Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Using social bookmarking

I find or I am sent so many useful links to websites with great resources and ideas. But I am not always in a position to use them straight away for a variety of reasons.

I used to keep a word document of useful links. It wasn't easy to search and formatting was tricky. Now I use social bookmarking. I found out about it when reading an article in a teaching magazine. At first I just tried it, adding websites that I already know about and gradually my use has increased.

The site I use is called delicious. You can create "stacks" meaning it is even easier to keep related bookmarks together and browse them. I also have apps on the iPad that make it even easier to add and search the websites I have bookmarked.

As the resources available on the Internet expand social bookmarking is a great way to keep track of the useful things I have seen. Try it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Numeracy Across the Curriculum (ASE conference session)

Can you name all the different types of graphs and charts? I will freely admit that can't do it without support.

Do all the different types of graphs and charts have the same names in maths and science? Are the geographers and other subject teachers using the same terminology? Is it only in graphs and charts that the terminology is different?

I have well and truly had my eyes opened regarding the importance on liaising with the maths department regarding the use of maths in science. Particularly as a physics teacher. The main issues are that ofsted are now looking for consistent teaching of numeracy across the curriculum and that maths and English grades are becoming more important so we need to all be teachers of those subjects within our own.

The ofsted framework says:
Outstanding: ‘Time is used well and every opportunity is taken to successfully develop crucial skills, including being able to use their literacy and numeracy skills in other subjects’
Good: ‘Teaching consistently deepens pupils’ knowledge and understanding and teaches them a range of skills including communication, reading and writing, and mathematics across the curriculum’
Satisfactory: ‘Communication skills including reading and writing, and mathematics may be taught inconsistently across the curriculum’

The session at the ASE conference focused on the barriers to teaching numeracy in science and the way that Worcestershire LA are trying to over come them. The barriers are below:

They are working on supporting schools in aligning their maths and science curricula so that skills are taught in maths lessons before being used in science. The presenter of the course did not describe how successful this was. I imagine it is very difficult to, but still a good idea.

Better than that though, the LA advisors a putting together a resource that contains presentations of how the numeracy used in science lessons is presented in maths lessons anyhow it might be different. These resources can be used in different ways, some rooms have a display on the wall that is added to as the concepts are encountered in science lessons and/or PowerPoint slides are displayed to students during the lesson when a specific skill is required. So far Worcestershire have created about 2/3 of the resources needed to cover the numeracy required in the science curriculum.

I think that this is a really nice idea. It helps to ensure consistency, helps students to make links between their lessons, and helps to boost the numeracy of the students in general.

I really enjoyed the session, thank you to Worcestershire LA for showing the work they have done.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 20 January 2012

Metacognition: "we already do that"

We have recently been asked to use metacognitive questioning with our students by our SMT. I really like this idea and feel that this focus will help me reflect more on the learning of the students than the tasks that I am giving them. The focus has occurred as a result of an increased spotlight on under-performing post-16 students. Particularly those who did well at GCSE and are hard working but can't seem to make the leap from a D/C grade up to a B/A. The reason for this inability to improve was established as the thinking of the students, they were trying to remember instead of working on strategies to help them understand. This was overcome through some coaching and grades did improve.

I have often spoken to colleagues about issues that prevent students from achieving in physics and completely agree that how they think is a big barrier. The most successful post-16 students are those that use more body language in their explanations because they are picturing what they are talking about. I know I am very expressive in class as I feel out how the electricity is flowing or how sound goes from high to low due to the Doppler effect, that is because I am thinking about the models that can help my understanding.

However, the way that metacognitive questioning was introduced at school has confused and put off many members of staff. The responses received vary from "not another bolt-on to our lessons" to "we do that already". I always feel uncomfortable with the "we do that already" response. It is very rarely true in my experience: the best teachers never use that excuse, they reflect on what they do and use every piece of evidence to improve their practice. I also worry about the "not another bolt-on" comments; are teachers in our outstanding school really doing things in lessons they think don't add value to the learning just to tick boxes?

In departmental discussion about metacognition the issue of outstanding observation scores came up time and again. I am very upset by this: my aim is for students to get a good understanding of science, not for me to score points with management because I get a high score in a lesson observation. (Although I would like to get good scores too).

