Introducing the CogSciSci site

The winds of educational change have blown radically over the last few years. Fierce debates within the education community have become fertile proving grounds for new ideas to be tested, new thoughts to be crystallised and new voices to be heard. Twitter has emerged as an incredible driving force, allowing like-minded professionals from all over the world to connect. Grassroots organisations like researchED have advocated for teachers to become more in touch with rigorous educational research, the edublogosphere has translated empirical findings into front-line practice, and institutions like Michaela Community School have shown us what is possible given intellectual and organisational freedom.

#CogSciSci was a small part of that. Two and a half years ago, a few science teachers connected over social media and started thinking about implementing major findings from cognitive science into their day to day practice. Eager for rigorous standards of thought and practice, we tried to grow our community and increase the number of people sharing, thinking and innovating. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that many were desperate to be involved. Tired of conventional approaches to teaching and learning, CPD and non-subject-specific advice, the community has grown beyond what we ever anticipated. There are now over a thousand teachers on our email group, dozens of new blogs, hundreds of new Twitter users and a national conference that sold all its tickets within twenty four hours.

But that growth has largely been organic and undirected. Without a doubt, this has been a strength and positive characteristic of what can now be called a movement. It’s allowed anybody to join in and share: all voices and ideas have been welcomed and we have all benefited. But this kind of model also has its downsides: the sheer productivity of the community has meant that some of the growth will have passed some people by. The ad hoc posting and sharing means that ideas and resources are not collected and organised systematically into any central location. Furthermore, it’s not always clear to newcomers where they should start. Our community’s knowledge is dispersed and spread out, leading to newcomers having to navigate a sporadic and sketchy curriculum that only ever existed in people’s minds.

This new website seeks to fill that gap. Without aiming to be authoritative, it hopes to be at least a comprehensive representation of the productivity of the CogSciSci community. We have tried to collect the best of what the community has thought and said into one place so that we can all grow further. This site will provide training, resources, communal collaboration and intellectual stimulation, all from a desire to use cutting edge educational research to improve student outcomes.

Do please take a few minutes to travel around the site. Some of it may look quite familiar to you, but we have tried to build areas that are truly different to your standard fare.

We’re incredibly excited about this. We want it to become a vibrant hub of energy and dynamism, a place where ideas and innovations become the norm and where science teachers across the world can come for knowledge and support.

CogSciSci is, and will always be, free. We are completely grassroots and run by a team of volunteers giving up our time for a cause we believe in. We ask for only two things in return. First, we ask that you subscribe via email, which you can do at the bottom of the home page. This means that you won’t miss any content and that when we publish a new blog, learning module, resource or departmental development tool you receive it straight to your inbox. We are doing this because we want to help: you subscribing is how we know that we are reaching people.

Secondly, and more importantly, we want you to support us. Not financially, but in terms of the human social and intellectual capital you can bring. We want you to blog for us. We want you to write resources for us. We want you to complete our professional learning courses and we want you to discuss your thoughts with us. We want you to find a fascinating book to read and to write a review for us. We want you to share us with your department and to bring more teachers into the fold. If you want to help or to contribute but don’t know how, send us an email. Without you, without your ideas, your reading and your experience we cannot continue to grow.

So please, take some time to look around. https://cogscisci.wordpress.com/

Write down one of our courses as a performance management target for this year. Think about an idea you’ve tried recently and how you could share that. Look at some of your resources and think about how we can help you improve them. And if you have a question: ask, ask ask.

We’re excited, and we hope you are too,

The CogSciSci team


HoDSciSci’s advice to new HoDs

We asked the members of the HoDSciSci staff room slack channel what advice they would give new Heads of Department. Here are some of their gems. If you are a new HoD and want to join over 300 others in the staff room just DM @HoDSciSci on twitter.

Mike writes: When planning your days as a new HoD, think about how long a task will take and allow at least half again as much time. This covers unexpected interruptions or the job just being harder than you thought.

Liam writes: I wish I’d known the importance of saying no, or delegating a task to others. We can’t do everything and if we try we’ll do it all worse than if we only did some.

Richard writes: When I became HoD I wish I had more developed strategies for difficult conversations.

  1. Listen
  2. Action if 100% sure your action is the best course of action. If not, say ‘I will have a think and get back you you’. Rarely do you need to decide there and then.
  3. Don’t get sidetracked during conversation, say ‘that’s a separate issue ans we can discuss that at a separate time’.

Sarah writes: When I became Head of Science I wish I had realised the importance of developing my staff as teachers. I focused on curriculum development and all of the tasks SLT required me to complete. What would have really made my department excel is if I had spent time preparing high quality, researched based CPD to allow every member of the department, myself included, to become the best teacher they could be. I now see this as one of the key parts of my role.

Joe writers: If you deligate, you have to accept that it won’t be done to the standard you wanted so just accept it.
Unless you explicitly tell people what to do and when they won’t do something out of the goodness of their heart.

Dave writes: When given a task to do, stick to the brief carefully so not to make extra work for yourself. 

Katy writes: That you are not responsible for everything. Delegate and keep to any deadlines you set in conjunction with your team.

Sophie writes: Having a big dream/vision is important but you can’t do it all at once. Decide the highest leverage actions and work your way through them.

Mrs P writes: Focus on your technicians! Not only are they your eyes and ears, they are instrumental in the smooth management of the team. Include them in every decision and set aside time every 1/2 term to catch up – pinch points, administration of resources, even the mental health of the team, as some teachers pour their hearts out to techs, but fear of judgement stops them from speaking up. Provide them with bespoke CPD as they often don’t feel catered for in the whole school or department foci.

Michael writes: Put the teachers and staff within the department first.  Look after there needs and they will look after the students.

Tom writes: I wish I had the confidence to question every ‘dictat’ that comes down from above (just think it over, not actually question the sender..), and to consider if what we were being asked to do fitted with my vision of teaching and learning. If not, to go and have a conversation with the originator (armed with done evidence) to negotiate.

Andrew writes: I wish I had known accepting you made a mistake is not a sign of weakness (although it feels like it) – apologise and make it right.

Lots of god advice there. We hope you found it helpful. If you have any questions please get in touch via twitter @HodSciSci

CogSciSci Book review: Greg Ashman’s The Power of Explicit Teaching and Direct Instruction

A book review by Matt Ben David a science teacher from London.

