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Alternatives to exercie books for AS & A2

Discussion in 'Science' started by Mathsteach2, May 15, 2011.

  1. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    Since science should be seen as a fully practical subject with the students on their feet doing things for themselves, and this encouraged and implemented throughout compulsory schooling (5 to 16) it follows that there is no place for the writing of copious revision notes during lessons at any level. Sitting in a science laboratory writing neat notes, which then have to be marked, Y7 to Y13, is anathema to good science teaching, I think.

    I was trained into this thinking in 1966 on the Nuffield schemes, and have soundly criticised any teacher who puts up neat diagrams as a presentation and then gets the students to copy them into their books or folders. Rough note-making during lessons is their own personal responsibility, again Y7 to Y13, during any activity or demonstration. In all of my teaching, the students had a rough exercise book for this, which I would very occasionally look at, or write in during the lesson with the student by my side.

    Beyond this, they were encouraged to build up a portfolio or folder of their work, to be used for their own revision purposes and the storing of marked assignments and test papers. Sometimes their own rough notes could be cut and pasted into the loose-leaf folder to illustrate what they were recording.

    I feel some dismay that this thread has appeared in this day and age with the availability of excellent published resources for revision, and the electronic means of communication and recording now available.

    This idea of rough note-making and then writing up neatly in my own time was developed by myself throughout my secondary schooling, 1953 to 1960, doing the write-up whether or not it was required by the teacher, and then I continued this throughout my university career. I still have all of my notes thus written (and many of the rough notes), keeping them for posterity!
  2. phlogiston

    phlogiston Lead commenter

    Science is not, and never has been fully practical.
    Large parts of Year 10 21st century science cannot be taught using practical activities.
  3. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    My contention is that if parts of the science curriculum cannot be taught through practical activities, then it is poor science (at the level of secondary students) and needs to be omitted in any SOW.

    The original Nuffield schemes, designed for grammar schools in the 1960s, in physics, chemistry and biology were completely practical using a heuristic approach to learning, with purpose-designed equipment. Naturally the schemes incorporated demonstrations and discussion, but the emphasis was on the fact that science should be seen to be a practical subject. Along with the traditional art and craft subjects, half classes should have been emphasised (but they were not), although Scotland now does enjoy half classes for practical science (all lessons), I understand.

    I was fortunate to have full timetabling, equipment and laboratory assistance to teach the biology, chemistry and physics Nuffield grammar school schemes for Y7 to Y9 (to include scholarship entrance to the independent senior schools) in a private preparatory school in the UK from 1975 to 1990. The fully practical aspect of science was no problem during those years. The children wore laboratory coats, and never once was I asked: "Are we doing practicals today, sir?"

    There is now in process a government review of the National Curriculum for science. The Association for Science Education is fully involved in this, but of course, half classes for practical science is beyond our expectations in the current economic climate. However, science as a practical subject is a priority and can be done, even with full classes, as the original Nuffield grammar school schemes advocated.
  4. My understanding is that 21st C science and others like it were desinged to meet the requirements of the HSW agenda, which you have been advocating on other threads.
  5. unfortunately we don't have the pleasure of omitting the non practical parts of 21st century science. Howevermuch it it 'bad science' we still must cover it so we have prepared the pupils fully.
  6. I meant 'poor science'!
  7. tyler durden

    tyler durden New commenter

    The idea would be for pupils to make notes at home as they do now in their exercise books but to file them instead. Then any worksheets/graphs/write ups could be slotted in.

    There is no way that we can teach science as a fully practical subject at the school I work out purely due to lack of resources and available labs.

    For the people that use folders- do you take these in to check that they have made notes?
  8. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    Previous posters are moving away from the topic of this thread, which is whether or not students should use exercise books or folders during their Y12 and Y13 courses. I tried to address this in my first post, by referring to the whole business of writing notes in science lessons, at whatever level.

    However, just to respond to those posters, of course I advocate HSW, because I think that this can only be done through practical activities. If 21st Century Science claims that they are addressing HSW, but then downgrade their advocacy for practical work, then I would happily join the band-wagon of critics of 21st Century Science, and in my practice I would refuse to use it.

    In any event, no matter the subject content of a lesson, an imaginative science teacher should always be able to think up some practical activities in which their students can get involved. Rather simplistically, if the students are on their feet doing things for themselves, then that is practical. Drama lends itself very much to this approach, and all science teachers should be trained in the use of elementary drama techniques.

    tyler durden, I fully appreciate the constraints in most schools which limit practical science. However, I have always, and will continue to do so, advocate that science should be seen by all, especially science teachers, to be a practical subject. Through the Association for Science Education we can then put pressure on schools and the government to provide the necessary resources. I did this in a secondary modern school from 1968 to 1974, for Y7 to Y9, and non-examination pupils Y10 and Y11, involving a team-teaching approach, and it was successful.
  9. tyler durden

    tyler durden New commenter

    I see science as a practical subject too- I was just curious to see how other teachers organised their KS5 paperwork for pupils.
  10. In the real world, some students need help organisiing their work and in working out what is essential to include in their notes. Ask them, if they want folders/exercise books then let them choose.

  11. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    Having spent my whole career (40 years, and now 4 years in retirement and still doing private tuition using the same ideas) in the real world of education, schools and school teaching, I have never come across a student (from 5 to 18 years old, and adults), including special needs, who was not able to put pen or pencil to paper to try to record their learning, in either drawing or writing. The original grammar school Nuffield schemes promoted this, but I do understand that they were designed for the top 20% of our children.

