Myth: science is procedural more than creative 26-02-18
I was intrigued by William McComas’ (1998) response to the myth that science is procedural more than creative. In particular, I was taken aback by a reference from Sheila Tobias’ (1990) book, ‘They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different’, in which she warns us of the impoverishment of science that occurs when students eliminate science as an outlet for creativity. McComas (1998) suggests that science works not by the mere collection, analysis and examination of individual facts, but by the creativity displayed and incorporated by individual scientists. Though such creativity is vital for the progression of science, it is often distanced from science classrooms by science ‘enthusiasts’ themselves. Teachers resort to the tedious repetition of step-by-step verification activities, during which students are expected to arrive at a particular answer. I believe that the over-use of the ‘universal’ scientific method, which McComas (1998) understands to be another myth in itself, is one demonstration of depleting creativity in the science classroom. While the implementation of such a method is ‘convenient’, because it requires minimal effort from a teaching perspective, it fails to excite learners, to encourage innovative thinking, to make creative discoveries and to enable students to challenge their own knowledge and understanding of the world around them.
Therefore, as an upcoming teacher, I must examine my own intentions, understandings and abilities to practice and teach science in a manner that maximises students’ creative potential. If we as educators do not approach the science classroom with a creative, curios and willing mindset, how can we stimulate and develop such things in the young minds we teach? Considering this question, I am positioned to question my own approach to teaching and whether I am providing opportunities for students to see science as an exciting and creative pursuit. If my teaching depicts science as clinical and uninteresting, students will base their understanding on an incorrect portrayal of the way science operates. The implications of an inadequate or incorrect manner of science teaching is therefore not only that students may reject it as a future pursuit, but that even if they do pursue it, their understanding of the nature of science is skewed. We consequently become part of a cycle of misrepresentation and malpractice, limiting the potential of discovery, understanding, and creation.
Why is science important? 06-03-18
Humans are naturally inquisitive about the things they consider to be important. As such, learners often question the relevance of the subject matter being studied, to the world around them. This questioning is integral to learning, but sometimes baffles educators and leaves them unable to answer. However, enabling students to make links between the classroom and the world around them is likely to increase their motivation to investigate, discuss and learn about things in the science world. Therefore, it is essential that we, as educators, have an answer to questions such as, “why is science important?” and “why do we study science?”. We receive an insight into some reasons people believe science to be important from Alom Shaha’s video. One thing that resonated with me from this clip was Ray Mathias’ comment that, “Science is a powerful expression of two of the defining qualities of human beings- creativity and curiosity”. Reflecting on last week’s thoughts, Mathias’ comment supports McComas’ argument that science is in fact an effective outlet for creativity and provides opportunities to stimulate creative and curios minds. The effectivity of this subject, however, is dependent on the manner in which it is taught. Science educators are responsible for creating opportunities in which young minds can be stimulated. It is thus crucial that science educators are first and foremost able to see science for the creative pursuit that it is.
Furthermore, I was reminded of the position students have in the science classroom, as active participants, rather than passive recipients. Shaha, by referring to students as future scientists, reminds us that they are producers of science, rather than mere consumer thereof. My teaching philosophy involves a strong value for reciprocal learning relationships that require me to become comfortable as a learner and subsequently encourage my students to become confident as teachers. Enabling students to become active members of the science community involves allowing them to take agency of their own learning, by employing a variety of teaching approaches in the classroom. While transmission is sometimes a useful and necessary approach, it often fails to satisfy the creative and curious minds and therefore should be accompanied by more interactive strategies that provide opportunities for students to explore their own ideas, test the robustness thereof and reconstruct thinking where necessary.
To me, the value of science at school lies in the practical and mental skills it develops in students. Science involves making observations, debating and communicating with others, problem solving and many other skills that are useful not only to those who will pursue science as a career, but to all human beings. Furthermore, it demands logical thinking, creative insights and a respect for evidence. This mindset, which is developed in students as they come to understand and practice the subject is useful for effective decision making in the wider world and equips humans to make informed decisions in all contexts of life. As an upcoming science teacher, I will aim to enable students to use scientific knowledge and skills to inform their decisions on a daily basis, allowing them to relate the subject to their own lives, communities and cultures.