Greg Ashman’s The Power of Explicit Teaching and Direct Instruction is a 134-page, no-holds-barred, whistle-stop tour of, well, explicit teaching and direct instruction. The book starts by addressing both the importance of, and the main objections to a knowledge-rich curriculum before moving into the difference between Direct Instruction (big D, big I), direct instruction (little d, little i), and explicit teaching. It then applies the latter to education processes, differentiation, and critical thinking, before wrapping it up with a foray into research-based strategies to support explicit teaching, the impact of prior knowledge, the purpose of exams, and finally some advice on how to implement it all when you know you’re going to get push-back. All in all, a solid introduction to explicit teaching that I would happily recommend to any teacher.

Book Structure

Ashman prefaces ‘The Power’ with a short introduction to his “teaching journey”. His story, I think, is a familiar one – encouraged to try discovery/inquiry/enquiry learning and finding that it just doesn’t work the way we perhaps want it to. Reading this as a teacher who very much made a similar journey, I spent a lot of the short preface nodding away in agreement.

The “meat” of the book is broken down into seven chapters, each one starting with a few short bullet points outlining the key aspects that Ashman intends to address in the succeeding pages, and ending with the extensive works referenced (for real, this book is fantastically referenced – everything Ashman argues, he backs up). The chapters themselves do have slightly vague titles that spark a certain level of curiosity, even if I’m not 100% sure what it is I’m curious about – “Halfway up a ladder”? The giant shrugs”? On the first read, this isn’t a problem – I simply read the book cover-to-cover – but in terms of referencing back, or recommending particular sections to colleagues, it is a little tricky remembering which of the snappily-named chapters a particular point was in. Thankfully, there is a solid index which happily alleviates this problem!


The first chapter, On the Shoulders of Giants, discusses why we actually have to teach content, what we need to teach, and the baggage that goes with those decisions. Ashman outlines the importance of a knowledge-rich curriculum, builds up the arguments against such a thing, and then succinctly knocks them down. From there Ashman moves on, diving into a description of Project Follow Through. Ashman’s description is brief but clear, outlining its purpose and some of the more relevant results, as well as highlighting some of the criticisms of it. He then does the same for Direct Instruction, and so on and so forth. This pattern of criticism followed by a thorough dismantling of said criticism is a common theme in ‘The Power’, used not only when discussing Project Follow Through, and DI, but also every other aspect approached in the book – treating students as novices vs as experts, differentiation, critical thinking, and using student prior knowledge. As readers and teachers, we generally want to know what problems we might face when it comes to implementing research – often that which works well in a clinical environment loses some efficacy when attempted in the entropic world of the year 9 classroom. By displaying issues upfront before countering them, Ashman portrays a balanced and practical view of both the research and of the arguments he is making.

This book is not simply a research review – throughout it, Ashman supplements the research findings with arguments as to exactly why these findings are useful to us as teachers, weaving in elements of how his own teaching has benefited from said research. There is a lot of “I” – “I have a routine”, “I now understand” – that almost brings the research into the classroom for you. This is not an author saying “the research says X, you should do X” and yet is afraid to try it for themselves, or perhaps has no actual experience of its implementation in the classroom. This is a teacher saying “this research said X might solve the problems I was having, and I tried it and it does, if you’re having the same problems I had, you should try it too”.

I will say that Ashman’s tone throughout is incredibly no-nonsense. I get the distinct feeling he does not suffer fools gladly and will not tolerate bonkers recommendations for teaching. For me, this makes the book entertaining as well as enlightening – there were a few times I stopped reading and just thought “damn, that’s one way of putting it” – but I can imagine there will be some people who dislike this. This is not really a criticism though, because I’m sure there are many people who dislike my own tone as far too conversational!

Is The Power of Explicit Teaching and Direct Instruction worth getting?


All in all, The Power of Explicit Teaching and Direct Instruction is a good summary of “the research” and how it works in an actual classroom. If you’re new to the world of explicit teaching, it’s a safe starting place. If you’re already well-versed with all things direct and explicit, there might be an element of teaching you to suck eggs, but it’s certainly not an arduous reacquainting with that which you already know.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in the research side of things, may I recommend these two compilations: The Science of Learning by Edward Watson and Bradely Busch, and How Learning Happens by Carl Hendrick and Paul A. Kirschner. If you’re more interested in what explicit teaching and direct instruction looks like from a classroom or teacher’s perspective, I would recommend The ResearchED Guide to Explicit and Direct Instruction edited by Adam Boxer (series editor: Tom Bennett), which features, among chapters by a number of great people, a chapter by Greg Ashman.

Notable Lines

As I mentioned above, Ashman’s tone is amazing, and I wanted to pick out a few of my favourite lines. They aren’t necessarily the most informative, they’re just the ones that made me, when I first read the book, stop and reflect for a moment:

  • “ All teaching is, by definition child-centred” – p22
  • “Throwing novice maths students into complex and challenging problems with the intention of making them more resilient is perhaps a flawed idea” – p55
  • “Perhaps explicit teaching is dangerous magic […] Like a knife that may be used to chop onions or to stab another person, explicit teaching has no moral weight in its own right – it is just a tool that may be used for good or evil.” – p103
  • “Those who seek to abolish exams often do so on the basis that they should be replaced with a more humane system that recognises the sum of a student’s achievements rather than their performance on a single day. Yet exams exist for a reason.” -p120
  • When a surgeon conducts an operation, they must follow agreed protocols and there are fellow trained professionals in the operating theatre alongside the surgeon. When a teacher closes the classroom door, they are usually on their own and can do pretty much what they like” – p131

CogSciSci Book review: How We Learn: The New Science of Education and the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene

A book review by Dom Shibli – Senior Lecturer in Secondary Science at the University of Hertfordshire

This is a book I read a few months ago. But instead of being returned to the bookshelf for me to look at and reminisce, it is now inundated with Post it notes and used to inform planning of my course for next year. I want to give you a taster as to why you should read this book because I think the valuable time you will put into reading it will be worth it.

In starting my book review I want to start at the end. In the final paragraph of the book Dehaene writes:

‘Just as medicine is based on biology, the field of education must be grounded in a systematic and rigorous research ecosystem that brings together teachers, patients, and researchers, in a ceaseless search for more effective, evidence-based learning strategies.’

I am not an expert in the field of neuroscience and it is hard for me to be critical about the work done in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to make inferences about how the mind works. But Dehaene doesn’t just argue that the brain is a complicated computer and from reading the book I do get a sense of his understanding of the beautiful complexity of being a human.

