#SciTeachJC (22nd May) – Designing Curriculum Materials

It’s hard to tell whether the fairly low attendance was due to the good weather or colleagues watching Eurovision. Aren’t you all glad we don’t need a note from your mothers…

The paper discussed was about using the 5Es model to design a science curriculum and the materials for it. This follows on from the concept of ‘backward design’, where the starting point is how we will measure success before producing activities to prepare our students. Due to general incompetence on my part – and having to work from my in-laws’ place – I had to moderate from my own account rather than @SciTeachJC, but the session went well.

1 How do your stu­dents demon­strate (or when unsuc­cess­ful, fail to demon­strate) the three prin­ci­ples of learn­ing sug­gested by pre­vi­ous research? How do you try to ensure your teach­ing ful­fils the require­ments of address­ing these?

It was agreed that some mis- and pre- conceptions are common; as well as Driver’s work, referenced in the paper @Alby shared a list of frequent issues according to the C3P project (no, I don’t know either). Following a reminder from @A_Weatherall about the availability of the National Strategies I’ve also found this from the National Strategies and this summary from the GTCE (now stored at the TLA). Clearly identifying misconceptions – and how to address them – is key to helping our students make progress in science. While looking around I’ve found this American site which has some very interesting ideas, reflecting those in the paper about inspiring cognitive conflict – see 2: Dos and Don’ts for example.

2 What are the biggest chal­lenges of apply­ing the 5Es model (more expla­na­tions by @hrogerson here and NASA here) to your cur­ricu­lum design process, for exam­ple new schemes of work? With­out com­plain­ing about exam boards, Ofsted or the Depart­ment for Edu­ca­tion, how might we improve our use of this model?

Most people liked the model and several had found it very helpful already. Applying it in the classroom on a lesson by lesson basis is fairly straightforward, but greater gains can be seen by being more systematic. Now, at a point in the school year when we may be examining schemes of work, seems a good time to bear it in mind. (I’m planning a quick guide to the model for the next week or so, if that helps.)

@DrDav: Not revolutionary. Think they help to make good teaching explicit, and can be useful framework for planning. Ideas are simple enough to sum up quickly. Although could also spend several days getting to grips with them! (2 tweets combined.)

@hrogerson: I think 5E is similar to CASE, so it won’t be “new” to many. But I can remember 5Es, concrete prep anyone….

3 How might we repli­cate the col­lec­tion of evi­dence about stu­dent learn­ing in the UK school sys­tem? What changes if any might we need to make to the meth­ods to accom­mo­date our sys­tem (with sum­ma­tive exams at the end of the 9–11 time period)?

This question wasn’t really addressed during the session, perhaps because we focused more on how we might use the 5/7Es process. @snapshotscience suggested that as Wikid uses this model, we might look at the results compared to other schemes. This data has been collected, it will just be about collating it. The TEEP scheme which has some similar methodology has been evaluated – thanks to @DrDav for the link.

4 It is inter­est­ing to see teacher learn­ing addressed in the same con­text as that of stu­dents. How might we best share these ideas more widely with pro­fes­sional col­leagues — both dur­ing ITT and as CPD — assum­ing that we chose to do so?

This is of course a regular issue, and those colleagues who spend time doing things like #SciTeachJC are unlikely to be the same ones sitting reluctantly at the back of a staff meeting reacting to a new idea with a cynical “That’ll never work.” This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t engage with them, and this approach is perhaps one of the easier ones to be enthusiastic about – perhaps because for many of us it is a modification of the ‘standard’ structure. I must confess that I don’t recall reading about it before in so many words, but the idea of these stages fits in well with the planning I already do. @DrDav pointed out that TEEP follows a similar constructivist structure, for example.

I suggested that it would not be hard for each of us to talk for 5-10 minutes at a staff meeting about using the 5Es while lesson planning, and sharing the ideas and summaries while colleagues write or adapt schemes of work. @snapshotscience suggested that @hrogerson’s presentation would work very well for this.

So if we think it’s a worthwhile approach, maybe we should try it out. Why not use the comments section to feedback about your use of the 5/7Es, either in lesson planning, SOW writing or sharing with colleagues?


