3.3 Geography fieldwork investigation

The geography fieldwork investigation is assessed in Component 3.

3.3.1 Fieldwork requirements

All students are required to undertake fieldwork in relation to processes in both physical and human geography. Students must undertake four days of fieldwork during their A-level course. Fieldwork can be completed in a number of ways: locally or further afield, on full days or on part days. Schools and colleges will be required to confirm that all A-level geography students have been given an opportunity to fulfil this requirement.

Schools and colleges are required to provide a fieldwork statement that confirms each student has undertaken four days of geographical fieldwork in relation to processes in both physical and human geography. Schools and colleges must provide the fieldwork statement by 15 May in the year of entry. Any failure to provide this statement in a timely manner will be treated as malpractice or maladministration (under Ofqual's General Condition A8 (Malpractice and maladministration)).

3.3.2 Investigation requirements

Students are required to undertake an independent investigation. This must incorporate a significant element of fieldwork. The fieldwork undertaken as part of the individual investigation may be based on either human or physical aspects of geography, or a combination of both. They may incorporate field data and/or evidence from field investigations collected individually or in groups. What is important is that students work on their own on contextualising, analysing and reporting of their work to produce an independent investigation with an individual title that demonstrates required fieldwork knowledge, skills and understanding.

The independent investigation must:

  • be based on a research question or issue defined and developed by the student individually to address aims, questions and/or hypotheses relating to any part of the specification content
  • involve research of relevant literature sources and an understanding of the theoretical or comparative context for a research question/hypothesis
  • incorporate the observation and recording of field data and/or evidence from field investigations that is of good quality and relevant to the topic under investigation
  • involve justification of the practical approaches adopted in the field including frequency/timing of observation, sampling and data collection approaches
  • draw on the student's own research, including their own field data and/or secondary data, and their experience of field methodologies of the investigation of core human and physical processes
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the techniques appropriate for analysing field data and information and for representing results, and show ability to select suitable quantitative or qualitative approaches and to apply them
  • demonstrate the ability to interrogate and critically examine field data in order to comment on its accuracy and/or the extent to which it is representative, and use the experience to extend geographical understanding
  • require the student to independently contextualise, analyse and summarise findings and data, and to draw conclusions, by applying existing knowledge, theory and concepts to order and understand field observations and identify their relation to the wider context
  • involve the writing up of field results clearly, logically and coherently using a range of presentation methods and extended writing
  • demonstrate the ability to answer a specific geographical question drawing effectively on evidence and theory to make a well-argued case
  • require evaluation and reflection on the investigation including showing an understanding of the ethical dimensions of field research.

3.3.2.1 Independence

Some stages of the investigation must be carried out independently. Other parts of the investigation may be carried out collaboratively, either as a class, group or pair.

Independence is compulsory in the following stages of the investigation:

  • defining and developing a question or issue to address aims, questions and/or hypotheses relating to any aspect of the specification
  • drawing on research, including field data and if relevant, secondary data which must be sourced by the student
  • contextualising, analysing and summarising findings and data
  • presenting data and drawing conclusions.

Collaboration is allowed in the following stages of the investigation:

  • exploring the focus of potential investigations
  • collecting field data and/or evidence from field investigations.

If students collaborate where independence is expected then the teacher must record this additional assistance on the Candidate record form (CRF) and take it into account when marking the work. You must award a mark which reflects the student’s unaided achievement. Failure to do so will be considered as malpractice. If malpractice is suspected, we will investigate. If malpractice is found to have taken place a penalty will be given dependent on the circumstances and severity of the malpractice. For full information, please see Malpractice and the JCQ instructions Suspected Malpractice in Examinations and Assessment.

Students should select a manageable focus for their investigation which enables them to select one or more specific research question(s) or issue(s) with both a theoretical basis and a locational context. Appropriate and feasible methods should be used to collect relevant data. The data collected should permit the use of appropriate cartographical, graphical and statistical skills to enable a full interpretation to be made, which should include reference to the title/aim. The conclusion should include a summary of the results, the relevance of these to the title/aim and an evaluation of the overall investigation, including the contributions and limitations of geography in understanding the topic and opportunities for further research.