Dehaene divides the book into 3 sections. He defines learning, uses case studies and data from MRI studies to then explain how the mind works before identifying ‘The Four Pillars of Learning’. He interweaves the narrative with tales from the human struggle to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) which I think is to demonstrate how wonderfully complex the human mind is. Having demonstrated how he thinks the mind works he uses this information to introduce ‘The Four Pillars of Learning’

  1. Attention
  2. Active Engagement
  3. Error Feedback
  4. Consolidation

He suggests that ‘each of them plays an essential role in the stability of our mental constructions’. For those of you who are interested in learning  I doubt these would be controversial choices as ‘Pillars of Learning’ but how Dehaene elucidates them makes them essential for every teacher to know. Especially because if one of these is weak or absent then the learning process falls down. So an effective teacher is one who understands how these work and deploys them in their classroom.

Attention – Teachers need to teach students how to pay attention. This is because attention is a limited resource and if a student fails to pay attention they might be completely oblivious to their teacher’s message. So attention is an essential ingredient to successful learning and a good teacher is able to direct attention like a conductor standing in front of an orchestra.

A lovely example of how paying attention and social learning can have an unwelcome influence on the learning process is an experiment where babies watched adults press a button with their head. They did this because their hands were tied up. In observing this when the babies did the experiment they pressed the button with their hands. In a second experiment the babies observed an adult press the button with their head but this time there hands were not tied up. The babies saw this and also pushed the button with their heads. We can absorb information whether we know it to be truthful or not thus maintaining long disproven theories. Since we have the capacity to be unthinking copycats teachers should try and direct attention and not leave the learning process to chance.

Active Engagement – This does not mean moving around the room gathering information. Active engagement takes place in the mind and not the feet! Dehaene quotes another titan in the field of psychology, Richard Mayer, who writes that best success is achieved with ‘methods of instruction that involve cognitive activity rather than behavioural activity’. Daniel Willingham has written about how humans find thinking effortful. A teacher will be successful if they can stimulate curiosity which encourages thinking. If this thinking is translated into success then the effort of the student is rewarded. This is why I aim to make learning visible to the students in the classroom. I especially found that lower attaining students liked knowing that they had got something right and aimed to do this in every lesson so that I could try and short circuit their negative feelings towards my subject which they thought they couldn’t do.

Error Feedback – Dehaene states that a teacher should tell the truth and not judge when giving feedback. But my favourite line from this chapter is that ‘feedback reduces learner uncertainty’. So ask yourself about how you respond to students in the classroom and in their exercise books. If what you do doesn’t reduce uncertainty do it differently. He also suggests that memory is not about looking to the past but about its role in sending data to the future so we can access it later. When you can’t access it then you know that is has not been learned.

Consolidation –  If you can gain fluency then the effort required in the mind is reduced and so frees up mental resources to focus in other areas. By giving students the opportunity to practice something repeatedly there is a shift from slow, conscious and effortful processing to fast, unconscious and automatic responses.

The final chapter sums up how the field of neuroscience and education should exist together. Throughout the book Dehaene demonstrates that our brains are all the same and as teachers you should judge a child’s level and teach them accordingly. Notice students’ attention in your classroom, keep them curious and engaged (develop a sensible curriculum), make the school day enjoyable, design activities that support cognitive activity, accept mistakes, correct them and practice regularly. His final thought is about the importance of sleep and suggests that it might strengthen memory. Although it is not an excuse for falling asleep in the classroom.

I have left lots out of the book which I hope might encourage you to read it. This is not a Greatest Hits with all the well known tracks referenced. I picked out aspects of the book I liked, so read it and make your own greatest hits.

Thanks Dom for reviewing the book. If anyone else reads a book that they think other CogSci teachers might enjoy please get in touch. We would love you to review it for us!

HoDSciSci March Roundtable: Teacher Assessed Grades

March brings us to the elephant in the room of most HoDs minds: Teacher Assessed Grades. As it stands there is still woefully little specificity and guidance from The Powers That Be. We thought the best we could do is get a few HoDs to share their thoughts and plans for Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs). All plans are subject to change and we are eternally grateful for our HoDs for taking the time to share, given how incredibly busy we all are. If you have any questions or feedback please get in touch via twitter @HodSciSci, using the hashtags #HoDSciSci #TeacherAssessedGrades.

Adam Robbins

How are you planning on doing your teacher assessment (and can you give a brief rationale)?

We have a decent paper 1 mock set from November. We are thinking of using adapted papers for a paper 1+2 assessment around end of May (changing the numbers to prevent memorising markschemes).

Are you expecting similar outcomes to 2020?

I think there will be more inflation than last time across the system. But we have historic data and a decent starting point, so we can project relatively accurately what our improvement over the rest of the year would have been and arrive a decent grade distribution. We will also compare between other schools in the MAT

What are your biggest concerns?

Alevel performance is my biggest concern. So many variables at this stage and small sample size means aggregation and trends over the years are pointless.

People misunderstanding how assessment works and what GCSE grades actually are will also drive inequality between schools. There is a huge CPD need to stop teachers looking at little Billies powerstation essay, awarding it a grade 6 and then giving them a grade 6 overall!

I’m basically more worried about other schools than my own as I don’t want to disadvantage our students due to others generosity/incompetence.

What do you see the role of the HoD in this process?

Holding SLT at bay. They may want to solve all the problems and design a complex system that creates a mirage of certainty. HoDs job is to look at the practical implications and ask two questions;

1. Can this be done? 

2. Will it tell me anything I don’t know?

Adapting the initial plan to make it work for science will be key. Managing up will be a key skill.

Do you have a sixth form? If so does this impact your decision making?

We have to think very carefully about the awarding of a grade 6, which is our entry requirement. In some ways this helps us award our TAGs. We can look at the students in the area of grade 6 an ask ‘would they be able to access Alevel if they wanted to?’

Have you received any parental or student pressure yet? 

No. Although some Year 13 students are very keen to know where they stand.

How far will school’s P8 measure factor into grades awarded?

We know our trajectory of improvement as a department and the early data suggests we would be able to secure a positive progress 8 from this cohort. Although this is not a true P8, due to the algorithm being from 2019, it will give us a final check at the overall awarded grades to see if they are around the right level.

What things constitute ‘strong’ evidence in your opinion?

Any data from our November mocks. Other assessments that are of a decent length (45 marks +) and cover a range of the course. I wouldn’t view ‘topic tests’ as robust enough.

How will you protect your staff from ‘revenge’ harassment from students unhappy with their grade?

The process needs to involve teachers, but the decisions need to be mine. With a transparent logic I feel we can deal with any unhappy students who wish to raise concerns over their grade.

Will your Head of Centre be able to sign off that students have studied enough science to progress? How much is enough?

I am expecting to cover the syllabus for year 11. I see the syllabus as a right for each student so we will prioritise that over ‘booster’ sessions.

Liam Fishwick

How are you planning on doing your teacher assessment (and can you give a brief rationale)?

