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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

cogscisci@gmail.com

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.

Curriculum Links Part 2: Planning A Science Curriculum

In Part 1, we looked at some of the principles that could form the foundations of a good science curriculum. Here we look more closely at the implementation of these ideas within different teachers’ science curricula. 

Planning 

Ruth Ashbee gives a great overview of how to overhaul your curriculum with a framework of meetings that would take around six hours of time

https://rosalindwalker.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/my-plan-to-reform-our-science-curriculum-in-6-hours-of-department-time/ 

Tom Needham explicitly links the principles that underpin his curriculum with the planning that takes place here 

https://tomneedhamteach.wordpress.com/2019/01/29/the-application-of-theory-8-propositions-that-underpin-our-approach/

This overview, a guest blog on Adam Robbins’s site, looks at some of the features of effective curriculum planning 

https://reflectionsinscience.wordpress.com/2019/02/11/the-10-features-of-highly-effective-curriculum-planning-a-guest-blog/

Pritesh Raichura explain his thoughts on curriculum planning in science, based on his excellent ResearchED talk, linking in the foundations that we looked at in Part 1. 

https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/designing-a-science-curriculum-my-redrugby-talk/

In terms of planning, it’s well worth considering dropping the lesson as the ‘unit’ by which we plan a topic/subject. Bob Pritchard explains this idea here 

https://occasionalwitterings.com/2019/03/25/its-done-when-its-done-ditching-the-lesson-as-the-unit-of-planning

To think about: How much discussion have we had about the curriculum as a team? Have you decided what your department’s principles are? Are your department’s principles clear to everyone? Are you spending the right amount of time on the wider thinking around curriculum? 

Sequencing 

These blogs look in detail at how we sequence certain ideas within science, and they model how we might alter orthodox sequences to aid student learning. 

Fabio Di Salvo explains how we completely ripped up the specification order for GCSE physics (quite literally) and set about creating a new sequence 

https://fabphysics.wordpress.com/2020/02/03/going-on-a-sequencing-adventure/

Brett Kingsbury has a three part series explaining how he sequences ideas in Biology

https://acommonbiologist.wordpress.com/2020/02/21/a-model-for-sequencing-in-biology/

Ian Taylor gives an alternative look at sequencing when he discusses ‘teaching by contrast’ and how the changes he’s made to the ‘standard teaching sequences’ has shown promise in tests  

https://mrtaylorsblog.home.blog/2019/04/28/teaching-by-contrast/

Adam Boxer looks specifically at KS3 and models the sorts of thinking he goes through when working out what order we should be teaching some of the initial scientific ideas in 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/modelling-curricular-thinking-inspired-by-ben-ranson/

David Gash explains his KS3 sequencing in this blog and some of the additional, practical considerations that go into creating it 

https://djgteaching.wordpress.com/2019/07/29/curriculum-thinking-for-science-part-1-sequencing-in-ks3

Pritesh Raichura discusses sequencing and how that affects the creation of his biology booklets  

https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/writing-biology-mastery-textbooks

Kris Boulton may be a maths teacher, but his series of blogs on his best planning model some of the deep thinking that should go into a curriculum 

https://tothereal.wordpress.com/2017/08/12/my-best-planning-part-1/

To think about: Why do we teach this topic in this order? What is the very first step into this topic? Is the specification the best teaching order for you? How do your department’s underlying principles manifest in your approach to sequencing? 

Beyond sequencing 

Pritesh Raichura builds on Bob Pritchard’s blog about forgetting the lesson as the unit of time and discusses how he creates a narrative throughout a module 

https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2020/08/04/curricular-narrative/

Christian Moore Anderson argues that we need a multi-scale approach to curriculum so that we are not dominated by a linear sequence 

https://cmooreanderson.wixsite.com/teachingbiology/post/the-scales-of-curriculum-planning-why-sequence-isn-t-king

Adam Boxer looks at sequencing within a lesson and gives a specific example of when breaking a topic down and then building up back up for the students might not be the best approach 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2020/08/02/the-woods-and-the-trees-breaking-rosenshine/

To think about: Does your curriculum connect the dots from lesson to lesson? For what ideas does a linear sequence work best and when do we need something a little less ordered? By the end of your unit, what will your students be able to understand and explain? 

Spacing and retrieval 

The curriculum needs to take into account the dreaded forgetting curve and there are multiple ways of doing that. 

