Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Embedded Formative Assessment

Embedded Formative Assessment is a term used by Dylan Williams. it means monitoring the student's progress during the lesson.

This is something that I want to check happens in the lessons in the science faculty at my school. Questioning and using tasks to promote discussion with students and between students.

But if it isn't happening how do I support staff into bringing this into lessons?

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The Types of Curriculum

I have heard this referred to before, but wanted to document the different aspects to the curriculum:

There is the intended curriculum, which is what officials say should be taught. The implemented curriculum, which is what teachers teach. And the attained curriculum, which is what the students learn.

I don't think that many teachers would deny that there is a difference between what the national curriculum says students should learn and what they actually learn. But how far away from it can we actually stray before it becomes unacceptable?

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Saturday, 19 May 2012

Improving our controlled assessment results

One thing I am certain of is that doing the same thing again (crossing or fingers and sailing very close to the wind) is not going to improve controlled assessment results. I don't like to use this phrase, but we have to train our students to pass them.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily as it does require students to be exposed to a variety of situations that will make them thing, compare and contrast, all thinking skills they would benefit from developing anyway. And it will mean we do more practical work and data work.

How will I train students to do well in their controlled assessment? And how will I ensure that the whole faculty are able to implement what I want?

I believe that the students should be exposed to each section of the controlled assessment mark scheme in chucks, and in a variety of ways. Doing it themselves, looking at other examples, and deciding on their own idea of what is a good piece of work. I think looking at work and being able to make up their own mind about the quality is important as they will have to decide themselves in the "real" controlled assessment.

We need to be very clear in our own minds about the language of measurement and correct the use of these key words in the work and conversations of the students. The conversations of students right from year 7. I just hope that the key terms and their meaning will remain fixed as this constant revision of the meanings causes unnecessary issues.

I do think that the new science GCSE is not easier than the previous ones, and it is much harder than the course I completed in 1996. The controlled assessment is a real step-up from the POAE we used pre-2006. I am starting to think a written exam would be preferable to the hell that is controlled assessment.

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Sunday, 13 May 2012

Conferences - open source?

A colleague was chatting to me about running a Saturday conference, run by teachers for teachers. This would be a natural progression from a teachmeet, giving a whole day instead of a few hours.

Another colleague has set up something similar in York during the summer holidays. She has organised a date using an online meeting scheduler.

Is it possible to plan an "open source" conference?

Is this only possible when a few people are involved so costs are low and faces are known? I would suppose that after a certain number the "delegates" will no longer realise that the conference is about good will and start complaining about the standard of the tea and coffee and the accommodation or a particular speaker.

The teachmeets I have been to have either been very professionally run or they have been small enough that informal was the approach required. Could a group of people turn up and just see what happens for a whole day?

The only thing that worries me is whether we are encouraging the government to believe that teachers can and will work on their own professional development in their own time, so we end up with even less holidays, and those with family commitments are frozen out from CPD.

Having said that I am very excited about our tweet-up in York in August.

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Friday, 11 May 2012


I was recently asked the question as to whether I knew if there had been any research into the impact of displays onto student learning. I don't.

To my mind the impact would be very difficult to measure, as too many other factors would have an effect to be able to collect any valid results. That doesn't mean to say that I don't think the classroom display is important.
There are certain difficulties to achieving good display work. It is very difficult to get a professional feel to the displays in school science laboratories. The time it takes to arrange the displays is often used for marking and preparation. Sometimes it is difficult to get students to create eye-catching and well composed poster or freeze.

In our department we have three display boards. One as you enter, one as you go up the stairs and one at the top. What to do?

Below is the display board as you enter the department:

I have updated it this week and they girls do find it attractive and have looked at it. I will be interested to see how it impacts on their attitude to science.

I owe much of the inspiration to Future Morph, well worth a look if you need information regarding STEM careers.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Intervention with two weeks to go?

