A quick test for you – What would you do?
Definition of Science : the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Teaching science at primary level can cause stress for many teachers who feel their science knowledge isn’t sufficient to do a good enough job. Interestingly the research in the UK has shown that although Primary teachers feel less confident about their delivery, they often do better than their secondary counterparts- The ASE Report is here. Reasons given for higher performance were
Teaching Physics Topics
Essential Resources for Physics Teachers http://neilatkin.com/2014/11/23/essential-resources-for-physics-teachers-please-add-ideas/
Teaching reflection of light http://neilatkin.com/2014/04/10/10-cool-ideas-for-teaching-reflection-of-light/
Waves and Sound http://neilatkin.com/2013/08/20/teaching-waves-and-sound/
Rant about the state of science teaching http://neilatkin.com/2014/08/21/where-has-the-science-gone-from-our-classrooms-13-ideas-to-bring-it-back/
Link to Pinterest Physics teaching support – Please note this as well as this blog will be continually updated so please add resources and ideas
Teaching Science – Generic Blogs
Short Guide on improving practicals http://neilatkin.com/2015/10/26/a-short-guide-on-how-you-might-teach-science-more-effectively/
Please add other links in the Comments below
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
Part of the Magnificent 7 series of simple strategies that can significantly add to learning. If I could only use 7 these are what they would be
- Only use technology when it does something you cant do without it.
- It has to cost much less in terms of effort to learn/money than the benefit (Think of the original Dartfish – fantastic concept but too complex/ too long to set up etc so hardly used )
- It has to be reliable and be able to work offline
- Preferably free
These tools are subject to change so please watch and add comments – what would your top 7 be?
(1) Video delay – Simply delays transferring the video for a preset time . So you see what happened 10 seconds ago. Great for self analysis of tennis serves/golf shots etc or for analysing with the students what they are are doing with them able to see their own performance. Note these do not keep a recording so are for on the fly support
Lots of them reviewed here they all do a similar thing . Put your phone/iPad on a tripod or simply hold it . Film the students doing high jump/long jump etc. Then they run round to you and you can talk them through their performance
(2) iMovie – This really is a fully featured video editing app . Slow mo , add music, split screen comparisons
(3) iDoceo 4 – A fantastic racking and assessment app for PE You can use it offline for registers, lesson planning and recording progress – nice video here
(4) Dartfish – Great analysis app that can enable you to show with data what is really happening on the sports field. Its also perfect for cross curricular maths as the data can be exported
(5) Padlet – Simple idea but fabulous way of sharing visual information with the class. Post videos up directly for peer feedback. One option is to turn on moderate posts and you can broadcast a game with photos and commentary to parents (like the BBC ones) if you use the stream option.
A post by @ictevangelist is here
An example of its use in PE is here
(6) Bleep test – Where technology really makes a difference !
Lots of them reviewed here
(7) Twitter – If only for instantly informing parents / students/ schools of changes to fixtures twitter has real value . Create your own Personal Learning Network (PLN) . The global community of PE teachers is brilliant. To see my list of PE teachers to follow go to here Please feel free to contact me to add more people worth following
Showbie is awesome for tracking progress and narrowly missed the list
Sprint Timer is another great one
Tutorial here https://iteachpe.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/how-to-use-sprint-timer-application-for-athletics-time-trials-in-pe-2/
Just a quick draft blog supporting those physics teachers . Please join in the discussions on Talkphysics.org and watch this space as it willbe updated
For those of you on twitter will be using the hashtag #CPACphys lease feel free to ask questions I probably cant answer but willfind someone who can
What is CPAC?
A-level practical skills to be assessed via endorsement
Cross-board statement on practical endorsement
The assessment of practical skills is a compulsory requirement of the course of study for A-level qualifications in biology, chemistry and physics. It will appear on all students’ certificates as a separately reported result, alongside the overall grade for the qualification. The arrangements for the assessment of practical skills will be common to all awarding organisations. These arrangements will include:
- A minimum of 12 practical activities to be carried out by each student which, together, meet the requirements of Appendices 5b (Practical skills identified for direct assessment and developed through teaching and learning) and 5c (Use of apparatus and techniques) from the prescribed subject content, published by the Department for Education. The required practical activities will be defined by each awarding organisation.
