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A level independent fieldwork investigation

“The new geography A level specifications raise exciting challenges for students, one of which is the introduction of the Independent Investigation. Its place in the A level course prepares you more thoroughly for research-based learning at university level, as well as providing opportunities to develop key investigative skills for the workplace.”

Royal Geographical Society

Topics on this page:

• Key reading
• Teaching Geography articles
• Geo resources
• Presentations at the GA conferences
• Geography matters for post-16 from the GA
• Field Studies Council
• Guidance from the Awarding Bodies

The non-examined assessment (NEA) was a new introduction into the A level geography examination in the 2016 revision. This page sets out sources of advice and guidance about the NEA. There is plenty of advice from teachers for teachers on how to support students in approaching the NEA.

The independent investigation report should be around 3-4000 words and include both primary data through fieldwork and secondary research data. The focus can be on any aspect of geography and includes:

  • A question or issue defined and developed by the student
  • Data collected individually or in groups
  • Student’s own research and/or secondary data
  • Student’s independently contextualised conclusions drawn from their analysis.

Key reading

  • Biddulph, M., Lambert, D. and Balderstone, D. (2021) Learning to Teach Geography in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience, 4th edition. London: Routledge, pp 211-4.
  • Oakes, S.(Ed) (2018) Fieldwork at A level: your guide to the independent investigation Sheffield: The Geographical Association.

Teaching Geography articles

  • Brand, S. (2020) ‘Capturing a ‘sense of place’ through fieldwork’, Teaching Geography, Spring. (A level; NEA; techniques; place; video ethnography)
  • Briscoe, G. (2023) ‘Teaching year 12 students how to code interviews’, Teaching Geography, Summer.
  • Bustin, R. (2019) ‘Investigating lived space: ideas for fieldwork’, Teaching Geography, Spring. (A level; urban; qualitative; ideas not case study; notion of 1st, 2nd, 3rd space)
  • Bye, C., Hirst, S. and Thorpe, C. (2017) ‘Creating local opportunities for independent investigations’, Teaching Geography, Autumn. (A level; coasts; study of community; qualitative and quantitative; revisiting earlier data; wide range of local data sources)
  • Gant, R. and Talbt, P. (2000) ‘Wall posters from fieldwork’, Teaching Geography, April. (A level; land-use on urban fringe; wall poster outcomes, field sketch example)
  • Gibson, G and Bye, C. (2019) ‘The non-examined assessment: a student’s perspective’, Teaching Geography, Spring. (A level; NEA; coasts; qualitative and quantitative; student case study; long time scale evaluated)
  • Kitchen, B. (2017) ‘Developing an A level independent investigation toolkit’, Teaching Geography, Autumn. (A level; NEA; question generator; card sorts to decide techniques)
  • Maddison, J. and Landy, R. (2018) ‘Casting aside our hammers: Creative fieldwork approaches and methods’, Teaching Geography, Autumn. (A level; NEA; techniques; creative; mood mapping)
  • Palot, I. (2017) ‘Bloodied but unbowed: reviewing the independent investigation’, Teaching Geography, Autumn.
  • Robinson, C. and Lyon, R. (2017) ‘Fieldwork considerations in a sensitive landscape’, Teaching Geography, Autumn. (A level; SSSI; quadrats; peat bog measurements)
  • Waddington, H. and Foster, C. (2017) ‘Curiosity calling us outside’, Teaching Geography, Autumn. (A level; encouraging curiosity; re-photographing; drone and Skitch to annotate)

Geography Matters for post-16 from the GA

Field Studies Council

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