A Short Guide on how you might teach Science more effectively

The intention of this soon to be series of blogs is to clarify what good Science Teaching is and how to become a better Science Teacher.

Before we start looking at Science teaching we ought to look at the learners. What do we want our young scientific thinkers to be like?

There are lots of kids stage shows and adverts of the ‘Mad Scientists’ white coats, big hair and a bit crazy. I may be being a killjoy, but I see these as damaging stereotypes and most kids don’t relate to these scientists who are clearly so different to them.

Ask your students what they think scientists are  and what they do they think. According to Camilla Ruz for the Imperial College Science Magazine I,SCIENCE here   heres a picture of the ‘Zombie’ Sir Isaac Newton – drawn by a 9 year old. Scientists are white (dead?) male, white coat wearing, sociopaths with big glasses. They make potions, explosions and sometimes save  (Harry Potterish)  , or evilly try to  destroy the world.

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This perception really isn’t helpful at all. I like to say that all scientists do is look for evidence and then make decisions on what they find. 

I had this discussion with a group of students  I taught when I hadn’t time to change out of my motorbike gear. I asked them to look at me scientifically  for evidence and make decisions about me.  The statements and questions were very astute :

“You ride a motorbike”  – ‘how do you know?’ – “you are wearing motorbike gear ” – ‘I might be a very careful cyclist’ – ‘What more information do you need?’ – “Have you got your keys?” – ‘Yes – look they are Honda keys. Is that more evidence?’ – “Maybe, but not really because Honda make cars as well” – ‘Where might you find more evidence?’ – “Look in the car park” – they look out of the window, there is a Honda motorbike – ‘Does that prove it? – “No, it might be someone else’s” – “We need to see if your keys fit it” ………

Having these discussions about everyday things can be more useful than in trying to do it in an abstract  scientific context. If scientists look at evidence and make decisions, is a doctor a scientist? What about a farmer, mechanic, lawyer, hairdresser, beautician? .. In fact can anyone think of an interesting job where the person doesn’t evaluate evidence and make decisions? …. There aren’t any !

When we teach you science, we aren’t just teaching you about radiation, evolution or chemical bonding. We are teaching you how to think better scientifically. This means whatever interesting job you do, you will be able to do it better.

So if we are all scientists.  What makes a good one? Get the students to decide

  • Curiosity- Don’t take everything at face value
  • Resilience – Thomas Edison’s 1000 attempts to make a lightbulb
  • Asking questions – `we learn from asking rather than answering
  • Learning from mistakes – evaluating
  • Creativity – no thats not just for the artists!

Guess what? – everyone can do that stuff ,so everyone can be a great scientist.

Want a more intellectual assessment – Nobel Prize advice is here

Scientific Method  for non scientists – Actually there aren’t any non – scientists we are all scientists

What does a skateboarder do  when she learns a new trick?

  • Researches what they want to do – watches others or online
  • Plans how they are going to do the trick
  • Risk assesses it (ok so this is not realistic for most skateboarders – it will mend eventually)
  • Try it out
  • Get feedback – Often in the form of brutal peer mocking and laughter
  • Evaluate what happened and modify in the light of the evidence
  • At some stage goes to hospital with something broken

This is the scientific method and is used by so many people who don’t consider themselves as scientists but in fact are !  See my blog on the science of slacklining here 

Footballing Scientists – and free resources !

I co-wrote some resources with Arsenal and the Institute of Physics . This was a paradigm shift. The Arsenal Footballers are amazing scientists as they clearly understand how the laws of physics apply to footballs. They may not be able to explain what they are doing in standardised scientific language but they know intuitively . Click on the image to get the free resource – or contact me for more information

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Practicals in Science

“Teaching Science without practicals is like teaching swimming without a pool”  

Is this true? Partly , but just having access to the pool doesn’t mean that you will swim well.  You need knowledgeable tuition, to be able to practise  lots  and to be given useful feedback.  A purely theoretical understanding of swimming isn’t likely to be that helpful in the real world, but you can still learn lots. Likewise mindlessly splashing about may be fun, but it isn’t efficient learning.

A useful report: Does Practical Work Really Work? A study of the effectiveness of practical work as a teaching and learning method in school science – Ian Abrahams and Robin Millar. here

This report is often cited by people claiming practical work isn’t effective.  What the report found on the study of 25 lessons that really only for one was the use of practicals deemed to be effective  in extending the learning of ideas. It isn’t that practicals do not aid learning, rather that most observed practicals in the study didn’t because they weren’t well planned.