Damian Benney has explored the idea of spacing and has been looking to adapt the curriculum to create the optimum gaps between students experiencing material to allow them to better remember it. 

https://mrbenney.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/optimal-time-for-spacing-gaps/

Damian Benney has added more to this idea by looking through the lens of Cognitive Load Theory and Desirable Difficulties 

https://mrbenney.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/direct-instruction-cognitive-load-rosenshine-desirable-difficulties-and-responsive-teaching-and-thanks-to-tom_needham_/

CogSciSci have previously had an entire symposium on retrieval practice and what this looks like in the classroom 

https://cogscisci.wordpress.com/2020/01/23/retrieval-practice-in-the-classroom-a-cogscisci-symposium/

And the retrieval roulette idea of Adam Boxer lives here 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2018/08/18/retrieval-roulettes/

To think about: How are you going to ensure that students re-encounter material? What will you do if they forget? 

Explanations and narrative 

In our explanations, we need to be considering the limits of working memory, and ensuring that the content is driving our teaching (as discussed in part 1). These blogs look at what you might spend your time talking about as a ‘sage on the stage’. 

Pritesh Raichura breaks down teacher talk and gives his take on how to improve your practice in explaining science 

https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/clear-teacher-explanations-i-examples-non-examples

Sam Hall looks at scripting explanations, and whilst this idea might not appeal to all, the thought and planning that go into it (which Sam explains) are a great guide to improving your explanations. 

https://shallteach.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/planning-scripted-instruction-a-sort-of-guide

Bill Wilkinson discusses the idea of narrative and how stories are a crucial way in which humans remember things. He talks about his project #ScienceStories to get more stories into the science classroom 

https://drwilkinsonscience.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/oral-narrative-memory-an-evolutionary-story/

To think about: How much time do you spend talking about, sharing and practicing explanations as a department? What makes a good explanation? What stories do you use in your teaching that would be useful to everyone else? 

Assessment for Learning (AfL) 

CogSciSci have previously had a six part symposium on assessment for learning, as this will form an important part of any science curriculum 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/afl-in-science-a-symposium/

To think about: How are you going to check the understanding of students within a lesson and within a module? What will you do if they know things early? What will you do if they don’t know things? 

Practicals 

How do we utilise practicals effectively whilst still building upon our underlying principles? Bill Wilkinson takes an overview of how cognitive science affects doing practical work 

https://drwilkinsonscience.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/applying-cognitive-science-principles-to-practical-work/

To think about: How can we make practicals as useful as possible? When do we use a practical and when do we use a demo? How can we run practicals effectively and consistently across the department? 

Assessment 

Assessment will naturally crop up when thinking about your curriculum, so it’s important to consider some of the fundamentals of what makes an assessment. 

Rob Coe explains what an assessment should be in these three blogs 

https://www.cem.org/blog/but-that-is-not-an-assessment/

https://www.cem.org/blog/where-is-the-value-in-assessment/

https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/news/eef-blog-assessing-learning-in-the-new-academic-year-part-1/

Paul Moss explains how assessment forms a vital part of his curriculum in a series of blogs 

https://paulgmoss.com/2019/04/10/assessment-is-curriculum-is-assessment

To think about: What is this assessment for? What am I assessing? Do I actually need this assessment? What will I do with the data?  

Mastery 

The idea of a mastery curriculum might crop up when thinking about your science curriculum. The idea has been thoroughly explained by Mark McCourt in his book ‘Teaching for Mastery’. Daisy Christodoulou explains some of what mastery definitely is, and definitely isn’t in this blog 

https://daisychristodoulou.com/2019/05/what-is-mastery-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/

To think about: Is a mastery approach feasible in science? If we’re using the term ‘mastery’ are we meaning it as it was originally defined? 

Other considerations 

Adam Boxer talks about how he used his Oak Academy lessons to get feedback on his teaching and his 9 videos contain some useful ideas to have in mind 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2020/07/21/what-does-explicit-instruction-in-science-look-like/

Curriculum Warnings. Honorary CogSciSci member (in spite of her English teaching), Claire Stonemen has some warnings about curriculum 

https://birminghamteacher.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/curriculum-a-warning

Curriculum Soapbox: Writing Good Biology SLOP

Pritesh Raichura discusses how he writes Shed Loads Of Practice (SLOP) for Biology.

Pritesh has a blog with lots of examples that can be found here.