Exploring different teaching approaches 10-03-18
Upon further reflection on Shaha’s portrayal of students as future scientists, I found the document on different teaching and learning approaches very helpful. This document explores five different approaches to teaching science in secondary schools (discovery, transmission, process skills, interactive and socio-cultural-historical), but the concepts hold much value for other ages and subjects alike.
The New Zealand curriculum’s visions is for students to become active members of an increasingly global society, which requires the skills to relate well to a diverse range of people in the learning environment. Thus, with learning becoming an increasingly collaborative endeavour, I place great value on the socio, cultural and historical approach to teaching. This approach encourages students to operate together to improve knowledge and provides educators with opportunity to cultivate an appreciation of whanaungatanga among young people, as is encouraged by the curriculum. Such an appreciation is central to my teaching philosophy, as it plays a major role in constructing a positive social culture that supports student engagement.
Additionally, this approach to teaching makes learning relevant outside the classroom, by involving whanau and community in the studies. Students and teachers alike are positioned as life-long learners, adopting attitudes of respectful curiosity as they aim to discover the various aspects that influence each other’s thinking. This approach strongly supports McComas’ argument that science is not a solitary pursuit. McComas explains that many science problems are too complex for individuals to pursue alone due to constraints of intellectual capacity, time and finances etc. He describes science as a process of negotiation rather than revelation of truth. As teachers it is important to provide opportunities for students to work alongside one other, developing the skills they require to become effective citizens of our global society.
Another aim of the NZC is to develop self-directed learners, able to display agency over their own learning. This aim places responsibility on educators to equip students with the skills to direct the next step in their learning process. I endeavour to employ discovery as a teaching approach in the future, because it positions teachers to step back from being the directors of learning and take up the alternative roles of guide, collaborator and facilitator. This in turn, provides students with opportunities to exercise responsibility over their own learning and contribute personal knowledge and expertise to the learning process of the class. When applied correctly, this approach can also emphasise the creative element in science. The discovery approach aims to stimulate the creative mind, by allowing learners to observe, appreciate and process information, make inferences and answer their own questions. It requires learners to think for themselves, rather than answers being spoon-fed to them by the teacher. Thus, students have agency over their learning and must find meaning and improve their own knowledge. In this way students develop an inquisitive nature, which is a skill that is useful outside the realm of science and will set them up for success in the outside world.
To maximise student learning, I believe that all five approaches should be utilised alongside each other. It is vital that educators recognise which approach they are employing during a lesson and aim to vary their approach throughout lessons and topics. All approaches are not equally effective in exploring a specific topic and therefore it is an essential element to consider in lesson planning.
Asking good questions 18-03-18
As educators we are able to direct student learning through the use of questions. When applied correctly, questioning is one of the most powerful tools in teaching and learning. However, teachers are often lazy in the way they ask questions and consequently revert to ineffective, closed, ‘yes and no’ type questions. When some collective form of “yes” is achieved, the teacher assumes learning has occurred and that they can move on to the next point. While closed questions are not innately bad, and open questions not innately good, discernment between the appropriate use of both types of questions is a skill educators must endeavour to attain and to develop in their students.
I believe that the NZC’s vision for inquiry-based classrooms, that shape agentic students, is dependent on both the teacher’s and students’ abilities to ask good questions. One of the most foundational aspects of an inquiry-based learning environment is the cultivation of curiosity and wonder about the world. However, equally as important is the organisation of that wonder through the process of asking powerful questions. If we have an abundance of curiosity and wonder, but lack the ability to organise it, learning is unlikely to occur. Questions can help us to organise our experiences and to draw information from them in order to learn from them. Good questions have the power to bring a science inquiry to life and produce a sense of empowerment, driving students to become increasingly interested and agentic in their learning.
For many students however, inquiry-based learning may be a novel idea, and in this case framing good questions would not come naturally. Here it becomes the responsibility of educators to model these skills to their students, by asking such questions themselves. As the educator models the skill of asking good questions, students will become more comfortable and start learning to utilise it themselves. Students that possess both curiosity and the skill of questioning become life-long learners. Therefore, as teachers, we should never stop seeing ourselves as learners. Educators often ask questions, to which they already know the answers, for the purpose of testing the understanding and learning of their students. However, throughout my teaching degree, I have continually realised the importance of asking questions to which we do not yet have the answers. After all, educators never exit the learning process. By adopting a life-long learner approach in the teaching and learning environment, educators are forced to become comfortable as a learner and learners to become confident as teachers. In this way, teachers build reciprocal learning relationships with our students and encourage them to move from a passive state into an active state of autonomy. Ultimately, empowering students to ask good questions, rather than reserving that right for the educator, allows for learning to occur beyond the borders of the classroom and in the absence of a teacher.
