set of data they might suggest that the reasons offered have a connection to another set of results, for example river bed load size may be linked to velocity in the river concerned. For students to develop the ability to establish such links the fieldwork enquiries must be planned to collect appropriate data in the first place.  This does not have to be complicated, as indicated by the example given above, because a simple rivers enquiry testing the hypothesis ‘That changes to the bed load of a river are the result of changes in velocity’ only requires two sets of data to be collected and examined.  Students can describe and analyse changes in bed load size, then describe and analyse changes in velocity, and then see if there are any clear links between the results for these two variables.  Within the Specification, section 3.4.4 Statistical skills, students must be able to ‘describe relationships in bivariate data’ and the fieldwork enquiry suggested above would meet this requirement. The enquiries for the Specification should be smaller in scale than those undertaken for the controlled assessment, with only one or two data collection methods being used for each enquiry.

If the enquiries can be planned so that the students have to opportunity to establish links between data sets then they would be able to apply the same approach to data presented within the exam paper.

Students

Being able to relate one set of results to another can be difficult, but it is important that students start to look for links between data sets. They might do this in relation to one or both of their enquiries when they are offering explanations for their findings, and they should try to ask the question ‘do I have any proof to support these explanations?’ Looking for evidence beyond their first data set is what is required.

3. Use appropriate statistical techniques.

Teachers

The statistical skills that students are required to know and to have used at some point within the GCSE course are listed in section 3.4.4 of the Specification. Not all of these skills will be delivered through the two fieldwork enquiries on which students will be assessed. Some of the statistical skills may be delivered through classroom activities using secondary data in relation to a taught part of the Specification, eg calculating percentage increase or decrease in population growth for major UK cities. However, any of the skills listed can be assessed within a fieldwork context on Paper 3. Teachers could start with their fieldwork planning at an early stage of the course and identify the enquiry tasks students will carry out, then determine the data collection methods and the statistical skills required to complete the analysis of the fieldwork data collected. This may only address a small number of the statistical skills listed and so the remaining skills must be delivered within the taught units. Whichever statistical skills are incorporated into the fieldwork enquiries, students must understand why these skills are appropriate for the data concerned.

Students

The exam paper is the ideal opportunity for numerical and statistical skills to be assessed. The assessment must focus on how to use the skills, and this may be through a question involving unfamiliar fieldwork materials presented on the exam paper, eg a set of results listed and the student must identify the mean, range, mode, etc; an incomplete scattergraph may have to be finished using data given and a line of best fit plotted; an isoline map may need to be completed by means of interpolation.

4. Identification of anomalies in fieldwork data.

Teachers

An anomaly might be viewed as being something that deviates from the norm, but for the students it might, perhaps, best be described as being ‘an irregularity’ within any data they collect or present in graphical or map form. It is often difficult to identify anomalies in raw data, unless the anomalies are particularly striking. Once the data has been processed and presented, however, any anomaly or anomalies may become immediately apparent. Descriptions of and explanations for such irregularities may then be offered. For example, river bed load data might be decreasing in size over distance downstream except at one location where average bed load size increases.  This may present itself as an anomalous plot on a graph where, after a sequence of plots for bed load size are getting gradually lower in relation to the y axis there is a plot that appears to ‘leap’ much higher than it should and so it breaks the pattern and become an irregularity, an anomaly. Students might then aim to offer reasons for this particular result as this might impact on the conclusions reached or be relevant to any evaluation carried out in relation to the enquiry.

Students

There is no guarantee that students will find anomalies within their fieldwork results. Therefore their ability to identify anomalies in fieldwork data must be assessed using fieldwork materials from an unfamiliar context. An example could be a scattergraph where the line of best fit is clearly able to be drawn in relation to almost all of the data presented, except for one data plot that is an obvious irregularity, an anomaly. The question may require the candidate to identify which data plot shown on the scatter graph is the anomaly. Reasons for this anomaly would not be required.

Strand 5

Reaching conclusions.

There is only one section within this strand and this must be considered from the point of view of the teachers and the students.

  • Draw evidenced conclusions in relation to the original aims of the enquiry.
Teachers

The enquiries carried out by students were each based on a question or a hypothesis so that a clear focus for the task was determined from the outset.  The evidence collected through fieldwork should allow students to answer their question or to accept or reject their hypothesis.  A series of ‘mini conclusions’ may lead students towards an overall conclusion but, wherever possible, reference to evidence must be provided.

