Meeting 3 of the ASE Inclusive Science Education group (practical work)

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. You can join by filling in the form at http://bit.ly/ASESEND

Meeting 20th April 2021

Focus – Practical work for SEND learners

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 reminders about practical work – the best practical work is purposeful and the teacher has planned for it in the sequence of learning.

A good question to consider before planning to carry out any practical activity is: What do I expect the students to learn by doing this practical task that they could not learn at all, or not so well, if they were merely told what happens? (Millar, 2002).Really effective practical activities enable students to build a bridge between what they can see and handle (hands-on) and scientific ideas that account for their observations (brains-on). Making these connections is challenging, so practical activities that make these links explicit are more likely to be successful (Millar, 2004)

Rob also reminded the group about the Gatsby Practical Science benchmarks which refers to five purposes of practical science. The report also gives suggestions for improving practical work in schools and is well worth a read.

ATo teach the principles of scientific inquiry
BTo improve understanding of theory through practical experience
CTo teach specific practical skills, such as measurement and observation, that may be useful in future study or employment
DTo motivate and engage students
ETo develop higher level skills and attributes such as communication, teamwork and perseverance

Rob also referred to the Getting Practical: a framework for practical science in schools (SCORE, 2009a) p7 from which he took the following 

These reports serve as useful reminders of the importance of practical work, not only for the teaching of science but also for contributing to the wider development of skills for our learners, especially those with SEND.

Jane asked the group “What are the successful characteristics of practical work for our SEND learners?”

  • Immediate results – SEND learners often have a reduced attention span so can struggle with some of the longer or more extended projects
  • Ones where you limit the introduction of new pieces of equipment or techniques to keep unfamiliarity to a minimum
  • The use of digital meters can help those who struggle with reading traditional equipment or those who are colour blind.  For these learners Jane suggested using an app that identifies the colour, some will even speak the name of the colour.
  • Hands-on activities with clear results
  • A fast start is key, with achievable goals in between
  • Something that can spread over several lessons
  • Something that gets a ‘wow’ or holds their attention
  • ‘Slow practicals’ where the teacher breaks the task down into smaller chunks and the groups complete the task at the same time. They can then understand each step and there is the opportunity for the teacher to direct and discuss as you go through. You can also discuss what is happening and the students can put it all together at the end. This benefits all learners – not just those with SEND. These are also referred to as ‘lockstep’ instructions by some teachers.
  • Another teacher said that some of her students struggle with written instructions. The Integrated instructions (David Paterson, RSC) helped some learners but the weaker students still got confused when using these. Her solution was to use a very structured approach with a ‘me do, you do’ approach. This allowed the students to experience success 
  • One person mentioned Bukky Yusuf from Twitter uses fold-over instructions to help students focus (or they can be use as a reveal) Link: https://twitter.com/rondelle10_b/status/1202298339041120257?s=20 Jane has used laminates in a similar way for students to cross off as they work through.
  • Students can worry about getting it wrong, sometimes I photograph of the equipment can reassure learners as it shows them how to set up their equipment (and some students can’t interpret a traditional line drawing)
  • One attendee used to do practical work to build up confidence without the worry of having to record results etc. The same teacher went on to use practical activities that could be revisited and improved lesson after lesson, for example designing catapults. As there were no right or wrong ways of doing things, and it was unique to each group, it allowed all groups to progress, but it took a lot more time to work in this way.

Many SEND learners value the opportunity to work in the garden or a horticulture setting. This could be as simple as planting seeds or working in the school garden. This is an approach that has been adopted by several teachers.

Students in a PRU can also lack confidence in practical work, one teacher used a step by step (demon, do, demo, do etc) in a similar way to those above to allow students to experience success and remove anxieties in these lessons.

Another attendee mentioned a project from Heathlands school for the Deaf who were funded by the RSC. They made videos of different videos, 2 pupils presented the experiment, 2 filmed and other students photographed, prompted information etc. This is all planned in advance but led by the students. When revisited a year later the students were much more confident. https://www.facebook.com/Heathlands-421651231280380/

Opening STEM clubs to all can be valuable, especially given the time constraints in normal curriculum lessons. Jane runs inclusive science festivals that are open ended/plan for progress but allow students to work at their own pace and develop their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Next steps

Jane told the group about plans to apply for the RSC outreach fund to pay for microscale kits, to allow students to do more investigations on a self-managed way. This is to stop students being frightened of the equipment and reagents they use, and allow learners to focus on the science.

At the next meeting we could consider what experiments or investigations would be valuable to pilot in this way. 

This was well received by the group. Rob agreed with another speaker than SEND learners can have a tendency to shovel chemicals (especially if they think there will be a more impressive reaction/bang etc)

Closing remarks

  • Jane shared a story of a previous project (some time ago) for which the authority provided funding and students made a complicated chemical product (emulsion paint) and took it home.
  • Jane asked if teachers had come across schools that don’t like students with behaviour that might prevent them from doing practical work. One teacher in a PRU said that this was less likely to happen in a smaller group.
  • Rob mentioned culture for learning is important, he had a culture of practical science. It took time to establish but the norm was to do as much practical work as possible so learners developed a love of practical work and removal from the practical work was used as a sanction (although could still stop in the room and watch in most cases) Rob did varied experiments, an example sprang to mind with modelling radioactive decay with popcorn (although it was messy) The research doesn’t always suggest that practical work is good for abstract concepts, although Rob maintains that this approach benefited his SEND learners who also showed improved behaviour so they could join in the practical work. Culture takes time to establish in the classroom whether in a school, department or for an individual teacher. 
  • Open ended investigations are squeezed out due to time constraints for many
  • One delegate made stained glass. Jane asked if it was beads of borax glass. Jane also recommended making sugar class from the Salters chemistry handbook.
  • Another participant mentioned natural indicators used in a more open-ended way
  • Jane expressed the opinion that there is much to be said for doing less and doing it better but the pressure for assessment outcomes can be very unhelpful for these learners. Someone else asked “Is it better to have covered half the curriculum in depth or all of it superficially?”
  • One delegate reported that a deaf child was excluded from practical lessons because the school felt they couldn’t do experiments. They were removed from the lesson and put in the resource centre to do extra maths and English. The group were upset to hear this and felt that it would be challengable under discrimination/equal opportunities legislation. It was only with intervention from outside the school that the situation was resolved.
  • Rob asked the group about how covid has affected practical work in their settings? Teachers have experienced difficulties troubleshooting from the front in this situation. Visualisers can be a useful tool for teachers to use in this situation.

Links from the chat:

https://www.color-blindness.com/coblis-color-blindness-simulator/

https://www.batod.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Deaf-Chemical-Kitchen-Ambassadors-article.pdf

https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/Dr%20Cameron’s%20Science%20Education%20in%20BSL%20Videos%3A%20Natural%20Indicators%20%3A%202.%20%20Bluebell%20pH%20indicator/1_20necta0

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