Science in a real-life context 29-03-18
I have previously discussed the commonly asked question of “why do we study science”, and highlighted the importance of having an answer to this question. I realise, however, that students’ queries concerning why they have to know certain bodies of knowledge or have certain skills in the science classroom are best answered through actions rather than mere words. We can give a well formulated, well-rounded answer as to why we think science is worth studying, but if we do not show our students the relevance of science in “real life”, our well-formulated answer will most likely go in at one ear and out at the other. As teachers we are responsible for showing our students that science is a tool we use to understand our world and then to equip them with the skills they need to engage in and contribute to a scientifically literate community
In ‘Front Page Science: Engaging Teens in Science Literacy’, Wendy Saul begs the question “what might we teach students now that will help them make sense of their world 15 years after graduation?” She understands that students will encounter many scientific issues throughout their lives and will therefore require the skills to continually seek out and assess new information. The question we must ask ourselves is if and how our teaching lines up with these needs of students as they develop towards scientifically literate members of society.
One technique Saul investigates to convey the relevance of science literacy in understanding and solving current challenges facing our society, is science journalism. This tool involves students exploring science in a real -life contexts, by finding and writing about a current scientific issue in the news or from other sources. Students are encouraged to consider the relevance of these issues to their own lives, which not only engages them in their classroom learning, but fosters a long-term interest in staying scientifically literate. Another, simple tool teachers can use to demonstrate the relevance of science in “real-life”, is modelling. Educators can set the stage by displaying and sharing their own interest in current events. Questioning and commenting about real-life challenges and how they relate to science may spark the interest of students to engage in further research on the specific topic. As mentioned in a previous reflection, if we as educators do not approach the science classroom with a creative, curios and willing mindset, how can we stimulate and develop such things in the young minds we teach?
The New Zealand Curriculum’s (NZC) answer to why we study science is all about relevance. We study science because it is relevant. It forms our understanding of the world. It informs the decisions we make in many areas of life. It influences the way we solve problems. The NZC stresses that by studying science, students will learn to use scientific knowledge and skills to make decisions about the communication, application and implications of science as these relate to their own lives, cultures and environments. However, this will only hold true if the approach to science teaching allows students to repeatedly experience the relevance for themselves. Therefore, as educators, we must constantly evaluate and reflect on the way we endeavour to develop and sustain the curious minds in front of us that are attempting to connect seemingly abstract equations or pieces of information to life outside the classroom.
As assessment is a crucial part of student learning, it is important that we as educators reflect on our assessment practices to ensure they help rather than hinder this learning process. As our understanding of student learning continues to develop, we would expect similar developments in assessment systems. One would expect educators to adapt to changes in student learning, by employing assessment practices that complement the way in which they learn. The convergence between assessment practices and beliefs about learning, however, is largely absent from New Zealand high schools today. Although our beliefs centre around diverse learning styles and modes, our assessment practises remain one dimensional.
When assessment practices are out of step with developments in leaning theory, effective teaching and learning is undermined. Alignment of these two factors in the classroom is thus of great importance for development in New Zealand high schools. For example, the use of high stakes exam type assessments could be replaced by the use of portfolios. With the development in technology, there is a virtually bottomless pool of potential assessment strategies. As educators, it is our responsibility to take the next step forward and lead change in relation to this faulty system. Although New Zealand primary schools have adopted inquiry based learning and different methods of assessment based on how children’s learning can best be demonstrated, secondary schools have yet to follow suit. Part of the reason, I believe, is the complexity involved in fairly assessing students for university entrance when one standard assessment across schools and subject areas is not being utilised. However, energy and time should be invested to consider the endless possibilities for assessment in secondary school and how processes can be put in place to allow for diversity.
Furthermore, I believe that utilising this one, standard assessment practise across all subjects has had a negative effect on student learning. Our teaching and learning has become driven by assessment, which has removed the potential for addressing students’ interests and following through on their curiosities about their world around them. Ultimately, it is connecting and exploring these that will enable them to find meaning and motivation in the learning process. It is therefore essential that we explore ways in which assessment can be more conducive to enable meaningful learning, where students are exploring and connecting to the world around them.
