What will students be studying in Philosophy this year?
The Philosophy A Level course runs over two years, with students studying 50% of the course material in Year 12, and the remaining 50% in Year 13. The department follows the AQA specification which gives learners an invaluable opportunity to gain transferable skills for future careers and courses demanding analysis, evaluation and clarity of expression.
Students study for two papers – paper one in Epistemology and Moral Philosophy, and paper two in the Metaphysics of God. In paper one, students consider the origins of knowledge, the nature of knowledge, and the limits of human knowledge. We also evaluate normative ethical theories such as Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics and Aristotelean Virtue. Students apply their knowledge of ethical theory to contemporary ethical questions such as ‘Can stealing ever be justified?’, ‘Is eating meat acceptable?’ and ‘Is it always right to tell the truth?’. In paper two, students explore the concept and nature of ‘God’, arguments relating to the existence of God, the problem of evil (i.e. can an all-powerful, all-loving God exist when there is evil and suffering in the world?), and questions of religious language, such as whether religious language statements have meaning. The final area of study focuses on the metaphysics of mind, and explores questions such as ‘What do we mean by ‘mind’?’, ‘Are our minds and bodies separate entities?’ and ‘Can we have knowledge of other people’s mental states?’.
Students in Year 12 and Year 13 have nine Philosophy lessons per fortnight and this time is divided equally among their two units of study. The course is aimed at those who are prepared for an open-minded exploration of the big questions, in particular philosophical and moral issues that affect the lives of humans today, as well as deeper philosophical questions about the nature of the universe and of humanity, and the existence or non-existence of God.
Philosophy A Level is for anyone to undertake, but students should be prepared to grapple with complex questions and to approach the course with maturity to often controversial issues. Those who wish to ask the impossible questions about life, the world and the universe, and explore some of the answers offered by the philosophers and scholars are likely to feel at home being challenged by, and challenging others, on this course.
What are the major assessments this year?
In addition to their end of year exam, students will be set exam-style questions in their two units of work. At the end of Year 13 students will sit two external papers: one in Epistemology and Moral Philosophy, and one in The Metaphysics of God. Each paper is three hours long and contains five questions in each section, ranging from three to twenty-five marks.
What do the assessments test?
Assessments target two Assessment Objectives set out in the exam board specification. Students are assessed on their ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the core concepts and methods of Philosophy (AO1), and on their analysis and evaluation of philosophical arguments to form reasoned judgements (AO2).
What are the expectations of my child in Philosophy?
Students will be set homework regularly which they are expected to complete to the best of their ability. Homework tasks will often take the form of exam-style questions which students are required to complete in order to develop their written technique. Alongside this, students are expected to use their independent study periods to carry out wider reading and research, using their accompanying textbooks and other materials.
What should students do if they feel they are struggling in Philosophy?
Students should speak with their Philosophy teacher to explain what aspects of the topic or task they are struggling with so that the appropriate support can be offered. This may take the form of intervention sessions or additional reading material to support student understanding.
How can I best support my child in Philosophy?
The best way for parents to support students in Philosophy is to talk to them about the topics they are studying and what they are learning in class, as well as to encourage them to read widely and keep up-to-date with current affairs. This will help to support students in their application of philosophical and ethical theory. Parents can ask students about how independent study time is being used and, if necessary, help them to plan the use of their time accordingly.
Whom should I contact for further advice or information?
Please feel free to contact your child’s Philosophy teacher by email, or the Head of Religious Studies, Mrs Collins at email@example.com if you have any questions about your child’s progress in the subject.