Preparation must involve enquiry work outside the classroom, to include data collection in the field and might include, for example, data collected in specialist study venues, work experience settings, internet research and use of library or archive.

Students are expected to submit a written report which is 3,000–4,000 words in length. This includes all text, text boxes and supplementary material such as photographs and data presentation techniques. It does not include appendices. When attaching appendices students should have examples of raw data only, such as data sheets and questionnaires, rather than every questionnaire completed.

Students who offer work that is below the advisory word count may be penalising themselves by not allowing appropriate coverage of the required assessment objectives. Students who exceed the advisory word count may be penalising themselves through a lack of precision and focus.

3.3.2.2 Teacher guidance for students

Teachers should:

  • provide broad parameters for students’ investigation proposals (including themes from the specification, locations, availability of equipment, time constraints)
  • explain what independence means
  • advise on health and safety considerations, the use of equipment and potential ethical concerns
  • discuss with students their initial exploratory planning and tentative investigation titles
  • review each student’s independent investigation proposal. Within this review you should ensure that the proposed investigation can suitably access the specification requirements and you should give general guidance on the methodology and analytical tools that the student plans to use.
  • advise on good practice such as referencing and using a bibliography system.

The above advice does not need to be recorded or taken into account when marking the work.

Teachers must not:

  • provide students with a choice of titles or tasks from which they then choose
  • mark work provisionally and share that mark so that the student may then improve it
  • give specific guidance on how to make improvements to a draft in order to meet the assessment criteria without recording it as additional assistance on the Candidate record form (CRF) and taking it into account when marking the work.

These conditions apply equally to third party fieldwork providers. Failure to adhere to them constitutes malpractice. You must ensure that at all times you remain confident in the authenticity and independence of students’ work.

Assistance that goes beyond general advice includes (but is not limited to):

  • providing templates or model answers for specific titles or students
  • providing specific guidance on how to improve an individual student’s draft to meet the assessment criteria so that the student is no longer engaged in independent learning
  • providing specific guidance on errors and omissions which limits students’ opportunities to show initiative themselves
  • providing primary or secondary data not collected by the student either individually or as part of a group.

Any additional guidance of this nature must be recorded on the Candidate record form (CRF) and taken into account when marking the work. Annotation must be used to explain how marks were applied in the context of the additional assistance given. Failure to do so will be considered as malpractice.

If malpractice is suspected with regard to guidance and feedback to students, we will investigate. If malpractice is found to have taken place a penalty will be given dependent on the circumstances and severity of the malpractice. For full information, please see Malpractice and the JCQ instructions Suspected Malpractice in Examinations and Assessment.

3.3.3 Non-exam assessment mark scheme guidance

Level 4

Detailed, effective, thorough, complete, well-developed.

Overall description of level

  • The research question(s) will be effectively identified and preliminary research will be thoroughly undertaken with well-understood and well-stated contexts.
  • The methods of field investigation will be detailed and thorough with reasoned justification.
  • The methods of critical analysis will be effective, developed and complete.
  • The conclusions and evaluation will be thorough, effective and complete and the presentation will be logical and coherent.

Level 3

Clear, secure, explicit, focused, precise, consistent.

Overall description of this level

  • The research question(s) will be securely identified and preliminary research will be focused with consistently understood and stated contexts.
  • The methods of field investigation will be clear and relevant with explicit justification.
  • The methods of critical analysis will be clear, precise and consistent.
  • The conclusions and evaluation will be clear, secure and focused and the presentation will be clear and precise.

Level 2

Intermittent, partial, some, implicit, imprecise, inconsistent.

Overall description of this level

  • The research question(s) will be partial and preliminary research will be imprecise with inconsistently understood and stated contexts.
  • The methods of field investigation will be intermittently applied with only some aspects justified.
  • The methods of critical analysis will be imprecise, partial and inconsistent.
  • The conclusions and evaluation will be partial and inconsistent and the presentation will be incomplete.

Level 1

Basic, limited, tentative, generalised, isolated.

