Saturday, 12 January 2013

ASE conference and the Purpose of Science Education

This is my first blog post about the ASE conference. It is almost a week since I came back and whilst the euphoria I felt during the 3 1/2 days is gone the resolution to be a better teacher and head of department remains.

The first lecture I attended was at 9.30am on Thursday morning. It was by Professor Michael Reiss and felt like a whistle stop tour of all the ideas and policies related to science education and some related to education in general.

The context of his talk was the revision of national curriculum and who will be the awarding body. OCR sponsored the talk: it wasn't biased towards them, but I can imagine that awarding bodies are getting as much advice from people like Michael Reiss as possible to ensure their survival!

He started on a very popular topic for a lot of people in education: Hattie's meta studies of educational research. The list of the most influential 10 factors in order are in the image below.

Professor Reiss pointed out that most of these factors are under the control of the teacher, not the curriculum. I found this point very interesting, I have taught some terrible schemes of work, that I firmly believe hampered my students' learning, so it takes a leap to believe that curriculum doesn't factor directly in the top 10.

Michael Riess then went on to describe work by Tim Oates on factors that control what students learn. I didn't get the opportunity to take a photo or write everything down, but a selection is below:

1. Curriculum content, (awarding body and the text book)
2. Assessment
3. Inspections
4. Institutional forms and structure
5. Funding

Curriculum is one of a vary large number of things that affect what is taught. This related well to a blog post I wrote about the intended, taught and learned curricula - all of which are different!

Professor Reiss then went on to discuss what it meant to be "True to Science".
He said science was: reaching science conclusions, gathering imperical data, creating and using models, testing. And went on to comment that science is different to other subjects in the way that it concerns all three of mathematical, ethical and aesthetic knowledge.

He also said that as educators we are not good at getting across at school that the way of working in science is also applicable elsewhere, eg geography, history, archaeology.

Teaching science in school is very important because The school lab can simplify the model of science, as it is complex. Youngsters cannot learn science by simply experiencing it. In schools science we are trying to get students to understand different levels: context, macro, invisible and model

A point I found interesting was that the top performing countries in the PISA rankings tend to have more direct assessment of the practical work than UK. As we move even further away from assessing practical skills this is a very interesting point to note.

Michael Reiss then went on to talk about outsider art and what he called outsider science. I wasn't sure why. But I have since been told that he believes that the people with "outsider" opinions shouldn't be dismissed, but respected if not agreed with.
Outsider art: art produced by people who are not trained artists.
Outsider science: creationism, climate denial, alien abduction, 400,000 people believe they have been abducted by aliens, astrology, conspiracy theories.

As Professor Reiss started to wind up his lecture he moved from the topic of science education to what education is about in a wider sense. I found interesting his comment that "overall aim of education should be the flourishing of students. At the moment the curriculum starts with the subjects".

(I know of schools who have tried to develop skills based curricula, but not that have really had a massive impact outside their school and some, I might even say most, that have been scrapped.)

Professor Reiss then described the skills that people call for in school leavers:
1. Cognitive skills
2. Interpersonal skills e,g, communicate to another, articulate thoughts in variety if ways
3. Intrapersonal skills e.g. Adaptability and self management

Relating this general overview to science education he outlined some factors that are "True to science education":
1. Formal and informal learning
2. Lifelong learning
3. Both academic and vocational science
4. There is more permeability between what we do in the science laboratory and what you can experience outside of the school e.g. You tube

Michael Reiss also talked about double award vs triple award. He posed the interesting question: are students put into a two teir system if they do double? Particularly if you consider that students who do triple archive half a grade more at a-level than those who do double award science.

Finally he talked about what influences students to study science and maths at university. He talked about a study that interviewed about 60 students all of whom had the a-levels to do physical sciences or maths as a degree, half chose to do so and half who didn't.

The conclusions are in the photo below.

And a story indicating this is shown in this photo.

I am very pleased I attended this lecture as it gave me a lot to think about. Lectures like this are an important part of the ASE conference, when else would a regular science teacher be able to hear the thoughts and ideas of a Professor of Science Education from the IoE? Thank you to ASE and OCR, as well as Michael Reiss. (Factiod: he was staying at the same hotel as me!)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Rudgleigh Ave,,United Kingdom

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