With regards to NCEA assessment, students study a number of courses (subjects) every year. Every course for a year level has skills and knowledge required which are assessed against a number of standards per course. A standard therefore describes what a student needs to know or must achieve in a specific course to gain the credits allocated to that standard. Each standard will be assessed to measure the students’ knowledge against certain criteria designed to indicate success at different levels for the standard. Some standards are internally assessed and schools need to supply these assessment tasks. Others are externally assessed and NZQA supplies these assessment tasks. The credits gained when a student is successful in a standard, add up and students require a certain number of credits to gain a NCEA certificate at Level 1, 2 or 3.
An assessment task is a document developed to assess a specific standard. NZQA have exemplars available on the TKI site, but schools are also allowed to write their own assessments and assessment schedules, for internal assessments. For all internally assessed standards, a sample of student work together with the assessment task and assessment schedule will be moderated by NZQA periodically.
With regards to NCEA assessment in Science, I have selected AS90954 “Demonstrate understanding of the effects of astronomical cycles on planet Earth”. This achievement standard is internally assessed and worth 4 credits. It involves demonstrating understanding of the effects of astronomical cycles on planet Earth.
The achievement criteria of this standard are as follows:
Achieved – Demonstrate understanding of the effects of astronomical cycles on planet Earth. This involves describing astronomical cycles and the effects on planet Earth. Students can use information, data or visual representations.
Achieved with Merit – Demonstrate in-depth understanding of the effects of astronomical cycles on planet Earth. This in-depth understanding requires explaining cycles and the effects on planet Earth.
Achieved with Excellence – Demonstrate comprehensive understanding of the effects of astronomical cycles on planet Earth. Comprehensive understanding is demonstrated by thoroughly linking astronomical cycles and their effects on planet Earth by elaborating, applying, justifying, relating, analysing or comparing and contrasting.
Endorsing a course gives recognition to the performance of a student in a specific subject. A student requires 14 or more credits at Merit or Excellence level, with at least 3 of these credits for an externally assessed standard and 3 for an internally assessed standard, to gain a Merit or Excellence endorsement for the course such as for Science.
We, as teachers, mark the work of each student for internally assessed standards and then internal moderation must be done before the final grades of each student can be entered. With regards to externally assessed standards, NZQA appoints markers to mark all the scripts of students after the external examination in November each year.
Requirements for University entrance include:
• NCEA Level 3
• Three subjects at Level 3 with 14 credits in each of three approved subjects
• 10 Literacy credits at Level 2 or above made up of 5 reading credits and 5 writing credits.
• 10 Numeracy credits at Level 1 or above made up of specific achievement standards available through a range of subjects or three specifically required unit standards.
During 2016 and 2017 NZQA completed a review of University Entrance requirements and concluded that their current requirements should not be changed as they are still suitable.
there isn’t one, standard assessment across schools and subject areas
Participation in assessment processes are a necessary part of students gaining qualifications. Whether the assessment processes employed in a classroom are authentic or supplied from an external source, teachers must do their best to utilise them to enhance learning. It is evident that the NZQA aims to base its grading system on the level of understanding a student has and can demonstrate for a particular. For example, in NCEA achievement standards, the achievement criteria for an Achieved grade is that a student can “demonstrate understanding”. Achievement with Merit is reached when a student “demonstrates in depth understanding”, while, achievement with Excellence is reached when a student “demonstrate comprehensive understanding”. As teachers, understanding
Whilst exciting new developments in our understanding of learning unfold, developments in assessment systems and technology sometimes lag behind assessment practice is sometimes out of step with developments in learning theory and can
undermine effective teaching and learning because its washback effect is so powerful, especially in high stakes settings. It would seem therefore that alignment between assessment practice and learning theory is something to strive for.
is evident that Grades in NCEA achievement standards are based on the level of understanding
The previous two sections have attempted to show the potential to develop consistency between assessment practice and beliefs about learning and to provide a basis for arguing that change in one almost always requires a change in the other. I have noted, however, that
In pursuit of the Schulman framework 15-04-18
The Schulman framework explores “what a good science teacher knows”. Schulman summarizes his framework into seven different, yet interwoven aspects referred to as knowledge categories, including content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, curricular knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, knowledge of learners and their characteristics, knowledge of educational contexts, and knowledge of educational ends, purposes and values.