Overall description of level

  • The research question(s) will be generalised and preliminary research will be limited with only isolated contexts.
  • The methods of field investigation will be basic and limited in scope with tentative justification.
  • The methods of critical analysis will be basic, limited and tentative.
  • The conclusions and evaluation will be limited and generalised and the presentation will be basic.

3.3.4 Non-exam assessment mark scheme

3.3.4.1 Area 1: Introduction and preliminary research

AO3 (strand 1): 10 marks

Assessment criteria

Level 4

10–9 marks

Level 3

8–6 marks

Level 2

5–3 marks

Level 1

2–1 marks

No marks

0

To define the research questions which underpin field investigations. (AO3) A research question(s) is effectively identified and is completely referenced to the specification. A research question(s) is securely identified that is explicitly linked to the specification. A research question(s) which is partial. Links to the specification are imprecise. A research question(s) is generalised. Links to the specification are tentative. Does not meet criteria.
To research relevant literature sources and understand and write up the theoretical or comparative context for a research question. (AO3)

Well-supported by thorough use of relevant literature sources.

Theoretical and comparative contexts are well-understood and well-stated.

Supported by focused use of relevant literature sources.

Theoretical and comparative contexts are consistently understood and stated.

Supported by some use of relevant literature sources.

Theoretical and comparative contexts are inconsistently stated.

Limited or basic use of relevant literature sources.

Theoretical and comparative contexts are isolated.

Does not meet criteria.

3.3.4.2 Area 2: Methods of field investigation

AO3 (strand 2): 15 marks

Assessment criteria

Level 4

15–12 marks

Level 3

11–8 marks

Level 2

7–4 marks

Level 1

3–1 marks

No marks

0

To observe and record phenomena in the field and devise and justify practical approaches taken in the field including frequency/timing of observation, sampling, and data collection approaches (AO3).

Detailed use of a range of appropriate observational, recording and other data collection approaches including sampling.

Thorough and well-reasoned justification of data collection approaches.

Clear use of appropriate observational, recording and other data collection approaches including sampling.

Explicit justification of data collection approaches.

Intermittent use of appropriate observational, recording and other data collection approaches including sampling.

Some justification of data collection approaches.

Basic use of appropriate observational, recording and other data collection approaches including sampling.

Justification of data collection approaches is tentative.

Does not meet criteria.
To demonstrate practical knowledge and understanding of field methodologies appropriate to the investigation of human and physical processes (AO3). Detailed demonstration of practical knowledge and understanding of field methodologies appropriate to the investigation of human and physical processes. Clear demonstration of practical knowledge and understanding of field methodologies appropriate to the investigation of human and physical processes. Intermittent demonstration of practical knowledge and understanding of field methodologies appropriate to the investigation of human and physical processes. Limited demonstration of practical knowledge and understanding of field methodologies appropriate to the investigation of human and physical processes. Does not meet criteria.
To implement chosen methodologies to collect data/information of good quality and relevant to the topic under investigation (AO3). Detailed implementation of chosen methodologies to collect data/information of good quality and relevant to the topic under investigation. Clear implementation of chosen methodologies to collect data/information of good quality and relevant to the topic under investigation. Partial implementation of chosen methodologies to collect data/information of good quality and relevant to the topic under investigation. Limited implementation of chosen methodologies to collect data/information of good quality and relevant to the topic under investigation. Does not meet criteria.

3.3.4.3 Area 3: Methods of critical analysis

20 marks – AO2: 6 marks; AO3 (strand 2): 14 marks

Assessment criteria

Level 4

20–15 marks

(AO2 – 6; AO3 - 14)

Level 3

14–10 marks

(AO2 – 4; AO3 – 10)

Level 2

9–5 marks

(AO2 – 2; AO3 – 7)

Level 1

4–1 marks

(AO2 – 1; AO3 – 3)

No marks

0

To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the techniques appropriate for analysing field data and information and for representing results, and show ability to select suitable quantitative or qualitative approaches and to apply them (AO3).

Effective demonstration of knowledge and understanding of the techniques appropriate for analysing field data and information and for representing results.

Thorough ability to select suitable quantitative or qualitative approaches and to apply them.

