Rationale of Planning
Introduction and Background
The sequence of lessons I will be teaching is for a Year 7 class at an Independent School in central Nottingham. This school has a long and rich history and is recognised as one of the top Independent Schools in the East-Midlands. The pupils at the school must pass an entrance exam to gain a place and also pay fees. However as of 2016 they are letting any pupils why gets close to a pass into the school. (Anonymous Senior Management 2018). This is because the school believes that is can take these pupils and accelerate their progress to better than predicted grades. A great modern example of a school unknowingly using Vygotsky’s idea of the Zone of Proximal Development.
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The Physics Department at this school has the belief that teaching a little above the planned curriculum is almost always a good thing (Head of Physics 2018). It values its teachers’ independent pedagogies and allows them to be implemented by having a fairly loose Scheme of Work. The Scheme of Work provided in appendix one. It contains suggested worksheets and rough plans for the lessons. The staff are then expected to flesh these ideas out with demonstrations and homework’s that they believe would suit the class best.
This assignment aims to convey and rationalise my beliefs and different aspects of planning. Shown in my more detailed Scheme of Work and lesson plans, including the pedagogical approach I took. Then, evaluate the teaching of my lessons.
Why Learn Names?
Through human history is has been common decadency and protocol to remember and use the names of our peers. However, in education I find that the power of a name is much greater than any other circumstance. To me using a name says that the attention is on the named person and that you care enough about the pupil to know who they are. Research shows that 85% of University Biology Students care if they’re instructor knows their name, with the main reason for this being that it shows that the instructor values the individual student (Cooper, K. Et Al. 2017). It is also important not to overlook the potential for names in a disciplinary context. Being able to say things such as “James I’m waiting for you and Charlie” or “Sarah you’ve done really well this lesson.” Adds extra meaning to the phrases and makes them seem more assertive and less confusing. To my ears it is perfectly clear: who I am talking to, why I am talking to them, and that I recognise their direct actions.
I believe that if the pupils see that I am trying to remember their names and using them when asking question or assigning tasks, they will feel values and that I am making an effort towards their learning as a role model and leader. This has led me to integrate as many methods as possible into my lessons for learning my pupils’ names and to use them effectively.
Independent Study Against Self Study
Throughout my 4 lessons I will be utilising a range of tasks that can be divided into two groups. Those where the pupils work in groups, and those where the pupils work alone. Both of these ideas have merit and this section aims to compare the benefits and drawbacks of the two.
I am defining group work as any task I am intending the pupils to work collaboratively on. This includes practical work done in groups of two or three all the way to whole class collaboration. An example of small group work would be the Hooke’s Law practical taking place in lesson 3. The pupils are grouped with the person they’re sitting next to with the aim to learn fundamental skills such as team work and picking up elements of working scientifically. The pupils are tasked with adding mass to a suspended spring and recording the extension and are provided with worksheet.
Bruner (Bruner 1986) stresses the importance of the social setting of learning. He came to realise that most learning is a communal activity not just the child taking the knowledge into their own mind. A lot of Bruner’s work has been influenced by Vygotsksy. Vygotsky first coined the idea of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). It was believed that children learnt from working with others and if they could do something collaboratively, they could take the skills used away to use independently. The ZPD refers to the gap between what a child can do collaboratively and individually (Vygotsky and Cole, 1981). One of my main criticisms of the ZPD and group work is that you cannot control what information is passed along. For example, if 10% of the pupils misunderstand my explanation and develop a misconception, then it is unknown if these 10% will learn from the other 90% and realise they’re mistake. It is just as likely that these 10% will grow by telling others the misinformation, thus growing the misconception. This doesn’t mean that the ZPD and group work is bad, as socialisation and team work is a life skill that children need to learn, and most of the time the impact of the information spread is much more than a single teacher could cause. Most of the issues can be solved by being particular and selective with group size and who is working with who, or by ensuring that there are no misconceptions to begin with. For example, making sure the pupils read through the work independently beforehand. I then plan to gather the class around a pre-built demonstration of the equipment and ask one of them what they plan to do, asking a second pupil if they agree with the first statement. Although (Biott 1984) concluded that there is no perfect composition for group work there is a body of research that suggests there are best principles to use. For example, Kagan is explicit on the size of groups as it determines the amount of communication. I believe groups of 3 are ideal for science practical work as there are only 3 lines of communication and no room for crossover, while still allowing for different roles. As Kagan points out, once you move to 4 students in a group there are now 6 possible lines of communication which could lead to some pupils getting left out (Kagan 1988).
Language and Accessibility in Science
I am a firm believer that science should be accessible for everyone. When teaching I aim to make sure that my pupils understand what is being said and can reproduce their knowledge learnt outside of the classroom. If the pupils can word and explain their knowledge well it is my hope, they will be able to understand and access more important or controversial issues later in life. For this reason, I try to implement as much Dual-Coding as possible into science. Dual-Coding is the process of providing visual or auditory aids to help memorise or understand a concept (Clark & Paivio 1991). The new image abstracts required by some scientific journal publishing websites is an example of the scientific community recognising this and aiming to make science more accessible (Elsevier.com, 2018). To this extent I have tried to include an element of drawing in as many of my lessons as possible. Not only is drawing diagrams a essential part of science, it also allows me to see what the learner is thinking as a tool for formative assessment. Drawing is also an essential tool to help explain things. My explanation of the Reaction Force in lesson three uses a drawing of a polar bear stood on an iceberg. Another use is to boost engagement. Many students disengage from school science due to taking a passive role in the classroom (Ainsworth, Prain and Tytler, 2011). Ainsworth claims that “When students drew to explore, coordinate, and justify understandings in science, they were more motivated to learn than from conventional teaching” – (Ainsworth, Prain and Tytler, 2011).
However, earlier in the 1980’s the Assessment of Performance Unit (APU) surveyed 11-year-olds and reported that using language effectively across all subjects had observable effects on pupils learning capabilities. They concluded that the pupil’s performance could be substantially improved if they were given regular opportunities to express their language skills across a range of tasks in a relaxed atmosphere. (APU, 1986)
Scaffolding and Support
Scaffolding refers to the steps taken to reduce the amount of freedom in carrying out a task, so that the learner can concentrate on the more difficult aspect of that task (Bruner 1978). An example of this would be the very clearly structured worksheets for the practical experiments taking place. The table and diagrams are already drawn for the pupils so that they can concentrate on doing the experiment. I have found scaffolding to be essential, especially with the younger year groups as many of the skills I take for granted they simply do not possess. Such as making a table and picking out variables from a range. By using Scaffolding I am assuming a level of control in the environment. Wood puts forward an addition to scaffolding he calls the “Established Levels of Control”. These levels range from 1 to 5 where 5 is the most controlling and 1 is a general verbal prompt (Wood, D., 1991). As a method of stretch and challenge or differentiation. I aim to apply different levels of control at all times for different pupils in my classrooms. For example, in the first lesson the class is taking a very controlled practical, but generally left undisturbed to complete the task. They don’t need me asking questions every minute if they haven’t even had chance to think. This task would most likely fall under level 4 (Preparing or breaking down different parts of the task). However, by the final lesson I aim to have the pupils following only Specific instruction and gradually increasing the levels of control if needed. The levels of control can also be helpful to make the students feel independent and trusted. When they are actually very closely being observed and guided.
According to feedback I have a very question and answer style of teaching. Some may criticise this as ‘guess what is in my head’ style but I feel if done correctly it involves the pupils in the class and makes them believe I am on their side and come across as friendlier. In my eyes there are two scales of questioning, Open or Closed and Targeted or Random. Open and closed refers to the type of answer given. Closed questions are quicker and often have a Yes or No answer to them. Open questions have a less defined answer and are usually longer because of this. Targeted refers to choosing a pupil to answer a question, or a question for a pupil. Random is either a form of picking a name or to some measure asking for hands up. Questioning in classroom sis a much debated topic with some arguing that questioning often constrain and limit the direction of classroom discussion in quite unfortunate ways (Dillon 1982). However others say that when teachers respond to pupils question with their own opinions and views (open questions), this can encourage pupils to do the same of more on topic questions. In my opinion “hands up” is for the sole benefit of the teacher for data gathering and assessment. It can tell a teacher who is enthusiastic and who isn’t. but doesn’t explain why. In my lessons I aim to only ask questions that fall onto this scale.
Random questions are chosen using a name picker and can always be ‘faked’. For example, once the students know that the name picker is working, you can simply pretend to use it to target a question a an individual pupil. I have found that this can save confrontation with pupils who are less happy to answer questions as the “blame” is shifted to the random name picker, hopefully not damaging any positive working relationship you have with that pupils already.
Evaluation of Teaching the Lessons
Overall Feel and Personal Thought on my Teaching
The lesson sequence with year 7 went very well as shown by their good responses in class and homework grades. Each lesson I took feedback from their normal class teacher and took this into account. Due to this, each lesson was better managed and structured than the last. In the beginning I had only taught Years 10 and older, so the change to a year 7 class was one I was unprepared for and hadn’t considered. I realised and was inform3d that I needed to allow more time for basic tasks and work on my lol level interruption for behaviour management. Simple changed such as waiting for silence when asked and using target questions to highlight any of the pupils who were not listening resulted in a drastic and noticeable change between lesson 3 and 4 (I started at lesson 3 in the Scheme of Work and ended on 6).
