A Level Physics – Preparing for the CPAC – Practical Advice

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

AQA have a detailed practical booklet here if you are doing AQA – David Cotton has put together resources that link to TAP on talkphysics here

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

 

 

cpac

 

 

Need to buy equipment ?

copy_of_new_a_level_practical_equipment_cos

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 editor@ysjournal.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

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lddljwbtyuw23sh/AAD5U8LrrTWFjxN8eYcsBnyza?dl=0

 

Mobile phones and iPads hamper learning !! – In defence of Technology in Education

“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

“School technology struggles to make an impact”  

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.

I totally agree with Tom Bennett  that learning takes effort. See my posts on Clarity vs Confusion and thinking

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

http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/learning-first-technology-second.html

Mark Anderson@ICTEvangelist

http://ictevangelist.com/tag/pedagogy/

Martin Burrett @ICTmagic

http://ukedchat.com/ictmagic/

Mr Parkinson @ICT_MrP

mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk

Mark Richardson @ICTMarc

rebelmouse.com/wcsict

 

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

intent

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 )

tumblr_me7m8cH12P1qfiu0po1_500

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

misc 2

misc 4

 

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 

Teaching Forces – Misconceptions and how to overcome them

Forces and how to teach them 

A great Newton’s third law experiment to try below – more ideas on my Forces Pinterest page here 

science-playground

One of the many problems faced by physics teachers is that the terminology we use in a very precise way is often used very arbitrarily in the ‘real world’

May the Force - sorry !

May the Force – sorry !

Forces is a bad one;

  • “She forced me to do it”
  • “It was an act of force”
  • A force of nature
  • The armed forces  
  • Possibly the worst of the lot when it comes to confusing the concepts  –“May the Force be with you “ !

The Force?  something we can carry around with us?

Before we start teaching Forces we should look at the common misconceptions  

Probably the biggest single misconception is that when you push or throw an object that there continues to be a force in the direction of motion.  It’s natural and common sense to assume that a driving force is needed to keep an object moving at a steady speed because that is our everyday experience.

When you stop pedalling on a bike you come to  stop. Therefore you must need a force to maintain a constant speed – dont you ? . We live in a world with friction, but as we cant see it often it isnt accounted for.

Carol Davenport @DrDav has written a blog for making the invisible visible, its  for Ks2 but it gives a good overview of what our students should know ( but probably dont !) here

Teach momentum first?

Another issue is that we usually  haven’t taught momentum yet. Should we do that before we teach forces?

I dont do an in depth  quantitative analysis of momentum.  I usually just  ask the question ‘Which would hurt you most if it hit you a beetle or a train?

Students usually respond-  a train, then you point out what would happen if the train was moving really slowly and the beetle really fast? (I once had a Rhinocerous Beetle bounce off my forehead when cycling down a hill – it hurt !!)

So there are 2 properties we need to consider , the mass and how fast it is moving – its velocity. Multiply these two things together and we have momentum.  Momentum is useful for scientists when studying collisions or how difficult it is to stop a moving object.

It is an interesting point to consider as to whether momentum is a more useful property than simply velocity when setting speed limits. Although the debate I had with a police officer who pulled me over on my motorbike for travelling the same velocity as the 4×4 in front of me that had 10 times my mass, was short lived and fruitless.

Videos – Lots of collision videos are around. Im wary of using many of the car crash ones as they may involve fatalities. Get your students to find them 

Bubble soccer – The ultimate momentum experiments?

Stop a train?

Another problem with teaching physics is that students come into our classroom  with a set of belief systems. They think they understand forces and they have models in their heads which sadly are usually wrong.  This research indicates merely telling people the right things may not be effective at all 

In this blog we look at the role of confusion here

So what actually is a Force? 

Its a question few people can accurately answer

Identifying, measuring and representing forces – Misconceptions we may need to deal with 

Pupils often think that:

  • only animate objects can exert a force – thus, if an object is at rest on a table, there are no forces acting on it
  • a rigid solid cannot be compressed or stretched
  • all forces need objects to be in contact to have an effect
  • friction only occurs between solid objects
  • things fall naturally – no forces are involved; barriers stop things falling
  • gravity stops acting when the object hits the ground
  • there is ‘more gravity the higher up you go’ because things dropped from higher up suffer greater damage when they hit the floor
  • mass and weight mean the same thing and they are equal at all times
  • mass and volume mean the same thing
  • gravity only affects heavy things
  • gravity only works one way – the Earth attracts the Moon but the Moon does not attract the Earth
  • Earth’s magnetism and/or spin create gravity
  • astronauts are weightless in an orbiting spacecraft because there is no gravity
  • magnetic field lines are really there – a magnetic field really is a pattern of lines
  • all metals are attracted to a magnet
  • all magnets are made of iron
  • magnetic poles are always at the end of the magnet
  • larger magnets are stronger than smaller magnets
  • all materials that can be magnetised are magnets
  • objects float in water because they’re ‘lighter’ than water or sink because they are heavier; wood always floats and metal always sinks
  • all floating objects float because they have air in them
  • all objects containing air float
  • there is no/less gravity in water
  • power, work, energy and force all mean the same thing.
Forces Simulations – Interlude from reading  you might find some of these useful  
Nice ideas from eChalk here
PhET – here 
Forces and motion – Misconceptions 
Pupils often think that:
  •  if an object is moving there must be a force acting on it
  • if an object is stationary there are no forces acting on it
  • if a force acts on an object it will inevitably move
  • force is a property of an object; an object has force and, when the force ‘runs out’, it stops moving
  • acceleration can only occur in the same direction as an object is moving
  • when dropped in a vacuum, heavier objects will reach the ground first
  • falling objects stay at the same speed as they fall
  • opening a parachute during freefall makes the skydiver go upwards
  • rocket propulsion is due to exhaust gases pushing on something behind the rocket.
  • Pupils often confuse speed, acceleration and velocity; distance–time and speed–time graphs.