I have a copy of "Teach yourself GCSE Science in a Week", can you really do that?

The girls I teach want to do the absolute best they possibly can. How much can I support them to improve in the precious few weeks before the exam?

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In the Zone Resources

In my year 9 fit and healthy lessons I have been using the In the Zone 2012 Resources.

We have been investigating breathing and relationships.

The girls have absolutely loved breathing into the plastic bags and measuring their pulses using the pulse oximeter device. Being able to compare the date we have collected to the data collected nationally has been great, especially when some of the national data looks a bit strange so we have been trying to explain possible anomalies.

The activities have enough in them to make it interesting to carry out, each experiment is simple enough for the students to get some results while there also being enough for the more gifted and talented students to think about.

Do be aware that my students are fantastic, they are already switched on to learning especially about themselves.

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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Magazines for the department

I am really happy to find that my new department is a member of the institute of physics so gets a journal from them and also subscribes to New Scientist and the BBC Focus magazine.

I think that as a teacher it is important to keep abreast of current science advancements. It means that it is possible to make lessons relevant and current and answer students's questions with more confidence.

As head of faculty I get first dibs on the magazines, so I have spent an enjoyable morning reading two copies of new scientist and a copy of Focus magazine.

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Location:Rudgleigh Ave,Easton-in-Gordano,United Kingdom

Chartered Science Teacher Status

I started the blog to help me communicate ideas to people on twitter, which I do occasionally, but also to help me collate evidence of continuing professional development for a charted science teacher application.

Because of the requirements of chartered science teacher status I will probably end up applying for Registered Science Teacher first. It will take two more years to collect the evidence and for me to know the person who will end up being my principle supporter, either the chair person of the West of England ASE committee or my head teacher.

However, reminding myself of this aim helps to focus the mind on what I should be writing about in the blog.

There is a certain level of knowledge a science teacher has to show before being eligible to apply for chartered science teacher status:

PART A Evidence of professional expertise and competence

1. Professional knowledge and understanding which provides the underpinning base for practice and includes:
a) a broad and up to date knowledge and understanding of science and science curricula related to the nature of their teaching;
b) a broad and up to date knowledge and understanding of teaching, learning and assessment specifically related to science education;
c) a knowledge of students and understanding of influences on them including developmental, cultural, gender and other contextual factors that might impact on their learning in science.

I believe that I can demonstrate this is knowledge I have. I have a clear vision for science education in my faculty and I am familiar with a wide range of pedagogical approaches. I have proven all of this recently for my threshold application too.

2. Professional practice which relates specifically to the development of effective teaching and learning strategies, including those which contribute to enhancing the quality of the educational experience of students and to the wider professional context of science education. This includes:
a) planning coherent programmes of teaching and learning in science that are intellectually challenging, emotionally supportive and physically safe;
b) engaging students in generating, constructing and testing scientific knowledge by collecting, analysing and evaluating appropriate evidence while at the same time looking for and implementing ways of extending students’ understanding of major ideas of science;
c) developing students’ confidence and ability to use scientific knowledge and processes to understand the world around them and make informed decisions through using a wide variety of strategies, coherent with learning goals, to monitor and assess students’ learning and provide effective feedback.

Again the statements above are not that dissimilar from the standards all teachers are held to, and I feel confident that I have examples of schemes of work I have planned and produce lesson observations, examples of students' work and personal reflective writings as well as data on test and exam results to back up the statements above. Although collecting evidence that reaches my satisfaction in these statements may take some time.

3. Professional attributes which are the overarching principles that characterise professional autonomy and relate to self-evaluation, collegial activity, personal responsibility and leadership. Specifically these include:
a) analysing, evaluating and refining teaching to improve student learning;
b) working collegially with colleagues and the wider professional communities to improve the quality and effectiveness of science education;
c) contributing to, and taking responsibility for, leadership, management and development of science teaching.

Again, if I think back I can satisfactorily say that I have done off of the things above in the last few years too.