#SciTeachJC: Subject Knowledge

The paper for Week 9 of SciTeachJC was Johannes Met­zler and Ludger Woess­mann “The Impact of Teacher Sub­ject Knowl­edge on Stu­dent Achievement: Evi­dence from Within-Teacher Within-Student Vari­a­tion” IZA Dis­cus­sion Paper Num­ber 4999 (2010) (.PDF link)

The main conclusions of the paper were that higher teacher expertise in their subject resulted in a higher level of achievement for their students at primary level. There was an effort to account for confounding factors, partly because the same teacher taught both maths and reading to the student tested. This provides an immediate limitation as far as secondary teaching is concerned, as it might be reasonably suggested that there is a bigger overlap in knowledge between any two science specialists than between, for example, science and language specialists.

Perhaps predictably, the discussion had two main themes; the need for an ‘appropriate’ level of subject knowledge, and how pedagogy also has a huge impact on a  teacher’s effectiveness. To place this in context, @declanf and others suggested that 0.1 standard deviation is a small improvement compared to other factors.

@uncletungsten: I say that 0.1 sd advtg. is next to nothing. Even when 1 sd of subject knowledge could mean 3-5 years of subject specialization.

It was suggested that there is a balance between specialist knowledge – giving a teacher confidence to teach effectively – and having recently struggled, thereby having empathy for a students’ likely problems. @morphosaurus was one of several participants who felt that as a non-specialist, she taught some areas of the specification better than those who had studied it in more detail. How much of this is due to enthusiasm, and how much to better pedagogy, is of course hard to measure. I wonder if colleagues are more likely to use innovative methods with content they are experienced with, or with more recently studied material? @Bio_Joe pointed out that being able to tell a student that yes, we struggled too is very powerful.

@Arakwai: I agree! Gives the teacher a better appreciation & understanding of misconceptions & difficulties students may have.

We agreed that expertise and enthusiasm would often be strongly correlated, and that as long as correct information is taught, that personal interest is often what enthuses students. @Lethandrel and others agreed that a basic level of subject knowledge is necessary before someone can be considered a ‘specialist’. The issue here, as uual, is KS3. Should we be teaching within specialism there to improve confidence and avoid misconceptions?

@mariamush It’s my experience and knowledge beyond spec that enables me to teach Chem successfully, couldn’t offer the same in phys and bio

Most of us pointed out that with a limited amount of time and money, continuing subject knowledge development is possibly challenging. It is, hoever, necessary, when both scientific understanding (Higgs boson anyone?) and the greater emphasis on scientific method have changed since our original qualifications. We talked about how swapping ideas with colleagues, in and out of specialism, can be a big help. Book and documentary recommendations can keep the costs down.

@cardiffscience: Quite RT @teachitsobeing “one page ahead of the class”? Curriculum changes rapidly- anyone’s degree really embed HSW?

@teachingofsci: possibly – you don’t get much better than Jones, ridley, dawkins, @edyong209 and attenborough for evolution!

@RobertDavies2 so revision on top of planning, evaluation, reports, book marking… to name a few? #toomuch

This comes back to an important question; in most cases is there enough variation in teacher subject expertise for it to be worth worrying about? Yes, there will be variation – but cost (both financial and time) is high if effect is small. (@teachitso pointed out that Hattie puts subject matter knowledge 125th in his rank of effect sizes)  Who should pay these costs? Will Heads of Department consider it worthwhile (for general CPD rather than troubleshooting identified individuals) when there are courses on exam specifications?

@AnthHard: If the Sci Learning Centres put on some subject knowledge CPD, would there be much response?

@SciCommStudios:  one of my hats is Uni of Surrey Outreach – we are looking at putting on some Chem CPD…and have been wondering about interest

@Bio_Joe: If SK needs a top up I recommend the 7day free courses run by Goldsmiths (I did genetics one it’s amazing)

Worthwhile as these aims are – and I would comment now that we are considering the opinions of a self-selected group of teachers, not the profession as a whole – are we making the same mistake as Gove, Jamie Oliver and many others by focussing on subject knowledge when we should recognise that we are teachers first, and scientists second?

