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Independent learning in science.

Discussion in 'Science' started by Kelly1601, May 13, 2011.

  1. We have just had an ofsted in science. Before I was observed another member of staff was told by the inspector that he was looking for independent learning. I had planned an investigation for the chn to carry out but it was very teacher led as the chn are in y3 and what the chn need at the moment due to a new topic. I knew that this was not what the inspector was looking for but he came back after the first obs for a second time. It was during this time that as I was rounding up we went over some of the questions that had been raised during the lesson and I said we would investigate those next week.
    I have now been informed that this WAS what the inspector had wanted to hear and he has suggested that as we have no coord in our school, that I would be a good candidate. So I have been offered it. However I need to know if anyone else has any experience of children being more independent in science and a starting point for me if I was to take this on in our school.
  2. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    My starting point for all my pupils in science, aged 5 to 13, was independent learning. I trained on the Nuffield schemes and then implemented them throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. My main resource was the full set of "Science 5-13" (Macdonald publishers), their introductory book was entitled "With Objectives in Mind". My priority was to get the children up on their feet doing things for themselves, even if they went 'wrong'. In secondary schools I emphasised practical work.

    I need therefore to explain what I mean by practical work. A science teacher may describe it as open-ended investigations, demonstrations of principles, and opportunities for learning practical techniques, amongst others. There could even be a case for saying that children sitting at a desk reading, writing and talking with their neighbours is practical in the sense that the children are fully-involved and on-task. The most important criterion for practical science should be seen to be freedom of movement, around the classroom or science laboratory, and even the school grounds. Following that, we need to see that the children are gaining some understanding of how science works, and having the opportunity to share their experiences with their peers, and others in Science Fairs, for instance. Practical work in all subject areas can incorporate freedom of movement and sharing of ideas through presentations, therefore it seems that practical work in science must emphasise how science works, of which much has been written.

    To begin, the children need to have free access to all resources in their classroom. At the end of my career, I held a post of responsibility for science in a JMI school, and after introducing my own class to this freedom of movement (at least during their science activities), I advised and supported all the other teachers, of whom, not surprisingly, the infant teachers were the most able, to implement this. Some teachers chose to do science with their whole class at the same time, others used an integrated day arrangement so that a group of children would be doing science whilst the others were doing something else.

    concerning fieldwork, once children are exploring their own school grounds in the same way that they are encouraged to explore their classroom resources and science laboratories, then they are gaining experiences which they can carry further afield on organised field trips. Here we are talking about the exploration of natural surroundings, streets, parks, derelict buildings, disused railway lines, waste ground, and the larger public open spaces. Organised visits to nature reserves, farms, gardens, factories, museums, historic buildings, etc., useful as they may well be, would not come under our definition of practical work in science. Even if the activities themselves are not planned in detail, with the idea of encouraging open-ended enquiries, the teachers-in-charge must first visit the planned venue, and become as familiar with it as they are their own classrooms, science laboratories and school grounds. The children will be thoroughly briefed beforehand, maps provided if the area is extensive (by then the children will be familiar with plans of classrooms, laboratories and school grounds), and systems for dealing with emergencies and unexpected events included in their training.

    Food for thought! I hope this helps.
  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences on this. It is indeed food for thought and I will obviously need to do my 'homework' on this before heading back into school with ideas to implement. I know that I am headed for a lot of opposition on it, but hey ho, here I go! Thank you once again.

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