Meeting 6 of the Inclusive Science Education Group

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. You can join by filling in the form at https://www.ase.org.uk/ise

Meeting 6th December 2021

Focus – Follow-up from previous meetings

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

In the previous meeting we had discussed leaners with visual impairments. Following this meeting, Jane had been sent a resource produced by the technology technician at the University of Strathclyde (who supports trainee teachers of technology) had produced the tactile relief model. 

This was created in wood as a trial but they do have the ability to produce in more hard wearing plastics or to produce 3D printed resources. Jane thought these resources could benefit our neurodiverse learners who could benefit from a multisensory approach. Jane made an offer to members of the inclusive science group – if any of the group would like to try this approach with learners, please email Jane and she will pass on to her technician.

Laura Gray shared an article about tactile resources:

https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A498484260/AONE?u=ustrath&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=f6258182

Another resource shared by one of the attendees was the “Audio Universe Tour of the Solar System” which the organisation was using in its planetarium. This is free to access and makes the Solar system accessible to a wider range of learners (maybe beyond the original intended audience of visually impaired learners) https://www.audiouniverse.org/

The Glasgow Science Centre have had input into a similar initiative in the past which was very popular https://www.glasgowsciencecentre.org/whats-on/dark-side-moon-fulldome-experience

Jane shared a technique that came from Bob Worley where charcoal can be used to remove a fragrance (we tend to think of it as a way of removing the colour)

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.jchemed.1c00396

Microscale chemistry

Following on the theme of microscale chemistry, Jane announced that she had been successful in her bid for funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry. For schools without technician support, this could involve sending out resources and experiment instructions to use with learners with SEND/Additional support needs. For schools with technician support this may be sending instructions for schools to make up their own sets of equipment.

The money came from the Inclusion and diversity fund https://www.rsc.org/prizes-funding/funding/inclusion-diversity-fund/

We chose the microscale chemistry because it is cheaper than traditional chemistry experiments with full sized equipment, it uses smaller quantities of chemicals (so is greener and safer too) and it reduces the cognitive demands of the practical work. Jane mentioned work she has done observing learners with additional support needs, who were much more concerned about the health and safety risks. 

Jane shared evaluation questions and participants gave feedback.

Jane shared the ACE spelling dictionary which is her favourite resource and allows learners to look up a word by knowing how it is pronounced rather than how it might be written (the sounds are used to look up the correct spelling) https://www.amazon.co.uk/ACE-Spelling-Dictionary-David-Moseley-dp-1855032147/dp/1855032147/ref=dp_ob_title_bk

Topics for future meetings

  • Literacy in science teaching
  • Lab design (and equipment) 
  • Investigative science
  • Impactful experiments/practical work
  • Kitchen chemistry (and those with low practical requirements)

Links from the chat

Dave Paterson integrated instructions https://dave2004b.wordpress.com/integrated-instructions/

Salters Science club resources http://resources.schoolscience.co.uk/Salters/chemclub1_2.html

The slow practical https://edu.rsc.org/ideas/practicals-why-you-should-take-them-slow/4012186.article

Slow practical – rates of reaction https://edu.rsc.org/download?ac=506693

Meeting 5 of the Inclusive Science Education group (working with visually impaired learners)

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. You can join by filling in the form at https://www.ase.org.uk/ise

Meeting 6th October 2021

Focus – Working with visually impaired learners

Background

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

Opening comments

The group had received a request to discuss working with visually impaired learners in science. Jane suggested we expand this description to include learners with sensory difficulties, for example autistic learners who use their peripheral vision to avoid over-stimulation.