The reflective statements below are linked to one or more of Schulman’s knowledge categories.
1. “Checking homework is a pain, but necessary – I’d need to have a rigorous system for recording and a ‘what to do’ system in place for those who don’t attempt their homework”
General pedagogical knowledge includes broad principles and strategies of classroom management and organization that transcend subject matter. It involves understanding and being able to apply a range of teaching and learning tools in the classroom. The reflection above mentions a system that needs to be put in place concerning homework. Such a system is used to enhance the teaching and learning experience inside the classroom and is therefore an example of a general pedagogical tool.
2. “I feel that this lack of depth in thinking, questioning and learning is showing up in general in classrooms. Students are turning off self-bettering learning and they are focusing on comparisons between themselves and others (or exam type knowledge) i.e. a major focus is assessment of what can do or can’t do. The students do not appear to have a curiosity to know more about something in terms of why it is like it is or how it got to be that way. Such curiosity is the basis of science and our quest to understand.”
The writer demonstrates some knowledge of educational ends, purposes and values, in emphasising curiosity as the basis of science. She desperately wants to see signs of such curiosity in her students, but is discouraged at the lack of it. She also mentions our “quest to understand”, indicating a valuable ‘lifelong-learner approach’ to teaching and learning. However, her disappointment may be redirected towards a potential lack in pedagogical content knowledge. Perhaps she lacks the ability to effectively communicate content knowledge in a way that is relevant to students. While assessment methods may be relatively rigid (e.g. NZQA assessment standards), educators are responsible for creating opportunities to inspire and to spark curiosity through their teaching.
3. “Lecturers have reinforced the need to determine prior knowledge… of greater importance has been learning about student behaviours in the classroom and how students show a need or communicate their feelings (esp. ‘disruptive behaviour).
The writer of the reflection above acknowledges the importance of knowing learners and their characteristics over and above the determination of prior knowledge. While both aspects are important, knowing our students is the foundation of a healthy and effective learning environment. Moreover, both Vygotsky (1978) and Bronfenbrenner (1990) argue that one cannot understand a student’s development by simply studying the individual. Educators must have an understanding of the wider social and cultural world in which their development is occurring. They must have an interest in the lives of their students and develop relationships with them. In doing so, educators can begin to understand the different characteristics, needs, struggles, talents and feelings of individual students and apply this knowledge to their teaching.
4. “Science and the nature of science can have a valuable role to play in developing a caring and understanding community and society. Maybe this is why I want to teach science/why we should teach real science.”
The writer demonstrates an understanding that scientific concepts and skills stretch beyond the classroom and into various education contexts, affecting the way we think, communicate and solve problems. The NZC (2017) envisions students using scientific knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about the communication, application and implications of science as these relate to their own lives and cultures. The writer’s knowledge of educational contexts is complimented by his/her knowledge of educational ends, purposes and values. They recognise the multifaceted nature of science, including the necessity of scientific knowledge and skills in developing an accurate understating of the world. In this way, the writer’s purpose seems to line up with the NZC (2017).
5. “Found out the Science department has a scheme for Y9 and 10 science. They rotate through 3 subjects during first part of year so every class has covered same topic by mid-year exam time, but rota reduces demand on resources.”
Curricular knowledge encompasses the grasp educators have of the materials and programs that serve as “tools of the trade”. The reflection highlights an awareness of the structure of, and resources involved in a specific program. Curricular knowledge allows educators to evaluate these methods and practices, and to investigate alternatives when necessary.
6. “At this point I am feeling rather insecure – it has been some time since I used my Biology subject matter. If I can gain confidence in this I think I cam concentrate on the other important aspects of teaching.”
While effective teaching and learning is not based solely on one’s expertise in a certain field, content knowledge still plays a vital role. Having knowledge of subject matter is not merely knowing what is true, but understanding why it is said to be true. Confidence, as mentioned in the reflection above, is very dependent of content knowledge. When one is able to give an account of what is true and answer questions that demand a justification, it will provide a leap away from insecurity.
7. “Was surprised at how little is in a lesson i.e. not much ground is covered especially at Y9 and 10. Need to give extremely clear step by step instructions or kids go off task very quickly.”