PART B Impact on teaching & learning

The Registration Board is looking for evidence that those applying have engaged with reflection/scholarship/research that translates into an impact on teaching and learning in science. Eg “Because we introduced X, most teachers now do Y and in subjects/topics A and B, standards have risen” Evidence of impact can be qualitative or quantitative. Ask yourself the question “So what?”

I believe that this is my main sticking point. How can I prove that due to the work in part A I have had an impact on the practice of others and this has improved the experience for the students and the results? I feel in the last 8 months my impact has been minimal, however I have a massive opportunity to make an impact in my new school in the next two years.

The application for chartered science teacher should help me focus what I do onto things that will make an impact and are evidence based. I really hope to be a chartered science teacher by the summer of 2014.

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Location:Rudgleigh Ave,,United Kingdom

Friday, 4 May 2012

Teachmeet Clevedon Juicy Learning

Yet again another very successful teachmeet at Clevedon school.

The key note speaker was Jim Roberson, who is a discipline coach. He has a massive personality and I can see that he would be a big influence on disaffected teenagers. He said that "enthusiasm is caught not taught" and that discipline is "not what you do to yourself, but what you do for yourself". He went on to describe his approach as being RAP: R - respect (for yourself and others), A - accountability (for your actions and reactions), P - preparation (education will prepare you for the rest of your life). I really liked his opinion that your state of mind should NOT to be perfect, but to give it a try. He asked the teachers in the room "what is more important, having the right answer or everyone having an answer?" Jim summed up being saying that nothing is unrealistic and kids are not stuck at 14 years old.

During the evening there were two presentations by youngsters about how best they learn. Laura, Sophie and Agnes said they enjoy working independently, and on topics that are current. The boys who spoke also commented that they like lessons that have a context. Although I found some of what they had to say to feel like something SMT would say and not personal to the students I did latch onto the idea of topics being current and relevant, perhaps it is what I wanted to hear.

Noel Jenkins told the room about the fake planning notices that he has been using with his geography groups, getting the to think about how they would feel if a building had a dramatic change of use. He also showed how his groups have been making a landscape in a shoebox and writing about it to help show their understanding. He also praised the mission: explore website.

Alessio showed the audience how he had carried out a project using iBooks author to get a group of students to create a resource for other students to use. iBook author seems to be a powerful tool in encouraging students to share their ideas and practice writing to an audience.

Andy Hutt talked about using PowerPoint more powerfully. He championed using to search for images you can use in presentations. He also gave the room a hand full of useful keyboard short cuts you can use during a presentation, such as being able to skip to the slide you want by typing in the number of the slide and pressing enter, or turning the screen black by pressing "B". He suggested using interactive textboxes if you wanted to leave a note for next lessons. His last suggestion was deceptively simple, but extremely useful: when using a lot of builds put a full stop only on the last one so you know where to stop in case o forgetfulness.

David Didau gave a quick burst through 25 ways to introduce learning objectives, from missing words out the students have to guess or making the keywords in to anagrams. He has given students ciphers to work out and jigsaws to do. Some colleague play hunt the objectives or use pictograms to get the students to work out what the objective is.

Gavin Smart showed us a app, "my study plan" that students can use to help organise a revision timetable. The app looked powerful, with students able to say which dates they would not be revising on and which exams were most important.

Dave Gale showed us a method for producing differentiated worksheets he calls "thoughts and crosses" where the students have to pick three tasks from the sheet from nine available, but they have to form a straight line. This stops students choosing only the easiest or shortest tasks to complete.