- Teachers will assess students against Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) issued by the awarding organisations. The draft CPAC (see below) are based on the requirements of Appendices 5b and 5c of the subject content requirements published by the Department for Education, and define the minimum standard required for the achievement of a pass. The CPAC will be piloted with schools and colleges and other stakeholders during autumn 2014 and spring 2015 to ensure that they can be applied consistently and effectively.
- Each student will keep an appropriate record of their assessed practical activities.
- Students who demonstrate the required standard across all the requirements of the CPAC will receive a ‘pass’ grade.
- There will be no separate assessment of practical skills for AS qualifications.
- Students will answer questions in the AS and A-level exam papers that assess the requirements of Appendix 5a (Practical skills identified for indirect assessment and developed through teaching and learning) from the prescribed subject content, published by the Department for Education.
Check out the very active Forum on Talkphysics.org here You have to register but it is free and amazing ! Most of this blog is a compilation of ideas from it
OCR Guidance is here
A superb site is Practical A Level Physics it has been organised to give extensive details about each practical. Included is a photo of the set up, teacher/tech notes, student notes, sample lab book and sample data. It is superb and the author continues to update it
Need to buy equipment ?
Writing up – You could use the Young Scientists Journal
Young Scientists Journal (www.ysjournal.com) is an online science journal written, edited and produced entirely by students aged 12 to 20.
It was founded in 2006 by Christina Astin, one of our Teaching and Learning Coaches in Kent, and now attracts articles and editors from across the world. 17 issues have been published, with articles on a whole range of STEM topics, many of which started off as coursework, extended projects or CREST awards. The last issue is here: www.ysjournal.com/issue-17
Your students can get involved by:
- reading the journal – it’s free and open access and can be an inspiring source for homework research
- following us on facebook (/YSJournal) or Twitter (@YSJournal)
- getting their articles or science research projects published – it’s easy to upload and looks great on a UCAS form
- joining the team of students editing articles and running the journal – plus lots of other opportunities such as web development, marketing, social media etc
If you have a group of students all keen to get involved you can get set up as a hub school – email email@example.com for more info.
What might record keeping look like? – My esteemed colleague and all together fantastic man Jon Clarke posted this on talkphysics (the link at the top of this page)
my record-keeping plans are for the first year through this new system, in case it helps anyone else plan this first time through the Practical Endorsement, or in case you think I’ve missed something – please let me know!(jon.clarke “at” iop.org)
In Monday’s lesson I’m going to run through parts of the AQA A-level Practical Handbook with them (particularly sections D & E), getting them ready to carry out their first required practical (5 – resistivity of a wire) on that Friday. Handily, section E suggests a “pro forma” to guide their write-up. I’ll be explicit with the students that, in this first practical, our learning outcomes are: to use the equipment, record data, and write up a practical. (The quality of their results, analysis or evaluation aren’t my priority yet.)
The exam board require the following information. Here’s what I’ll record for each item:
1. documented plans to carry out sufficient practical activities which meet the requirements of CPAC.
Long-term schemes of work which include the required practicals
2. a record of each practical activity undertaken and the date when this was completed;
3. a record of the criteria being assessed in that practical activity
My own record of work that I write-up after every lesson (do others keep anything similar?), plus I’ll write the passed criteria on each student’s practical notes while they do it, plus a note in a tracking spreadsheet
4. a record of student attendance;
Tracking spreadsheet, plus our electronic registers
5. a record of which student met the criteria and which did not;
Tracking spreadsheet, plus a note on each student’s work
6. student work showing evidence required for the particular task with date;
In students’ folders, interspersed with their theory work
7. any associated materials provided for the practical activity e.g. written instructions given.
A note in my record of work – in the case of Friday’s practical, this will be a full print-out of the IoP’s Teaching Advanced Physics notes for this practical – http://tap.iop.org/electricity/resistance/112/file_45987.doc .
The rest of the TAP resources that support CPAC are here
“Whats the point of using technology it detracts from learning ” a teacher said to me. All the evidence points against it and the government are going to ban them anyway.
Deep sigh – where has this come from?
“Mobile phones and iPads could be banned from classrooms”
screams the Telegraph citing Tom Bennett
Mr Bennett said: “Technology is transforming society and even classrooms – but all too often we hear of lessons being disrupted by the temptation of the smartphone. Learning is hard-work and children are all too aware of this. So when they have a smartphone in their pocket that offers instant entertainment and reward, they can be easily distracted from their work. The Telegraph omitted the following that the Guardian included:
In a blog for the TES, Bennett poured cold water on headlines suggesting mobiles could be barred altogether in class. “This may shock you, but I don’t think mobile phones should be banned from school. Or iPads from the classroom,” he wrote.