Knowledge of learners and their characteristics is demonstrated in the reflection above, as the writer recognises the specific capabilities, needs and struggles of individuals in their class. The writer recognises that the students don’t need a lot of information in every lesson to stimulate their minds. The writer also recognises that students need clear instructions in order to stay on task. The identification of the varying needs of different groups of learners plays a key role in effective teaching and learning. It enhances both behaviour management and learning opportunities within the classroom.
8. “Have found it difficult to make the connections between the AOs and how their relate to the content and SLOs.”
Curricular knowledge also involves the ability to relate content to the NZC (2017). Connection between the two is necessary, as the NZC provides a foundation, direction and purpose for lessons.
9. “I have, who has? I used this tool for a Yr 12 Bio class but I would imagine the same lessons/evaluation would be relevant for a science class. As I had a few more cards that I did students, I gave some two sets. In hindsight I would not do this when it is the first time they have used this tool – they got confused.”
Shulman describes pedagogical content knowledge as “the most useful ways of representing and formulating the subject to make it comprehensible to others. Pedagogical content knowledge bridges the gap between basic content knowledge and general pedagogical knowledge, which is important, because effective teaching and learning is not based solely one’s expertise in a certain field, nor is it based solely on the possession of skill and knowledge of pedagogical practice. In gaining PCK, educators will learn to identify student difficulties and misconceptions specific to a topic, as well as effective methods for recognising and addressing them.
10. “Comparing the draft curricular document with the current curriculum. It is going to be interesting to watch the new curriculum get rolled out. I can see benefits in the new document. It is more concise and it highlights the big idea of each content area.”
The evaluation of different curricular materials available is a key part of curricular knowledge. It indicates the ability to assess, that is, to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of different documents, materials, resources and programs available.
11. “NCEA Training Day was a great way to be refreshed on the procedures/ achievement standards/ Level 1, 2, 3. I also gained insight into the teachers’ perceptions about the positive and negative of NCEA. There appears to be the understanding that the success of school is the number of achievement and unit standards. As a result some departments are seen to be doing better but it may just be that they are allowing students to do easier standards.”
Curricular knowledge enables an educator to recognise the positives and negatives of certain materials, resources and programs. The reflexion above challenges the motive behind the employment of certain assessment practices, highlighting a misguided understanding of success in some departments. This suggests that the writer also has knowledge of educational ends, purposes and values, and is disappointed by the lack of this knowledge category in various education sectors.
12. “Discussions on the nature of science (in workshops) highlighted discrepancies between what I as a research scientist did and what students learn at school. I can see that classroom teaching of science in a procedural manner where the teacher states this in the question, this is the path to the answer and this is the answer you should (have) got will give a false perception Though it is taught this way for 1) getting results to prove a theory/ concept 2) time constraints so must get work done, no side tracks 3) making sure all students have same experiences and meet leaning objective for assessment purposes
BUT science research is not like that, the question comes before the concept (based on observations and why it is like that) and many questions are needed in order to define the problem, because often one know a lot of information just not how it relates(until one asks the questions that show this). Then comes trialling different methods/ easy of answering a/some question(s) to define the problem more exactly during which process one discovers other question(s) that need thinking about. Experiments seldom give straight forward results, they always other issues (more questions). It is the questions that drive science knowledge and discovery, not the solutions. How does this relate to teaching science in a classroom?”
The writer recognises the different educational contexts of scientific ideas. The way science ideas are studied, communicated and applied varies from one context to other. The writer explains that the investigation of scientific ideas in a research context looks different to the investigation of science ideas in a classroom context. Tools used for investigation will also look different in the two contexts. The pedagogical content knowledge of the writer is challenged when transitioning between the two contexts, and they must adjust to pedagogical tools specific to the classroom.
13. “I also was reminded of the importance or variety – I need to try and use demos/ experiments/ interactive activities (other than group discussions) so that the students stay interested for longer.”
As shown in the reflection above, general pedagogical knowledge involves the application of a range of strategies that enhance the learning experience for students. The writer mentions that she want students to stay interested for longer. The strategies she lists, including demos, experiments and interactive activities are general teaching tools that transcend subject matter. The writer is not thinking of a specific strategy she believes would better communicate a certain idea or topic, but rather of a general range of skills and tool she could potentially employ in the future.
14. “I really enjoyed writing unit plans – a lot of effort and thought, but so useful in time to come. This the unit plans are far more useful and practical that lesson plans as they are more flexible and give you a really good overview of where you are heading.”