The framework is a great tool for thinking about what learning will take place:prac 1

A: What did the teacher want the students to learn

B: What was the activity / practical that the teacher had planned

C: What did the students actually do – This is the first success criteria and in the study this is what the vast majority of teachers focussed on.  This is the realm of the observables.  Did the students follow the correct procedures, use the apparatus properly, get the right results. These are usually fairly low level objectives and usually do little to improve conceptual understanding.

D: The second learning outcome is in the domain of ideas. What did the students learn from the practical that actually helped  their conceptual understanding. This is not only  a considerably conceptually higher level  expectation than the observables , but also much harder to measure.

If the domain of objects and observables – (what equipment they use and what they measure ) doesn’t link with the domain of ideas (conceptual understanding )  then it is likely the practical will have little impact on learning.

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Before you do a practical, use this model to really think about the learning and how you can apply good pedagogy.  What is pedagogy?  See Steve Wheelers’ Blog here

Essential resources for Physics Teachers is here 

A really useful book by Tom Sherrington is here 

SCORE – Getting Practical Resources for Primary is here

3 Act Science here 

Great Videos from Alom Shaha here

Please contact me through twitter or through the comments on what ideas you would like included

Please follow this blog to be informed of the rest of this series

Resilience – Why do our youngsters lack Resilience? – What we can do to help them

Do you find your students (or your children)

  • Often give up too easily?
  • Lack initiative?
  • Deal with failure badly ?
  • Blame others when things go wrong?
  • Want you to solve their problems?
  • Fear failure, so use avoidance strategies?

They are possibly lacking in resilience

The American Psychological Association defines Resilience as:

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience. One example is the response of many Americans to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.

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I decided to ride up a mountain on a borrowed bike this morning. Setting off optimistically up a 2050 foot climb, I soon realised it was going to be tougher than I’d predicted – Being realistic has never been my forte. Negative thought processes almost immediately appeared, blaming external factors – ‘It’s too hot, the bike is too heavy, the gears are too high,’ (It was an old 1980s road bike with dodgy ancient tubular tyres and those horrible biopace chainrings – info for those cyclists geeks) ‘No one knows I’m challenging myself, I’ll just turn back’.

I nearly stopped several times but kept going, mainly because I wanted to write a blog on resilience and didn’t want to feel hypocritical. Then my thoughts started looking for excuses to do with my own failings – ‘I’m not feeling too well, haven’t ridden for a while, maybe I should just turn back’. Then a guy on a much better bike than mine burned past me, obviously because he was on the better bike! – he was under much greater pressure though as he couldn’t blame his bike if he failed. I plodded after him, then he stopped for a cigarette ! – ”Thats it I’m not letting this mountain beat me if a smoker can get up it” It was hard, it hurt, voices in my head were telling me to stop – ‘Whats the point? ‘ but I made it.
Did I feel good? No, I felt terrible, exhausted! Then the great feeling came, I had conquered the mountain (or more precisely my own demons) , I could write this blog, but more importantly, I had a long downhill blast that I had earned.

Why do so many of our students give up, or scream for help when the going gets tough?

In Psychology Today Dr Peter Gray writes

Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges
College personnel everywhere are struggling with students’ increased neediness.

A US College found that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.

Faculty at the meetings noted that students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when it comes to grading. Some said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices.

This mirrors what huge numbers of teachers around the world have said to me. Students lack independence and require constant handholding and support. Teachers are having to deal with this lack of resilience. Our students don’t expect to struggle at all, if they do, It’s our fault for not teaching them properly. Failure in a test is seen as a catastrophe, not something you can learn from, but something you can blame someone for. With the ever-present pressure of exams teachers are stuck in a situation where we all too often cave in to their helplessness (and they know we will!)  and so the neediness cycle continues.

Dr Gray theorises that much of this has to do with the lack of free play experienced in childhood. Children rarely have to make decisions for themselves away from adults, so therefore when they reach adulthood they are poorly prepared.

