Back to Basics

It’s been far too long. It’s been far too busy. And I keep getting told that blogging is over, that all the cool kids communicate on SnapGram or TokTik or something. But the hell with that, I’ve finally got a few minutes to breathe after the weirdest 18 months ever, and this seems like as good a reason as any to get back into writing.

More posts are coming, partially prompted by encouragement on twitter and some just because I need a place to vent. I feel like I’ve been doing too much managing – which like most of us, has meant firefighting and chaos for the last little while – and not enough on teaching. So here goes, once I’ve got my head around the ‘new’ WordPress editor. Coming attractions…

  • School email and why it’s broken
  • CPD as a process not an event
  • Models and Modelling in Science
  • Why science lights the way rather than being something to follow
  • Why I hate seeing myself on video
  • Science since 1901 series – my great grandmother’s textbook
  • More than three stomachs and no brain – joining a committee.
  • Why it’s worth considering professional registration

I’m still busy with the day job, and family life always gets more rather than less complicated. But I’m asking you all to prompt and encourage me so I can get this show back on the road…


Feed Me Seymour!

I’m a bad person.

This is not because I tell off students (although I do). It’s not because I told my son that revolving doors are powered by mice (and when he doubted me, pointed out that they squeak). It’s not even because I’ve been known to write really depressing poetry (for therapeutic reasons, and usually unshared).

It’s because two days after it was made available, I haven’t managed to watch Demo: The Movie.

I will, really I will. But at work I still don’t have speakers, making watching anything on my desktop an exercise in frustration and lip-reading. And at home I’ve been busy cooking, washing up, child-rearing and taking a mostly-dead mouse back outside, much to the disgust of the cat. So it is as yet unwatched, despite my certainty that it will be interesting, funny and well-produced. With luck it will be watched by me over the next couple of days, so I can (a) blog about it over the weekend and (b)contribute to the forthcoming #asechat. So watch this space. I’m sorry, Alom.

In this context, it seems a little cheeky that I’m the one asking for feedback. But I wanted to post about my latest hare-brained scheme idea, as suggested in my previous item. I’ve set up a google form, but this time it’s not for me. Instead, I’d invite any and all readers of my blog – and, I suppose, twitter feed – to take a moment to record what I’ve done that has helped them.


I’ll be including a link in every (non-political) post from now on. My hope is that instead of paying me, you’d be happy to document an ongoing portfolio of my impact outside my own classroom and school. A crowd-sourced testimonial, if you will. You don’t have to leave your name, just a few words about how what I did made a difference. If you’ve blogged about it, I’d love for you to include a link. Tweets are transient, comments on the posts are hard to collect together, but this would really help.

Blog Feedback via Google Form

Of course, if this post inspires you to add your own evidence-gathering Google Form to your site, and you link back here, the internet will quite possibly explode in a frenzy of recursion. So be careful.

Summer Holiday

I have to admit, I feel a little guilty. With all the usual end-of-term rush, I hadn’t managed to post in several weeks. Now it’s the summer, I’ve taken a few days to try not to do anything even vaguely related to teaching. So no blog posts. And tomorrow, I’m off on holiday so won’t be posting again for a week!

I’m not dead. I’m resting.

I do have several ideas for more regular posting after I get back, hopefully continuing once term starts again in September. In the meantime, last night’s TV inspired the following musical link. Tim Minchin’s comedy is great (I also like Bill Hicks for what it’s worth) although you may possibly find it offensive. Oh well.

Happy holidays and remember, more feedback will mean more chance I take the time to write more posts…

Updates on Teaching of Science

Not everything on this blog is about the posts; I’m also using WordPress as a webhosting service. The problem is that these bits and pieces aren’t visible unless you go looking for them, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to flag them up.

I’ve tidied up and rearranged some of the links on the right hand side. I’m particularly on the lookout for other teachers’ blogs so please let me know if there’s any you can recommend. I’ve also sorted out subscriptions so you can sign up by email or RSS.

The biggest change to the site itself is the updates made to the Students pages. There are three linked subpages, each focussed on one area of Learning, Revision and Exam Technique. This last one now includes printables for classroom displays. At present these areas are for colleagues, rather than kids, but my aim is to put ‘student voice’ versions onto a related blog in time.

Formative Assessment

We all know what formative assessment is, right? This is something with loads of names (Assessment for Learning or AfL is one, for example) but which is often taken for granted. Let’s check we’re speaking the same language.

What Is Assessment?

A useful checklist for assessment is SKU, standing for Skills Knowledge and Understanding. Different aspects of a course (and different subjects) will have a different balance of what we are checking.

  • Skills – what can a student do? I’m currently checking what mathematical methods my students can apply to specific heat, for example.
  • Knowledge – this is what most people think science is about (see my page about this if you want my viewpoint), the facts and lists of details.
  • Understanding – always the tricky one, this is tested by explanations and applying what a student knows, usually to a new situation.

What many students – and non-teachers, come to that – think of when the assessment word is used is what we might call summative assessment. This means checking what somebody can do, knows or understands at a particular point in time. This can then be compared to other people. GCSE exams are an example of summative assessment.

We as teachers like to use formative assessment. This comes in many forms, but what it does is to identify what a student can do and what they need to change/improve/modify to improve. The feedback needs to be specific to the student and allows them to progress. It can be a simple comment to a student in a lesson, part of a ‘ladder’ of improvement or be a formal response to a piece of work.

This is, I suspect, not news to anyone reading this. I’m not trying to get my colleagues to use formative assessment – we all do. I want some for me.

I’d like some feedback about what I’m doing, as I know I’m getting more traffic than the comments suggest. If you like what you see, please let me know, especially if the resources are useful for you professionally. Even more important, I’d like to know what doesn’t work. What would stop you coming back, or subscribing, or telling your friends or colleagues?