    Before laptops, various electronic devices were designed to replace pen and paper. I recall a gadget called Quinkey, which I used successfully with infants who were still learning to draw and write.

    All students need help in organising their neat note work, as I would call it, and this is where a loose-leaf folder is better, I think. Not only will it contain presentable pieces produced by the student, but can be used to include cut-and-paste jobs, handouts, published or photo-copied (legally!?) pieces, and marked assignments and test papers. I monitored these folders with all of my students, sometimes even grading them at the end of a semester or year. This folder would be the result of my students working in their own time, I would not give up valuable laboratory time for it.
  12. "However, science as a practical subject is a priority and can be done, even with full classes, as the original Nuffield grammar school schemes advocated."
    And yet Nuffield today is viewed as a failed experiment, precisely because all of that "doing" got in the way of real understanding.

  13. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    We are moving off-topic again, but I will link my response with this view I hold concerning many teachers. In order to make their practice bareable, and since most students can copy-write, then to get a whole class settled and supposedly working as easily as possible is to ask them to write notes off the board, copied from books, or out of their heads. Practical work takes much more effort and planning, and requires good control of the class, which apparently is not in great evidence these days.

    In fairness, duncanarmour, I think you should have said "... Nuffield today is viewed as a failed experiment BY SOME," because it certainly was not a failure for me, as I was able to implement its philosophy throughout my career, and still do so now in retirement.

    To respond then to your comment and invitation to discuss, the second recommendation to the government review of the NC, by the Nuffield Foundation released on 14th April this year, reads:

    "Science content specified in the National Curriculum should contain a balance of scientific concepts and processes. It should also specify practical work in terms of the essential understanding and competencies which need to be demonstrated by pupils."

  14. OFF TOPIC: I'm with Mathsteach on this one - there are so many science "practicals" which we used to carry out as part of Nuffield courses and I had no problem incorporating that philosophy into C21. Unfortunately, some people see "telling" the answers as the only way to get all of the curriculum covered. Then they wonder why Science is "boring".
    ON TOPIC: I'm with Mathsteach on this one too!
    What students write in is immaterial, although logic tells me that an ability to re-organise paper materials is better than having a fixed format. OK, it may require a bit more setting up, but surely this is part of "education".
    What students actually write is much more important, and I'm with Mathsteach on this one also!!
    Copying notes is a total waste of time (but very comforting, achievable and a clear indication that "work" is being done!). And what do you do if the student "copies" wrongly? Do you check (and correct) every word and every grammatical nuance? Because if they believe these notes are "gospel", that is what they will try to learn for their exams. Personally, I would spend a few pounds on a Revision Guide and check that it fitted exactly with what I wanted them to have - any "errors" could be corrected at the appropriate point and "my" work of checking only needs to be done once in about 5 years. [​IMG]
    On the other hand, converting notes into a different format (diagrams, posters, exam answers) requires students to actively engage with the work, and that is when learning (as opposed to remembering) takes place.
    And surely, we should move our knowledge base into electronic media as the 21st Century progresses. ICT-based notes can be processed by students and returned in a different format, as above. Encouraging students to develop animated presentations or video reports is a way of capturing their imagination, encouraging creativity and providing skills which will be valued in the future. (They're also more interesting to assess.)
    IF students get a job in an organisation which requires written reports in a specific format, they will learn that technique in very short time. The hours which I (and Mathsteach) spent in the 1950s & 60s "doing write-ups" should be seen as something belonging in the past.
  15. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    I enjoyed reading your post, physics suits you, thank you.

    It was like a breath of fresh air in TES, where so many teachers seem only to come to complain and criticise, and show little imagination to get things changed. Not so much in the specialist fora, most posts in science are very helpful and do show how most science teachers are completely practical in their approach to their subject.

    I guess your reference to us "doing writing ups" was about us as school students ourselves. Strangely this did not put me off science, as I continued to illustrate my school notes ( obtained through dictation - in a science lesson!) by copying, in my own time, from books borrowed from the library. I just liked science from about 12 years old, especially physics.

    Therefore in my "A" levels I was still comfortable taking notes. My grievances developed when I trained as a physics teacher on Nuffield "O" level physics in 1965. My physics tutor slammed all those experienced teachers whom we observed, drawing beautiful diagrams on the (then) blackboard, in coloured chalks, and the lesson was for the students to copy it - even "A" level students. He told me never to let him see a lesson like that from me.

    .More recently here in Barbados, and it is still going on, I have observed teachers filling a board with beautiful handwriting and diagrams, whether the subject be science, history, or whatever, and the lesson is for the students to copy it. As a marker of CSEC (Caribbean equiv. of GCSE ) mathematics, I find thousands of students across the Caribbean showing beautiful handwriting in their scripts, but not a trace of mathematical understanding. They spend most of the examination time neatly copying out the questions!
  16. We make a point of using folders at the start of the year. Students are provided with a guide to give them an idea of how to set out their folder. We expect them to print and use the specification at the front of the folder also. We then complete folder checks every half term for which we put the completed form in the front of the folder as evidence.

    It all seems to work very well - those students that choose to use books find they regret the decision later in the year when they have so many bits of paper!

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