#CSciTeach Application

As part of my application for #CSciTeach, I’ve had to put together a professional review. This is about demonstrating masters-level thinking in terms of actions, evidence and reflection. After putting it together I realised that the members of the board would be looking at a paper copy, so all my hotlinks would be, sadly, wasted.

Oops.

So here it is, with links, in the vague hopes that

  1. The board might be able to find everything I was trying to point at in one place, and
  2. that the rest of you might find it vaguely interesting.

I have been teaching for the last nine years and in that time have taught across the ability and age ranges, from 11-18. Ofsted regard [my setting] as an Outstanding school with results well above the national average. I have no paid responsibility role but for the last three years have been the Radiation Protection Supervisor for the Science department. I have also worked closely with several of the student teachers we have hosted.

Professional Knowledge and Understanding

I read a variety of blogs and websites to keep up with discoveries and news in science; books let me look in depth at ideas which seem particularly relevant or interesting (most recently The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Packing for Mars). This has provided me with a range of material to use in lessons, from new applications to lively anecdotes. In particular I have developed my teaching of biology by reading about natural selection and genetics; this has allowed me to help students doing GCSE or A-level biology despite being a physicist by training. Some books get added to my ‘library’ shelf, a mixture of fiction and science books I loan out to students. Most come back and although the content is not always relevant to exams several have credited the challenge with helping their overall understanding and performance. I watch less TV but documentaries have been useful at times, despite the difficulty of saving parts or whole programmes to use in class; fortunately radio is often be easier to share, as I found with a recent Inside Health programme.

The same two approaches – websites and books – serve me well for developing my pedagogy. Of course as a member of the ASE I read SSR and EiS, as well as Science in School and the SCORE monthly email. It is difficult to keep up with educational research without paying a great deal for the privilege, but these are a good starting point. My reading on the use of testing as a method in itself for improving recall led me to introduce regular mini-tests for several of my classes; their KS3 test results have improved over this time. Participation in a trial of online CPD with the Science Learning Centres gave me the skills and confidence to improve the use of maths methods in science lessons. I have shared these ideas with colleagues within and beyond the science department; students now complete a workbook and refer to these examples when needed. My current focus is on the two complementary approaches for content and practical skills, the 5/7Es and Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) models. As I develop and update schemes of work – I am currently producing material for A2 Physics – I am using these principles to share concepts with colleagues.

I have found Twitter a valuable resource for both science and teaching information. This has involved sharing ideas with other science teachers informally and as part of the organised discussions #asechat and #SciTeachJC. Over the past year I have been engaging more with primary research by planning sessions for the Journal Club, defining questions and summarising afterwards. The most recent discussion has led me to think about how to more thoroughly assess the discrete teaching of skills for ‘doing science’ at an early stage. We already use this approach in my current setting but I am looking forward to developing this further in the future. The recent interest in evidence-based practice has been gratifying and I’m looking forward to attending ResearchED2013 this September.

Professional Practice

National changes in exam specifications have given many opportunities to develop schemes of work within Science. As part of this I have had responsibility for several sections at Key Stages 4 and 5, as well as developing a new approach to the Space topic for Year 9. Practical and demonstration activities have been developed to better support students’ learning. I have been particularly keen on the use of the Predict Observe Explain cycle, which I am now developing into Predict Because Observe Describe Measure Explain. This has been effective in helping students completing the current controlled assessments.

This is one of many tools I have shared with students for effective investigative learning, including a display board which has been emulated in other labs. The focus of this is to enable students in their own learning, accurately describing their own level of achievement and recognising next steps for themselves. Checklists are useful for practical approaches and versions for exams allow them to plan their own revision, choosing from a range of explicitly taught methods. Students with more insight now recognise that this balance is important not just for their development in Science but in taking mature responsibility across all subjects.

Working to ensure radiation protection has resulted in two distinct roles; the surveys and purchases of equipment have encouraged me to check my own knowledge, and this has led to me producing both teaching and instruction materials for my colleagues. This ensures all GCSE students have the chance to see actual radiation demonstrations rather than simulations; colleagues who are not physics specialists now have a clear point of contact and so are more confident with this equipment.

I’ve spent the past two years trying out an electronic markbook; in the absence of a school-wide approach it’s been mainly individual trial and error. Next year’s will be significantly better and allow me to track pupils’ progress more closely against specific targets, using models from APP. I hope to combine this with classroom displays so that they find it easier to identify successful strategies for their individual strength and weaknesses. It has already made it easier for me to feedback to parents and complete reports, but I would like it to record and support more frequent formative assessment.

The positive response of my students last year to their involvement in I’m A Scientist was very encouraging. They were able to use their chat sessions to get a better idea of ‘hands-on’ research projects and apply the mindset, if not the details, to their own investigative work. 19 of the 32 students met their upper quartile GCSE target. It is hoped that this kind of project will continue to support our excellent numbers for AS level science in general and Physics in particular, following my action research project into progression of able students. We are currently expecting just over 40 students to start AS Physics in September.

Attributes

As a teacher I aim for my students to Enjoy, Learn and Achieve; in fact this is how I start the school year. Most have told me that although they may not be as enthusiastic about science as I am (they used the word ‘geek’ for some reason) they do feel my lessons help them to see the relevance of the ideas to their lives.

I find that the freedom of my blog has allowed me to reflect more openly on the successes – and ‘learning experiences’ – in my lessons. My evolving CPD tracker allows me to identify specific points from both formal CPD and less structured activities. Comments and feedback from colleagues near and far, as well as the direct experience in the classroom, have allowed me to tweak activities for better learning. I have applied the same approach to educational research, aiming to apply it to classroom methods when relevant. Applying ideas on better demonstrations and enhanced use of practical work – I discovered Ian Abrahams’ work following a workshop with Alom Shaha and David Sang at the 2012 ASE conference – mean that my students give better descriptions and propose more detailed explanations than in the past.

Although I have not sought a leadership role in Science I am recognised as a colleague with a strong interest in the research base behind professional practice. I have led shared INSET days with colleagues across [my city], most recently on approaches to enthuse gifted and talented pupils. I have also attended and presented at teachmeets, reporting on one for the Guardian. I find these an excellent opportunity to share quick ideas with fellow teachers across the curriculum, and so give familiar topics a fresh edge.

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