The Inclusive Science Group – Meeting 2 (Remote learning)

Background

The inclusive science group is made of interested educators from all phases and sectors who have an interest in teaching students who have additional support needs or special educational needs. It is organised by Rob Butler from the ASE and Jane Essex (ASE and RSC member) who both have an interest in this area of science education. Membership of this group is open to anyone, and attendance at the meetings is optional. Notes taken during the discussion will be shared with the whole group.

Meeting 1st Feb 2021

Focus – Remote learning for those with SEND/Additional needs

The notes don’t identify the contributions from members of the group unless they specifically request to be identified.

The meeting opened with some bullet points from the National SENCO workforce survey 2020

https://www.bathspa.ac.uk/projects/senco-workload/

  • 70% of SENCOs cited that the access children and Young People had to IT hardware at home was a key challenge for schools. 
  • Three-quarters of SENCOs felt that their school experienced challenges with providing virtual support for children and Young People with SEN. 
  • The overall digital literacy of the school also presented an obstacle, with just over half of SENCOs citing this as a problematic. 
  • The provision of appropriately differentiated work online for children and Young People with SEN was a challenge, with nearly three-quarters of SENCOs highlighting this as a concern. 
  • 8 out of 10 secondary colleagues cited providing differentiated learning online for children and Young People with SEN as difficult. 
  • Just over half of SENCOs stated that supporting staff in developing differentiated learning was also difficult during this period. 

Rob moved on to some pen portraits created from interviews that he had carried out prior to the meeting. They also serve as a reminder to teachers that not all learners with additional needs will be lower attainers and that many students are only limited by the way learning is framed and not the content.

“Lucy” ASD KS4

  • Won’t use a webcam and doesn’t like using the mic (this is more common than teachers realise)
  • The pace is important – allow time for learners to reflect. “When teachers go too fast I get lost”
  • Doesn’t like pre-recorded lessons because there is no one to ask questions or seek clarification from (it is easier to make notes though)
  • I usually learn as a combination of what the teacher says and what my friends say. I don’t get this online.
  • Give me plenty of notice of changes (e.g. assessments)
  • The perfect lesson is ½ live lesson and the teacher includes bullet points or a summary at the end. 
  • Ask very targeted questions (‘tell me this’ not ‘discuss ideas around’)
  • Allow time to finish activities at the ends of lessons/activities. Remember some of us need time to process information 

“Jessica” ADHD KS3

  • Favourite lessons are those where I can interact with the teacher. 
  • One teacher goes too fast and I don’t get time to answer.
  • I miss being able to ask my friends for help. We have a WhatsApp group discussion running alongside the online lessons so I can ask “What’s he on about?”
  • Bad lessons go by too quickly and the teacher can’t check on me – and I don’t want to ask for help in the group chat/in front of everyone.
  • I don’t like offline lessons – the teacher can’t give me help and I can’t ask questions
  • Lessons need to be shorter with time to finish tasks. I have lots of tasks to finish at the end of the day
  • It’s hard not having a break and exercise between lessons. No change of scenery either, I’m overwhelmed by the end of the day (and my head is buzzing)
  • Glad my parents have a printer (although it streaks) – too many worksheets.
  • I’ve got files everywhere and I can’t find things (we aren’t taught to manage files at school)

“Dan” ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia KS5

  • Teachers don’t show how solutions are worked out – I can’t follow them and my TA can’t work them out either. 
  • Consistency of support is still important, – Dan still gets different TAs who he doesn’t know.
  • We can’t see facial expressions like in class – hard to communicate and I don’t like to ask in front of the class. 
  • Watching a replay isn’t helpful because I can’t have explanations rephrased or explained differently.
  • Lots of information is presented and I can’t write it down. Lots of the slides are too busy – too much colour/pictures
  • Teachers need to bullet and break things down (doing A-level, the work might be hard) I need simple instructions, bullet points and checklists of what I need to do
  • I’ve got long worksheets full of formulae. I don’t know what is important or what to focus on.  I take screenshots but I have lots of these to work through and pick out what is important
  • I would find worked solutions and notes helpful
  • The teacher can’t look at my working to see where I’ve gone wrong when I’m working online.

