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Teaching Gcse subjects without the GCSE.

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by monkeymillions, Oct 13, 2019.

  1. monkeymillions

    monkeymillions New commenter

    I have been tasked with teaching gcse biology and I haven't a clue about biology. I last studied it qged 13 before starting my GCSEs where I took Chemistry and Physics 30 YEARS AGO. How do people feel about being asked teach a subject to this level with no knowledge. Is this right?
  2. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    Are you a science teacher? If so, it's entirely normal that you would be expected to teach all sciences to GCSE level. You might need to learn a bit yourself, but it's not that difficult, and presumably there are some resources and planning available to you. Did your training route not get you involved in teaching all three sciences?

    If you're a non-science teacher who has been drafted in to help teach science, it may be worth you flagging up if you would be more comfortable with one of the other sciences. They may just have assumed that a non-specialist would find biology easiest; most schools are shorter of physics specialists, so they might be happy to make a swap.

    Grab yourself a decent biology textbook, read it over half-term. Make a list of any questions and ask them in the science forum here, or take them to a colleague when you get back.
  3. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Just to throw you in at the deep end seems harsh.
    It may not be in the children's long term interests,
    Some may suggest standing your ground and refusing to work out of your comfort zone.
    Presumably the school is in a fix. If you help them it may (depending on the management) have you in good stead. Will they be attempting to recruit a "proper" biologist asap?
    A you a scientist with a different specialism or someone from out of the faculty?
    I quite like a good challenge - if I were to say "yes" I would think along these lines.
    You are a qualified teacher - you have teaching and learning skills.
    You will need some time to get your head around what you have to teach and how it will be assessed. To be effective you must insist on the school giving you temporal and practical help.
    Are there schemes of work and resources?
    Is there a colleague who can mentor you?
    The exam boards post fairly good SoWs on their websites these days.
    In the short term, you're just focusing on the next bit of the specification.
    Read the spec, read the texts, look at the questions in the study guides, use exam creating software to look at the questions (and markschemes). Check to see whether any required practicals are in this bit of the course.
    I would suggest starting with fairly basic text based lessons - read answer questions, then discuss key features. Put the focus on you giving them the skills to learn independently.
    When I had to do stuff I was unsure about (yes, it happened (more than) once or twice;)) that's what I did.
    Lastly - the science techs will be a mine of information about the best way to do practicals. Ply them with bottles, ask and listen.

    Good luck. Other will probably make more suggestions.
    caress and agathamorse like this.
  4. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    It can be done with the suggestions as outlined above, but it will be extremely time consuming for you and I wouldn't want to do it. Perhaps for Key Stage 3 but not for exam classes.
    jlishman2158, FormosaRed and Jamvic like this.
  5. surf kitty too

    surf kitty too Occasional commenter

    If you are not a qualified science teacher, then you would not be able to do practical work as you wouldn’t be insured.
  6. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    GCSE - No. For the reasons said above.

    But i hey REALLY want you to do it, demand lesson plans for EVERY lesson and extra non-contact time to teach yourself the course/subject matter etc.

    PS Practicals? Someone else will have to do them...
  7. flyingcircusfreak

    flyingcircusfreak New commenter

    Not sure how this could possibly be the case. You either have QTS or you don't: although you train with a specialism in two key stages, and--for secondary--a subject specialism, the QTS applies across all key stages and subjects. So there isn't any such thing as a qualified science teacher, just a qualified teacher (or an unqualified one!).
  8. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Add into the mix a group of badly behaved students since you might get the bottom sets and NO WAY is that a good place to be; but the main reason against it is the amount of hours it would take to study the subject, plan and mark the work not ever having done it before. The stress of it would become unbearable. Key stage 3 o.k. Exam classes - no it is not right.
  9. DrResource

    DrResource New commenter

    I've been winging it for years!
    TES Resources will be a good start
  10. freshfriesan

    freshfriesan Occasional commenter

    Welcome to my world... Imagine a physics teacher who spent most of their time teaching biology, because of bullying, jealousy, bad deployment of staff... It certainly adds to the work load, you've just got to swot it up. It's not that hard, you can always do what the biology teachers do when they have to teach the physics and just hide behind the text book.... You will discover in time that many pe teachers get drafted in to teach science.
    Now I am learning biology /plant science thru choice. Horticultural purposes...
    pepper5 likes this.
  11. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    Not really. But can be interepreted as vote in confidence in your ability to teach generally.