Precise demonstration of knowledge and understanding of the techniques appropriate for analysing field data and information and for representing results.

Clear ability to select suitable quantitative or qualitative approaches and to apply them.

Imprecise demonstration of knowledge and understanding of the techniques appropriate for analysing field data and information and for representing results.

Some ability to select suitable quantitative or qualitative approaches and to apply them.

Limited demonstration of knowledge and understanding of the techniques appropriate for analysing field data and information and for representing results.

Basic ability to select suitable quantitative or qualitative approaches and to apply them.

Does not meet criteria.
To demonstrate the ability to interrogate and critically examine field data in order to comment on its accuracy and/or the extent to which it is representative, and use the experience to extend geographical understanding (AO3).

Thorough ability to interrogate and critically examine field data in order to comment on its accuracy and/or the extent to which it is representative.

Complete use of the experience to extend geographical understanding.

Clear ability to interrogate and critically examine field data in order to comment on its accuracy and/or the extent to which it is representative.

Secure use of the experience to extend geographical understanding.

Partial ability to interrogate and critically examine field data in order to comment on its accuracy and/or the extent to which it is representative.

Inconsistent use of the experience to extend geographical understanding.

Limited ability to interrogate and critically examine field data in order to comment on its accuracy and/or the extent to which it is representative.

Tentative use of the experience to extend geographical understanding.

Does not meet criteria
To apply existing knowledge, theory and concepts to order and understand field observations (AO2). Effective application of existing knowledge, theory and concepts to order and understand field observations. Focused application of existing knowledge, theory and concepts to order and understand field observations. Implicit application of existing knowledge, theory and concepts to order and understand field observations. Tentative application of existing knowledge, theory and concepts to order and understand field observations. Does not meet criteria.

3.3.4.4 Area 4: Conclusions, evaluation and presentation

15 marks – AO3 (strand 2): 5 marks; AO3 (strand 3): 10 marks

Assessment criteria

Level 4

15–12 marks

Level 3

11–8 marks

Level 2

7–4 marks

Level 1

3–1 marks

No marks

To show the ability to write up field results clearly and logically, using a range of presentation methods (AO3 strand 3).

Thorough ability to write up field results clearly and logically, using a range of presentation methods. Clear ability to write up field results clearly and logically, using a range of presentation methods. Some ability to write up field results clearly and logically, using a range of presentation methods, but with some inconsistency. Basic ability to write up field results clearly and logically, using a range of presentation methods. Does not meet criteria.

To evaluate and reflect on fieldwork investigations, explain how the results relate to the wider context and show an understanding of the ethical dimensions of field research (AO3 strand 2).

Effective evaluation and reflection on the fieldwork investigation.

Complete explanation of how the results relate to the wider context(s).

Thorough understanding of the ethical dimensions of field research.

Secure evaluation and reflection on the fieldwork investigation.

Precise explanation of how the results relate to the wider context(s).

Clear understanding of the ethical dimensions of field research.

Partial evaluation and reflection on the fieldwork investigation.

Imprecise explanation of how the results relate to the wider context(s).

Some understanding of the ethical dimensions of field research.

Tentative evaluation and reflection on the fieldwork investigation.

Generalised explanation of how the results relate to the wider context(s).

Limited understanding of the ethical dimensions of field research.

Does not meet criteria.

To demonstrate the ability to write a coherent analysis of fieldwork findings in order to answer a specific geographical question and to do this drawing effectively on evidence and theory to make a well-argued case (AO3 strand 3).

Thorough ability to write a coherent analysis of fieldwork findings in order to answer a specific geographical question.

Draws effectively on evidence and theory to make a well-argued case.

Focused ability to write a coherent analysis of fieldwork findings in order to answer a specific geographical question.

Draws explicitly on evidence and theory to make an argued case.

Partial ability to write a structured analysis of fieldwork findings in order to answer a specific geographical question.

Draws inconsistently on evidence and theory to make a reasoned case.

Basic ability to write an analysis of fieldwork findings in order to answer a specific geographical question.

Draws tentatively on evidence and theory to make an isolated case.

Does not meet criteria.