15. “Looking back on teaching one whole unit of work… sometimes it flowed. Other times, especially at the start, it didn’t. I’ve definitely made progress and have found the button to push which engages the students. Pre-teaching terms and getting students familiar with these pays off. It shows in their ability to discuss and explore further.”
The writer demonstrates knowledge of students and their characteristics that is complimented by increased pedagogical content knowledge. She recognises the needs specific to her class. She demonstrates an understanding of what works FOR THEM and what doesn’t work FOR THEM. This understanding of her students and their characteristics directs the way she communicates her specific subject in order to make learning effective for them.
Content Representation (CoRe) design and unit planning 23-04-18
One of Lee Schulman’s categories of knowledge is pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Schulman describes PCK as a highly specialised and individualised form of knowledge that bridges pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge. Content representation (CoRe) are diagrammatic representations, designed to give a holistic overview of experienced teachers’ PCK for a particular topic. The resource employs PaP-eRs, professional and pedagogical experience repertoires, which are narratives that bring aspects of the CoRe alive.
CoRes consist of eight major components. After the key ideas presented in the specific science units have been identified, educators must collaborate to develop responses to eight prompts, designed to unpack PCK. The first prompt asks what you intend the students to learn about this idea. After establishing the main idea, educators must unpack it to determine the concepts and skills students must learn to comprehend this specific idea. Inexperienced teachers may find it difficult to determine what students are and are not capable of achieving. Therefore, it is useful to draw from the experience of expert teachers.
Along with determining the concepts and skills required by students to understand the specific topic, educators must also consider why it is important for students to know about this specific topic. This involves consideration of links to future learning, other topics and every-day life. Effective teaching is always linked to students’ lives and experiences to ensure students can relate to the content.
Teachers must also identify the things they know about the specific topic that they do not intend for students to know yet. This component of CoRe allows for teachers to establish an appropriate balance between over simplifying a concept or making it too complex. Here again, it is very useful for beginning teachers to draw upon the knowledge of experienced teachers, who will know which concepts are best left for later years.
Furthermore, teachers are to consider the difficulties or limitations connected with teaching this idea. These should include any preconceptions or misconceptions students may have about this idea that will hinder their learning. Other limitations may involve models used to explain certain phenomena.
Another important consideration for teachers is how students’ thinking may influence their teaching of a specific topic/idea. Expert teachers are able to reflect on the way students have thought about, responded to and learned similar ideas during previous years.
A further important component of CoRe involves all the other factors that influence one’s teaching of the specific topic. This component requires careful consideration of a wide variety of factors, including resource availability, school timetable, community events, weather, etc.
Additionally, the teaching procedures one plans to employ during the topic and the reasons for employing these should be considered. As the contextual needs of the students change with time, teachers need to be able to adjust and adapt their teaching procedures to align with those needs.
The final element of CoRe requires teachers to identify assessment methods they will employ to evaluate student learning. It also allows teachers to reflect on the effectiveness of the teaching procedures previously outlined.
Safety in Science 05-05-18
As soon as equipment, such as glassware, chemicals, Bunsen burners and other similar equipment are involved, as opposed to merely paper and pens, risk increases. A science lesson often involves a range of equipment and processes that have an element of risk tied to them. While risk is not essentially a negative thing, it must be controlled in order to support rather than hinder this learning process. Both teachers and students are responsible for maintaining the safe learning environment, necessary for effective teaching and learning.
The responsibilities of a science teacher include the identification and reporting of all possible hazards. These hazards must be dealt with appropriately, either through elimination or isolation, to minimise the risk presented by them. Furthermore, teachers are responsible for ensuring that students are instructed in appropriate safety procedures. Teachers must enforce appropriate conduct involving scientific equipment and rehearse students in the procedure that follow misconduct or an emergency. Ultimately, the teacher is responsible to take all practicable steps to ensure their own safety and the safety of students; and that no action or inaction on their part causes harm to any person.
On the other hand, students also play a key role in maintaining a safe learning environment within the science classroom. It is the responsibility of the students to abide by the code of conduct developed for the specific classroom. I believe that these codes are most effective when students take part in constructing them. A key factor that contributes to a safe classroom is effective communication between students and teacher. Both parties must be on the ‘same page’ in relation to appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and work toward a common goal of creating a safe and effective learning environment.