The evening ended with Jim Smith giving us ideas on how to deal with students who said "Sir/Miss I'm stuck". He commented that putting your hand up and waiting for help is not normal behaviour, you wouldn't do that if you found there were no tomatoes left in Teso. He suggested saying the following things to promote independence in response to a student saying "I'm stuck": 1. "OK, so do something different", 2. "What would you do if I gave you £1 million to be unstuck?" 3. "Imagine you were someone who is unstuck, what would you do?" 4. "Just do it wrong (then I have something to work with)" 5. "Choose someone else to help because I have clearly failed to teach you", 6. "What did you do the last time you were stuck?" 7. Play Billy Ocean "when the going gets tough" until they become unstuck. 8. Tell the students to come up with an answer and work backwards, 9. "OK, so what are you going to do?"

I really enjoyed teachmeet Clevedon, it is so nice to see as many teachers interested in their own cpd. My thanks to Mark Anderson for arranging it.

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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Five E approach to lesson planning

Tomorrow evening I will be presenting at #tmclevedon, a Teachmeet at Clevedon school in North Somerset to the uninitiated.

I will be talking about using the 5 E model of lesson planning to help encourage a thinking classroom. I think that it has worked for me this year.
My presentation should be embedded below:

I have included an example of a lesson planned around the experiential learning cycle structure of planning lessons.

Personally, I find that the structure encourages me to do the plenary as the "story"/cycle isn't completed without it. The point of the lesson becomes the evaluation the students do and not the explanation that I give them. I hope this helps to build the thinking skills of my students.

Although I don't have the time or imagination to produce schemes to the quality of the segue scheme, I can still develop lessons and series of lessons that engage and motivate my pupils and help them to understand what they need to do to progress.

EDIT: the evening over ran and I didn't present in the end. It was an hour after it was supposed to finish when I was asked to go on. Next time!

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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

New Job!

First day in my new school. I was very nervous yesterday as I planned my lessons, but deep down I have confidence in my ability to teach and to support my classes make progress.

The school is smaller than all the others I have worked in when you consider the number of students, but it is not geographically smaller and I can already see issues with how I will use my time arising because of the time spent moving around the site.

Supervising "prep" is something I have never experienced, although makes sense if students are to a) be able to have a variety of options available to them at GCSE, and b) learn the value of independent, quiet study. From the six students in the room with me this morning I can see youngsters who are organised and hardworking. They aren't making excuses or distracting themselves, but getting on with prep work. The atmosphere is productive and silent and will be of great support to me as I can bring my own work up to mark when I supervise these sessions.

In the evening prep was less easy to supervise, 88 students and it seems most have an excuse not to be in the room. They need the library, the IT suite, to go to music. Once I know the students I imagine that supervising the session will not be as difficult.

The students are very polite and ask before doing anything. "Please can I get some paper, and please can I return my book", they thank me for holding open a door and smile at me encouragingly when they see me in the corridor.

Lunch was an experience: I still have indigestion. The girls serve, clear and bring the next course. I was amazed by the efficiency, but all for the purpose of extending the free time the students have after lunch.

The staff have been nothing but friendly and supportive. Everyone knows my name, but are polite enough not to assume I know theirs. (Which of course I don't).

I am astounded by the cleanliness and order of the school and science labs. There are things out on the side like paper and experiments, but they are undisturbed and look like they belong. The teacher's desk was tidy when I arrived this morning and I had no need to throw away or create a pile of yesterday's paper work. High expectations for me to set for myself. But I look forward to working this way. It will be the first time!

I have taught 4 of my 5 groups today and I have been impressed by their willingness to take part in and complete the work. However, I can see some variation in the active engagement of the students. There are many students who are content to sit back and those that push themselves forward only give a short answer. I want point, evidence and explanation. Interestingly those that sit in the centre of the room take part more than those at the edges as a first observation. However, next week will give me another view.

In terms of management I haven't had chance to do much as yet; the department seem pretty organised with a clear idea of what needs to be done. I want to make sure that I use that and my presence adds value to the department rather than just taking jobs away from others to make myself seem like I am doing work.

I can see why the government think private schools have a lot to show the maintained sector, but having a friendly atmosphere isn't as challenging when you only have a quarter of the number of pupils.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

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