Rob also shared Lynn McCann’s ten tips for online learning for autistic students 

The first contributor spoke about screen castify (a screen recording tool) and how they talk through expectations for learners. Whilst they don’t like the Oak National resource, it is repetitive in nature which suits many SEND learners so is shared alongside lesson resources. They don’t do live lessons because they have issues with the number of devices in a household, but they do offer live drop-in sessions for each subject. These are for learners who are struggling or just want to see a friendly face. The teacher also offers a choice in the activities she gives so teachers can do activities their own way – she hates the thought of “Dan” in the pen portraits ending up with lots of screen-captures, this is exactly what they want to avoid as teachers.

The second contributor teaches nurture groups at secondary levels and the school expectation is a 20-minute live lesson followed by 40 minutes for them to do the work. Year 7 are struggling with maintaining attention for 20 minutes, but by a process of trial and error, she has come up with a process that is more effective. The lesson starts with a photo of something simple and a question (retrieval of something they know, like how do we know this is a chemical reaction?) which gives them a ‘quick win’. Then she gives them some information which they will then have in an activity so there is repetition – the activities vary for example word fills or worksheets. The cognitive load is smaller using this technique and as students are becoming more confident their engagement has increased. The teacher stays on the ‘call’ for the lesson and can live feedback on their work. They are struggling at taking information from a PowerPoint and then using it before coming for help. The teacher has had to spend longer on computer skills which have been a barrier to learning before students improved to be able to access the activities.

Jane told of a classroom-based lesson she watched before lockdown in which a student wouldn’t answer a question (even with 1:1 support from an adult) without confirmation of the answer from a peer. The social verification from another learner was important and this won’t happen with remote learning. Jane asked if students could finish lockdown with more transferable skills and less science content? There was the possibility that they could.

The next contributor wasn’t a teacher but does work with teachers to improve access to STEM for learners with disabilities and SEND. Since lockdown, they have been running virtual labs and they provide equipment and only rely on households providing simple equipment like salt. There is a focus on actual practical skills like measuring a liquid. The virtual lab uses parents as a technician who isn’t allowed to do the experiments but is allowed to mop up spills (and help with technical issues)

The next teacher lives in a remote area with poor connectivity (and no learning platform at the moment) Remote learning has been by post, phone, email and an occasional Zoom call when it works. Bandwidth limitations make it difficult to share files larger than a PDF so this poses limitations. The school is residential but has day learners. Trying to match up learning between those on-site and those at home is a challenge. 

The next contribution came from an inclusion lead at a primary school. One game-changer for them was to send home science vocabulary on a sheet with Widgits, and parents have been able to help the parents with the vocabulary so they can help their children. “Help us to help you”

RB asked how teachers were facing issues like busy worksheets and the issue of cognitive overload. One teacher had colour coded resources so learners know you must do this, you should do that, you could do this which helped alongside reducing the number of lessons and moving to projects (which also helped staff workload too) One school was providing different activities – this lesson we’ll do this and next lesson we’ll do something else (for example some students loved Seneca learning and others don’t) A typical activity would be to go out in the garden and build a model of an animal cell using natural materials and it gets the learners outside and thinking about a model. It can be hard to evidence as some learners struggle uploading photos to their work.