What they already know

One of my favourite activities is to use a plastic crossbow – you can buy them here

Toy crossbow

put a 1N apple on my head wear safety goggles and ask for a volunteer to shoot the apple off my head on the count of three.

On the count of 2 I stop and ask the class Should they aim straight at the apple, above it or below it?  Virtually every student says above Why?  get them to think for a bit What about if I move further away? They all know you have to aim even higher. So what do you know?  That forces, in this case gravity, change the motion of a body and the longer the force acts for, the greater the change in motion

We can do an analysis on the crossbow bolt to really assess our students understanding of Forces

crossbow powerpoint

The reason for using an apple that weighs 100g is that we can reinforce that it weighs 1 Newton. Then we can ‘show’ a Joule – Throw the apple 1 metre in the air and you have done 1 Joule of work (Work (J) = Force (N) x Distance (m) travelled in the direction of the force) So if we consider a chemical store of energy – such as a packet of biscuits . How many Joules would there be stored in a packet of biscuits ? Get your students to guess – biscuits given to the 3 closest ? They massively underestimate as the answer is often over 2000,000 Joules. So I eat a packet of biscuits and I can throw an apple in the air two million times ! or fire one two thousand kilometres high ! Link to this to power stations and why coal and oil are used as fuels. In reality we cant do this , why not? Relate answers to the ideas that we are massively inefficient at transferring energy – You can burn poo as a fuel source ! We can go cross- curricular with biology and look at that we are homiotherms and hence transfer around 75 Watts of thermal energy . Poikilotherms such as snakes and crocodiles dont need anything like as much food as they dont need to regulate their internal temperature. Cue some gross videos of massive snakes and crocodiles eating things

Analysing graphs 

I find many students struggle to analyse graphs and to see the point. I want them to see that graphs tell stories – See below for one of the ideas I use 

Falling objects 

It is counter intuitive that a feather and a bowling ball would fall at the same rate if there was no drag . Here is Brian Cox

or the Hammer and Feather on the moon – Or discuss  conspiracy theories  here 

Terminal Velocity 

A man and a cat fall out of a plane at the same time. Sketch on the same Velocity – Time graph their motion . Get students to think about what information do they need –  This may help 

Answer below

To be updated

The ubiquitous skydiver

http://www.cyberphysics.co.uk/topics/forces/terminal_velocity.htm

Forces and turning effects – This is for a future blog . How would you deal with these common misconceptions 
Pupils often think that:
  • only equal masses can be balanced on a seesaw
    the pivot has to be between the two forces that are acting
  • forces only cause changes in speed, not direction
  • when a force makes an object travel on a circular path the object must get faster, i.e. the force must cause a change in speed, not just direction
  • cornering objects are forced outwards by a force called centrifugal force.

Forces and pressure – misconceptions and ways of teaching

Pupils often think that:

  • pressure and force are synonymous
  • pressure in liquids and gases can be stronger in one direction than another
  • pressure arises from moving liquids or gases; still gas or liquid cannot exert a pressure
  • moving fluids cause higher pressures
  • liquids rise in a drinking straw because of ‘suction’
  • fluid pressure only acts downward.

 

The misconceptions are taken from there

Transforming Technology with a Single Device for Free – Plickers

Many schools still have a no mobile phone policy for students or lack 1:1 devices, but there are a few things that can be used if the teacher has a or phone/tablet. One of the simplest of these is Plickers which is a way of collating multiple choice responses from students. Its free and brilliant

  1. Students are given a unique barcode ( a paper plicker )
  2. The teacher asks a multiple choice question (these can be set up beforehand or used on the fly)
  3. The students show their answer by holding up their paper plicker – the orientation of the plicker allows them to choose ABCD
  4. The teacher scans the class with their phone
  5. A bar chart of responses is immediately produced on the phone and if you have wifi/3G on a linked computer as well – It will work on your phone without any signal so dodgy wifi is not a problem
  6. Reports of responses are stored on the plickers website so progress (or not ) can be demonstrated