@danidelle23: i think we agree with each other to a point. knowing how to use your knowledge is probably the hardest part

@DrDav: Think knowing how to teach a topic can be more important that knowing the topic. How to identify and deal with misconcepts.

@morphosaurus defined pedagogy as “Ability to break down concepts for students to understand, and have resources that explained things well helped.” Having these resources to hand, and having needed to break a topic down, might explain why some of us felt that being a non-specialist was not necessarily a big disadvantage when working with younger or weaker students. Avoiding misconceptions is of course a major concern – you might reasonably equate this to the medical precept, “First, do no harm”

Our priority should perhaps be how to teach specialist knowledge, rather than having the knowledge ourselves. In the same way that teachers need to be able to model and teach thinking skills, we need to express ideas so that students can understand them. #asechat, subject specific teachmeets and similar ideas are perhaps a good way to share good ideas about what matters most.

In conclusion: we should neither over, nor underestimate the importance of a good level of subject knowledge. We’d like to see more research on the relative importance of truly specialist subject knowledge (degree level or higher, with continuing ‘refreshers’) in secondary education, compared to other factors.

Further reading

@alomshaha shared a link to a post TwentyFirstFloor blog on ‘what makes an expert teacher.

@Bio_Joe linked to an abstract of a 1998 paper that concluded subject knowledge is one of several factors.

@AnthHard recommended @teachitso’s summary on ‘who should teach’ considering Hattie & the Finland enigma.

AQA P1 Revision Checklist

And it’s back to the usual routine of teaching kids. In the process of them learning loads and being enthused by science – stop laughing at the back – we of course need to prepare them for the exams they’ll have. In the case of my setting, this means AQA A followed by Additional for the vast majority, and a course which may only last for one cohort. Thank you, Mr Gove. The content isn’t bad, so I actually quite like the idea of terminal exams covering the ideas. Something I often do is to issue a revision checklist to the students. This has two purposes:

  • So they can check their progress.
  • To break it down into small headings so revision can be ‘chunked’.

I then ask them to produce revision materials (or even better, study materials from the very beginning of the course) which use the small sections to highlight key areas. This means they can organise their ideas quickly and simply – one less reason to procrastinate as the exam is approaching. I’ve blogged about this before, but a few quick thoughts on ways to use the headings (and of course explaining why these methods work ticks the L2L box):

  • revision cards.
  • cover and complete definitions.
  • mind maps (paper or electronic).
  • headings for a ‘blank’ power point that they then fill in and save to their phones.
  • ‘If this is the answer what is the question?’
  • how it works/how it’s used.
  • Pictionary or Taboo cards.
  • Cornell notes sections.
  • pages for a wiki that the class then builds throughout the course.

I’m going to produce a summary sheet – probably about half an A4 page – which students will then be tested on. Simple recall, no applications or understanding at first. My plan is that after the first, they will work together to produce a similar amount of material every fortnight, and then I’ll test their recall of a random page weekly. This is following up the fourth #SciTeachJC article, a very interesting piece on how testing recall is better than rereading for retention. If I’m organised, I’ll post the summary pages here as well to build up a library for anyone who wants to try something similar.

Printables: P1 Revision Checklist as docx :  P1 Revision Checklist as pdf

I’m linking an editable version for anyone who wants to mess with it, and a pdf just because that’s how I normally do it. Please feel free to edit or adapt, but if so please remove the footer with my web address. If you’d like me to host equivalent checklists for other parts of the course (or other science ones I guess) I’m happy to, although I’d point out TES Resources or Guardian Teachers will get much more traffic (or start a blog and host it yourself).

