OUR MISTAKES IN SCIENCE
As is the case in every school, the Michaela Science department has made its fair share of mistakes. After a few years of experimentation, trial and error, we have learned many lessons about what to do – and what not to do – in the science laboratory. Like all teachers, we want to provide our pupils with the best possible experience, and enable them to learn as much about the subject as possible. We also want to instil a lifelong love of science, and support lots of our pupils to use science in their future careers.
Fundamentally, our belief is that the best way to support pupils’ curiosity in science is through knowledge. By giving them the building blocks of scientific knowledge, and by supporting them to remember it throughout their time in school not only ensures they will have secure understanding of the world around them, but will provide them with the foundation for greater creativity in science.
But whilst our fundamental philosophy hasn’t changed over the last three years, we have of course reshaped and adjusted where necessary.
Rather than using traditional textbooks or piecemeal worksheets as we did early on, we print each pupil a copy of our co-planned department textbook. Textbooks contain recap questions, explanations, diagrams and questions, and pupils can annotate examples with any further clarification given to them by the teacher.
Standard Lesson Format
In the first year, with only one year group, I was the only science teacher in the school. This had lots of benefits: I was able to spend my time focusing on the pupils and getting the curriculum ready for future year groups. In terms of lessons, I relished the flexibility. I was able to spend longer on certain topics, often blending from one lesson into the next. But as new staff joined the department, I realised that wasn’t helping them. To support them better, I had to decide on what to cover in each lesson, and make that clear to them in the textbooks.
Regular Exam Practice
It doesn’t matter how well taught pupils are in the fundamentals; if they don’t practice exam technique frequently enough, they will struggle in assessments. I have dedicated more time to this over the years, and now all of our pupils answer a 25 mark exam paper every week.
Untangling practical skills from ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ skills took a while. Now, before every practice, pupils are explicitly taught practical skills such as identifying variables, plotting graphs, choosing graph scales, completing risk assessments, writing conclusions and evaluations.
We’ve switched from verbal to written drills over the last year, and I wouldn’t go back. This has really helped to increase the amount of practice each pupil gets, and gives me clear, instant feedback that I can focus on immediately as well as in subsequent lessons.
In the first year, we spent hours each week planning multiple choice quizzes. At one point, I was even differentiating these for each class, which was extremely time consuming, and didn’t seem to have much impact on learning. Now, we simply test content taught that week in a simple format. The quizzes increase in complexity each week, meaning that there is enough stretch built into the unit for the most able pupils.
We haven’t perfected it yet, but learning from our mistakes has helped to department to grow, supporting pupils and staff to achieve their very best.
Keen to learn more about Michaela? Read our book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers, available here.
If you’re keen to learn more about how we resource our lessons, why not join us for a Summer Project this year? More information here.