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What do schools think about the AQA Extended Project Qualification?

"This is the Extended Project Qualification level 3 textbook that we have been waiting for! Compiled by Christine Andrews, AQA’s Principle Moderator and leader of CPD for EPQ, there isn’t a lot that she doesn’t know or hasn’t experienced with regard to all matters EPQ. Those of us who have attended her CPD events will recognise the clear, articulate, experienced tone of her voice that runs throughout this book; it is very much hers. It is a pity then that the publisher has not made more of her expertise; if you did not know in advance then you would not know just by looking at the book. A missed opportunity I feel.

The textbook is ‘AQA approved’ (with the usual disclaimers), fitting neatly at every stage of the AQA production log book. It is clearly written with the EPQ student in mind, something that Scott (one of my current lower sixth form EPQ students who ‘tested’ this out for me) also noted. As such, the book would suit both large and small student cohorts, individual or group projects  and a range of potential ability levels.  If, as a Centre Coordinator or Supervisor, you are new to EPQ then it would enable you to support your students and encourage them to ‘self-manage’. The required 30 hours of taught element are covered and so provide an outline for a scheme of work that centres could adopt. The tone throughout is engaging. It stress the driving factors of ‘curiosity’, ‘interest’ and ‘enthusiasm’ for the research process and the EPQ journey and avoids the trap of ‘passion’.

Don’t be put off by the rather bland, grey cover with the ubiquitous ‘light bulb’ thinking image. This belies a wealth of useful information contained inside its covers! Colour coded chapter headings take the reader through the entire EPQ research journey, from developing an idea for a project, realising it through the written report/artefact, presenting, reviewing the research journey and submitting to the exam board. The ‘activities boxes’ and ‘checklists’ are helpful. From the perspective of a Supervisor I found the action plan exceptionally helpful for students (oh if only every student made an action plan!) as well as the source evaluation. Time pressed Supervisors could direct their students to use these. Other sections could easily be adapted by centres into worksheets, for example the self-reflection on skills and the section on evaluating their presentations. Scott, my EPQ student, is in the process of preparing to give his presentation  and commented that he ‘really found useful the tip boxes on each page for reassuring comments, especially for the presentation.’ I agree: the book is packed with lots of practical tips that will serve students well throughout their EPQ research journey as well as in their future career pathways be that higher education or employment (using folders, backing up material, how to effectively make notes using the Cornell note taking system – an oft overlooked skill that students are presumed to know how to do).

The handy learning objectives at the start of each chapter and the checklists at the end of each chapter enable a high degree of independence on the part of the student, the whole point of the EPQ! For me, the section on sources was especially good. It was great to see suggestions to open access databases that would allow any centre, regardless of budget, to provide their students with access to digital databases.

Both student Scott and I independent commented on the opening chapter that covers ‘common questions’ students may have of the EPQ before embarking on the EPQ. As Scott commented with the benefit of hindsight, this section would be especially helpful in supporting students to identify possible topic areas, ‘especially if they are feeling overwhelmed by the initial process.’

Part of the book’s appeal is that Andrews is able to draw on her wealth of EPQ experience to give a plethora of examples that cover every possible topic choice imaginable. Immunological challenges associated with skin grafts; Spitfires in the Battle of Britain; the health of teeth in dogs, impact of music on cognitive short term memory function; environmental benefits of a vegan diet. Welcomingly, the same is true for the artefact route, an oft over-looked area in other EPQ textbooks: designing a series of lesson for year 6 pupils on British Sign Language; a recipe book of local recipes from a pupil’s home country; a wedding dress designed and created for a cousin’s wedding on a fixed budget.

The appendices are the one part of the textbook that I felt could have been better formulated. The content is good, but surely ‘ethics of research’ is too important a topic to be hidden away in the appendix? The same goes for the assessment objectives that I would have liked to have seen better foregrounded and added in to the section on ‘how will my EPQ be judged?’. But these are minor quibbles…

On page 60 there is an activity that I have applied to this textbook. It asks, ‘Would you trust this book as an authority with regards to EPQ? Is it a trustworthy source of information on the EPQ’? In answer, undoubtedly ‘Yes’. For me, it is the best student textbook on the EPQ written by the best placed person. Can’t wait to begin using it with the incoming lower 6th cohort!"


AQA Extended Project Qualification >