I’d love to hear how useful you and your students have found it, if at all…

When #SciTeachJC rules the world…

Let me start by stating, for the record, that I felt no pressure when asked by @alomshaha to write up the second Science Teaching Journal Club session. No pressure at all, despite the fact that the article on the first session was written by one of the authors of the paper we’d discussed, and published in the Guardian. Oh no, I’m fine…

But anyway. The topic for discussion was the Beyond 2000 report, now more than ten years old but credited with changing the direction of UK science education. If you’ve not read it, I recommend it – although I suspect that most practising science educators will find themselves cursing at various points. @Alby has converted the ten recommendations of the report to a simple poster and handout. I have no intention, by the way, of trying to explain or recount all of the posts from the busy Tuesday evening session. If you weren’t there (or even if you were) I recommend reading through the archive. That’s why it’s online, after all. No, I have two aims; mainly to give a flavour of the evening, with a few quotes and summarised discussions, and secondly to share my own personal responses to some of the themes touched upon.

There were some questions suggested as starting points; it would be fair to say that although these may have informed people’s reading, they did not govern the discussion! Most agreed that the report had made a big difference in science specifications, although it was more about changes in policy than in classroom practice. A common theme throughout the evening was a recognition of irony. The report specifically recommends that “No significant changes should be made to the National Curriculum or its assessment unless they have been previously piloted…” This is in sharp contrast to the reality of a politically-driven curriculum which changes unpredictably and according to the whim of parties in power (and for readers now cursing a certain Michael G, it’s not as if the previous government were particularly evidence-based when it came to education either…). @AnthHard suggested that this sort of slow, evidence-based change approach made him think of The Physics Factory, something I’d not heard of before.

It was noted by several participants that there is relatively little mention of new technology in the report – something we thought would need to be addressed if it were to be revisited now. The gaps frequently identified between Science and Technology subjects are still there, which seems a shame when, as the report suggests, it is often the technological interpretation of scientific ideas that enthuse out students. I suspect I was not the only teacher to finish thinking that I should really make a greater effort with my Technology department colleagues.

Several of us did feel that the report was unduly harsh about teaching methods used in science lessons. Of course, this may reflect the self-selective nature of a group like #SciTeachJC! Those colleagues who were active at the time of the report (I for one was still at university, wet-behind-the-ears as I am) assured us that, in their experience at least, a range of pedagogic styles were being used. Many agreed that although the report had changed some areas of UK education more than others (e.g. the IGCSE was identified as less affected), the ideas were well worth engaging with. We were unsure how well-known it now was among ‘chalk-face’ teachers or school science departments.

“It wor­ries me how few LT team mem­bers respon­si­ble for sci­ence in schools have read Beyond2000.” @jo_holgate


A central idea of the report was that of Scientific Literacy. Quite a few colleagues (both teachers and those in, for example, science communication) spent time discussing what this really meant and how it applies to our students. A related concept, and one that is addressed by the authors, is that science education actually has two parallel aims; giving students the basic skills needed to live in a world dependant on science and technology, and preparing those who want to be scientists themselves. (As I type this it strikes me that although this could also be said of, say, History, a much larger proportion of those in a GCSE science class will go on to study the subject at degree level.) It seemed odd to many of us that adults didn’t recognise the disadvantage that scientific illiteracy implied. @DavidWaldock shared a link to a report summarising US public attitudes to science and technology, showing similar issues there.

Fulfilling the first aim, it was suggested, means a reduced emphasis on details and a better understanding of ‘How Science Works’. This not only means high-quality investigative work, as Sc1 is often (mis)interpreted as, but knowing the context of scientific discoveries and the philopophy of the scientific method itself. This is not easy stuff – indeed, @alicebell suggested reading Breaking The Mould for one viewpoint of the teaching of ‘Science for Public Understanding’, and there were several comments that the uptake and teaching of HSW had been patchy, not helped by uneven assessment in exams.

“…think HSW is a great idea but we need time and train­ing to reflect on prac­tice to be effec­tive Sci teachers.” @sciteachcremin

But how can we teach HSW well to those who won’t be studying science in the future, without putting off those who will be our next generation of engineers and doctors? (Not that I’m being stereotypical here, you understand.) @alomshaha pointed us towards his article on this dilemma from 2009, showing that these concerns are not new. Personally I have doubts about the possibility, let alone the wisdom, of deciding at 14 which students belong in which category – even if the courses were not frequently similar anyway and chosen for reasons other than student suitability.

