Secondary initial science teacher education

The following workshops support the initial training of science teachers. The six three-hour sessions summarise some of the key ideas beginning science teachers will need to master in their training year and beyond.

Sessions include looking at the science curriculum, barriers to learning, assessment and effective practical work.

I hope some of the ideas will light the flames of pedagogy that will inspire, motivate and inform trainee teachers as they embark upon their own journey to become great (and reflective) science teachers. Many of the workshops also model general teaching activities that trainees can use in the classroom

Please contact me if you would like the original PowerPoint files to edit.

Session 1: The science curriculum: what, when and why?

We start by asking beginning teachers (BTs) to reflect on and share their different experiences of science education. It is really important that BTs look beyond their own experiences if they are to become effective teachers for all students. We use a timeline to consider the historical context of the science curriculum in England and consider arguments about why all students should learn science when less than 20% will become scientists. Finally, using a recent publication by the Science Education Programme (SEP), we consider the BIG ideas of science education, and look to see how their progression is mapped through the programmes of study for KS2, KS3 and KS4.

Resources for the session: BIG ideas of science education, National Curriculum for Science

Session 2: Barriers to learning science: prior knowledge, misconceptions and conceptual change

This session explores what we need to know about students before we begin teaching them science. We consider some of the factors that influence whether students can learn, looking briefly at the theories of Piaget, Driver and Vygotsky. We look in more detail at the work of Driver and Piaget in reviewing children’s misconceptions in science, and identify ways we can help students bring about conceptual change. BTs create resources that are specifically designed to remedy some commonly held misconceptions using cognitive conflict.

Resources for the session: Misconceptions in science, concept cartoons,

Session 3: The science lesson: planning, observing and reflecting

This session looks at how to plan effective science lessons. We discuss what a ‘good’ science lesson is and consider the starting point for any lesson – the objectives/outcomes. The EPIBA approach is introduced as a good starting model to use when planning science lessons. We observe a pre-recorded lesson and reflect on what was taught and learnt. You will need to find your own lesson to watch for this session. We touch on what are and what are not good proxies of learning and highlight the importance of non-judgemental reflection. BTs get the opportunity to re-plan the lesson they observed using the EPIBA model.

Resources for the session: EPIBA lesson planning templatesInaugural lecture by Professor Coe

Session 4: Assessing learning in science: summative and formative approaches

This session looks at assessment. Starting with summative assessment, we use Bloom’s hierarchy to consider what a grade actually means. By using Bloom’s and grade descriptors we dissect how exam questions are written and review what skills students require to be able to answer them. Beginning teachers have the opportunity to write their own exam questions and trial these out on their peers. We move on to assessment for learning and look at Badger tasks. We use examples of students’ work to consider what effective written feedback looks like in science.

Resources for this session: BADGER science GCSE tasks, Edexcel examination papers

Practical work

Session 5: Practical work in science: safe and sound

In this session we explore the fundamentals of practical work in science. We start by looking at how to write a risk assessment and consider the role of technicians. Beginning teachers (BTs) use this information to complete a risk assessment for the thermite reaction. We consider whether practical work is really important in science and have a brief debate, with BTs arguing for and against the motion that ‘practical work is pointless’. Finally, we look at the three main types of practical work. BTs practise performing demonstrations and writing scripts to teach students about convection using rising tea bags. Trainees take part in a whole class practical to investigate the properties of water and consider the various challenges of running whole class practicals.

Resources for this session: Guardian article on practical scienceCleapss support on making risk assessments, thermite reaction procedure

Session 6: Enquiring minds: using enquiry in science

Jonathan Osborne argues that the main role of practical work in science is to provide ‘an experience of what it means to engage in the whole experience of empirical enquiry’. In this final session, we look at ways to use enquiry in science lessons. Beginning teachers have a go at carrying out their own enquiry using salt, oil and lots of pasta! Sounds fun, but can they explain their results?

Resources for this session: Article by J.Osborne on role of enquiry

  1. Why all students should learn science
  2. Next steps for beginning science teachers
  3. Initial science teacher training resources 
  4. How to plan effective science lessons: the EPIBA approach
  5. Essential reads for beginning science teachers
  6. Developing subject knowledge 
  7. A timeline of science education in England
  8. Useful websites for science teachers