What elements of play might be missing?
Ellen Sandseter, a professor at Queen Maud University in Trondheim, Norway, has identified six categories of risks. These are:

Heights: Most children love to climb whether on climbing frames or trees. Shouting excitedly’ look at me ‘ often to the horror of parentis who would not have allowed them to go that high
Rapid speeds: Even tiny children love swings and want to go faster, then scooters, bikes, skateboards etc.
Dangerous tools: It isn’t random behaviour that causes children to be drawn towards the knives, drills and other things that parents immediately move out of the way (A Swahili proverb state: If a child cries for a knife give it to them – they will learn)
Dangerous elements: All children are fascinated by fire, are drawn to deep holes or fast currents
Rough and tumble: Play fighting and chasing each other. They seem to prefer being chased and being thrown around rather than being the ones in control
Disappearing/getting lost: Hide and seek gives the thrill of separation at an early age. As they get older they make dens and find places away from adults if they can.

Looking at these I realise I climb and coasteer, ride a fast motorbike, love my chainsaw , am a pyromaniac, do judo and Thai Boxing and rarely know where I am going – Can anyone recommend a good psychotherapist? But we take risks not to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping us.

We are living in an increasingly risk averse ‘safe’ society ,by overprotecting our young people are we actually damaging them?  Is there much adventure in our children’s lives?
Children allowed to explore, learn from small painful episodes (or larger ones) and failures. They learn that in play fighting, hurt can happen without intention.  They discover how to regulate their own behaviour and response to being hurt. They learn how to assess risk. How to balance the reward of the thrill, with the actual danger. They can learn from failure, take responsibility for it and hence build their own resilience.  They learn to deal with unpredictable events and not to fear the unknown.

Without these learning experiences they may become adults incapable of making decisions for themselves, paralysed by irrational fear.

Resilient people tend to have the following characteristics:

Optimism: There is a clear link between optimism and resilience. The most resilient people tend to be those who feel when faced with adversity that things could be worse. This is certainly true of survivors in shipwreck situations
Faith and/or spirituality: Having a belief in an external deity or a belief in yourself that things will get better. Having a strong moral compass
Humour: Being able to reframe the situation and either laugh at it or at yourself. Always look on the bright side of life!
Social support: There is huge amounts of evidence that cancer survival rates for example go up when that person has strong and supportive friendship groups.
Can Learn from Role Models: Resilient people take responsibility and action learning from others who have been in similar situations

Resilient people tend to feel they have a measure of control, or that its all a journey and a new learning experience is taking place.

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Does the online world help our young people?

Many students can escape this scary real world into an online world of gaming. Your failures happen away from people you have to meet every day. There is a sense of order and predictability in the game and you can learn in safety without damaging social repercussions. There are lots of benefits to gaming – evidence Players show huge resilience in that they fail,learn from that failure and try again. Does this translate into the real world? I fear not but maybe that is just my own non – gamer bias, then I watched this:

You may want to try this  SuperBetter

Other children turn to a virtual online social media world that is potentially hugely rewarding or damaging. People present on sites such as Facebook an airbrushed, perfect life. Had a wonderful day …., what a perfect husband/friend/parent/child .. We get a rose tinted distorted window into the worlds of others . You can control what others see, but not how they react to what you show them so there is a high stakes and often high fear . The evidence from researchers  appears to show it makes us unhappier and almost certainly wont improve your resilience.

The team found that Facebook use correlated with a low sense of well-being.

“The more people used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time,” they said. “Rather than enhancing well-being… these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.”

Does Facebook infantilise us?  Lady Greenfield thinks so here  Im not a big fan of these, but you can test yourself here:  howinfantilizedareyou.com

What can be done to help our young people in a resilience crisis?

Understandably some schools have adopted the approach that the results are the only thing that matter and hands are held all the way through to the end of school. Thus the job is done in getting the students the qualifications needed (and in some schools this is what the parents have paid for and expect )

The work of Carol Dweck and her Growth Mindset has revolutionised some peoples lives

Some strategies for teachers: 

Have a clear definition of what you want your students to be like that is achievable by all and not simply based on performance. Resilient, creative, risk taking etc.
Deal with helicopter parents ,  encourage them to let their sons/daughters to make decisions for themselves. To be clear what the damage that frailty can cause and to buy into your vision of an outstanding student.
Encourage students to look at failure in a different way. Let them fail in low stress environments. For example get them used to pre-topic tests as a simple diagnostic tool – you need to know what they know before you teach them a topic. Or simply a question they shouldnt be able to answer yet and get them to consider strategies for answering it.

