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Guide to teaching Edexcel Period Study: Super Power Relations and the Cold War 1941-91

Cold WarLots of thinking has gone into planning and resourcing the Edexcel Period Study: Super Power Relations and the Cold War 1941-91.

The rationale behind this comes straight from successful classroom practice.

The entire course has been structured around 10 core principles designed to support learning.

The Cold War course with fully resourced lesson enquiries has been created to increase engagement and motivation.

Download the SOW at the bottom of this page. It has been structured to make long, medium and short term planning easier.

Each enquiry provides access and challenge to all students across the ability range. The lessons encourage your classes to see the unfolding narrative of different events. They also encourage your students to think historically by building on best practice in the teaching of a number of the second order concepts.  The focus is particularly on consequence, significance and analytical narrative.

The SOW also makes assessment workable and useful too.

Engagement and Motivation

When curiosity and fascination is caught, learning accelerates.

All students need to be engaged if they are to sustain the effort needed to embrace complex concepts and recall important detailed knowledge.

All of the enquiries here are built around the principles for success in the history classroom. The intention is to make history meaningful by focusing enquiries around personal stories, particular places or puzzles and problems to be solved.  Early in the course the focus is on music:


This Edexcel Period Study Cold War course has been planned to ensure that all of the content from the specification is covered.

Lots of thinking has gone into each of the enquiry questions that have been used to plan the course. They are vital to shape the learning journey go in the direction it goes in.

This Period Study follows the assessment focus given by Edexcel for this particular unit. The specification states:

 Students will be assessed on their knowledge and understanding. Questions will target: consequence; significance (of specified events in relation to situations and unfolding developments); and analytical narrative (requiring students not only to describe what happened, but also to analyse events to find connections that explain the way in which events unfolded).

Once the engaging start has hooked students in, the carefully planned sequence of steps are used to gather the evidence needed to answer the big question.

Nearly every enquiry concludes with a worthwhile and significant outcome. This end product pulls the learning together and allows students to join up their thinking.

This scheme models the types of exam questions that are assessed in the Period Study. They are scattered carefully throughout this course. They have been used pragmatically to avoid  ‘death by exam question.’

There is good of coverage given to the ‘narrative account’ style question, which in many ways is counter-intuitive to the history teacher who takes an enquiry based approach. For more advice on this read this article.

The end products are purposely varied and designed to make history meaningful.


It is clear that the 9-1 GCSE courses are more challenging than ever. More content needs to be recalled and the exam questions appear to be harder than before. There is an awful lot of content to cover in this unit that in all reality should only take 12 weeks to teach.

What with E:BACC and the Progress 8 measures, more students than ever are being asked to study history. This has to be a good thing. However, if a GCSE course is too difficult this could have a negative impact on motivation and behaviour for some individuals.

The new GCSE enquiry led Cold War Period Study has been planned with this in mind.  Images, sorting activities, mysteries and Venn diagrams are used to ensure that work is accessible and challenging to all.

Modelling is key to success. The intention is to ensure that the students know the secrets of success and can see what this looks like.

Having carefully thought out end tasks that use the information from the previous steps to ‘join up’ thinking is key to ensure that learning is fun yet rigorous.


Feedback from plenty of teachers tells us that the narrative account questions are the types of questions they fear the most. To help support you here we have taken a progressive approach to teaching these question types across the entire course. They appear in these different enquiries:


Schools are obsessed with generating data to track progress. Fact. Whether it makes any difference to pupil progress is arguable.

Teachers are asked to predict grades and comment on progress.  In reality this is difficult because in a terminal exam students are required to answer lots of different style questions. The final grade they are given takes into account how they have performed across the entire course.

Teachers need to be able to drill down and see how students perform on individual exam questions. This SOW allows you to do this. We build to answering examination questions and model how students should approach them.

Sometimes you should allow your students to answer a question cold – give them no support but just see how they can do. This will generate some important data for you. If not you are simply creating memory scaffolding for your students and tricking them into thinking they possess the knowledge they need for success.

The stepped approach to our enquiries will allow you to check learning. Mini plenaries are built in for this reason.

It is also recommended that you should only really mark the end products in detail providing targets for improvement and high lighting where the student did well. Do not spend hours marking the work in the build up to the final task.

It is important for departments to agree which of the end products used across the course they will mark diagnostically. Subject leaders need to generate the reliable data which can be used to track progress across the department. If time allows it is recommended student work is moderated and discussed in a departmental meeting.

It is suggested that the detailed marking of one to two end products happens every six weeks.

Build in opportunities for peer and self-marking for some of the other written outcomes. Students need to be trained to mark their own work.  This will help keep workload manageable.

The end products / assessment opportunities allow your students to show you how well they are doing. How well have they grasped the key concepts? How accurate is their deployment of the substantive knowledge they use to support their arguments?

This kind of information informs the teacher and enriches discussions around which students may need more support with explanatory writing? Which topics may need to covered again? Whether or not the sequence of lessons leading up to the end product motivated the students and armed them with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle the final task.

These are things that make assessment useful.

You can download our SOW here:

Free Download


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