Learning for the new NQs: Speak up Scotland! A Year of Science Debating

Within our recently published advice and guidance associated with the new NQs in science, there are a number of areas which would lend themselves to discussion in the classroom. What does this look like? What is the difference between learners talking, and discussing? Arguing and debating? What tools and approaches can be used to ensure learners are developing their skills in discussion, argumentation, and debate?

A teacher’s handbook from the English-Speaking Union (ESU) Scotland came across my desk this week. 2012 is  the year of the ESU’s Speak up Scotland! Science Debating project. Within this easily digestible, practical handbook are a range of techniques and approaches which can be used to structure debate within the science classroom, and include all learners within the class. It explains how to plan and structure a formal debate, if that is what you are looking for, including how to structure a speech, a format for judging the content and skills of the participants – useful for teacher observation or peer evaluation. Other approaches described include balloon and role play debates. Exemplification is given for role playdebates in bio-prospecting and badger culling.

The booklet also contains starters for debates such as:

 ”this house believes the government should fund research on planet earth rather than the cosmos” – ties in with the new National 4/5 qualifications in Physics

“this house would give up non essential flying to help curb dangerous climate change” – ties in with the sustainability elements across a number of the new NQs including Environmental Science

“this house would ban research on embryonic stem cells” – ties in with the National 4/5 qualifications in Biology and our published advice and guidance on Health and Disease.

Each section includes “fast facts”, and suggested questions to ask – does an embryo have human rights? how do we know how old the universe is? how do we control nanoparticles in our environment; or artificial organisms we create?

All of this is also available on the project website where you can  find out how schools are using the debates and the feedback from learners.

If your learners need support in building confidence to speak in front of others, why not look back to our Debating in Schools resources published in 2007 which include Building Speaking Confidence: Guidance for first-time speakers.

STEM Central and the Bionic Eye invented to help restore sight

Since publication of our STEM Central Bioengineering context earlier this year, there has been no shortage of advances in this field to incorporate into learning and teaching within this context.

This BBC News article Light-powered bionic eye invented to help restore sight describes innovation at Stanford University in California, using near infrared signals and photovoltaic cells. This is being reported as an advancement on the patient trials blogged on 5th May – an opportunity for learners to examine the two technologies, and compare and contrast.