Fail-First-Attempt-In-Learning
In Maths use dan Meyers 3 Act Maths here, in science try my  (being developed) 3 act science. here
Teachers need to model failure and how to react to it by failing themselves
Using strategies outlined in Visible Thinking Routines get students to look at dilemmas and difficult decisions and practice reframing and dealing with problems  here  You can just  add – ‘What might happen if? ‘ questions
For a way of breaking down barriers you might try the ‘Yes factor’ outlined below
One interesting thing is my high school principal like to use the “Yes Factor” when she runs a post-suspension meeting with a student and his/her family. How does she do this? She always starts with “Today we are here to resolve the matter so that you can come back to school. In the last few days you probably have thought about what you have done. We would like to talk about this now so that we can move on and not to dwell on this matter any more.“Today we are here”, “to resolve the matter”, “so that you can come back to school”, “In the last few days”, “you probably have thought about what you have done”, “We would like to talk about this now”, “”we can move on”, “not to dwell on this matter any more” are all the “Yes Factors” and undeniably true as everyone in the post-suspension meeting tends to agree with that. When people agree with what you say with the first few statements at the beginning, it is more likely that they will also agree with some suggestions you are going to bring up. find out more here
Some Strategies for Parents:

Try to let go and give them some freedom to explore their 6 risky behaviours and allow your partner to do the same (maybe not hand them the knife!)
Let them solve problems by themselves, you may suggest strategies and ways of tackling the problem, but try not to influence their decisions too much.
Talk through how you make decisions yourself, weighing up the pros and cons of different approaches.
Discuss films and decisions the characters made and the consequences.
The film Inside Out provides great opportunities for opening discussions
Talk about what happened at school. Not by using the question. ‘What happened at school today ?’ that normally generates a monosyllabic response – 25 questions you can use instead are here
For teens here are 28 questions here  though don’t have a high expectation that it will bring forth much. We can but try!
Learn basic counselling skills -Ideally on a course with a tutor but there are plenty of online courses for example here 

What do we mean by Grit?

 

What have you found works to improve resilience = either your own or other peoples?

Please add comments and resources below

 

The Magnificent Seven – Simple Strategies using Technology to Transform Learning

Part of what will form a series that aid learning, behaviour  and make me more effective as a teacher. These are my seven favourite things – The Magnificent Seven – Simple Strategies using Technology to Transform Learning – Please feel free to add yours in the comments section or link blogs

My rules for using technology;

  • Only use technology  when it does something you cant do without it (or it makes it better/simpler)
  • It has to improve learning – or my assessment of  their learning (following their learning journey)
  • It has to be simple to learn and reliable to use
  • Free

(1) Plickers – Multiple Choice Assessment App you only need one device to use

How does it work ?

Students are assigned printed paper  Plicker codes that they hold up for you to scan with your phone/tablet. They can choose A,B,C or D depending on their orientation. The scan on your phone tells you who has chosen what and if your wifi is working records it on their website in the reports section . It also has a live view.

It is so good I wrote a blog about it here  see it on UKEdCHAT here 

What makes it so great?

  • Incredibly quick and easy to use
  • Only need a single device – Android or IOS
  • Can use it without wifi
  • Students cant see what each other have chosen so prevents copying and reduces stress
  • Perfect for showing progression

(2) Socrative  Assessment App – Online and cross platform

Its been around for a while and still holds its place for several reasons. As a teacher you create a room and give that room number to the students. They log onto your room using any device and answer multiple choice or short answer questions.

It’s very reliable if you have strong wifi or 3/4G signal but students may have issues in weak signal areas. I would tend to use plickers  for ‘on the fly ‘ multiple choice (unless you need 5 options) as for plickers they dont need to log into a room or have their own devices.

To me where Socrative really comes into it’s own is the Short Answers option. This allows you to ask students anonymously (or given name if you’d prefer) their opinion /ideas or definitions.

So for example I can ask them to define evolution, make an estimate, proffer an opinion as to the cause of …. etc. Socrative then collates these in a list . This is fantastic on it’s own, but the ace up the sleeve is that you can get students to vote on one of the comments so . Which is the best definition/closest estimate/most likely reason etc.  So my students have given their ideas, evaluated others and chosen one in a few minutes . The same question can be asked at the end of the lesson hence progress can be shown.

You can also create test that are automatically marked as well as importing ones that are already made from Socrative Garden here though please check them as they are not quality assured ! They also link to visible thinking  which will be in Magnificent Seven – Simple Solutions to more Active Learning due to be published soon

ICT Evangelist has a blog on Remixing Lessons here integrating Socrative

Socrative guides  available  here 

 

(3) Padlet 

Used to be called Wallwisher another relative oldie. Remarkably simple to use you can create a wall in seconds and share it with your students using a QR code. They then all have access to the wall and can add comments, images, videos, links or upload work.

So perfect for sharing ideas, work ( a dream for Art/Tech/ anything visual) , peer evaluation etc. It’s a great collaborative tool and as you can put links in enables Educreations/Pinterest/Shadow Puppet to be embedded into the wall. Full set of tutorials here 

(4) Shadow Puppet – Instant feedback with audio and video  – Sadly IOS only tho Google Docs users may want to look at kaizena   Thanks @ictmagic

A ridiculously simple way of giving quick feedback – Photograph the students work, highlight areas and add your voice feedback and email it back to them. Or put it on Pdlet or tweet it. Record and highlight videos stop them at appropriate points (PE teachers this is a dream app)

(5) Educreations  – Interactive whiteboard on a tablet

I prefer Educreations over Explain Everything for daily use as although Explain Everything is fabulous and feature rich it takes a bit more getting to know and doesnt give you the hyperlink that educreations does that allows you to instantly share through padlet/email/twitter. Educreations is ridiculously simple – though be aware that you have to register after you have created something!

(6) Pinterest  – Digital Filing Cabinet

Pinterest is used by millions but rarely professionally. It is a brilliant way of compiling a set of resources for whatever subject you are teaching . Either find them already on Pinterest or upload them or add from virtually any website. Create a shared Pinterest for your department to collaborate on resources. Get your students to find great sites and share them with you to populate it

(7) Blendspace – Digital lessons and SoW

So we have a whole load of fabulous resources in Pinterest, have created some wonderful Educreation tutorials, some great Shadow Puppet feedback showing misconceptions , numerous Padlet walls. How can we now combine them in a coherent manner ? – Blendspace !

Could this be a dream app for BTEC and IB teachers – giving the potential of e-portfolios that can be shared and collaborated on. Flipped lessons ? The possibilities are endless

A mention to Twitter for building a Personalised Learning Network and connecting to an awesome global bunch of educators I’m @natkin   for technology  try @ictevangelist and @ictmagic are both awesome

 

Honourable mention to  BookCreator, iMovie, Edmodo, Showbie and Puppetpals HD

What are your Magnificent seven ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Co-constructing Lessons – Giving Students Ownership of their Learning – Lessons from South Australia Leading Learning

Co-constructing lessons is a movement towards giving students ownership of their learning

Last week I delivered a session  for NASSSA and  3P Learning  to support  South Australia in their ground-breaking work on increasing the engagement of learners. We were focussing on  Science through Three Act Science and also on co-construction – using the students as stakeholders in devising activities in the classroom. This can be contentious, with some teachers arguing that students dont have the in depth understanding of pedagogy to be able to separate education from entertainment. Others arguing that we have a duty to include students in the process.

Rather than seeing the student as a consumer ( and how many of our students see education as something that is done to them? ) we could view them as a stakeholder, a central part of the process. Consumers are often forgotten about as soon as a transaction is complete, but stakeholders continue to take an interest and everyone benefits in the short and particularly the long term. Co-constructing lessons is a powerful step in developing the student as a stakeholder.

South Australia are as far as I know the only education authority to put this model at the very heart of its education philosophy. They have produced a Leading Learning resources here which is an extremely comprehensive and impressive collection that support the whole student centred ethos

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An animation showing the ideas is here

Professor Martin Westwell from Flinders University explains the intent of the program

Training

The first day I delivered training at the genuinely revolutionary Australian Science and  Mathematics School attached to Flinders University – Website here . This to me is what education should look like. Open plan areas, team teaching and self regulating motivated learners.  I was reminded of the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC here with a very similar open and challenging ethos. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers there made me feel that the future of South Australian education is in good hands. Thank you to them for making me so welcome and engaging so well in the activities.