  • 00:00 Welcome and overview
  • 00:57 Don’t pupils need a variety of activities?
  • 03:25 The best activities will help pupils to…
  • 05:50 Purpose informs question writing
  • 07:45 Guide pupils to make feedback easier
  • 09:30 Sequence is important
  • 11:21 Give them something to think about first
  • 13:03 Avoid unnecessary questions
  • 14:45 Improving sentence level construction
  • 17:25 Sequencing
  • 20:57 Sentence-level construction
  • 23:35 Conclusion

Curriculum Broader Themes: The KS2 to KS3 Transition in Science

Nimish Lad and Neil Almond chat about students moving from primary to secondary school. What should KS3 teachers know about KS2? What should KS2 teachers know about KS3?

You can use the chapters embedded in the video to find any of the specific questions that we discuss (you might need to be on YouTube to actually see them):

  • 00:00:00 Welcome and introductions
  • 00:04:10 Deciding on science content in KS2
  • 00:12:30 The ‘Science gap’ in Y7 and common misconceptions
  • 00:19:45 Retrieval strength and the transition to Y7
  • 00:24:38 The ‘ultimate’ Y7 student
  • 00:28:22 Areas of science that are unrepresented at KS2
  • 00:34:20 Use of CogSci in science. Booklets.
  • 00:41:42 Concrete examples in KS2
  • 00:47:55 Disagreements about the structure of a curriculum. Importance of subject knowledge.
  • 00:52:30 Great metaphors/analogies for primary teachers. Hinterland.
  • 00:59:40 Trickiest concepts to sequence. Importance of reading.
  • 01:06:35 The ‘ultimate’ 5-16 year old science curriculum. Storytelling in the curriculum.
  • 01:12:00 Get in touch

Below are some links to some of the blogs and articles that were touched upon:

Louise Cass and Mr Badham’s primary science resources.

Christopher Such’s primary science curriculum intent document.

Christopher Such’s primary science planning support sheets.

Core Knowledge’s science class texts.

Curriculum Chats: Inheritance, Variation and Evolution

Previously, we asked on the twitter page which topics in each of the sciences you thought required the most thought in the curriculum. For biology, you chose the topic of inheritance, variation and evolution and in the video below, Dom Shibli, Pritesh Raichura, Jo Castelino, Rachel Wong (BioRach) and Christian Moore Anderson get together to discuss just that. Please let us know on the twitter page what your thoughts are: do you agree/disagree with any of the approaches? Has it made you think differently about the topic? Do you have an alternate approach?

You can use the chapters embedded in the video to find any of the specific questions that we discuss (you might need to be on YouTube to actually see them):

  • 00:00:00 Welcome and introductions
  • 00:01:23 What do students find hard about the topic of inheritance, variation and evolution?
  • 00:10:00 What do teachers find hard about teaching the topic of inheritance, variation and evolution?
  • 00:20:05 What do you do to help students conceptualise something as complex as the function of the gene alongside the chemical basis of inheritance?
  • 00:30:20 How might you sequence this topic in your school? Thinking out loud discussion.
  • 00:58:20 Examples (and non-examples) of how you might teach this topic.
  • 01:16:20 In brief, what do students you want students to learn in KS3 to prepare them for this topic?

Below are some links to some of the blogs and articles that were touched upon:

Link to Biology SLOP booklets, collated by Adam Robbins: https://google.com/amp/s/reflectionsinscience.wordpress.com/2020/06/12/biology-slop-the-next-generation/amp/…

Link to the story of how humans evolved to digest milk into adulthood: https://bbc.com/future/article/20190218-when-did-humans-start-drinking-cows-milk…

Pritesh’s blog on curricular narrative, written in response to this chat https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2020/08/04/curricular-narrative/

Inheritance via ‘Nature and Nurture’? It’s time to change perspectives https://cmooreanderson.wixsite.com/teachingbiology/post/inheritance-via-nature-and-nurture-it-s-time-to-change-perspectives-biologycurriculum…

On Mendelian genetics and the misconceptions it can instill https://cmooreanderson.wixsite.com/teachingbiology/post/on-mendelian-genetics-and-the-misconceptions-it-instills…

Developing a biologist’s gaze: the organism in its environment https://cmooreanderson.wixsite.com/teachingbiology/post/developing-a-biologist-s-gaze-the-organism-in-its-environment…

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