Primary Science Teaching Trust Conference:
Think Physics session resources
Think Physics is participating in several sessions at this conference. Here are our notes, supporting materials, links to resources, and more:
Think Physics: Developing science capital in the classroom
Dr. Carol Davenport | Friday 10th June, 1400-1500
Young children are fascinated by science in the world around them. However, only a small proportion of children go on to study science, particularly physics. Many children (especially girls) see science as something that is done by other people, and not by ‘people like me’. Many children e ectively make the decision not to study science at a higher level even before they have left primary school. Participants will hear about current research into Science Capital, consider the role of primary schools in providing careers information for children, and discuss possible methods of introducing ‘careers in the classroom’.
Science for Families
Joe Shimwell | Saturday 11th June, 1030-1130
Think Physics has been working to promote family engagement in STEM learning in primary schools. We have created a series of 6 session that help parents and children explore science together. Through a series of demonstrations and experiments (using only equipment you’d find in your kitchen), families are challenged to answer some big scientific questions. This session will explain the development process behind Science for Families and provide you with hands on experience of some of the activities which you can use in your school.
Unconscious bias in the primary classroom
Joe Shimwell | Saturday 11th June, 1200-1300
Recent government statistics show a significant gender gap in the STEM workforce with women making up only 13% of STEM workers. Women are still, on average paid less than men in equivalent jobs. Is it possible that the teaching we do in the primary classroom could be fuelling this inequality? This workshop explores and challenges our own unconscious bias regarding gender and how it affects educational outcomes in our classrooms. Through evidence-informed discussion we will examine our classroom practice and discover the changes we need to make to create a fairer classroom and ultimately a fairer society.
Heading image credit: Titanic Quarter, Belfast, by Flickr user dareangel_2000, public domain.
A-Level Physics Required Practicals
About this project
As of September 2015, practical work in A-Level Physics is no longer assessed through examination – but it’s still a core part of the curriculum. We’ve been keeping a close eye on the support and resources available to teachers, and we think there’s a gap. To start filling it, we’ve teamed up with physics teacher Alom Shaha and educational charity Physics Partners to produce a series of films, building on the approach of Alom’s previous films about physics demonstrations.
We’ve been joined in the project with financial and editorial input from The Ogden Trust.
As of December 2016, four films are complete, with three more in post-production.
g via free fall
EMF and Internal Resistance
Written support resources will follow!
If you think the style of these films is somehow familiar, that’ll be because Alom’s previously made a whole raft of videos about practical demonstrations with film-maker Jonathan Sanderson, who’s currently working for… you guessed it, Think Physics. Most of the films are collected at the National STEM Centre library, but some have appeared on YouTube.
The films are used by teachers and teacher trainers world-wide, and we love to hear your stories about how you’re putting them to use, tips and techniques you have to do the demonstrations better, and comments and criticisms for how the films could be more useful.
Alom and Jonathan also made a longer video essay about the use of demonstrations in the science classroom. Demo: The Movie has been particularly popular with PGCE course leaders for prompting discussion.
Tag Archive for: pedagogy
Although we’ll be adding blog posts about key reports and research relating to NUSTEM to our resources section, I thought that it would be useful to gather together an introductory reading list. This will include books and articles which have informed the direction of the project, or the way in which we put together our activities.
Firstly, I would recommend ‘Delusions of Gender’ by Cordelia Fine, which looks at the biological basis for gender differences. [ Spoiler: There isn’t any really.]
Research reports relating to gender equality in STEM:
1.IOP Girls in Physics research (fondly known as the red books). The 2006 review of Girls in the Physics Classroom looked at existing research and made recommendations around encouraging girls in the physics classroom. This was accompanied by A Teachers’ Guide for Action which highlighted actions that teachers (and others) could take to make their classrooms more gender equal.
2.The ASPIRES (pdf) research carried out by King’s College London, was a key influence in the development of the NUSTEM project. Their finding that young people had already decided that science wasn’t for ‘people like me’ by the age of 10 provided evidence that our project should start introducing young people to a more realistic view of careers in STEM from a much earlier age.
3.Not for People Like Me. This research report (pdf) was written by Prof. Averil Macdonald for WISE. It looks at why previous engagement projects with young people over the past thirty years appear to have had little, or no impact, on the uptake of physics and engineering by women. Prof. Macdonald recommends that rather than focussing on the jobs that people in STEM do, interventions should instead present ideas about the attributes that people need.
4.Five Tribes: Personalising Engineering Education. The IMechE report (pdf) also casts doubt on the effectiveness of engagement projects that ask young people to ‘be like me’, where the ‘me’ in question is an engineer. The findings from a large scale study of young people between 11 and 19 found that that young people divide themselves broadly into five categories, determined by their values as well as their reactions to engineering as a subject and as a potential career. The IMechE suggests that interactions with young people need to be personalised to take account of these five divisions. We’re still working out exactly how to do this here at NUSTEM, but the report is thought provoking.
5.10 types of scientist. This list of different types of scientist looks at where people with science qualifications may work, and identifies different types of scientists. A useful list when talking about careers with young people who still see scientists as only working in a lab.