If anyone is interested in the behaviour aspects I talked about there is a  blog here outlining my ‘beyond compliance’ approach

For the essence of motivation see the RSA animate by Dan Pink below

The second day I  led was one  of teachers and students sitting together and working on the ideas  to find a way of delivering the curriculum that meets everyones needs. Co-constructing lessons has quite a high time and risk factor. I was slightly concerned at what might happen, would the teachers dominate?  would the students rebel and have a go at the teachers?

I needn’t have worried. At the start of the day some of the teachers were simply directing in the expectations of their roles. I put in some origami and problem solving activities that levelled the playing field (the origami allowed a couple of quiet girls to excel and to assist the teachers and that broke some barriers) as the day went on the teachers moved from dominating to listening and valuing. The first step towards genuine co-construction and partnerships.

Structure of the Day

The day was the middle one of three with the aim of introducing, creating and evaluation across the three days in order to start to embed co-construction.

Fail!!! 

I started the day with the idea of what failure means . As far as I am concerned scientists never fail, they simply learn  (unless they die or fail to learn )

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Growth Mindset is hugely important . See the work of Carol Dweck

The idea of engagement linked to disposition and more  is outlined by Dr Chris Goldspink here

A great poster to put in every classroom is this one. Every piece of work should really be seen as a draft

Fail-First-Attempt-In-Learning

As I was working with science teachers the next phase was to discuss what an outstanding learner in science looks like. Every student I have ever asked has said the same . Gets top marks , answers all the questions, does their homework, well behaved. None of the students I have asked thought they could be outstanding , nor did they particularly want to be one with that definition. I tasked the teachers and students to come up with four points that had to fulfil the criteria that everyone could be that and that it was desirable  to be that.

An example of some of the ideas are

  • Someone who asks questions
  • Is resilient in the face of difficulty
  • Creative and prepared to try things out
  • Prepared to listen to others and respect their views

Ideally print them out and stick them as posters on the wall

We then went through the elements of thinking using the work of Daniel Kahneman outlined in this blog

and why we are reluctant to think. Learning only takes place when

Questioning was considered with first the teachers and then the students (I gave them the option and they rose to the challenge ) leading a pose pause pounce bounce session outlined by Dylan Wiliam here

and why this is a far more effective  technique – turning table tennis a mainly spectator activity into basketball where everyone is involved,with nowhere for students to hide and the teacher able to fully differentiate. The value further increases if socratic questioning is used . This page is taken from the Leading Learning Resource

Socratic Questioning Click the link for the pdf

Divergent Thinking 

In their study Break Point and Beyond,  Land and Jarman found that divergent thinking – the ability to find creative solutions to problems diminished rapidly as the students aged – Possibly due to us teaching that there is only one real answer?  We need to find questions that google cannot answer and that don’t limit creative solutions . So

“How many ways can you think of to make a teabag fly ?”

Give several minutes to do this with teachers and students working together. Older people tend to suffer fixation – when we have a solution in our minds we struggle to see others. Remember when you have a word to answer a crossword puzzle that doesn’t quite fit, how hard is it to get that word out of your head?

Younger students dont have this fixation problem and we need to find ways to keep them practicing

Then we turned the attention to Three Act Science – outlined in several posts I have written here  and looking at hooks and how we can turn them into rich learning experiences in Act 2

The Prezi I used on both days is here

The 3 act approach ties in with the Leading Learning  Bringing it to Life – BitL Tool you can find here  or download it from the App store  here

A very impressive and groundbreaking tool is the Science Misconception Tool  available at the bottom of this page  here

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Activities throughout the day involved looking at creating solar stills from paper and plastic bags to collect water,  This can be found in my Teaching Heat Transfer blog here 

We fired fruit and vegetables in a wild sling having predicted which would go furthest  – predictions are needed – see Confusion vs Clarity blog here

Wild Sling

Wild Sling

Wrapping up – Was a very enjoyable and productive day. Co-constructing is not a simple thing to implement – there are a lot of barriers but certainly from what I saw in South Australia there is a real possibility of change toward

 

Some other research

Professor David Hargreaves writing in A New Shape for Schooling articulated a description of the learner who would be the ideal outcome of personalisation, that is, in a school where personalising learning is embedded.

The learner when personalisation is well developed: an articulate, autonomous but collaborative learner, with high meta-cognitive control and the generic skills of learning, gained through engaging educational experiences with enriched opportunities and challenges, and supported by various people, materials and ICT linked to general well-being but crucially focussed on learning, in schools whose culture and structures sustain the continuous co-construction of education through shared leadership.