Students

It will be important that students know what the conclusions are to their enquiries and be able to refer to some evidence that supports these conclusions.  An exam question may require students to reflect on their results and conclusions in an evaluative manner, see Geographical Enquiry Strand 6, so an initial understanding of these results and conclusions must be secure if students are to be able to apply this knowledge and understanding under exam conditions.

Strand 6

Evaluation of geographical enquiry.

There are four separate sections within this strand and any one of these may be addressed in the examination, although it is the links between two or more of these sections that would be assessed.

  1. Identification of problems of data collection methods.
  2. Identification of limitations of data collected.
  3. Suggestions for other data that might be useful.
  4. Extent to which conclusions were reliable.

All of the above must be considered from the point of view of the teachers and the students.

1. Identification of problems of data collection methods.

Teachers

This strand requires that students understand that the methods used to collect fieldwork data are unlikely to be perfect.  Reflective appraisal of the methods used must be undertaken rather than hypothetical appraisal where issues that could arise are discussed. This appraisal can be carried out in the field whilst the data are collected or it can take place back in the classroom. The sorts of problems that might be considered include:

  • Sampling method used – did this affect the nature of the sample selected?
  • Sample sizes – were these large enough for the student to be able to have confidence in the results obtained?
  • Timings – did the time of day or duration of data collection (eg pedestrian count) have an impact on the results collected?
  • Method structures – did the questions on the questionnaires work? Were the criteria on the Environmental Quality Survey (EQS) appropriate?
  • Impacts of day, month, timings, weather conditions – did any of these impact on the results collected in any way?
  • Issues on the day, eg river flow, tides/waves – did anything occur on the day that could compromise the data collection methods?
  • Issues associated with equipment – did all equipment function properly and/or was the equipment used correctly?
Students

Exam questions cannot be set that specifically require students to write only about the problems of their data collection methods. Instead the questions would link problems of data collection to another section of Strand 6, such as the impact on the reliability of the conclusions. Therefore it is important that students can see that methodological issues impact on the rest of their enquiry in a variety of ways.

2. Identification of limitations of data collected.

Teachers

As a progression from the first component within this strand, students need to be made aware that the data collected for their enquiries will have limitations. These limitations can be linked to the seven bullet points noted above. Limitations can be related to accuracy and to scale.  Data collection methods may not have been carried out sufficiently carefully that the data can be viewed as being accurate, eg measurements of river depth may be compromised by the current causing flexing of the ruler. Asking only ten people to respond to a questionnaire in a CBD will provide a limited set of responses.

Students

As with section 1 above, students cannot be asked exam questions were they are required to simply state the limitations of the data they have collected.  Rather they must be able to link these limitations to impacts on the reliability of their conclusions.

3. Suggestions for other data that might be useful.

Teachers

The enquiries completed for this specification are shorter than for previous GCSE courses. As a result students will have identified a limited range of data that would be required to address their key questions or hypotheses and, therefore, they will have also used a very small number of data collection methods for each task. This means that, inevitably, there are additional data sets and associated data collection methods that could have contributed to the enquiries that were discarded from the process at an early stage. When reflecting on their enquiries students must be encouraged to consider other data that could have been collected to make the outcomes of their enquiries more secure.

Students

As with sections 1 and 2 above, students cannot be asked exam questions where they are only required to state the additional data they could have collected as part of their enquiries. Rather they must be able to link this additional data to the impacts it might have had on the reliability of their conclusions.

4. Extent to which conclusions were reliable.

Teachers

At the end of their enquiries students would have reached a conclusion or conclusions about their original key questions or hypotheses. Any errors occurring within any stage of the enquiry process could affect the reliability of the conclusions reached. If there were any measurement or sampling errors whilst collecting data then the accuracy of the results obtained would be compromised and the accuracy of these results could not be guaranteed. Interpretations of inaccurate results could lead to conclusions being reached that lacked reliability. Students need to take all aspects of the enquiry process into account when deciding whether the reliability of their conclusions is low or weak, or if the reliability of their conclusions is high or strong.

Students

As with sections 1, 2 and 3 above, students cannot be asked exam questions were they are required to comment just on the reliability of their conclusions. Rather they must be able to link other aspects of the enquiry process to the reliability of their conclusions. For example, a question might ask students to comment on the extent to which the results of one of their enquiries were helpful in terms of reaching reliable conclusions. The link between results and conclusions is being examined, but the question is going further than that as students must evaluate their results and identify how issues with these results might have compromised the reliability of their conclusions plus some form of judgement relating to the ‘extent’ that the conclusions may have been affected must be offered.

Specifications that use this resource: