All entries for June 2018
June 21, 2018
What is your teaching philosophy? How has this originated and can you evaluate how your educational touchstones will impact on the teacher you aspire to be?
In teaching physics, I believe the skills that can be gained through the study of physics (mathematical, problem solving, thinking) should be emphasised whilst also entertaining students' curiosity and guiding it in the right direction.
Physics has the ambition of explaining nature through simple models. Whilst this task is not yet complete, the understanding of current models can, and should, be made accessible to all students such that they can begin to develop a scientific way of thinking as well as an appreciation for the task that science is striving to achieve.
At college, studying physics particularly, I started to develop strong ideas about what education should be. My teacher afforded me the autonomy to do my own learning in class. My teacher also recognised how often I would spend time helping fellow students in class and hence gave me more freedom to take an active part in lessons, even going as far as getting me to teach some parts. The main 'philosophy' that I want to bring forward from that experience was to allow students some level of autonomy and to take responsibility for their own learning. Having autonomy, along with fostering a natural amount of inquisitiveness is what Claxton notes as being the hallmarks of a successful learner (Claxton, 2008). I have tried to build autonomy and engagement into topics that are typically considered ‘boring’, by providing just a simple framework for students to work and explore within. In the topic of rocks with year 8, the lessons focussed around demonstrations of the rock cycle and allowed the students to explore the process practically and use the framework of the sheet to express their own scientific ideas. This worked incredibly well and created a lot of excitement in an often dry topic.
The classroom environment should be a space in which students feel safe to ask questions and satisfy their own curiosity. For me, creating an atmosphere of scientific curiosity is of the utmost importance, but the concept needs a concrete definition. Jirout and Klahr (2012) suggest scientific curiosity should be defined as "the threshold of desired uncertainty in the environment that leads to exploratory behaviour” (Jirout and Klahr, 2012, p.125).
I believe that education works best when the students have some control of the direction of their learning, to be allowed to satisfy their curiosity. Within lessons, I’ve adopted the use of a Question box to allow students to ask me questions about the topics they are studying (as well as other topics entirely), so that educational tangents can be discussed without distracting from the lesson. I’ve also furthered students curiosity through a science club demonstration of the physics of hovercrafts to further their love of learning, which the students all enjoyed immensely and allowed me to write a piece in the school newsletter. Furthermore, I've been lucky enough to be involved with scientific outreach, demonstrating the chemistry of scents to 3 groups of year 6 students at a local primary school - using Lego models and practicals to inspire students about chemistry.
Claxton, G. (2008). What's the Point of School?: Rediscovering The Heart of Education. London: Oneworld Publications.
Jirout, J. and Klahr D. (2012). Children's scientific curiosity: In search of an operational definition of an elusive concept. Developmental Review, 32(2), pp. 125-160.
June 18, 2018
As part of the PGCE course, I have had to complete an Action Research project. What is Action Research, some of you might ask? In the simplest terms, it’s where you investigate a particular aspect of teaching and learning, so that both you as a practitioner and your students can improve. In my school, I noticed a particular issue concerned with the autonomy of my Year 12 group, who as lovely and bright as they all are, had no idea how to reflect and improve on their own learning. I began to wonder how we as a school could best prepare our A-Level students for the level of independent study that the majority of them will inevitably undertake at University-level, and to provide them all with a sense of responsibility over their learning and progression. Thus, I devised a simple and (what I presumed would be) effective intervention which invited my students to set their own learning targets at the end of every lesson, for a period of six lessons.
The result? Not life-changing, I’m afraid to admit. I wasn’t measuring for academic progression in such a short time-frame, so for all you mathematicians and scientists, I have no solid data. However, the research taught me a lot about my teaching, my students, and the kind of classroom environment that we like. In terms of my own teaching, I learned the value of dedicating reflection time in my lessons, and teaching my students how to reflect on their academic progress both critically and positively. I talked them through de Bono’s Six Hats Reflective Model, and they enjoyed using this process to consider their own strengths and weaknesses.
However, I also learned that at this age, my students still need my help and guidance. They suggested that, rather than setting their own targets as often as every lesson, that we dedicated time within each half-term where we sit and devise targets together, which they then have a substantial amount of time to demonstrate improvement. The class also collectively agreed that they liked the fact that the dedicated reflection time became a routine in the classroom, and it helped them to continually reflect on what they were learning over the course of each hour. For some of the less confident students in the class, they learned to consider their successes regularly, and this helped to boost their self-esteem.
Overall, my experience with Action Research confirmed to me what I had long suspected: that my students could help me to become a better teacher, as much as I can help them with their learning. Although I will admit my research did not produce any ground-breaking results, it enabled me to get to know my students, and my teaching style, better than I knew before. It is something I would recommend any teacher, either training or experienced, to undergo, as it reinforces a fundamental aspect of teaching: that we should never stop learning.
June 11, 2018
Assessment can motivate pupils to succeed academically by providing bespoke feedback that praises areas of strength and highlights methods and skill sets that pupils need to improve upon in subsequent tasks. Improvement of areas of weakness can be most efficiently achieved by informing a pupil of how to nurture areas of weakness, so that advancement in academic skill may be observed within the next assessment (Black and Wiliam, 1998).