“I think the teach­ing for sci­en­tific lit­er­acy aspect has been lost as we have started to push for more kids to do triple sci­ence.” @26Tim

“Sci­ence courses need to suit those tak­ing them. Not one size fits all.” @doc_gnome

I made the point that like any other kind of literacy, being scientifically literate is important to play any significant part in modern society. This was also made in the report on p2008: “Not to have some under­stand­ing of them [sci] is to be, in a very real sense, an out­sider.” Responses were varied, but I think most colleagues agreed that we should aim for all students to know how science collects, analyses and checks data as a minimum – and this was important. It seemed odd to many of us that adults didn’t recognise the disadvantage in life implied by scientific illiteracy.

“it also defines groups which are not scilit as non-citizens by impli­ca­tion, which is exclu­sion­ary” @DavidWaldock

“Con­sid­er­ing sci­en­tific lit­er­acy, how do we make it socially unac­cept­able to ‘not get / under­stand sci­ence’?” @Alby

The problem is that when one qualification is seen as being more ‘challenging’ than others, it is immediately used as a badge of worth by those who have it, or want it. (The report recognises the issue that theory-based GCSE science courses derived from courses that only a minority of citizens needed, GCEs.) Vocational qualifications such as BTecs can be an excellent vehicle to assess students engaging critically with a wide range of contexts – but they’re frequently not respected, as current changes indicate. Of course students will need facts as well as skills, and the issue will be choosing where to draw the line.

“They need both. A basic under­stand­ing and the skills to learn new info to add to it” @jennjtaylor

(As an aside: it’s often hard to gauge the ‘mood’ of a discussion in real life, let alone one happening in/on/over Twitter. I’ve suggested that there must be some way to get everyone’s responses to a simple question; for or against a simple statement, for example. Perhaps this would work with a Google form, link shared by moderators 2-3 times during the session?)


I’m going to digress slightly, so as to set the scene for the discussion of narratives as suggested in the report. It has been suggested that we are not ‘thinking man’, as Homo sapiens would describe us, but Pan narrans, the story-telling chimpanzee. What makes us different from our closest relatives is not living in houses, using tools or thinking big thoughts, but that we share stories to explain, model and so predict future events. I like this idea and now really wish I’d shared it during the evening. Esprit d’escalier and all that.

A second key idea from the report was that, both to aid the development of scientific literacy and to enthuse students, teachers should consider a narrative approach. There was some lively discussion about this, and we wanted to distinguish between isolated anecdotes and a more comprehensive view. There are of course several levels of ‘story’, all of which may be useful when teaching about science.

  • anecdotes and personal recollections not only show teachers to be human, but demonstrate how science affects people on an individual level. This is an excellent way to show how students use and rely on science, and on its offspring engineering and technology, all the time.
  • historical accounts and case studies show how one scientific idea developed, often challenging orthodox thought of the time.
  • science as one narrative, showing the ‘big picture’ so that students link ideas together more effectively.

Concerns were raised that we must be sure to link these smaller stories to the curriculum – and not get lost in history, rather than science. The point was made that the common view of a scientist as a maverick meant it was harder to see how so much of science builds on previous ideas, that we must emphasize the often incremental nature of scientific discovery. This kind of perspective also encourages discussion about the uses and abuses of scientific understanding, by placing discoveries in the context of the time at which they occurred. It was pointed out that if done badly this can make students cynical, as reported in the Guardian.

“I too like empha­sis on sto­ries & ‘big pic­ture’, but have some con­cern about focus on history/sociology of sci­ence.” @audm

“I like sto­ries in sci­ence too. Helps con­nect to per­sonal side of how sci­ence pro­ceeds.” @tonyperry

“My con­cern with sto­ries is that if you only give a broad pic­ture the stu­dents miss the details that may help explain a concept.” @jennjtaylor

It was suggested that using this kind of narrative approach was a good way to engage female students – those who have often become disenchanted by science. This concept was also discussed during the first #SciTeachJC, and I’ve read before that girls are more likely to prefer to ‘set the scene’ for work before considering new concepts, instead of fitting them into a framework afterwards. @Alby mentioned a report which collected data to show different preferences for male and female students, but I can’t find a link. It was pointed out that if we change the delivery to suit one group of learners it implies others, boys in this case, are less well catered for.