    Ask how much PPA time you will get. Ask for it in writing.
    pepper5 and agathamorse like this.
  12. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    When I was doing cover (a few years ago), there were some subjects that most teachers couldn't cover for insurance reasons - for example practical science lessons, practical D & T lessons - only those teachers who had passed certain certification could do so.

    Maybe things have changed, but that's what applied then...
    caress, agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  13. housesparrow

    housesparrow New commenter

    Use of correct language and correct spelling matter highly in Biology. For example

    The plant stem does not suck water up, the plant draws water up.
    Animal cells only have a cell membrane not a cell wall (plant cells have both)
    Enzymes and proteins are not killed by heat, they are denatured.
    In Biology the potato is not a "humble potato" (yes someone really wrote that once), it is quite simply a potato.

    And the wrong answer offered by a boy to an A level question "how do you know that the cow is in oestrus?" - because she gets fat and moody like my Mum!

    Correct spelling of Glucagon vs Glycogen; Mitosis vs Meiosis and many more.

    Ask them to provide you with access to exemplar exam answers and pay close attention to the precise wording or spelling that qualifies for the mark. Good luck - I would not like to have to teach Physics!!
    caress, agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  14. frankxwilliams

    frankxwilliams New commenter

    This is indeed true, but acceptance of these situations doesn't help anyone.

    It just validates the now widely held theory that specialists don't matter and puts everyone under necessary pressure because of poor management of staff.

    It even gives SLT the chance to throw a capability curve ball into the mix, which is entirely immoral.

    We are supposed to be doing our best for children and offering up non-specialists for GCSE teachng does nothing but let children down. Big time.
  15. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    Love a good education myth...

    It’s amazing how many things ‘insurance’ gets the blame for...(although nobody ever knows exactly which policies etc...)
  16. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    This is completely true. I teach maths, but am a qualified science teacher. Even when I employed as a teacher, the fact that I am a qualified science teacher meant that I was sometimes required to sit and do my paperwork at the back of a science lesson so an unqualified teacher could do a practical.

    In all circumstances that I am aware of, a secondary science practical can only go ahead with a qualified science teacher in the room, otherwise insurance will be invalidated.

    Thats any science teacher though, not specifically biology, physics or chemistry
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  17. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    nobody who learnt science at school 30 years ago is relying on that when they teach today. The spec has changed hugely, and so has scientific understanding in many areas.

    You learn it before you teach it.

    yes, completely normal for a science teacher to be expected to teach all sciences to GCSE

    And very common to be asked to teach non science subjects too
    caress and oHelzo like this.
  18. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    sorry, that should read even when I WAS NOT employed as a teacher..
  19. JTL

    JTL Occasional commenter

    My husband, a physics teacher, now 63 and retired never had a Biology lesson in his life despite going to a good grammar school. He would have been able to study it in the sixth form had he wanted to along with Botany and Zoology.
    He did not find Biology very interesting but taught it to ks3 and occasionally ks4. He says most Science teachers he worked with struggled more with having to teach Physics as a non specialism.
  20. mrswallow

    mrswallow Occasional commenter

    I'm afraid you are just going to have to learn some Biology. It's part of the territory these days. I'm (technically) a Biology specialist and one of the first things I was asked to teach in my first job was the rock cycle. Which I had no recollection of ever studying. Not sure if I had even heard of it. Wasn't to GSCE standard mind you but... I now also teach (not in the UK) Human Evolution to Yr13 which I had to learn from scratch in a hurry, and a variety of other things I may not have studied for years. Speak to the Biology specialist in school, buy a load of GCSE textbooks and learn it. I understand your concerns, but at the same time you're just going to have to do your best at it.

    I find where the real issue/s is for teachers out-of-specialism tends to be a lack of that background knowledge for stuff that isn't on the specification, but is really cool. You only become an expert in something you are passionate about/ interested in so you may not quite have the same 'pizzazz' for the Biology as you have for Physics. Most Bio practicals need a bit of practice and advice to get 'right', so make sure you get advice for those. The last thing I would say is that although I found GSCE Physics boring and semi-incomprehensible, I quite enjoy teaching it to Yr 11 these days as there's a certain elegance and beauty to some of the equations and it's a lot more interesting than I remember.

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