We have solid paper 1 set from November as we completed mocks before we broke up. We’re planning to do another assessment covering content taught from exam papers adapted to reduce mark scheme memorisation effect as much as possible. These will be sat in a window at the end of April early May. We’ll also do some more questions on bits we couldn’t fit into the main window in the classroom.

Are you expecting similar outcomes to 2020?

Likely that nationally there will be some inflation, but given we have good trajectory data from previous years and mocks I think we should be relatively similar to 2019/2020. We can also compare within the MAT to allow for calibration on what we’ve achieved before. Useful to help provide as many tying points as possible. A level is a bigger issue. Small classes, very different cohorts and not the same ability to tie across MAT means this is a much more difficult task. There is also an even greater effect on student futures for the A level cohort as well.

What are your biggest concerns?

National inflation and lack of agreed standard for grades could lead to larger gaps nationally and potential disadvantaging own students because other schools are less rigorous.

What do you see the role of the HoD in this process?

To provide the link between the SLT desires for the whole school and what will be right for students and science. Engaging in discussion with SLT to make sure that views on curriculum are heard and the well-being of staff and students is kept at front of thoughts. Cannot be burning everyone out by assessing constantly and having an overly complex system that won’t provide any better information than something less complex.

Do you have a sixth form?

Yes we do.

If so does this impact your decision making?

No, I am trying to maintain integrity in production of the grades such that students that should progress can do and that we are not disadvantaging students in this system.

Have you received any parental or student pressure yet? 

No. Only questions but the sort of sensible questions we would expect. The SLT are handling any queries that could become pressure so have not had anything directly, nor would I expect any pressure for specific grades from my cohort.

How far will school’s P8 measure factor into grades awarded?

Early data was suggesting (using previous coefficients of course) that we would be on track to being positive overall. I expect that we will make good use of comparisons with our past performance and the current cohorts at similar places to help look at what our overall outcomes would likely have been.

What things constitute ‘strong’ evidence in your opinion?

Previously unseen assessments that have been completed in person in school. Nothing remote at all, and the strongest we would have currently is from November mocks. All assessments that cover a large number of topics rather than just topic tests are considered strong enough in my opinion.

How will you protect your staff from ‘revenge’ harassment from students unhappy with their grade?

The process is being clearly laid out to students and there are many levels of internal QA. While teachers will contribute, final decisions on grades at subject level will be mine. Clearly communicating in advance through the whole school to how we will be arriving at these grades (initial statements for timescales and likely evidence have already been shared but at time of writing final guidance from boards is still not out).

Will your Head of Centre be able to sign off that students have studied enough science to progress? 

We will have covered essentially the entire syllabus for y11. There will be some trimming for assessment purposes but yes we expect that students have studied enough to progress.

David Gash

  1. How are you planning on doing your teacher assessment (and can you give a brief rationale)?

    I have asked my teaching staff to submit a teacher assessed grade during the week beginning 15th March to our internal tracking sheet. This is based on the staff’s knowledge of the pupils prior attainment in mocks and their attitudes to learning. This has provided a realistic starting point for our decision making process and will hopefully reduce the chance of highly anomalous data points. Our next step is to produce and administer 3 assessments during the half term after Easter. The scores for these will be totalled and then grades awarded based on the overall difficulty of the papers and the grading profile from our 2020 outcomes so that we do not deviate too much from what we would have been expected to achieve. Staff will then need to consider this evidence in line with their previous evidence to arrive at a best fit grade. Thankfully we made the decision to produce our own assessments nice and early so that we can press on with preparing our pupils. Waiting until Easter for information about exam materials was not ideal in my opinion.

  2. Are you expecting similar outcomes to 2020?

    The year group as a whole is not hugely dissimilar to the previous year group so we feel a similar set of outcomes is fair and reasonable. I would have normally expected to see a slight increase but the impact of COVID on the attendance of this cohort over the past 12 months cannot be totally ignored.
  3. What are your biggest concerns? I have two main concerns. Firstly, how will the late bloomers fare in this adapted approach to assessment? We always end up with some pupils really turning it on in their exams and surprising us all in the nicest of ways! Will they be able to shine in the same way given their prior attendance? Secondly, I want to ensure that all pupils get a realistic chance of progressing to their next destination. (There is a balancing act here in ensuring destinations are realistic for each individual.)
  1. What do you see the role of the HoD in this process?

    Very much quality assurance and the gatekeeper for grading decisions. Most of the staff involved were also involved in 2020 so to have the experience of that under their belt. As HoD I will need to be an unbiased (if there is such a thing) sounding board for their rationale behind their decision making process. 
  2. Do you have a sixth form? If so does this impact your decision making?

    We have a sixth form and we have many of our pupils who intend on staying on in September 2021. At this stage in Y11 we are pretty secure in our knowledge of who is capable of studying A-level and who is not so grading decisions will not be unduly influenced by their destinations for the most part. Those 1 or 2 borderline pupils should , in my opinion, be given the benefit of the doubt as long as there is sufficient evidence to support it. We as a school can support their transition to sixth form accordingly as long as our discussion with the sixth form team and teachers are honest and accurate.

  3. Have you received any parental or student pressure yet?

    Non so far! 🙂
  4. How far will school’s P8 measure factor into grades awarded?

    I work in an RI school whose P8 figure has never peaked above -0.45 so it would be foolish to start awarding grades that would contribute to a figure of +0.85 all of a sudden! We have an acceptable degree of tolerance produced by our own internal data systems which, we feel, allows us to show the improvements we are making as a school without providing false outcomes for pupils.
  5. What things constitute ‘strong’ evidence in your opinion?

    Exam-based data! This is how GCSE grades are determined so I feel this is the best data you can use to measure a pupils performance relative to their peers. The tricky part is designing an assessment tool that is both robust and reflects the intended assessment. Schools are being asked to do something in a matter of weeks that exam boards normally get a year or so to do. I am not critical of the exam boards here but this does put incredible pressure on middle leaders and teachers and will, unfortunately, affect the validity of the grading decisions we take. 
  1. How will you protect your staff from ‘revenge’ harassment from students unhappy with their grade?

    All grading decisions will be quality assured by me and my line manager (also a scientist). Any complaints will have to come through us.

  2. Will your Head of Centre be able to sign off that students have studied enough science to progress? How much is enough?

    Yes. Our pupils will have covered the entire GCSE Specifications during their time with us.

Richard Gale

  1. How are you planning on doing your teacher assessment (and can you give a brief rationale)?

Preset by our deputy academic, existing data (two major pieces done in lockdowns so questionable quality in the data. short GCSE’s/ A-levels covering this year’s content only for end of May assessments.