Jane asks how you identify learners who are struggling. Students (even the adults she works with) appear to get overloaded much more easily and it’s harder to work with resources (can’t just ask them to find the worksheet with a picture of a shell in the corner for example)

One teacher shared how they laid out worksheets to minimise the amount of writing required and that any writing serves a purpose rather than writing for the sake of it. Another secondary teacher had classes that have had extensive experience of a split-delivery model – the challenge is to stretch the ones that need it and to manage the group that has a teaching assistant. One successful strategy was to use Google Jamboard. Students were given Jamboards with keywords and asked them to link them together, which provided an open-ended task and allowed the teacher to identify misconceptions. Students didn’t like using the words online in front of their parents (the topic was reproduction) so this was a way to check their understanding of the vocabulary. Some of her colleagues used Google docs but Jamboard is a nice simple platform. It can be used for Pictionary on screen too.  It takes some time to get the results back which slows down the pace, but using Whiteboard.fi allowed the teacher to get immediate feedback from the students (they enjoyed using it and they can’t see each other’s boards) It is hard to identify the barrier to engagement – 100% attendance isn’t translating to 100% in assignments (nearly half of that) so trying different techniques and trying different IT skills. The teacher had used Phet resources for some topics like building compounds so they learned some of the key ideas. 

Twitter is a good source of information, one teacher posted a photo of a skeleton model which a student had laid out on the bed and used cutlery for the bones. 

Quizzes (Google quizzes or similar) are good for checking progress and doing reviews and give you an idea of what learners have got and what they haven’t got. Lots of recapping of the previous lesson – ‘do you remember we were doing this?’ It is harder to get their attention than in class. Students are also reluctant to read instructions (or struggle with reading). This provides a quick win for the learners who experience some success. Jane suggested writing a note at the end of the week of what they’ve learned over the week (perhaps with screengrabs) ready for the coming week. Writing a note could also provide a check on learning for the teacher (and it could be interesting to see what learners identify as the most important points)

 

RB shared a suggestion from Twitter of using the feedback emojis on the Teams chat so students can get immediate feedback on questions or comments. For students who don’t like to communicate, this can be very useful.

 

Closing thoughts

  • Consider the pace and structure of the lesson
  • Have you allowed processing time? Time to complete the actual task during the remote lesson?
  • Keep it simple (you aren’t paid by the word!) – don’t over clutter resources
  • Explanations need to be clear and concise
  • Use summaries and bullet lists
  • Consider cognitive load (flicking between multiple sources)
  • Make sure students have a way to ask for help
  • How do you check your students have learnt what you intended?
  • Can you use breakout rooms/parallel rooms for learners who have different requirements or to talk to them away from the class?

 

Useful links:

https://www.lightyearfoundation.org

http://jamboard.google.com/

https://padlet.com/

Mote voice notes

https://www.widgit.com/ 

https://Whiteboard.fi

https://phet.colorado.edu/ 

Who are the ASE

The Association for Science Education (ASE) is one of the largest subject associations in the UK. We are an active membership body that has been supporting all those involved in science education from pre-school to higher education for over 100 years; members include teachers, technicians, tutors and advisers.  We are a Registered Charity with a Royal Charter, owned by our members and independent of government. We seek to create a powerful voice for science education professionals in order to make a positive and influential difference to the teaching and learning of science throughout the UK and further afield.

Support us and help us make science education better for all by becoming a member. More details at https://www.ase.org.uk/membership

The Inclusive Science Group – Meeting 1 (Differentiation)

In the absence of a proper home for these notes, I’ve decided to host them here so that they get picked up by search engines and are accessible to a wider range of teachers.

Background

The inclusive science group is made of interested educators from all phases and sectors who have an interest in teaching students who have additional support needs or special educational needs. It is organised by Rob Butler from the ASE and Jane Essex (ASE and RSC member) who both have an interest in this area of science education. Membership of this group is open to anyone, and attendance at the meetings is optional. Notes taken during the discussion will be shared with the whole group (assuming you asked for updates as part of the signup process) If you want to join our group you can sign up here.

Meeting 23rd November 2020

Focus – Differentiation

The notes don’t identify the contributions from members of the group unless they specifically request to be identified.

The discussion opened with Rob sharing this cartoon and reminding the group that what is good for SEND learners will also benefit other learners in the group.

