Monday, 15 September 2014

Practical work in A-level

I haven't quite taught two full weeks of classes yet, due to INSET and start of year timetable giving out mornings etc. However, I am already thinking ahead to next September and what I will do differently at A-level.

My first year 12 lesson involved using a micrometer and measuring small stuff. We wrote down our measurements on scrap paper as, while using a micrometer is an interesting step forward, the measurements are not needed for future reference. What if I need those measurements next year, how will I get students to record them?

In today's lesson we looked at density (using Archimedes buckets to measure volume - badly) and the impact of upthrust on the value on a Newton meter. We calibrated the Newton meters first. Again, I wrote the measurements on the board and we compared the different values. Realising the volume was the factor affecting up thrust.

In year 13's lesson last Tuesday we spent an hour experimenting using the air track writing the minimum down to calculate change in momentum and seeing how far our conservation of momentum calculations were out. The girls levelled the track, learned to use the timers, set up the light gates and evaluated the issues with the track. Next time year we will need to record it as evidence.

Although I am using practical work to illustrated scientific concepts and help the students see how they are arrived at, the work they write does not illustrate this.

I am going to have to change my approach in September 2015. My first step will be selecting a revision guide I can trust. I won't be writing notes for exam work. I will incorporate reference to revision guides into my lessons, these will be the notes. I will buy transparent post-it notes or some such to help the students annotate their work.

I would like to have a practical write ups in a note book and any practice questions in a file. But what will the practical write ups look like? I have never taught it at a-level, and I don't believe I was taught it myself.

I know everyone else is in the same position. But today's lesson made me reflect. I need to carefully think about how my approach to practical works needs to adapt and change this year to ensure my students get the 'pass' mark they need in a-level physics experimentation.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Tetbury,United Kingdom


  1. Teach the students to use a lab (log) book to record their measurements, thoughts, improvements etc and include photos if it helps.No need to evidence everything. The evidence is your record of whether they have achieved the competence - at least I hope that will be the pattern.

  2. I was talking to our technician today about it, and ended up wondering if more of an electronic record would be possible. That might be easier.