2. Are you expecting similar outcomes to 2020?

Actually higher, with the OFQUAL announcement form the webinar pupils will have access to the questions and answers which we could use. With the limited topics we can set (see above) relatively straightforward for pupils to have already seen all of the questions. Pupils will be given the grade they achieve in these exams. 

3. What are your biggest concerns?

See answer to point 2. Also that there are additional pressures on pupils and teachers. 

4. What do you see the role of the HoD in this process?

Take the pressure off staff and pupils as much as possible. 

5. Do you have a sixth form? If so does this impact your decision making?

Yes we have a sixth form. Last year we spoke a lot about progression. This year less so. My worry is more inflation. 

6. Have you received any parental or student pressure yet? 

Yes, we have already had requests for data we hold on pupils. 

7. How far will school’s P8 measure factor into grades awarded?

Little this year, hence my concern. 

8. What things constitute ‘strong’ evidence in your opinion?

Evidence from EOY and EOT tests, with an opportunity for pupils to exceed this with an assessment in the summer.

9. How will you protect your staff from ‘revenge’ harassment from students unhappy with their grade?

Any contact from pupils of parents is forwarded straight to the head and line manager. I intend to do my bit by stressing the limited role class teachers will play in the decision. Pupils have the opportunity though their performances. 

20. Will your Head of Centre be able to sign off that students have studied enough science to progress? How much is enough?

We have completed the course, successful guided home learning on teams. 

Victoria Judge

1.How are you planning on doing your teacher assessment (and can you give a brief rationale)?

We have a mock result from November which is our most robust evidence to date. The school also arranged a second mock exam period running 1st-15th March. To make the assessments more worthwhile, we ran them 8th-15th March so they would not have to be done remotely. Unfortunately, it does mean that students returning after lockdown were greeted almost immediately with assessments. I think the lack of face-to-face preparation and the long period of lockdown in the run-up to these mocks, will result in lower outcomes than the November assessments, but for some students, it is providing useful additional evidence. We are due to run another assessment period shortly after Easter which I think will yield more realistic results than the March one. All the papers we have used were ‘secure’ from the exam board, although with schools running mocks at all different times and in different ways, just how ‘secure’ these actually are, is questionable.

2. Are you expecting similar outcomes to 2020?

I am expecting a roughly similar spread of results within the department as a whole, but at qualification level, we will probably see some change. The 2020 cohort had one separate science class, whereas this year we only have combined science so I think that will affect the spread of our results. I think results nationally will see more inflation than last year, and I am interested to see how publically accessible exam board resources might feed into this.

3. What are your biggest concerns?

A general lack of consistency in methods for grading nationally, coupled with a lack of understanding of assessment. I fear that other schools may apply too much weighting to ungradeable coursework and the rigour of assessment will be lost in some schools, disadvantaging others who use more valid assessment inferences. Lack of secure assessment materials, even those that are supposed to be secure. 

4. What do you see the role of the HoD in this process?

To quality-assure the process of awarding grades and to ensure that there is strong evidence and rationale behind all the grades awarded in science. Also, to be the subject specialist in discussions with SLT around where the best evidence will come from, and what types of work can or cannot be “graded”.

5. Do you have a sixth form? If so does this impact your decision making?

We do, but we do not have Science courses running this year. 

6. Have you received any parental or student pressure yet? 

I have not received any pressure from students or parents, but I have been asked by many students what their Teacher Assessed Grade is going to be so that they can fill in Sixth Form applications. Every time I am asked, I have to explain that the most recent reported forecast is what they should use and this has caused some stress to students who are convinced that other schools are informing their students of the TAGs already!

7. How far will school’s P8 measure factor into grades awarded?

Our trajectory from historical data shows that we are improving our outcomes year on year, but I am not expecting our results to suddenly jump up this academic year. A comparison with previous P8 data will show if we are being reasonable with our Teacher Assessed Grades and that they are reflective of what we would have been expecting this year anyway. 

8. What things constitute ‘strong’ evidence in your opinion?

Data generated from exam papers, taken in exam conditions, covering a broad range of subject content. This is why we have used previously unseen assessments for your evidence so far. I don’t think end of topic tests are particularly robust and class work, I feel is useless in terms of awarding a grade. This is why I think the important part of a HoD’s role is to be the specialist in discussion with SLT. Other subjects may be able to use essay-based questions for example. It is important that science departments and senior leaders share an understanding of how GCSE grades are awarded and what this means for finding the strongest evidence within our subject area. 

9. How will you protect your staff from ‘revenge’ harassment from students unhappy with their grade?

Any complaints will need to come to me and to my line manager. I would not expect any teaching staff to have to deal with complaints as the final decision on grading rest with me and my line manager.

10. Will your Head of Centre be able to sign off that students have studied enough science to progress? How much is enough?

Yes. We have a number of students who wish to go on to study further Science, and it is important that those students are well-prepared from their GCSE study. It is also important that all other students have had the same opportunity for learning the content in the specifications.

HoDSciSci February Roundtable: Remote Assessment

We have interviewed a couple of HoDs regarding how they are using remote assessment. While the UK has only a week or so of remote teaching in front of us we are very aware that there are many HoDs working internationally, so this might be of help. As always a big thank you to the HoDs who gave their time to share.

Name: Katy Hardman

1.How are you assessing students remotely? (are you doing mcqs or teacher marked etc..)

After playing around with this in lockdown 1 we have settled on the following:

Every lesson use either carousel quiz for ks4 or google form for ks3.

End of topic tests still going ahead for all students – KS3 MCQ roughly 40 questions for 45min test and KS4 past exam questions – 45 marks for 60min test. The tests are all google forms with Quilgo enabled to monitor and time students. Really gives students the ‘fear factor’ so has worked well for us.

2.Are you reporting to parents? If so how are you doing this? (grades, percentages etc…)

Yes. We have completed one assessment cycle recently. We are reporting whether students are on track with their ‘flight path’ to their GCSE grade in year 11. There are issues with this reporting system, but we are also sending end of topic test results home so parent are aware.

3.What are you planning on using the data for?

Identifying those a students who are significantly behind where they should be then put them into tutoring and possibly summer school!

4.could you recommend any good blogs or videos for tips and tricks for remote assessment? (do you have any training videos or documents that show people how to set it up best etc..)

I really recommend Quilgo (used to be timify) for timed assessments. 

Pear deck for formative assessment in lesson as well as all the normal whiteboard fi, carousel quiz, quizziz, google forms etc

Name: David Gash

1.How are you assessing students remotely? (are you doing mcqs or teacher marked etc..)