1. The National Curriculum
All maintained schools in England are required to follow the National Curriculum. Other types of schools (academy, free school, UTC etc) don’t have to follow the National Curriculum (though many do), but must still provide a broad and balanced curriculum for their pupils. NUSTEM recognises that in order to add value to the work that schools do, it is helpful for us to provide curriculum-informed activities and so an awareness of the national curriculum is essential to what we do.
•Key stage 1: Years 1 and 2 (ages 5-7) and Key stage 2: Years 3 to 6 (ages 7-11). Primary Science NC (pdf)
•Key stage 3: Years 7-9 (ages 11-14). A number of schools are shortening their KS3 to two years and starting working towards GCSEs in year 9 in some subjects. KS3 Science NC (pdf)
•Key stage 4: Years 10 and 11 (ages 14-16). Although there is a national curriculum at KS4, in practice schools pay far more attention to the GCSE specifications that they follow. KS4 Science NC (pdf)
•Subject content for GCSEs: All specifications must follow the subject content in science (which encompasses the national curriculum). New specifications are currently in development, ready for first teaching in Sept 2016. The subject content is split into single science (pdf) (which confusingly covers Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) and combined science (which will be used for double science GCSEs)
New Science A-levels will be taught for the first time from September 2015. One key change is that AS no longer contributes to the marks a student obtains for their A-level, but will be a standalone qualification in its own right. As well as this, although the content is similar to previous specifications, students will have to carry out 12 (6 for AS) core practicals (or competencies) with examination questions relating to practical work in the written exams as well. There will be no controlled assessment.
The subject content for A-level was specified by the Department for Education, and used to develop the new specifications. A comparison of the different specifications can be found here.
Most science teachers will say that you can’t teach science without using practical work. The discussion about the removal of practical examinations from Science A-level and GCSE has focused on the importance of students being ‘hands-on’ in science. However, research evidence suggests that although teachers are keen on practical work, the effectiveness of that practical work is not always clear. The Getting Practical project built on this research and aimed to encourage teachers to make practical work ‘hands-on, minds-on’. This article outlines the rationale and research. It is important whenever we plan activities that we ask ‘What is the purpose of this, and what are we asking students to think about?’.
Resources and ideas for practical work: Practical Physics, National STEM centre eLibrary
4.Teaching about energy
Energy is a difficult concept to teach, and one which is generally poorly understood by both teachers and students. There is a strong tradition of education research looking at the best way to approach teaching of energy. Some of this has made its way into the KS3 and KS4 national curriculum, where energy stores, energy pathways and differences driving change are described.
The Institute of Physics ‘Supporting Physics Teaching’ materials contain further information about an approach to teaching energy. It also covers other ideas in physics including Electricity and Magnetism, and Earth and Space.
Teaching and Learning
This is a huge area, and not everything is relevant to NUSTEM. The ResearchEd movement has highlighted the use of research in education, and that it is important not to base teaching practices (which to an extent include science outreach here at NUSTEM) on how we were taught, but to look at the evidence about how people learn, and what might be effective in education.
•‘Why students don’t like school’ Daniel Willingham. A cognitive scientist looks at how students learn and how educators can support learning. (excerpt from the book here).
•‘Strengthening the student toolbox’ John Dunlosky. What are the best study methods for students? A useful article summarising different methods to encourage learning.
•‘Teacher proof’ Tom Bennett. There are many ‘Zombie theories’ which linger in education, and which have a limited research base. This book identifies a number of these theories and looks at the (lack of) evidence behind them.
It’s also worth watching this video by Dan Willingham about Learning Styles (and why they don’t exist). More information about the ideas in the video can be found here.
Billed as ‘A teacher training film (of sorts)’, DEMO follows science teacher Alom Shaha on a journey halfway across America to explore the use and performance of science demonstrations, and to introduce some of the influences on his thinking. He meets magicians in Las Vegas, performs a demonstration over four kilometres (vertically), and investigates the legacy of fellow physics teacher Frank Oppenheimer.
DEMO quietly challenges, supports and celebrates practical work and demonstrations in science teaching, aiming to reinforce the approaches which research suggests are most effective and appropriate. It also tries to help teachers feel good about their teaching and their subject.
Made for the British Science Association / Gatsby Charitable Foundation “Get Set Demonstrate” campaign, in the year since it was released DEMO has been used in teacher training on four continents, and attracted plaudits from scientists, teachers, and science teachers:
“Beautiful & thought-provoking” — Andrea Sella, UCL; “Everyone who teaches science should watch this” — Tony Ryan, University of Sheffield; “You really should watch this in your next department meeting” — Jonathon Lisseman, Hammersmith Academy; “A celebration of the art & theatre of the Science demo. Superb film” — Wellington College; “Even if you’re not a teacher, WATCH THIS. So good” — Ben Lillie, StoryCollider; “All science teachers should watch” — Tom Sherrington; “the best use of Jenga I have ever seen” — Anna Starkey.
A set of supporting notes and prompts for discussion has been written by Alom and Mary Whitehouse of the University of York, who also appears in the film:
DEMO The Movie teacher notes
The film has been a significant influence on our thinking at NUSTEM, not least because it was written and produced by… er… Jonathan here. Hello, that’s me. We can’t promise more films of this standard – though if you wade your way through the production blog you may gather that any impression of lavish production was simulated for the cameras – but it’s no coincidence that we’re all geared up with cameras and edit systems.
Enjoy DEMO, and teachers: do think about discussing it in a staff meeting.
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