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FOSIL - Pupils' perspective

Ahead of tomorrow’s Tes Awards evening, where FOSIL and the FOSIL Group have been shortlisted for the ‘Strategic Education Award Initiative’, we’ve taken the opportunity to ask some of our pupils what they think of FOSIL and how it has helped to shape their learning.

Current Form 5 pupil, Zsolti, has used FOSIL both in class and during Oakham’s activity programme where he took part in Teen Tech. He was a member of the winning team for the Research & Information Literacy Award for their BrainWave project (an ‘edutainment’ virtual reality, with biofeedback-adaptive features).  Here he gives his thoughts on FOSIL:

  •         “The FOSIL Cycle gives you a very effective way in which to conduct your research because it gives you all of the key stages of conducting and expressing research and shows you how to do each one. However, the main benefit (in my eyes) of using the FOSIL Cycle is that it encourages flexibility throughout the Cycle, rather than saying that 'once you've done your investigating, you cannot go back to wondering or asking new questions!' Gloriously represented by a double arrow, it shows you that you can go backwards and forwards throughout the Cycle and that just because you have already reflected, it does not mean that your research is over.”
  •     “I, sometimes unknowingly, apply most of FOSIL to everyday research preps, whether that be basing my questions on what I already know, or curiously navigating to the About section on a website so that I can find who the author is. A large impact that it has had is that now I cite every source I use on any prep given to me (which I sometimes find gives me higher marks!). FOSIL helps me in that I no longer use dodgy websites that are heavily biased, inaccurate, or both, rather looking to either sources I already trust, like Britannica, or websites written by professionals when sourcing my information.”

As described in yesterday’s blog, Politics teacher, Joe Sanders, has used FOSIL during his lessons to develop pupils’ essay writing (more details on the FOSIL Group forum). Here, some of his Form 7 A-level pupils, in their final year at Oakham, give their feedback to the use of FOSIL during their Politics lessons.

  •      “I have found the essay wraps for Politics to be intrinsically useful to my learning. Whilst they do take a long time to complete, the colourful and regimented structure has allowed me to understand how to conform to each of the assessment objectives in the Edexcel mark scheme, thus allowing for my answers to become more fluent and sophisticated. It has allowed me to have a structure which has allowed me to develop a controlled argument and thoughts. The analysis that it also encourages has helped me across my subjects, developing my arguments.” Sam.
  •  “I have found the essay wrap sheets really useful in helping me realise how to structure an essay and where each AO is used within the essay. The sheet also highlights how important evaluation and links back to the question are, as the boxes are equal in size to evidence and analysis.”  Lucy.
  • “The wraps have helped me understand the structure for essays. Now, I don’t need to think about the structure as it’s engraved in my head.” Ellie-Mae.
  • “Despite the A3 sheet being a pain to fill out, they are actually very useful, I find it very useful for structuring learning and my structure during essays especially. It allows me to plan out my essay with ease and when done properly is an efficient way to plan and revise for essays and debating points.” Archie

FOSIL has its roots in the IB Diploma, developed in part to support pupils at Oakham through the process of writing their Extended Essay.  Here one IB Diploma pupil, Sophie, who is currently in Form 7 at Oakham, gives her thoughts on FOSIL:

  • “The FOSIL framework has been particularly helpful in approaching large projects like the IB Extended Essay. As an academic piece of writing with such high standards for quality of research and breadth of sources, it was initially quite an intimidating prospect. However, having freedom and space to explore a topic 'at leisure' in the Wonder stage really helped alleviate any pressure or panic; it was OK to have questions and feel a little lost at this stage! The Research Organiser was also immensely helpful in creating a structured argument throughout my essay, prompting me to draw conclusions and form my own opinions with the introduction of each new claim or piece of evidence. I consequently found it much easier to write up my First Draft using the Organiser as a plan, since my plan was already analytical in tone.” 

Given that FOSIL has now been taught at Oakham for many years, it is also interesting to garner the opinions and feedback of former pupils, Old Oakhamians, who can reflect on how useful FOSIL was both during their time at Oakham and since leaving.

Harry Smith (16) won an impressive two TeenTech Awards during his time at Oakham for his idea, ‘Gust’, an ergonomically redesigned cordless hairdryer.  He is now winning awards and accolades, with fellow Old Oakhamian Jack Cornes, for their company Hausbots and their innovative wall-painting robot.  Here he outlines his thoughts on FOSIL:

  • “To be able to go into any project imaginable and be able to know how you can obtain, document and make use of all the information you require gives you an edge. It seems that knowledge isn’t power, but knowing how to apply it is, and having a structured approach goes some way to helping towards this.”
  • “FOSIL has become my default approach. As a design engineering student, we were often asked to conduct research and design tasks, and the FOSIL structure matches the standard design cycle perfectly. The research structure we were taught at university was a linear one – which seems to be incompatible with a cyclical design approach that is often plugged as good practice. The evaluation stage of the FOSIL process is also key in design, as all design is iterative and should be constantly improved each time around. By evaluating not only the design, but also the knowledge behind it, further research can be planned and therefore a better “V2” can be produced.”

FOSIL’s founder, Darryl Toerien, concludes “it is wonderful to hear feedback from pupils themselves - those who are currently learning and using FOSIL – as well as those who have now left Oakham, to see how it has impacted them personally.  How it has and continues to help them to be equipped to access, handle and use information.”

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