Lots of really informal stuff. Our biggest concern is over validity of assessment. How can we ensure the pupils are not simply googling answers as they go? Informal tools such as whiteboard.fi and MS Forms live in the chat function are really useful in terms of ongoing assessment to inform the next steps in the live lessons. (We currently do 1 live lesson per week for all classes, the rest are recorded lessons / question packs). 

One of my NQT’s has devised a rather clever spreadsheet that will allow us to download the submission data from teams and convert it into some quantitative summary data. This will give us a better picture of the overall submission levels although limited data in terms of attainment. 

We will carry out more formal summative assessments in school when we can control the conditions better. The longer term will reveal the true impact of “lost learning” for our year groups and the response will need to be tailored accordingly. 

2.Are you reporting to parents? If so how are you doing this? (grades, percentages etc…)

Not beyond our normal reporting cycles. The last one was submitted just before Chirstmas and went out to parents in January. This is an attitude to learning grade (1-4 with a best fit qualitative guidance) and also an estimated progress grade on/above/below.

3.What are you planning on using the data for?

My medium to long term aim is to set up a spreadsheet / grid / team area for the pupils to go to that will be populated with all of the resources / recordings / links to the learning they should have completed in lockdown. The data collected from my NQT’s spreadsheet will help staff to direct pupils to specific parts of the spreadsheet to help them to, hopefully, close some gaps. We cannot create time (physics teacher alert…) so the pupils need to realise, quickly, that gaps can only be closed by their own efficacy. This, for me, remains the single biggest challenge of what lies ahead for the students at my school (well over half of pupils are PP).

4.could you recommend any good blogs or videos for tips and tricks for remote assessment? (do you have any training videos or documents that show people how to set it up best etc..)

Whiteboard.fi is really powerful and intuitive, would recommend.

Our next post will be an in depth look at how teacher assessment might look given todays announcement in England. So keep an eye out for it soon.

HoDSciSci January Roundtable: The Quality Assurance of Remote Learning.

We kick off the first HoDSciSci post with a remote learning roundtable. Here a few willing HoDs have answered questions focussed on the quality assurance of remote learning.  

In today’s post we have Darren Walkerdine, Ryan Badham, Nik Rorke and Chris Smith. All four have their students learning via live lessons, which appears to be the most common way this lockdown. The only major difference appears to be that Niks school appears to have moved to 1 to 1 devices in september.

We asked all them to jot down their thoughts on remote learning QA. We’ve edited them into a few common themes. Let’s get cracking!

What do you think the most important aspects of quality assurance are?

DW: In terms of what to look for, for me the priority is clarity of explanations. These should be logically ordered. Ideally, they would be scripted and practiced with other departmental staff. 

RB: For me one of the most important aspects of remote learning quality assurance is the manner in which we go about it. Staff are somewhere along a continuum in terms of their digital literacy and may have other concerns as well. Approaching the QA from the viewpoint of compassionate accountability. Additionally, I think it is important the QA is also forward focused and provides solutions to any issues. 

NR: To me the most important thing is ensuring that there is consistency across the department. Making sure there are clear explanations, good use of models and worked examples, regular assessment and good feedback.

CS: Quality assurance is critical at all levels to ensure we are giving the best possible opportunities to students. Teaching is a professional career and as such we should be accountable for what happens in our classrooms, being online is not different. I agree with Ryan, quality assurance in education has often been seen as a negative tool in some schools, however if it is approached with the right degree of professionalism then it can be an incredible tool. Quality assurance should not only ensure students are having the best possible education delivered but also to ensure staff feel supported. We are in a very new era and it is difficult for any teacher to adapt in the short space of time. Instructional coaching should be a part of quality assurance, it should not stop at a checklist of school’s demands, it must provide an opportunity for feedback and coaching.

How do you think you will quality assure your team when working remotely?

DW: QA can focus on this through a review of pupils written responses, pupil and parent voice. We also QA through drop-ins to remote lessons – currently, we are three weeks into remote teaching and would like to develop teachers in their skills. This requires trust on all sides, and expectations of feedback needs to be clear, about the quality of teaching, as indicated in EEF Rapid Evidence Assessment for Remote Learning (April 2020). We can also review the work set on our homework platform and use insights on MSTeams to survey submitted work.

RB: At our school we are using a blended approach to remote learning consisting of a mix of pre-recorded and live lessons. Live lessons are a new string to our bow only recently added and therefore we are starting the QA process with pre-recorded lessons. We are beginning by looking at basic core teaching aspects and will then move onto looking at the application of core T+L practices such as retrieval practice, modelling are being used in the pre-recorded lessons. This will be through Sampling different pre-recorded videos. Regarding live-lessons we are currently doing lesson drop ins, however, they are and have been fully supportive and completely non-judgmental. Although I’m sure all of us can think of a non-judgmental judgment we have received in the past, we are trying very hard to make it a reality. Like Darren we use a student voice survey, but with caveats. Namely that students can have a skewed perspective on their learning and ensuring that the questions do not level any criticism at the teacher

NR: We have a Staff Notebook which is used for lesson templates. These are much the same as workbooks with a section for a topic and pages for lessons. I monitor (and use) the templates. All staff edit and adapt these pages. This ensures that we are all using the same resources and are teaching to the same order with the same key definitions. All HoDs have been given a Teams Admin login so that we can visit any Team and drop into video calls. I haven’t used this yet as I have been given my department time to settle into the new way of teaching. I plan to ask them to invite me at first to observe any strategies they might want to try so I can give the students’ perspective. I will then aim to do regular drop-ins at given times.

CS: We have recently gone through a rigorous process of designing, resourcing, and implementing our curriculum. This is fully resourced; however, teachers need to personalise their resources for their classes and now adapted to online education. We went through a rigorous process over the first lockdown with initial professional development on how to resource our curriculum (in line with our teaching model) and then team leaders oversaw the process for each discipline. We are currently doing virtual learning walks. These work in a very similar way to our normal learning walks in that they are there for developmental reasons. We are very aware of teachers’ needs at this time and the adaptation process has been a fast one, however we were preparing for this since the last lockdown and have trialed live lessons before this second lockdown. We drop into the Google Meet lesson and support the member of staff if they need or want this. Staff are then emailed feedback and we often have coaching drop ins to allow staff to develop their remote education teaching. We are basing our priorities on our teaching and learning model and this is truly about direct and explicit explanations and plenty of questioning with students. Weekly CPD sessions are focused on learning walk feedback, Q&A based on this and training on how we can adapt our model to remote education.

What are the limitations to remote QA?

DW: One limitation would be that we require a shared vision of what a good piece of work looks like and it is agreed throughout your science team. The reasons why it is good, must be shared with teaching staff and with pupils.When talking to pupils, due to safeguarding reasons, we cannot see their non-verbal communication, when asked questions about their views. 