What am I going to do? I am already teaching segue in year 9, so using the 5 or 7 E approach. I want to see how I can use the structure with key stage 4 and 5. The evaluation section is (from what I can tell) the opportunity for the students to reflect and for me to use metacognition questioning. Whether I will use the questions that have been suggested to us is another thing. The framework for questioning we have been given is below:

Example framework for metacognitive questioning: to raise levels of awareness
1. Describe what kind of thinking you did
• What kind of thinking did you do?
• What do you call this kind of thinking?
• Was this kind of thinking .........? (name a kind of thinking)

2. Describe how you did your thinking
• How did you do this thinking?
• What did you think about? Why?
• Did you have a plan (or strategy)?

3. Evaluate your thinking
• Was your thinking good? Why?
• Did you have a good plan (or strategy)?
• How could you improve your thinking next time?

(adapted from Schwartz & Parks, 1994)

Metacognitive reminders for students
We must remember to:
• Get ourselves in a learning mood.
• Talk about what we have to do.
• Look and listen carefully.
• Decide who is going to do what.
• Stop and think - work for several minutes without talking
• Work on the task - have a go - allow everyone to speak - listen to what they say - ask questions
• Check our work.
• Think ahead.

(adapted from Quicke & Winter 1994)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Kingswood, Bristol

Monday, 9 January 2012

ASE conference

This year's ASE conference was the first I had attended, and I can easily say it was the best CPD I have ever experienced. This was for a variety of reasons.

The highlight of the conference for me was meeting Sir Steve Redgrave. it was definitely a great draw for me. Although I had already booked to go before I knew he would be at one of the events.

He was taking part in the Wellcome Trust Lecture promoting their sport science packs that will be delivered to schools. The lecture was a good balance between interactivity, information and fun.

The science level was high because Professor Hugh Montgomery was there to explain each experiment in detail. This meant there was plenty learn even for the accomplished biology teacher, so as a physics teacher there was a lot for me to pick up on. I wish I had recorded it.

Another major highlight of the conference was being able to meet the people who contribute to #asechat. On Saturday we had an interesting conversation about the positives and negatives of using Twitter. I still believe the positives outweigh any possible negatives and find twitter and incredibly useful in keeping up to date with resources.

The inclusion of the frontiers lectures in the ASE conference is an inspired idea. There was a variety of subjects and each lecture was given by the staff of the University of Liverpool. I went to the lecture on the Large Hadron Collider, which helped to update my knowledge. (For example I now know that neutrinos have mass but that was unsure didn't when I was at university).

It is useful to know that finding the Higgs Boson isn't the end of the work particle physicists have to do, and it helped my ability to answer questions by my students. The search for the Higgs Boson is a hot topic in my classroom.  It was even better having a lecture that was at just the right pace and pitch for the audience to follow. There is a question of whether science teachers try to keep up with current developments in their subject; this lecture was such a positive way of doing that.

Apart from the entertaining aspects of the ASE Conference it was also useful to talk to the exhibiters and gain useful information. I was able to talk to OCR about the Gateway Science course. It is taking some getting used to so a few tips from the OCR team was very useful.

I attended two sessions during my time at the conference. One about numeracy in science and one about literacy. They were fantastic on many levels.

The main thing that I took away from the numeracy session is that we need a consistent approach to numeracy across the school to be "outstanding" according to Ofsted. Worcestershire LA are working on this using their advisors and several schools to build up a pack of resources that can easily be used to compare terminology and procedures in maths and science. This can only help to boost results. (Although there is no numeric data to show the impact yet, the advisors are working on this). I was intrigued by the idea of a collaborative project such as this, and feel that the federation I work in has missed a trick by not working collaboratively like this.

The literacy session was a revelation to me. There was so many techniques brought to my attention, such as speaking frames; point evidence, explanation; nominalisation (turning processes and actions into nouns); using cards to develop continuums to support the students' development of informal talk to formal writing. I have never learned so much as I did in the two hours in that session and it was worth the whole conference to me. Well done Camden and Enfield LAs.

However, the real congratulations goes to the ASE, who organised a fantastic conference. I can't wait for 2013.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad