These are Dr. Fogwill’s top tips. He’s been an advisor to writing HSC Physics papers as well as a senior marker for many years.
Plus an all round lovely guy, willing to share his expertise with people.
- all science students are expected to know what the gradient of a line means
- students tended to draw trend lines incorrectly
- students need to be prepared to answer questions on all parts of the syllabus, including the contextual outlines
- the big mark questions are the ones that make the most difference, students need to practice how to do them
- exam strategy: first look through and find pictures, then read through 7 mark questions, then read through the options. Finally go back and answer the multiple choice questions. It’s good to have a strategy
- draw diagrams where possible
- check the batteries of your calculators
- where the paper says “do not write”, definitely do not write in that section – it will not be marked
- in Physics and Earth, students should use the formula sheet and data sheet as a summary. Prepare your notes around it so that when you look at it in the exam it actually has more meaning because you’ve associated various sections of the course with the data provided to you
- when considering safety in a scientific investigation make sure you look at safety specific to that investigation rather than simply wear safety glasses and have covered shoes
- for each mandatory prac students should be able to do “VARS” which is validity, accuracy, reliability and safety as well as being able to describe the prac and general trends that were observed
- teachers job to train students to do really good brief summary notes
- when finished writing an answer go back and check that you’ve answered each part of the question
- his website is hsccoach.com.au
The reason STEM is such a big focus/ push/ buzz word right now, is not because other areas of education are less important. It has nothing to do with that.
It has everything to do with the fact that future generations have to deal with huge, global problems, that they need STEM skills to do.
As an aside, here they are* :
– Antibiotic resistance
– Climate change
– New energy sources
– Over pollution of the world
– Draughts and limited fresh water
– Over population
Instead, STEM has to do with the fact that students doing engineering courses at university are declining. These are our real world problem solvers and we are producing less of them. This may worry you. Rightly so.
STEM doesn’t mean arts and creativity is not important. On the contrary, any scientist or engineer knows that innovation requires creativity. It does mean however, that we are not talking about literary creativity here, or creativity in the arts. There are different kinds of creativity. In STEM we ask students to solve a problem. There is an absolute need for what they are to construct.
If we start using STEAM. Then why not add languages to it too? We know that speaking two languages changes the brain to be able to better adapt to problem solving and increases working memory. It also decreased problems in later life. Not to mention bilinguals have excellent cultural awareness. So we should then make it STLEAM.
Wait a second? Are we forgetting health? We cannot forget health because without proper sleep, food, exercise and mental wellbeing, we cannot call ourselves healthy human beings.
So it now has to become STLEAMP.
Can you see that it is getting a bit out of hand?
Let’s just agree that right now, there is a need for STEM students.
But we as teachers are educating the child as a whole. And we are not discounting the importance of other areas of education.
* Thank you for indulging my inbuilt scientific need to write lists
So it’s time for my second teaching rounds and I got to meet my first class. Let’s make a list, I love lists. These are the things I will be focusing on this time around.
- having a structure in my lessons. A CLEAR start, middle and end. This was a HUGE problem last time around and honestly I really regret it. There is nothing worse than a teacher that is running around fumbling trying to finish off the lesson. Aside from seeming unprofessional, it also suggests that your content isn’t so important cause you can quickly rush through it.
- Developing my students reflective learning practices. I’m going to focus on plenary – 1 thing you learnt this lesson, 1 thing you’re thinking about (link to other subject, found something interesting…)
- Differentiating my instruction. I will have a lot of group work and I’m going to try to organise groups based on learning styles and ability. This is because many of my classes have a huge varying range of abilities and it’s clear that some students need extra support, for example they are just transitioning to this school from an intensive English school. While on the other hand, in the same class, I have students who are so obviously beyond this content and really require more nurturing. My supervising teacher already does this in the form of different tasks but I feel like I could be more useful if I did it during class time.
- making science fun! I want to have such a positive environment that (a) students are talking about their learning (b) they are actually happy in class
- focusing on OPEN ENDED questioning! And allowing students response time. This is going to be my strategy: (1) ask an open ended question (2) allow students to respond in their books (so I must pick these questions carefully, because they are going to form the basis of their notes for that lesson). (3) pick a students’ name randomly to share (I’m going to do this with double sided paddle pop sticks that I stole from here).