RB: For me it’s simple: Time, time and more time! Workload is a real issue at the moment for both teachers and middle leaders. Finding time to do anything is quite difficult and job lists seem quite unending at the moment. A second barrier for me is the lack of evidence or prior knowledge on what works best or what constitutes the most effective practice. However I also think that effective remote teaching isn’t wildly different from effective in class teaching and will focus QA as mentioned on these core teaching principles. This blog by Shaun Allison elaborates on this further https://researchschool.org.uk/durrington/news/pedagogy-trumps-format

The final barrier for effective remote learning QA is a hard one to put into words. It is the emotional attachment to live lessons that permeates the media, perceived parent opinion and therefore may impact the QA process.

NR: I agree with Ryan, it is more time consuming. I can’t just wander in and out of lessons. I will have to go through the TeamsAdmin log in and find the correct class Team from every single one in the school. These are also stressful times and I don’t want to add extra anxieties on to my department. It is very difficult to monitor students learning/performance in the same way. I would be able to have access to their Class Notebooks so could look into what they are doing that way but again this would be much more time consuming and slower than just taking a look over their shoulders. I am also finding remote learning quite tiring and so my time and energy to be able to do this are limited compared to normal.

CS: On of the big things I miss is the corridor interactions after a learning walk, often many small developmental and coaching points are achieved within the corridor.Remote QA can come across as too formalised at times as there is generally a need for written communication before a ‘meeting’ can take place – the informality of those ‘developmental chats’ are lost. Remote QA reduces the ability to read the person’s body language meaning sometimes issues might be missed and can turn from minor to major more quickly. 

 Do you think there will be any positives from this change to your normal QA process?

DW: I love that lessons can be recorded on MS Teams for pupils to use later and it allows QA of a particular lesson, to be discussed with the teacher at a later date. I think it’s also really useful for developing pedagogy in specific areas of the curriculum, e.g. working with a non-specialist, PGCE, ITT, Teach First.

RB: I hope that teachers may be happier to be recorded in lessons in the future. This would allow a joint conversation over certain parts of the lesson. Additionally, depending upon what you are looking for it may be easier to ‘drop in’  to a large amount of in school lessons however I remain ambivalent on this.

NR: I think the whole situation is so different to normal that it is difficult to compare to the normal process. The process and the type of feedback will be exclusive to the methods we are using right now. The only thing I can think that may be better is that I can focus on the use of One Note and the quality of explanations without being distracted by watching the students.

CS: The reliance on Google Meet and Classrooms has meant our collaboration across schools has dramatically improved. This has improved efficiency and overall product. With the QA process we have been able to keep a ‘live’ eye on resources being made and offer feedback there and then, whereas prior to this many face-to-face meetings were set up to gain this collaboration. With so many emails and other forms of communication I think it has really made me think about how I express myself to my colleagues and team members in different situations. Prior to this emails were used as a ‘quicker’ form of communication whereas now they are generally our main form of communication, therefore the meaning must be portrayed first time to avoid further issues.

How do you think you will give feedback in a meaningful way?

DW: Key for me is sharing a criteria for good teaching (Coe et al, 2014), develop this into a rubric which can be used to provide a basis for a conversation about remote teaching. 1-2-1 feedback is needed in some form to clarify what was good and using a facilitative coaching style which asks questions about why particular decisions were made. I also encourage the teacher to invite me to see them undertaking a particular explanation,or technique to get follow up feedback on if the advice has been acted on correctly.

RB: By ensuring that any feedback given is forward focused and take into account the different levels of digital literacy of the individual. I think it is always important to provide solutions where possible and to have it as a dialogue.

NR: All of my department are in school at some point in the week (I am in school full time) and so I will do this face to face. I can also send private chat messages through Teams to share the positives more quickly.

CS: As discussed above feedback for us is an instructional coaching methodology whereby there is a two way communication but just like with our teaching clear, direct and explicit developmental actions must come from this. We use email, Google Meet and for more informal communication WhatsApp can be used. The critical point for me is that no meaning is lost and therefore all communication must be thought about with this in mind and just like with ‘direct instruction’ faultless communication is critical.

Final thoughts

We found it really interesting to see the commonality and the emphasis on overcoming the communication barriers that exist within email and messaging. 

On  the theme of remote QA, Adam has recently written about the role demand characteristics play in observations and the difficulty they pose. Remote learning might provide a way around this issue. Find out more here.

So there we have it! Cherry popped, expertise shared and hopefully you have gleaned some ideas to support you. We’d like to thank our 4 HoDs for taking the time to share their thoughts. At the top of the post each HoDs twitter is linked so feel free to ask them specific questions or you could direct questions to @HoDSciSci and #HoDSciSci.

This is a new venture so any feedback gratefully received. @HodSciSci DMs are open so please let us know.

We are looking to promote a diverse range of voices in HoDSciSci so if you want to get involved or suggest a topic for our next post click here

CogSciSci Book Review: Motivated Teaching by Peps Mccrea

Reviewed by Jo Castelino

Have you ever told your classes that focussing more in lessons will help them do better? If you have, you probably had a few students nod their heads or the majority listen seemingly attentively to every word you’ve uttered. Why then does this alone not work? Why is it so easy for a student to fully focus on playing FIFA, analyse their gameplay and choices there but then cannot apply the same principles to their lesson on Electrolysis?

Peps Mccrea’s latest book Motivated Teaching explores why this is the case and provides a very handy Motivation for Learning framework. The beauty of this book (like Mccrea’s others) is how every thought and idea is presented succinctly and clearly. At 125 pages, using larger than usual font and large margins, Mccrea deftly applies the principles of his framework in delivering the content. The chapters are laid out perfectly for busy teachers to dip in and out of, taking away the key messages that can help improve their practice. 

Book structure

Each chapter focuses on a main thought that is dissected and explained with clarity followed by a summary sentence to take away, with all the key messages listed at the end together with suggestions for further reading.

The book starts off with a few chapters dedicated to answering the question of why motivation is key in teaching and why it is so hard to get right and develop in the classroom. These initial chapters give us 9 key ideas (with a 10th mentioned later in the book) that summarise the research on motivation and are a useful list to refer to when thinking about encouraging motivated learning. 

The 5 drivers of motivation

The book then moves on to describing 5 drivers that can be used to build and sustain motivation. I find it enlightening that the book does not just focus on short term, immediately applicable strategies but also on things we can do to benefit students in the long run, even going so far as to prepare them for regulating self-motivation that can make them better learners for life.

