Saturday, June 8, 2013

outstanding science teaching

Its been a long time since I wrote a blog post, but sometimes it takes a little encouragement and a tricky issue. It has been a round of observations at school looking at the quality of teaching and learning, and whilst I am happy with how mine went, I could not say the same for the whole department. But how did this come about?  I work with very talented and hard working teachers who I have seen being brilliant lots of times but this was not reflected in their observations this week.

We came together on Tuesday afternoon in after school CPD session and looked at the Ofsted subject specific guidance for science. This started a lively debate amongst colleagues, about what makes an outstanding science lesson or even a good one. For me the following bullet point stood out and it was difficult to focus on anything else.

  • Teachers expect pupils to operate as scientists, engaging fully in practical work using science skills, knowledge and understanding to inform their work.
I could not shake this idea out of my head and whilst cycling home I thought about a similar exercise I had done at the National Science Learning Centre led by Ian Richardson (HMI retired). I got home and looked at my notes and had one of those rare moments of I am onto something here. I shared my notes and summary with my colleges and gave them time to digest. Then out of nowhere another gem came tumbling out of twitter. Thanks @alomshaha (who also encouraged me to blog this point).

It felt to me that science lessons had become diluted, how different were they from say geography lessons or English lessons. I spoke to a colleague and he told me I was being ridiculous of course it was a science lesson the content would tell you. But I argued its the framing that makes us different. We had lost our identity as a faculty we were just teaching 'a' subject and ticking all the boxes that make good to outstanding lessons and we were generic. 

Make science our core, have students leave our class having had a unique experience and one that gives them a real learning. This has been divisive idea,  but I am sure that to become an outstanding department we have to be scientists and teach people to be scientists.  So what did Ian Richardson say he would like to see in class:

    • Active learning
    • Expressing views
    • Gathering data
    • Analysing data
    • Displaying data
    • Evaluating evidence
    • Forming hypotheses 
    • Carrying out procedures
    • Research
    • Discussion
    • Presentation
    • Evaluation for improvement
    • Copying notes
    • Unnecessary illustrations
    • Listening only to teacher
    • Rote learning
Now the challenge is to make science visible in the classroom, its what we can hang all our pedgological  skills  on and deliver outstanding lessons togive the young people an education that is not bland but full of wonder.  Now to write a scheme of work!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

8 way solo hybrid part 2

What happens when you let 4 year 10's loose with a 8 way thinking wheel, ideas about solo taxonomy and a apple mac. Slightly frightening...

However the questioning is very good and it has streched their thinking so I would say a partial sucess

Monday, January 9, 2012

8way thinking SOLO taxonomy hybrid part 1

Over the past few months I have been introduced too, and discovered the delights of SOLO taxonomy. I have found it to be a useful tool in planning lessons and assessing student progress. It's helped me focus the feedback and feed forward that I give students and given them a simple structure for self and peer assessment.

As a learner I get very excited by 'new' ideas and have been able to dive deep into the subject through great books like 'SOLO Taxonomy A Guide for Schools' by Pam Hook and Julie Mills and 'Using SOLO as a Framework for Teaching' by Steve Martin.  Not to mention a whole host of interesting papers in educational journals.

Now as a scientist I like to experiment and play with ideas, and during a conversation with a colleague (thanks Ryan) we talked about Ian Gilbert's 8way thinking wheel and SOLO Taxonomy.  Not sure where to go with it, I was nearly finished teaching a topic on adaptation and I wanted a way to really see what the students had learnt and I came to this: Pizza and Chips

The idea was to use SOLO learning verbs to create a series of hierarchical questions that would cover the topic from multiple angles. These questions could then in turn be used by the students to develop revision aids/ test each other.

 I had 5 groups of year 10 students and here is what they came up with:


As you can see a mixed bag, I am really pleased with the questions of the first 3 groups. They have tried to make hierarchical questions and have looked at the topic from different angles.  However, they all found it really challenging and we only got as far as developing questions.  Some students said they prefered to 'copy things of the board' others said that once they got the idea they enjoyed the process.

My own feelings were that it took the students far out of their comfort zone and there was some deep thinking taking place. I am not sure where I am going to go with this but, there will be more to follow this week