More detail

The teacher prints out plicker cards which have a number on them and 4 letters. They act like a QR code in that when they are held up and scanned with the camera on the phone/tablet the number of the card is recorded  as well as the response of that card A to D depending on the orient

plicker-codeation of the card when the student holds it up. The letters are written small so that the other students cant see what each person is choosing. Often with mini whiteboards students will look at others responses before making theirs. You can get your students to write the letters on the back of their cards if they have any disability or for younger students

The teacher then scans the class

0c8c3b21.PlickersSplash2

It records multiple cards at once and a rescan will not mess up your results as it only records the individual cards once. You can set the orientation of your phone but dont change it . Without thinking I rotated my phone from portrait to landscape and wondered why everyone thought the answer was C when it was A

plickers pic

Results are shown on your device and if you have wifi on the website as well

plickers bar

On the plickers website classes can be set up and the cards assigned to students. The student then sticks the card in their book/planner  so that at any time we have an instant way of assessing what the class is thinking. Reports are saved on the website so  progress (if any is made) can be demonstrated.

Plickers_report plick report

A video overview

A nice slideshare tutorial is here

  • Plickers in PE here  PE teachers might want to laminate cards to take out with them

 

 

 

 

Three Act Science – Alternative approaches to Science Teaching

Three act science is based on the work of Dan Meyer see his TED Talk here  who created three act maths in order to get students to think about and engage in maths – rather than simply follow sets of processes in order to get the ‘right’ answer.

Dan felt that his students had the following issues

Meyer students lack

 

Any science teacher will recognise these as the same problems we face. Students wait for us to help them and give up if we don’t,  We think they’ve nailed it at the end of the lesson only to find that at the start of the next lesson they are mystified when you mention the concept again. If an exam  question is worded slightly differently to the ones they have practiced they are completely flummoxed. They ask us to prepare them for exactly what will come up in the exam and blame us if it doesn’t.

Professor Guy Claxton in his latest book Educating Ruby   has the idea of seven Cs that give us a good starting point on what we want to our students to be enterprising, friendly, moral and imaginitive. These are :

Curious – Have a natural interest

Collaborative – Be able to be part of a team

Communicators – Effectively put their point across

Creative – Produce new and interesting ideas and material

Committed – Not need any external drivers or rewards

Confident – Be prepared to present and defend opinions

Craftmanship – Pride in their work and being the best that they can be

Three act science aims to help develop these skills  not just exam decoding. Irrespective of your teaching style – be it traditional or progressive these ideas add value to learning. It also fits in perfectly to strategies such as the South Australian Learning to Learn  which I feel hits all the things I’d want an education system to be

The principles of three act science are:

Act 1: the hook

This is a demonstration or video that is either counter intuitive or creates curiosity. The aim is to get the students engaged in deep thinking either in order to explain what they think will happen or why it happened.

An example is this one. What order will the cartons fall over in?

To take this a stage further we can ask students to make a prediction – The work of Professor Mazur implies this is essential.  We also should  create a degree of confusion  – see another blog I wrote  here  or the original here 

An effective way of assessing learning and ideas is to ask students to put their left right or both hands up to indicate their choice. So for example for the cartons above. If you think the last carton to fall over is the full one on your left, raise your left hand. If you think its the half full in the middle raise both hands. If its the empty one on your right raise your right hand. Now keep your hand/s up , go and find someone who disagrees with you and tell them why they are wrong.

We now go and listen to the ideas and misconceptions and articulate them to the class. What we are trying to do here is to use visible thinking  . The simple premise being that if we want our students to think like scientists we need to model that thinking for them. We are also drawing attention to misconceptions and getting students to think about them. The effectiveness of this strategy is outlined in the Dr Derek Muller aka Veritasium in his doctorate research – Full research papers here

Another strategy to add thinking at this point is  WMHI?  This is simply asking the question What Might Happen If …. ?  and get the students to continue – the boxes were lighter/heavier , sand was used instead of water ….  then they can work it out or try it out.

Act 2: The explore

So we have started an engaging activity, now is the time to explore and develop problem solving skills. What do we need to know in order to find out. What information have I got?  How might this link to other things I have learned or seen before?  (You could link this to SOLO taxonomy  here though David Didau has some advice on using it more for planning than the students here ) What value if any do the other student ideas have ? Could my initial beliefs be wrong? (surely not – confirmation bias is very powerful!)

We can also take it a step further – So for the cartons  if they all think the half full is the most stable – at what stage does reducing the amount of fluid from half full make it become less stable ie what is the point of maximum stability ?

Act 3: The reveal

We might want to use the Zeigarnik effect – basically  we lose interest in the cartons when we know what the answer is. We continue to think about incomplete activities so dont rush to do the reveal.

Want to know the answer to the cartons? Try it yourself = or look for the clue in the first video

There will be a whole series of three act science activities launched on a new youtube channel threeactscience and coolscistuff – So please watch this space

Please contribute any ideas or thoughts in the comments section