The educator when personalisation is well developed: A person who is passionate about learning, for self and for students, a skilled mentor and coach, committed to the co-construction of all aspects of schooling; who views students as partners in the creation of, and access to, data about their learning and achievement to assist in their progression; who is an expert in a relevant domain but who knows that forging the conditions of successful learning is not simply a matter of telling; who strives to engage students to generate the motivation that underpins true learning; who recognises that student needs are complex and variable and so personalisation entails drawing on a wide range of human and material resources to support learning; and who constantly relishes the changing responsibilities of a leader in education and of the need to redesign our educational institutions.

Taken together, these person specifications constitute a transformation of education and a transition from the 19th century model of schooling to one that is fit for purpose in the 21st century, with its need for a different kind of person, educated in a different kind of schooling, for a different kind of society. 

Read the full document here  and Tom Sherringtons post Co-constructing your classes: Putting pupils in the driving seat is here 

There are also a couple of articles in the Learning Lessons below

Co-contstruction by Tom Sherrington

Co-contstruction by Tom Sherrington

Co-contstruction by Tom Sherrington 2

Other research

The experiences of Boston and Sacramento also suggest that meaningful, districtwide student engagement in school policies and initiatives requires a true partnership between a diverse group of young people–some of whom may be unsure about how to find their voice in the adult-dominated world of schools–and the adults who sit on school boards and traditionally create district policies. These case studies demonstrate that, with the appropriate amount of support and training, these young people, regardless of where they begin, will be able to step up, take action, and represent their peers by voicing their opinions and advocating for change.  

Full report here 

Put the Glory back into your classroom – Humanising the education system

As a scientist I am a great believer in research. There is some fantastic and informative research around but I have one great worry. As we strive towards efficiency I think we may be losing something possibly more important – The Glory of the Ride

Zen Dog

Are you the teacher you wanted to be? The one who took the students on amazing journeys and instilled lifelong learning and a passion for your subject?

Or have you been turned into a destination focussed, pass the exams, bogged down in a curriculum parody of your ideal?

Efficiency can come at a cost. I went to swimming race training as a child. We pounded up and down, used deliberate practice. It was hard, but efficient.

It has been very useful to me . I’m a beach lifeguard, kayak instructor and as a surfer it may even have saved my life.

So whats the problem?

Well I never swim for pleasure – purely a purpose. Would never dream of swimming for no reason

I worry that our students will never consider learning to be a pleasure, simply something you do fora purpose.

So how can we put the glory back into your classroom?

Watch this space for the follow up blog

Motivating the Lower achievers – Humanising the Education system – Ipsative Assessment

Think about something that you have little talent for. Now imagine that you spend your days continually assessed on that area that you lack talent in.  You are constantly compared to your peers and shown how poor you are.

I love singing, but sadly have very little talent, not helped by congenital hearing loss. I wasn’t aware of my lack of ability, choosing to ignore the negative comments until I used the playstation game Singstar that brutally and quantitatively confirmed how bad I was.  Did this motivate me to try harder ?  It did briefly , although it was more about trying to find a song I could sing (Clash Should I stay or should I go! ) but being trashed by everyone soon lost its appeal and now I don’t sing any more in public. Which is no great loss to the world, but it is to me.

The thought that singing ability could be what the education system values allows me to empathise with the lower achievers. Of spending my days singing in front of others and however hard I try most other people are better than me. I may have other talents (I may be deluded here) but these are not recognised. My only value is my singing, the good singers are celebrated and their superiority over me quantified and celebrated.. This carries on for 11 years until in relief I leave an education system that has utterly failed and humiliated me.

This is how many lower achievers spend their school life. You are really not very good and if you put lots of effort in you probably still wont be . You can argue for a growth mindset at this point (which I believe in to a point)   or take the view that we are telling penguins that they might be able to fly if they flap their wings really hard (reality also has a place )

Research from the EPPI in 2002 has found that Summative assessment, so loved by those who are good at it and who also run the system  can be highly motivating to some higher achievers , but damaging to many others with the lower achievers particularly vulnerable.