Assessment in relation to social success is a less obvious connection. Advancement of the social agility of pupils could provide the highest chance of success in a pupil’s life as positive working relationships are key to any team-based professional team. Advancing social success may be best achieved by considering this important ‘soft’ skill development from the pupil’s point-of-view (Jarvinen and Nicholls, 1996).
Relationships which contain intimacy, nurturance, sincerity, responsibility, feigning concern and entertainment were observed by adolescent pupils to encompass social success (Jarvinen and Nicholls, 1996). Social success in secondary school is considered by adolescent pupils to culminate in obtaining satisfaction from relations with peers. What a pupil is required to receive in order to feel socially satisfied could vary considerably from individual to individual. Roles that pupils perceive as bringing about satisfaction within a social setting are leadership, popularity, dominance and even being considered to have a tough and almost unfriendly character (Jarvinen and Nicholls, 1996). Some of these perceived requirements for social success, such as the projection of a tough and unfriendly approach, run counter to aspects actively promoted in school policies which stipulate a foundation of basic respect for others. Social skills have been observed to influence academic outcomes of pupils to such a degree that assessment of social agility can be employed as a viable avenue through which to predict and possibly use to advance academic achievement for pupils (Agostin and Bain, 1997).
Assessment which focuses on providing commentary aimed at advancement of pupils’ academic skills is seen as a way to expedite pupil progress a lot more than just the competition which ensues between pupils in achieving the highest grades (Black and Wiliam, 1998). This approach is of mainstream focus now in schools for both formative and summative assessments led by teachers and on a whole-school level. Self-esteem and perceived levels of social support have all been observed to promote a more confident handling of academic work-loads and challenges (Friedlander et al., 2007). Assessment can influence both social and academic success by attending to the self-esteem of pupils and through accentuating the positive achievements of a pupil’s efforts, regardless of ability level. This positive feedback should be interwoven into any critical and constructive appraisal of pupil’s academic weaknesses. This then could promote a stable and positive working relationship between the pupil and the teacher, which assists a rapport that encourages the pupil to listen and engage with lesson activities and instruction provided by the teacher.
AGOSTIN, T. M. & BAIN, S. K. 1997. Predicting Early School Sucess with Developmental and Social Skills Screeners. Psychology in the Schools, 34, 219-228.
BLACK, P. & WILIAM, D. 1998. Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment, London, GL Assessment.
FRIEDLANDER, L. J., REID, G. J., SHUPAK, N. & CRIBBIE, R. 2007. Social Support, Self-Esteem, and Stress as Predictors of Adjustment to University Among First-Year Undergraduates. Journal of College Student Development, 48, 259-274.
JARVINEN, D. W. & NICHOLLS, J. G. 1996. Adolescents' Social Goals, Beliefs About the Causes of Social Success, and Satisfaction in Peer Relations. Developmental Psychology, 32, 435-441.
June 04, 2018
Although I can sometimes grumble and moan about the extra workload of reading research papers, there can be no doubt that I’ve taken ideas and inspiration from the research I’ve written. Over the year so far, I’ve been trying to take ideas from my reading and implement them in classrooms, with varying degrees of success.
From an early stage, my research into theories of effective marking and feedback yielded some ideas that I could implement into my classroom. Reading work by Hattie and Timperley gave me the idea to use displayed success criteria for written tasks in class. This allows students to constantly self-assess their work as they go, and continuously generate next steps at any stage during the lesson. This allows me to use the criteria to also structure my written feedback, saving a lot of time thinking about what next steps are necessary. I recently took this to another level in terms of student engagement with the criteria, by challenging students to mark a sample piece of work before they started working on their own task. I was impressed with the levels of critical engagement with the criteria, and by their willingness to judge whether a piece of work was worthy of meeting a criteria rather than just being present. The feedback was very focused, and they were very demanding of detail (in hindsight, maybe telling them I had produced the work was a bad idea!)
More recently, I have been reading into theories of discovery learning and how to make it effective in the classroom. The overall picture I obtained from my literature review was that discovery learning can yield improved outcomes, but not in all cases. I identified two main factors that can help discovery learning be more effective:
Choose the class carefully. When results were separated out by student ability, a positive effect on higher ability students was observed, often masked in mixed studies by a negative effect on lower ability students. Using this strategy appropriately is an important facet of making it successful. In terms of implementing this, I have primarily used these activities with only one of my classes, where all students are targeted an A or A* grade.
Don’t just leave them on their own! Some studies gave students as young as 7 no guidance, and expected them to be able to learn. There is no way that this would yield effective progress and learning at almost any age As a result, when I have used discovery-style activities, I have always provided scaffolding questions and walked around providing support to ensure that students have the supported environment to allow them to make those discoveries.
The opportunity for discovery learning to produce improved outcomes has been particularly of interest to me, and I have been trying to implement more and more in my lessons where appropriate. Recently, I put on an activity where my students used dice to model radioactive decay. Using the structured worksheet, students were able to work through and calculate a half-life for their radioactive ‘sample’. This then led into a discussion of half-life, with students moving on to look at how it relates to carbon dating in their next lesson.