Then there is the LSE report : A study by the London School of Economics in May found that banning mobile phones from classrooms could benefit students’ learning by as much as an extra week of classes over an academic year, benefiting low-achieving children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds most.
I am a huge advocate of using technology in lessons when it adds significantly to learning and does something you cant do without it. You dont even need to change your teaching style, just use tools that enhance your understanding of the students learning journey. Assessment for Learning can be transformed with Plickers /Socrative/Shadow Puppet and instantly and painlessly provides you with data that informs your lesson planning. But first comes humanity and relationships and good behaviour management.
And it is that behaviour management that is key. Allowing students to access the most distracting device on the planet in lessons is clearly going to have a negative impact on learning. In banning them, the schools have removed this classroom management issue and there was a corresponding rise in the results. Having worked in turning around failing schools It was very clear that anything that you changed in order to improve behaviour – be it uniform, equipment etc had a positive impact as long as it was applied consistently. Those teachers finding mobile phones were a pain would be very supportive of the ban. I feel it is plausible that simply enforcing rules may have been a significant factor, rather than explicitly the mobile phones. Though the study also pointed out that the biggest impact was on the lower achievers – those most likely to be switched off lessons and hence reach for their phones. Could we look at why they were switched off rather than simply seeing the distraction as the issue? Could the phones be their solution to the problem of the inappropriateness of the curriculum to their needs rather than the problem itself?
Then there is pedagogy – Headline from BBC Business
We now have digitally competency measurements from Pisa – always slightly worrying how much store governments put on them. Sir Ken Robinson ” Pisa is to education what the Eurovision Song Contest is to music”
The Pisa assessments now provide first-of-its-kind internationally comparative analysis of the digital skills that students have acquired, and of the learning environments designed to develop these skills.
These data show that the reality in schools lags considerably behind the promise of technology.
The crux of the piece is that those countries that have invested heavily in technology have not shown any improvements and in some there has been a decline. Sadly there is also no evidence it improves the poverty gap inequality.
What it is not saying is how the technology is being used. These devices are simply tools and if they are being used inappropriately then they will hinder progress.
Technology can make the learning journey very easy. I can copy and paste, use google translate, photomath and very quickly come up with the answer to things that I do not retain in my memory (hence will be gone by the time the exams come) So no deep learning has taken place. Many students are happy to hand in their plagiarised homework as their idea is that the teacher wants to see work rather than learning. Or students spend a disproportionate amount of time creating a pretty Powerpoint that keeps them working but not learning and I think this may be a huge issue. They can work for hours on something, look engaged, but learn nothing. Having taught many different subjects when the students are on computers the amount of teaching I do can fall significantly as the students are just “getting on with it.”
Only add the Technology when you know what value it adds to learning
The BBC report gives two interpretations both of which I feel are true
One interpretation is that building deep, conceptual understanding and higher-order thinking requires intensive teacher-student interactions, and technology sometimes distracts from this valuable human engagement.
Another interpretation is that schools have not yet become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that make the most of technology; that adding 21st-Century technologies to 20th-Century teaching practices will just dilute the effectiveness of teaching.
I worry that many teachers are drawing the conclusion that technology hinders learning. There is no doubt that technology used badly is worse than a waste of time. Taking the students to the computer room is often an easy lesson unless you carefully plan why the technology enhances learning. I know I have been guilty of this when absolutely exhausted and needing a break. It keeps the kids quiet !
I think far more training is needed on the transformational technological tools – not the flashy gimmicks. How to effectively manage your classroom where the students use their mobile phones for learning. Things have changed and we live in a connected world. Simply banning technology may in the short term be effective at improving exam results, but can we justify our classrooms diverging even further from the real world?
Technology is neither good, nor bad. It is simply a tool that can massively enhance learning if used well. The problem is that it isnt being used well due to lack of understanding of what it can do.
One thing technology cannot do is enhance poor teaching. A poor teacher with students who have mobile devices will have a class off task but apparently compliant. It can be used as a sticking plaster that hides bigger issues and that is an issue we need to resolve
Blogs worth reading that put pedagogy before technology
Steve Wheeler @timbuckteeth
Martin Burrett @ICTmagic
Mr Parkinson @
Mark Richardson @