The current widespread use of summative assessment and tests is supported by a range of arguments. The points made include that not only do tests indicate standards to be aimed for and enable these standards to be monitored, but that they also raise standards. Proponents claim that tests cause students, as well as teachers and schools, to put more effort into their work on account of the rewards and penalties that can be applied on the basis of the results of tests. In opposition to these arguments is the claim that increase in scores is mainly the consequence of familiarization with the tests and of teaching directed specifically towards answering the questions, rather than developing the skills and knowledge intended in the curriculum. It is argued that tests motivate only some students and increase the gap between higher and lower achieving students; moreover, tests motivate even the highest achieving students towards performance goals rather than to learning goals, as required for continuing learning.

What were the findings ?

Evidence of impact – Remember this was from 2002

Between them, the identified studies considered a number of the component aspects of motivation, but none considered all. The following main findings emerged from studies providing high-weight evidence:

• After the introduction of the National Curriculum Tests in England, lowachieving pupils had lower self-esteem than higher-achieving pupils,whilst beforehand there was no correlation between self-esteem and achievement.

• When passing tests is high stakes, teachers adopt a teaching style which emphasises transmission teaching of knowledge, thereby favouring those students who prefer to learn in this way and disadvantaging and lowering the self-esteem of those who prefer more active and creative learning experiences.

• Repeated practice tests reinforce the low self-image of the lower achieving students.

• Tests can influence teachers’ classroom assessment which may be interpreted by students as purely summative, regardless of the teacher’s intentions, possibly as a result of teachers’ over-concern with performance rather than process.

• Students are aware of a performance ethos in the classroom and that the tests give only a narrow view of what they can do.

• Students dislike high-stakes tests, show high levels of test anxiety (particularly girls) and prefer other forms of assessment.

• Teachers have a key role in supporting students to put effort into their learning activities.

• Feedback on assessments has an important role in determining further learning. Students are influenced by feedback from earlier performance on similar tasks in relation to the effort they invest in further tasks.

• Teacher feedback that is ego-involving rather than task-involving can influence the effort students put into further learning and their orientation towards performance rather than learning goals.

• High-stakes assessment can create a classroom climate in which transmission teaching and highly structured activities predominate and which favour only those students with certain learning dispositions.

• High-stakes tests can become the rationale for all that is done in classrooms, permeating teacher-initiated assessment interactions.

• Goal orientations are linked to effort and self-efficacy.

• Teacher collegiality is important in creating an assessment ethos that supports students’ feelings of self-efficacy and effort.

• An education system that puts great emphasis on evaluation produces students with strong extrinsic orientation towards grades and social status.

It would appear that the more importance we put on summative assessment the more likely our education system is to become;

  • A narrow, what gets tested gets taught, system
  • Focussed on performance rather than learning with all the damage that this entails
  • A qualification system rather than an education system
  • Highly divisive with those exam decoders motivated by success and those without this arguably arbitrary skill
  • One that only values those high performers and there is evidence these high achievers at school do not continue into society as high achievers in life  (link to blog)
  • One that dismally fails and alienates many students who leave feeling they have no value and have had their school years wasted

Does these sound depressingly familiar?

Formative assessment (see blog here for ideas ) has developed hugely where students are told what they need to do to improve, however this for some has only limited value. Would I be motivated to sing in public if after tuition I went from being appalling to pretty awful? Probably not. The system has inherently damaged many of these students and caused them to withdraw from putting in effort. You can only be humiliated if you have appeared to have tried. Want to keep your self esteem? Then don’t participate, show you don’t care or deliberately under perform to demonstrate your contempt for the system.

It doesn’t matter how good your formative assessment is if your students cant see the point in improving and are still measured against their peers.

Enter Ipstative Assessment

Rather than comparing yourself to the world, you look at creating personal bests. I am a cyclist and if I compared myself to Chris Hoy or Bradley Wiggins I could never feel good about myself. I am however motivated to improve my best times and that has sufficient value to not care how far behind the others I a would be.

This is the fundamental principle behind appositive testing. Research has been limited to distance learners but the results encouraging here http://eprints.ioe.ac.uk/6744/1/Hughes2011Towards353.pdf  and workshop files here 

You mark progress rather than simply products. Bringing in formative assessment in order to improve their appositive mark.

To give a measured grade a students work is compared to a previous piece of work

If a student has improved from 50% to 60% they would get an ipsative mark of 10%

The focus is on improvement and being the best that you can be hence everyone can make progress

The research which was the effects on distance learners looks highly encouraging and it makes sense as a human being.

I can find limited evidence of it being used in classrooms so please get in touch if it has been trialled and any thoughts on it