RB opened with his model for differentiation, which wasn’t always appreciated by school leadership teams, was to pitch to the top and scaffold learners to reach there. This could be by extra resources, like a results table or a literacy scaffold or it could be additional support from a TA or the teacher. Schools may be reluctant to adopt this new model after years of book looks and work scrutinies, but Ofsted won’t be focusing on differentiation in the same way as they had before.

It was suggested that the word accessibility would be a better word than differentiation as it helps the teacher and isn’t about treating learners differently or separating students. The current system has created a lot of baggage around the 3-tiers approach and the impact on students (and what they read into it about themselves) Jane agreed that we have created language around labelling students and referring to ability. Our learners are diverse and there are lots of ways of learning and many ways of checking or evidencing this. One example is how we get students to record their ideas or findings in science. Students make progress in different ways, at different rates and by following different routes. Jane suggested that as a profession we lack exemplar materials or good case studies to help teachers with this. Action point: To consider how we can source and provide this support to help teachers of all career stages.

Another colleague pointed out that she uses the same approach as Rob in her lessons. She provides three tiers of a worksheet with the same learning objectives, but perhaps she needs to revisit what this looks like in practice.

Another teacher referred to the structure strips which she had discovered on previous CPD. She uses these alongside the student’s work to break questions down into smaller achievable steps. Sometimes these are smaller questions or bullet points and often link to the type of question being asked to help students answer GCSE questions for example. There are issues around the management of differentiation and the message it gives to students. Differentiation can be deterministic and how to we approach this challenge? Giving students a feel for a good answer can be useful. Role reversal, for example, asking students to take the role of the examiner and asking them what they might be looking for can be a powerful strategy. Giving students a feel for what success looks like can be an enabler as students don’t have an idea of what a good answer might look like. We are trying to give learners agency – quite often learning is passive and we get TAs to support in the wrong ways. These approaches go hand in hand with increased resilience and modifying what you do to develop this.

The phrase “Learning without limits” makes you think about teaching in a way which involves everyone without creating our own barriers, finding ways of making sure everyone in the class is learning in parallel rather than restricting some learners by activity. Several of the attendees had negative experiences of education and having barriers removed to help their learning. Everybody learns differently, we are very diverse and we need to celebrate that diversity and bring this into our classrooms.

Inclusive teaching has to include stretch and challenge. One example discussed was the structure imposed by a school who groups students for maths and science as though they were the same thing. Schools need to be responsive to their learners and consider ways they can help learners rather than holding them back.

A phrase in common usage is ‘teach to the top’ which teachers are interpreting incorrectly. They are giving a simple complicated explanation to the group which excludes many of the learners who don’t understand it. Literacy is a barrier to learning for many learners and thought has to be given to explanation, development and layering of explanations. In this situation, sets can be a positive experience but care has to be taken to avoid limiting the learning of learners and making sure that teachers have high expectations. We need to give learners the tools and opportunities to build schema so that learning is secure. An example discussed was specific heat capacity which was approached by the teacher who started with the required practical and students understood the basic concepts of heating at different rates. We need to build solid foundations for learners to build conceptual understanding because if science is going over students’ heads they won’t learn. We have to make sure teachers are confident to revisit content to act as a foundation for students who need it to build upon. Asks deeper questions about the purpose of science education – it isn’t just for passing exams but can be important for life or as a life skill.

The importance of linking to real-life – why do we need to learn that? The example of brass monkeys and the origin of the phrase in relation to expansion/contraction of metals and real-life applications of the science. Teachers get worried about what they can teach and they can leave out. RB suggested that research on science capital could be useful as it links science to everyday life and makes it relatable and he has had success in his own teaching, both in engagement and retention of knowledge when linked to real-life situations. Rob also posed the question of who would get the best GCSE grades (and who would have the best experience of science) out of a student who covered the whole curriculum superficially and a student who covered 75% of the curriculum in depth.

Allocating support/resources is where the relationship between teachers and students are key. This works best where the students make a choice – a choice to use the support, but also a choice which they need (which blank results table from a selection for example) In this situation the student isn’t being limited by the teacher.

