Monday, 27 May 2013

Curriculum for the future

My science faculty is small - 6 teachers - so I don't have the man-power to bring in a lot of change. I also know that the resources produced by the publishing companies will be rushed due to the short time scale. I dont think that the quality of exploring science will be the same! Instead I want to adapt what we have ready for the new national curriculum.

Add to the mix that as an independent school we don't have to follow the national curriculum. But, we do use GCSEs and this is ultimately what we will aim for at the end of key stage 4.

Without a firm idea of what will be in the GCSE science of the future we all have to do a best guess at the focus for the key stage 3 of the future.

At present we follow the qca units. But there are problems with this. Firstly that we don't really have time to go into depth in the units because we teach four weeks less than maintained school. We also miss lessons for trips and other extra curricular commitments. Secondly the teaching of these units could be better.

I want to ensure that the things we do teach our students are secure and they have a good grasp of the big ideas underpinning science, like cells and particles.

My aim is to teach less topics, to allow a greater depth of understanding. Teaching less topics means that we can also do less testing.

Year 7:
Cells; Reproduction; Environment; Particles; Acids and Alkalis; Simple Chemical Reactions; Forces; Energy (types and transfers); Magnetism
Year 8:
Digestion; Respiration; Photosynthesis; Solutions; Atoms and Elements; Compounds and Mixtures; Sound; Light; Electricity.

This leaves health and disease, and inheritance for biology, the reactions of metals and/or acids for chemistry and the more in depth energy (resources) and forces topics in physics.

What I am noticing at the moment is that students are not remembering their work from previous years, I want to ensure that each year we build on what went before.

There is work ahead of me this week to get a model that will work for everyone, staff, students and parents.

Practical Work in Secondary Science - A minds-on approach

During a recent visit to Foyles Book Store in London I bought a book called "Practical Work in Secondary Science - A minds-on approach" by Ian Abrahams.

I haven't read the book fully yet, but I am finding it interesting and challenging my view of practical work.

In chapter one, Ian Abrahams states five reasons why we do practical work:
  • To enhance the learning of scientific knowledge
  • To teach laboratory skills
  • To develop certain 'scientific attiudes' such as open-minded ness, objectivity and willingness to suspend judgement
  • To give insight into scientific method, and develop expertise in using it.
  • To motivate pupils, by stimulating interest and enjoyment

What is interesting is that Abrahams states that studies have found practical work to be at least as effective as other methods of instruction.

However, a lot of these studies are old. Have our methods of teaching moved on?

The question to consider: What does practical work accomplish that could not be accomplished as well by a less expensive and less time consuming alternative?

The book is hard reading, but I don't think that I will be rushing to give up my practical work any time soon, instead I need to reflect on how I use it to best effect. I have read chapter one, so hopefully chapters 2-6 will support my reflections to become a more effective practitioner when it comes to practical work.

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Sunday, 19 May 2013

SOLO Taxonomy: my current position

I came across SOLO taxonomy via a colleague. This colleague is extremely well read and understands a great deal about aspects of pedagogy. I was discussing how I wanted my A-level students to progress so they would ultimately be able to
link their ideas and apply them in new situations.

He photocopied me the page, I read it and decided that I agreed with it.

Greg Seal sent me a copy of Pam Hooke's book about SOLO taxonomy and since then I have used SOLO taxonomy to help me write learning objectives for GCSE classes.

Lucie Golton presented to us at tweet up York about how she shares the SOLO objectives on a continuum. This is something that I now do too with GCSE students.

I also hold it in my mind when developing schemes and lessons for A-level physics. I want to make sure that my students get the first stage before moving on as it will just cause confusion to use V=IR to answer a question about a lightning conductor they don't know what it means.

I often create presentations with the SOLO symbols on them to show what SOLO level the students should be working at.

I have used the SOLO hexagons. But not to great effect. The students either made tenuous links or were unhappy to make links. I wasn't able to get around the groups and ask questions about all the links and thus it didn't help me learn about what they understood or give them feedback on misconceptions.

The next step for me is to use SOLO taxonomy to help write the new key stage 3 schemes of work. I think it explains well the type of progression I would like students to make within science and I can use it to set differentiate learning objectives that I can grade the students against.

SOLO taxonomy is rather like Blooms Taxonomy, it is part of what I do but not all of what I do.

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