- focus on literacy and numeracy, not so much ICT this time around
- being consistent when enforcing school policies
- guided note taking using my pretty awesome, if I do say so myself template that you can totally use and abuse
- exit cards – with a question on it about the lesson. You need to teach the students how to be reflective though. For example (1) I didn’t understand…. (2) I wonder if…. (3) Is this why…. (4) Can we use this to….. (5) How can we use this information? etc…
- Greet students outside the classroom where possible and try to enforce good learning practices including having a diary out etc
1. Alice Leung: Excellent blog by an Australian educator. Alice teaches science and maths and her education philosophies are modern, exciting and innovative.
1. The Cell Blog: Artist Lukas Wossagk creates original and hilarious content on biology.
This is my own multiple intelligences chart.
We’ve been told numerous times (and I’m sure that you will agree from your own personal experience) that rapport with your students is one of the most important things to build in a classroom. So many issues that arise in class that relate to classroom management stem directly from a poor teacher-student relationship. We have to know them! We have to know what they like or don’t like. How they learn. What their learning background is. So how the heck can we learn all of that while on Practicum? We have basically less than a week get to know our students.
I used this get to know you template. But I’ve tweaked it to suit my needs. Some of my students were quite offended about the Mothers occupation and Fathers occupation section so I’ve removed that and some other generic questions and tried to target questions that really tell me how my students are as learners.
To make the task less daunting I volunteered information on myself. In the updated version I’ve also added the Gardners Multiple Intelligence quiz and fill-in-the blank scaffold. It is my intention to use this template in my upcoming Practicum in order to facilitate group work. Students will be assigned particular roles in groups that align with their preferred intelligences. In a survey I had my Practicum 1 students complete 78% of them said they understood the purpose of the activity and most said that it was a positive way to get to know them. One student commented that she would have liked to get to know her usual classroom teacher in this way also! This task allowed me to build a rapport with students who were then more comfortable with me as they knew I was trying my best to treat them as individuals (Buskist & Saville, 2001).
You can download a PDF version here. or if you’d like to tweak it yourself: Here’s a Word Document.
Buskist, W., & Saville, B. K. (2001) Creating Positive Emotional Contexts for Enhancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.socialpsychology.org/rapport.htm
One of the most useful things I did on my first practicum is invite my students to complete a Survey Monkey about my teaching methods. I used the AITSL standards as a basis for my questions and tried to keep it nice and sweet. For each question it was a Yes or No with an option to leave a comment. The questions I asked my students were:
1) Did you feel like you knew the purpose of the Facebook get to know you activity?
2) Do you feel like I challenge you enough in class?
3) Do you feel like you can ask me questions in class?
4) Do you feel like I explain things well?
5) Do you feel like you learn in my classes?
6) Do you feel like the class environment is well managed?
7) Do you feel like I give you enough feedback on whether you are achieving the learning outcomes of my lessons?
8) What do I do in class that you like? Or what would you like to see What do I do in class that you don’t like?more of?
9) What do I do in class that you don’t like?
Obviously I kept it anonymous. However, I wanted to bribe my students to do it with candy so I added a second page that they could screen shot to show me that they did the survey. Side note – I would never give out candy as reward for doing class work. That should be a reward in itself. *off my soap box now*
You can view the results of the survey.
There are some things that arise from this survey
- students felt that they knew the purpose of the get to know you activity however some questions were irrelevant
- I don’t challenge my students enough. They feel like I’m just cruising them through on the bare minimum that they need to know. This has a lot to do with my inexperience at differentiating lessons. I don’t go into enough depth with the content sometimes.
- I encourage students to ask questions in my class and I’m approachable
- I explain concepts well but sometimes I go too fast. Using different methods to get my point across e.g. videos helps my students to understand better. The use of analogies was very helpful in explaining difficult concepts.
- I try to explain things a number of times to ensure that my students understand.
- Students need more guidance as to what to write down.
- I don’t give my students nearly enough feedback on whether they are achieving learning outcomes.
- Students overall liked: animated descriptions, humour in class, mini-whiteboards, videos, class discussions, guided note taking, practicals, fun facts, the questioning methods I use.
- Students didn’t like: comprehension worksheets, that I didn’t challenge them enough, when I explained things too quickly, too much information, not revising previous lesson or outlining learning goals.