“I think that human­iz­ing sci­ence with sto­ries is par­tic­u­larly impor­tant for get­ting girls inter­ested.” @26Tim

“Which rather links into the pre­vi­ous JC — I’d say anec­do­tally I’ve noticed the same re girls pre­fer­ring per­sonal inter­est.” @morphosaurus

The advantage of adding relevant stories and anecdotes to a big picture – rather than building a syllabus around current ideas – is that as scientific understanding changes, so can the chosen stories. The very fact that you have changed the stories is worth sharing with students, as it illustrates the evidence-based nature of scientific ideas. @PhysicsChris shared a link to some narrative-style textbooks. I didn’t share the link, but I also like these books (and I’ve lost the URL to another set, Spanish author – answers on a postcard).

“IGCSE peo­ple sug­gest you fit your own sto­ries in to their con­tent. keeps it rel­e­vant. 2006 con­tro­ver­sies don’t last.” @gwiff


“my feel­ing — report suc­cess as far as went, prob­lem was lack of polit­i­cal will and patience to wait for *teach­ers* to address.” @teachingofsci

“Report made me think about what sci­ence skills/knowledge really are useful/engaging to my students rather than what *I* think they should find useful/engaging.” @Arakwai

“Surely main prob­lem of the ‘Beyond 2000′ report is that most sci. teach­ing staff have never heard of it or read it?” @Alby

“I’d sum­marise by say­ing that we’re going in the right direc­tion, and could do with­out a mas­sive reor­gan­i­sa­tion right now” @26Tim

So the overall feeling seemed to be that the report, despite weaknesses such as lack of detail for assessment and slight lack of clarity for HSW, was strong. I don’t think I was the only person to recognise, with frustration, that the issues are often not ones that can be addressed in the classroom. Some can be – and I will certainly be thinking about displays and electronic formats (perhaps a wiki?) to show students how what they are studying fits into a bigger picture. I’ve used newspaper articles and online blogs to show students how scientific research can be ‘deciphered’ (for example by using “How to read Health News” from NHS Behind the Headlines). But the issues are bigger than one teacher, or even a group of us, can solve. They are problems that a department must consider. And more than anything, the concerns identified must be recognised by administrators and government ministers, who must then be able to listen to business and academic leaders without kowtowing to them. Above all, those who make decisions about exam specifications and league tables must be able to choose what is right, rather than what is popular.

And so we return to the title of this post; when #SciteachJC rules the world…

The First Rule

The first rule of Journal Club – is do talk about Journal Club.

Journal clubs aren’t a new idea – as I understand it, their most wide spread incarnation is within medicine. A bunch of professionals get together to argue about an academic paper, both how it’s written and what the consequences are for their professional practice. #TwitJC from @fidouglas and @silv24, is just like that, but on Twitter. I seem to remember reading it had been mentioned in the BMJ, but now can’t find a link. Correction – have been told is in Nature News.Html Suffice to say it’s had lots of positive attention and comments.

So now we have #SciTeachJC, run by @alby and @alomshaha. The idea is for professionals to get together and argue about an academic paper, both how it’s written and what the consequences are for their professional practice. And no, that’s not a typo – I’m deliberately putting this in the same context as that of medical professionals. This isn’t to try to start a pissing contest with medics, but to challenge my teaching colleagues to see themselves as part of a profession, not just a job. My misquote at the start is to make the point that the more people are involved, the better the outcomes will be. We need to tell our colleagues about it – maybe even look at the same papers ‘in-house’, before or after the sessions – and encourage professional organisations to take part. It isn’t something that needs huge budgets or large amounts of time, but what better way to demonstrate that teachers are engaged and enthusiastic than taking part in their discussions? (All welcome, even Michael Gove.)