Explaining to other students is an underused skill in our classrooms and not only helps with conceptual understanding but can also help with the retrieval of knowledge. Retrieval of memories is an important strategy for these learners.

A colleague who worked in a museum environment recommends a multi-sensory approach with students being able to handle and touch items they are learning about. This often promotes engagement that wouldn’t have been observed in a typical classroom environment.

Who are the ASE

The Association for Science Education (ASE) is the largest subject association in the UK. We are an active membership body that has been supporting all those involved in science education from pre-school to higher education for over 100 years; members include teachers, technicians, tutors and advisers. We are a Registered Charity with a Royal Charter, owned by our members and independent of government. We seek to create a powerful voice for science education professionals in order to make a positive and influential difference to the teaching and learning of science throughout the UK and further afield.

Support us and help us make science education better for all by becoming a member. More details at https://www.ase.org.uk/membership

Moving from Stablehost shared hosting to Amazon Lightsail

[Apologies to teacher subscribers of my site who receive this update expecting an email about science teaching. I’ve written about this as a record of the poor service from my web hosting provider so that others might find it and make an informed decision based on my experience. I’m posting this under the personal section of my site.]

A few weeks ago I received an email from my hosting provider, Stablehost, informing me: “This mail is to inform you about your account fiendish activities. As per our terms of services, you may not: Use 75% or more of system resources for longer than 90 seconds. … According to your monitoring data, we can see that your account is constantly overplaying the allocated CPU and memory usage. You can check that yourself from cPanel >> CPU and Concurrent Connections. For your reference, I’ve also attached the same to this ticket.”

As you can see I was given a nice helpful graph with no labels for the bottom axis (important because it helps identify if this is a temporary problem or a longer-term issue) There was no discussion, and despite having access to my records seeing that my sites have been hosted there for many years, my account was unceremoniously deactivated.  When I contacted support I was told tersely (some might say rudely) simply they could only respond to me by email and I had to reply to the original email I had been sent.

Checking Cloudflare (who sit between my website and my hosting provider to help reduce demand on their servers, overkill for a tiny little site like mine) I could see a flurry of activity from foreign web servers that matched the times of increased demand (I found these in my CPanel once they reactivated my account, not from anyone in support) In fact when attempting to glean additional data from support I was simply told: “I have checked and noticed now you [Sic] account usage is normal.”

Following a server snafu the previous year, I had already moved my DNS entries to Cloudflare as Stablehost simply deleted my DNS records, including my MX entries, so all my mail stopped being delivered (they did helpfully reinstate it when I pointed out their mistake). The lack of information about my usage didn’t fill me with confidence and I ended up regularly checking my usage figures once my site was back up and running (with no idea if I had used 75% of resources for 90 seconds as the data they provide in the control panel is not that granular)

I thought about moving to another host but that could be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, so I decided to look elsewhere. I could move my site over to WordPress.com which would provide automatic updates but I’d lose a lot of the flexibility that comes from self-hosting (including my plugins that repeatedly Tweet my posts) I decided to try Amazon Lightsail who provide a ready to use WordPress experience (at the same price as WordPress.com – £3 per month) with hosting in London.

Moving over my content took a little tweaking of the settings in Lightsail (I was using the all-in-one WP migration plugin) and we were ready to go. There are plenty of guides in the documentation and that previous adopters have shared so I won’t list them here. I would say that Lightsail is best suited to someone who has the experience or the willingness to tinker with the settings as it isn’t quite as simple as click and play (especially if you want to enable https)

My site has been running on Amazon’s servers for several weeks now and I have noticed is a massive improvement in speed over the shared hosting. The whole site (browsing and the admin panel) are now quick and responsive – a huge leap forward from shared hosting with Stablehost. As expected, my tiny site isn’t using much processing power which makes me suspect the information I was given my Stablehost…

If you are starting out and want your own website/blog, and you don’t mind having a WordPress URL and adverts on your site, the free option from WordPress.com is probably best for you and avoids any potential security issues with having to keep your WordPress installation up to date.