Discussion

Rob opened with some of the strategies he had used (which came from the visual impairment team that supported his learners)

Try to reduce glare by keeping blinds closed and using the classroom lighting (especially if you have modern LED lighting) Rob shared an anecdote about always being praised for closing blinds when the visual impairment team were observing, he didn’t have the heart to tell them he never opened them as his other learners preferred them closed as well (and it stopped distractions from outside as well as his lab was on the ground floor)

Contrast can be important – this can be as simple as putting coloured tape on the end of tubing to help learners find it. Rob often added indicators (or dye) to liquids so that learners could see where they were filling to as colourless liquids can be hard to see. This can be combined with putting an elastic band or dry wipe marker line on a measuring cylinder/beaker to show learners where to fill up to. An attendee at a previous group meeting had recommended loom bands for this purpose, and anyone with young children could have these laying unused around their home. There are also probes that can be used to indicate when a certain amount of liquid has been measured, and digital versions of tools like thermometers could be more accessible for visually impaired learners. A talking balance could be useful to many learners, not just those with visual impairments.

Microscopes were mentioned as an issue. There are several different ways of making microscopy more accessible. Rob used a Wi-Fi microscope which could connect to his laptop (or to a phone/tablet) Not only did all the class see the same image projected from his laptop but it allowed the teacher (or another learner) to provide assistance, sharing a common image. It also allows the teacher to capture images which can be processed to improve the contrast or made into another type of resource like a 3D image. It was also suggested that focusing on the edge of the coverslip and then moving the slide could make microscopy more accessible for some learners. Buying microscopes with a coarse and fine focus will help students with poor motor control focus more easily. It is also possible to buy microscopes with two eyepieces called a demonstration model that could help some learners) USB microscopes can help cut the costs if high magnifications aren’t required and some models can even be connected to a mobile phone. Paul Tyler has shared many examples on Twitter.

If you have a 3D printer there is a library of materials that can be 3D printed. One school had a printer with special ink that would rise of the page allowing learners to feel the impression.

https://www.rnib.org.uk/insight-online/making-tactile-graphs-and-diagrams

https://www.rnib.org.uk/services-we-offer-advice-professionals-education-professionals/education-resources

It was also suggested that a reader pen could be useful and to check the models available as some could read and store text for learners. Some of the accessibility features of Google Docs could also support these leaners.

Mobile phones can also help, whether it be through the use of clip on lenses to transform them into microscopes, or through apps that help with accessibility. An app to read and say the name of the colour could be useful to some learners who may not be able to see the colour range of a particular indicator or if they are partially sighted.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hempton.colorid

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/color-identify/id541662665

Making 3D or tactile models where possible can help, for example model cells. Models (or processed images) could also help learners who find a microscope difficult for other reasons, for example sensory reasons.

Colour blindness (colour vision deficiency) is more common than many teachers realise, and many delegates have experienced learners or family members who can’t see a full range/spectrum of schools. If you have these learners in your group, check which indicators you use so learners can see the start and endpoint of a reaction. It’s also important to consider reactions with a colour change and to try not to use RAGing (red/amber/green highlighting) with these learners. Chromatography can pose a problem for these learners and Jane shared an experiment she had done with learners where she replaced the traditional inks with essential oils and let learners sniff along the chromatogram to see how the smells had separated/moved. 

https://www.colourblindawareness.org/about-us/1ineveryclassroom/

https://www.iop.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/Colour-vision-deficiency.pdf

Meeting 4 of the Inclusive Science Group (practical work)

Meeting 20th April 2021

Focus – Practical work for SEND learners (episode 2)

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

Opening comments

Rob opened the meeting with a video from Teachers TV. This was an old recording, but showed a teacher introducing a practical lesson. The purpose of showing the video wasn’t to criticise the video but to consider how learners with SEND might find this introduction and to suggest ways of improving it (including any materials you might use alongside)

Those present were quick to make suggestions

  • Don’t forget to link to prior learning and make clear to learners why they are doing a practical activity. Isn’t just a task – we hope they will learn something.
  • Learners with SEND need precise instructions, so telling them to get inro groups or decide who will test what won’t help them to do the practical work. The roles badges, promoted by the IoP, could help with larger groups
  • If it’s a complicated practical there could be lots to remember – how will students remember the steps?
  • Show the equipment set up rather than just referring to names
  • If you use instructions on paper, think about how you will use them. Don’t just read over the students reading them.
  • Try to be interactive and engage learners in the opening.
  • Learners could miss out on important messages as they could be anxious about the practical or who they will work with.

Rob reminded the group about cognitive science and the summary in the EEF Improving secondary science report.

The split attention effect comes to mind when thinking about practical instructions. We know that integrating labels into a diagram is better than using a separate key (in this diagram of the heart, the diagram on the left is easier to follow because you don’t need to flick between two sources of information). Dave Paterson has written extensively about integrated instructions and others have followed his lead and created/shared resources for key science practical activities.

Integrated instructions work well with primary phase and secondary phase learners

Rob shared this photograph he’d taken at one of Jane’s inclusive science festivals where students were investigating the chemistry behind bath bombs. As an observer, Rob watched learners with SEND work independently and all were able to complete the practical activity (although some got further than others)

Jane explained that her technician (Pam) had taken photographs so that students could see what they should be seeing at each stage of the practical. The equipment was colour coded to stop students mixing up the chemicals and no students used two lots of one chemical. The symbols were to help any students who might be colour blind.

There is also merit in the group working together. Rob has always followed this approach because it is easy to see students who haven’t got things right, for example one blue Bunsen flame stands out in a sea of orange flames. It also can reduce cognitive load as students don’t have to remember lots of instructions and it lets students compare what they are doing to other learners. There are many names for this approach – the slow practical, lock-step practical, guided practical and paced practical work. This approach also allows for deeper discussion and questioning of learners as you go through the practical. This approach can develop self-esteem and build confidence in doing practical work.

Jane reminded the group that we are going to apply for funding to trial microscale practical work for our SEND learners. Anyone who has not expressed an interest can still do so to Rob or Jane.

Other top tips from the group

  • One technician produced pictures showing how the equipment needed to be put away, showing photographs of the equipment fitting neatly in the tray. Others have used a similar approach with shapes cut out in foam or polystyrene so it is obvious where the equipment should be placed.
  • Labels on trays and cupboards showing what’s inside
  • Routines are extremely powerful and can help with setting up and clearing away equipment.
  • Simple tweaks to practical like using indicator to make acid clearer to see, or dry-wipe marker or an elastic band to mark where to fill up to. One top tip was that loom bands work well for this purpose too!
  • One teacher recommended Makaton signs for electricity which are very visual and can help learners when used in science lessons, for example the signs for conductor and insulator could help students grasp the meaning of the keywords.
  • It was suggested that it is possible to make simple adaptations to the equipment used for teaching electricity to make the practical work more accessible. To remove the problem of connecting tiny wires, simple adaptations like a space connector or giant crocodile clips made fiddly equipment easier to use. Rather than using fragile incandescent bulbs, wired LEDs could be used as a replacement (supergluing the contacts makes them more durable) and experienced a low failure rate. Correx boards with circuit diagrams and velcro provide a cheap and effective tool for learners to build circuits. A knife switch is very visual and helps learners understand what a switch actually is. Finger switches were also a good tool for students investigating circuits.
  • An ‘energy stick’ or ‘energy ball’ is quite noisy but visually appealing and students can make simple circuits with their bodies. 
  • The Ogden Trust offers funding for physics related CPD which might be worth investigating. 

Links from the chat:

Videoclip from Teachers TV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mohXPUIGOuE&t=668s

Dave Paterson – Integrated instructions https://dave2004b.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/integrated-instructions-for-aqa-required-practicals/

https://edu.rsc.org/feature/improving-practical-work-with-integrated-instructions/3009798.article

Chemix website (for science diagrams) https://chemix.org/

Makaton signs for electricity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT3xUdgkWP0

Ogden Trust https://www.ogdentrust.com/

The finger switch https://twitter.com/SarahBearchell/status/1412729858870808585?s=20