Two Purposes

From my point of view – and I’d love to hear alternative perspectives in the comments below, or via twitter if you’re feeling lazy – there are two main reasons to be involved with something like #SciTeachJC. One is to provide a prompt to the bigger ideas that are so easy to lose sight of in the daily routine of lesson planning and marking – perhaps it’s a way to ‘reprofessionalise‘, as @informed_edu puts it? And the second, if course, is that you finish the session, or read through the archive, and pick up things you can apply pretty much instantly to your own practice. I guess that most CPD, if it’s going to be worthwhile, should aim to tick both these boxes. Any readers with military experience (other than being outnumbered 30 to 1 on a daily basis) will recognise this as a distinction between strategy and tactics.

Big Picture

A teacher could get their planning down quickly and easily by doing the same old thing all the time. Of course kids vary, but after a few years you do tend to see a lot of the same attitudes, hear a lot of the same complaints and questions. You could ignore the exceptions, if you chose to. I try not to, but we all have bad days and busy weeks – I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we claimed to always be working at 100%, because we’d kill ourselves. Engaging with more challenging ideas, thinking about our professional practice, is really valuable for it’s own sake. It makes us ‘conscious teachers’, in the same way that we want our students to be thinking about the how and why of their learning, not just the what. There are many ways to trigger these ‘professional attitudes’ – perhaps get involved with Purpos/Ed, start blogging or just run a weekly ‘ideas swap’ in your workplace. Or you could try reading a challenging academic paper, and then spend some time discussing its implications with colleagues, near and far. Hence SciTeachJC.


This is – and I hope nobody takes this as a criticism – how I approach #ukedchat and #asechat, when I can make it. (That pesky real life thing.) I want ideas that I can use pretty much straight away. It’s always good to get a fresh, often contrasting perspective. That said, it’s great when people tell you that they like, and intend to steal, your ideas; there’s nothing like a little validation!

I’ve babbled for longer than I planned – but I think it was worthwhile babble. This post was intended to be just about the ideas I’ve picked up from the first #SciTeachJC (full archive and participation graphic also available). So my actions and ideas to takeaway were:

  • A reminder that girls often don’t see themselves as having potential in science, or careers that depend on it. (Also covered in the IOP Girls In Physics report of course.)
  • Made me wonder (and since then, check my reports) – am I guilty of seeing boys high marks as indicative of ability, and girls’ (equal) achievement as reflecting hard work?
  • Plan to do work in class contrasting the action of ‘doing’ science, with ‘being’ a scientist. This will give me a new way to use the ‘Spot The Physics’ worksheets I did as well as getting kids to look at the Hidden Science Map or the IOP’s Once a Physicist feature (behind paywall). Aim will be to help them to realise that scientific skills are widely applicable.
  • Get myself organised to apply for I’m A Scientist… and Cafe Science to allow students to meet ‘real’ people who use science in their careers, overtly or more subtly.
  • Several discussions flagged up the difference between ‘science for (future) scientists’ and ‘science for citizens’ – not sure what influence a humble classroom teacher can have, but still! Should we be considering ‘being science literate’ as a skill that can be demonstrated across subject areas, like ICT techniques?
  • Need to emphasize to kids that scientists are creative in suggesting hypotheses to test, methods to try, approaches to investigation.
  • Consider writing or organising a regular review (book, film, TV) to go on the VLE/noticeboard which will look at the science used or abused in something kids may have seen or read.

And Finally…

I really enjoyed the session, and plan to ‘attend’ the next one. I’ve even printed off the next paper, although I’ve not read it yet. I wonder if we’ll all get more out of it if we can be a little more focused – although giving useful feedback and ideas in 140 characters is obviously a limitation of the medium, not our span of attention. I’m going to look more closely at the suggested questions list, and perhaps even be organised about finding some references online beforehand to make it easier to keep up.

And this brings me to the final advantage of something, anything, like #SciTeachJC. It’s easy as a teacher to stay in our comfort zones. This means it’s easy to forget how our students might sometimes feel. I found the first paper challenging – I scribbled in the margins, checked my understanding, had to go back and reread some parts. Feeling a little out of my depth made me appreciate how our students sometimes feel. Even without the ideas, the discussions, the chance to ‘meet’ other teaching professionals, that empathy would have made it all worthwhile.

So remember the first rule of Journal Club… and maybe I’ll catch up with you next time?