The ideas are simple and most have made their way into discourse on cognitive science and its applications in the classroom. This does not take away from the sheer importance of thinking about each element and how we can effectively apply them or how Mccrea makes the case for each idea followed by practical examples of their application.

The book discusses how we can help students secure success, which can lead to proficiency, which in turn can lead to motivation. Practical suggestions include pitching content well and chunking information into manageable pieces that can be mastered prior to introducing the next chunk. 

Consistent and simple routines are described as key to keeping the process of learning simple while maintaining challenging content. The book provides clear suggestions for what makes a good routine and how we can automate them.

In order to encourage students to follow instructions and achieve success, the book suggests we praise positive behaviours, making the expected norms more visible. Just as we would model how to tackle a question on lesson content, it would be equally important to model and show behaviours we expect in the classroom. One strategy that struck me because of its simplicity but also because of its power in changing the atmosphere in a classroom, is to emphasise and narrate what we want to see rather than what we do not see. 

Schools form an important part of our students’ lives and I think it is significant that the book discusses ways to help students feel belonging and become part of the classroom community. This can be encouraged by something as simple as framing your language to use pronouns such as we and us instead of I or you. For students to feel part of your community, they also need to trust you as their teacher. The book suggests this can be achieved by the teacher being credible, caring and consistent. 

The final core driver is, in my opinion, the most important of all. Everything you do in the classroom as a teacher to boost motivation can be rendered useless if students do not buy-in to your standards, expectations and choices you make for your novice learners, the latter of which can seemingly take away autonomy from students. The book advocates framing the benefits from the students’ perspectives and using inclusive language to boost buy-in. 

The discussion on the key drivers ends with a description of metamotivation, which is where students regulate their own motivation. I think it is important that the book promotes developing metamotivation as part of lessons rather than as a separate entity wheeled out at an assembly, never to be thought of by students again. 

My only criticism is that some suggestions of strategies (such as getting students to perform a mini-applause when one of their peers is praised by the teacher for doing something well) can lead to problems or a lack of control over a class where all the strategies are not already automated and the classroom culture is not already fine-tuned to fit your desired norms. This is something novice teachers will need to be wary of prior to attempting them in the classroom.

Tying it all together

As with any ideas in education that teachers who want to be research-informed in their classroom practice aim to apply immediately, Mccrea rightly cautions that the ideas he presents need to be understood well prior to application or they may run the risk of becoming lethal mutations.

I love how the book then moves on to summarise how the steps are additive in nature and not necessarily a list to be followed sequentially. Mccrea presents two case studies at either extreme of teachers who either use or do not use the 5 core drivers of motivation. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the negative attitude of the student whose teacher does not drive motivation effectively, is something I have come across a number of times. The book has certainly challenged me to think about the small things I can change such as how I frame my language to develop and sustain motivated learners. 

The book ends with a brilliant chapter on how we can apply these principles to ourselves, something that many educational books fail to do. At the end of this review, I am presenting my own plans to improve the motivation of my students at writing better sentences (see below). 

Is Motivated Teaching worth getting?

I cannot say this with any more conviction that I believe Motivated Teaching should be required reading for all teachers. It is presented in an attractive format with easy to follow chapters and key ideas summarised at regular intervals to maintain your focus and importantly, it is full of practical ideas that we can use in our classrooms. 

Indeed, Peps Mccrea has clearly applied all the key ideas and core drivers, that he discusses in the book so eloquently and succinctly, to the book itself- a kind of meta-format for improving motivation in the classroom. 

I know I will be returning to this book often.

Further reading

Kathryn Morgan has collated 115 links to each of the further reading suggestions in Motivated Teaching. This impressive list can be found here.

My plan to encourage students to be better motivated at writing good sentences in Science

CogSciSci note: A big thank you to Jo for taking the time to write down her thoughts. We are always eager to host reviews and blogs which will help inform the science teaching community. If you are interested please get in touch via twitter.

Curriculum Broader Themes: Developing Department Discourse in Science – A Model For Better CPD

Ruth Ashbee presents a model for departmental CPD that moves beyond “the session”.

  • 00:00 Welcome and outline
  • 00:30 Context
  • 03:21 Three principles of CPD
  • 06:06 Curriculum or pedagogy
  • 07:28 Beyond “the session”
  • 11:24 Theme 1: How we teach X
  • 13:46 Theme 2: Getting to grips with X
  • 15:06 Theme 3: 3-point discussion
  • 16:17 Outcomes
  • 19:45 Conditions for success

Curriculum Soapbox: Electrolysis

Helen Skelton discusses the topic of electrolysis and demonstrates her approach to teaching it.

  • 00:00 Welcome and introductions
  • 01:20 Why electrolysis?
  • 03:37 Firm foundations – prior knowledge
  • 08:30 Sequencing
  • 18:03 Ways of seeing – Johnstone’s triangle
  • 23:05 Instruction and SLOP
  • 25:40 Copper chloride electrolysis example
  • 35:57 Practical work
  • 43:28 Summary

You might find the following links useful:

Fabio di Salvo’s blog on his approach to sequencing a whole curriculum

Pritesh Raichura’s Seneca Virtual Science Conference talk (from 2hr 19 mins).

Johnstone’s Triangle: Niki Kaiser’s researchEd Norwich talk

Practical work: Helen’s question sheet to use with the electrolysis required practical, and Adam Boxer’s Slow Practical blog

Also, Gethyn’s chapter ‘Electrolysing Engelmann’ in the ResearchED Explicit and Direct Instruction book is well worth reading and thinking about – unfortunately I didn’t read this until after I’d recorded the talk! I might well need to tweak my approach to electrolysis once again.

Curriculum Chats: Structure and Bonding

Niki Kaiser, Elizabeth Mountstevens, Michael Adenekan and Adam Robbins get together to discuss their approaches to the topic of structure and bonding.

  • 00:00 Welcome and introductions
  • 01:25 What do students find most difficult about structure and bonding?
  • 08:55 What do you do to address student misconceptions about structure and bonding?
  • 17:09 What misconceptions do teachers hold in this topic?
  • 20:37 How do you build the topic in KS3 and how do you teach it in KS4?
  • 41:15 What models do you find are the most useful to teach this topic?
  • 48:40 What other resources do you use to teach this topic?
  • 53:30 How do you achieve a balance between teacher autonomy and teacher consistency?

Niki has some useful links to accompany the discussion:

Elizabeth has some suggested links on misconceptions:

and also some on curriculum:

You might also have noticed Adam sipping water from a rather fetching water bottle. He accidentally set up an edutwitter merch shop and you can buy that very same bottle (or t-shirt, bag, dog bandanna) here.

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