Were my Objectives Met?
I believe that all my learning objectives for my four lessons were met, apart from lesson six’s which had to be postponed. For example, the lesson 3 inquiry question of “How does the length of a spring vary with the force applied to it?” was answered as shown by the exceptional results of the homework set in that lesson. All the pupils work was handed in and showed signs that even those not on task during the lesson still understood the science and worked scientifically throughout. 98% of the group scored 4/5 or better on their graph exercise in part due to past experience but I’m sure aided by my explanations in lesson, as their normal class teacher commented on the improvement on producing a graph. However, when asked to describe what is happening in the experiment the pupils struggled. They understand how to plot a graph but not how to say what the graph is showing them.
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I believe that having clear objectives before the lesson followed by effective plenary’s resulted in the children clearly knowing what they had learnt that day, without me writing the objectives on the board or them copying them into their books. The only reason lesson six’s objective three (“To solve moments going both up and down on a pivot.”) wasn’t met was poor consideration of the ability of the pupils in the previous lesson.
I definitely learnt a few names in this lesson but will need to be more active in learning names in the future. I expected this to come naturally but having many classes of 30 pupils isn’t helping. I believe it is better to be honest than to not try. At least I am showing the pupils I am attempting to learn their names. Pace was managed well throughout the lesson but some of my explanations were a little rushed. This was in part due to feeling a little nervous, and due to underestimating how long it would take them to do certain tasks like pack away and read a paragraph. Although I believed my instructions were clear, a few pupils really struggled with the concept of converting weight to mass, due to me not explaining it well enough. In hindsight this is a lesson long topic I will need to cover, as it is very conceptually difficult for some.
Did I plan efficiently and in enough detail?
In most of my lessons I utilised the support of the dedicated physics technician when creating demonstrations for my pupils. For example, in my fourth lesson while talking the dedicated physics technician, they suggested using a paperclip suspended in the air by magnets to represent that magnets don’t need to contact an object to exert a force. This was something I had never considered or planned but was a very powerful example for the pupils. They understood how magnets work from primary school but had never seen something suspended in the air by one. From this point I realised I would need to adapt my plans as I hadn’t considered talking to the technician about my scheme of work first. This could have proven to be a large error on my behalf as he also pointed out I would need a lighter aluminium rod for my sixth lesson. In future I will endeavour to always consult with others more knowledgeable about equipment and demonstrations if possible. Most of my issues in lessons came from pupils not fully understanding my analogies. For example, I didn’t expect them to all understand that two springs would be harder to pull than one. However, as they didn’t understand this comparison to forces, and I hadn’t got another planned I was left to improvise on the spot. In my next lesson (6) I used 5 analogies back to back, which did result in one pupil saying, “we get it now sir”. However, the results of this method showed they more greatly grasped the concept even though it was a harder concept that the last (adding forces against moments). In the future I will attempt to dual-code all my instructions and examples with my classes to and plan multiple examples to reduce my time thinking on the spot.
- Ainsworth, S., Prain, V. and Tytler, R. (2011). Drawing to Learn in Science. Science, 333(6046), pp.1096-1097.
- Assessment Performance Unit. (1986). Speaking and Listening, Assesment at Age 11. Windsor. NFER-Nelson.
- Biott, C. (1984). Getting on Without the Teacher, Sunderland Polytechnic, Centre for Educational Research and Development.
- Bruner, J. (1986). Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge (MA). Harvard University Press.
- Bruner, J. S. (1978). The Role of Dialogue in Language Acquisition. In A. Sinclair, R. J. Jarvelle, & W. J. M. Levelt (Eds.), The Child’s Concept of Language. New York: Springer-Verlag.
- Clark, J.M. and Paivio, A. (1991). Dual coding theory and education. Educational psychology review, 3(3), pp.149-210.
- Cooper, K., Haney, B., Krieg, A. and Brownell, S. (2017). What’s in a Name? The Importance of Students Perceiving That an Instructor Knows Their Names in a High-Enrolment Biology Classroom. CBE—Life Sciences Education.
- Dillon, J. T. (1982). The Effects of Questions in Education and Other Enterprises’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 14(2).
- Elsevier.com. (2018). Graphical abstract. [online] Available at: https://www.elsevier.com/authors/journal-authors/graphical-abstract [Accessed 15 Dec. 2018].
- Kagan, S. (1988). Cooperative Learning Resources for Teachers, Riverside, University of California.
- Vygotsky, L. and Cole, M. (1981). Mind in society. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press.
- Wood, D., 1991. Aspects of teaching and learning. Learning to think.
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