The Noisy Classroom: A Useful Resource for Teaching Debating

During my time on placement, I planned a series of lessons as a progression of debating skills. I started off by doing fluency as a debating skill then moved on to rhetorical questions and use of examples before finally how to do counterarguments and debate in a more formal way.

The noisy classroom gave me a whole load of ideas about different debating warm up games and ways which I could plan workshops and was very useful for me and I imagine would be for anyone else ever considering teaching debating at a primary or secondary level.

Link: http://noisyclassroom.com/

Scientific Literacy

Scientific Literacy – Group TDT

Edited by Rachel Billes, Co-Authored by John Muir, Danielle Mackay and Shaun Finnigan         

The term ‘Scientific Literacy’ is one that can often be heard in academic conversation but what does it actually mean? To be literate is having the “ability to read and write” (Oxford Dictionary, no date), therefore it would be assumed that being ‘scientifically literate’ is about having the knowledge to be able to understand different scientific concepts. However, scientific literacy is not just about knowing how to carry out a range of different experiments. It refers to having a knowledge of scientific concepts and being able to apply what we know to decisions that we make throughout our daily lives, regarding “personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs and economic productivity” (Literacy.net, no date). This entails that being scientifically literate gives you the proficiency to be able to “ask (about), find and determine” (NSES, no date) scientific experiments, and establish whether information that has been shared is of a reliable background. From this we can use individual methods to judge and evaluate the experiments, resulting in conclusions which have come from personal knowledge and research.

The best and most well-known example of scientific literacy, or a lack of scientific literacy- leading to inaccurate reporting- is the MMR vaccine scare. This started when a paper was published in 1998 and reported that twelve children had been found to have bowel syndrome and signs of autism after receiving the vaccine. However, the report provided no hard evidence to support the argument that there was any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The main author of the report, Dr Andrew Wakefield, initially stated at a press conference that parents should avoid the MMR vaccine. It was later found that the author of the report did not have the medical qualifications to assess the risk of the MMR vaccine, and he was found guilty of four counts of dishonesty. These events had a major effect on public confidence in the MMR vaccine. Vaccination rates continued to fall, even after there were many reports showing that there was no link between the vaccine and autism. When it was found that Wakefield had actually been funded by a lawyer firm that wanted litigation against MMR, confidence eventually returned but a combination of poor scientific practice and lack of scientific literacy led to inaccurate reporting in the media for several years.

In terms of scientific literacy in the classroom, the process of fair testing is an important part to any science-based activity that you may be conducting with your pupils. Therefore, it is vital that you teach them just how important this element is. Fair testing means that only one factor is changed at any one time ensuring that all the other conditions are left the same throughout. In scientific terms, changing a factor is known as changing a variable. It is essential that children understand the effects that changing one or more variables has in order to fully understand the experiments you teach them. But how does teaching fair testing link to scientific literacy? By making your children aware of fair testing, you are stating that an experiment will have no deliberate advantages or disadvantages as they follow a procedure that will provide a legitimate outcome. Through this, students will then be able to “identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions”. Fair testing ensures that there is less of a bias within the experiment. Scientific literacy is linked to fair testing through the fact that it is “evidence-based” and not simply an answer that people are to believe. Fair testing helps to reduce this idea of “bad science” in schools. It will help your pupils to progress within their scientific literacy and encourage them to become more questioning, providing results that have evidence to back up the findings.

References

Literacy.net (no date): Scientific Literacy: [online] Available from: <http://www.literacynet.org/science/scientificliteracy.html> [10/02/16]

National Science Education Standards (no date): Chapter 2 – Principles and Definitions: [online] Available from: <http://www.nap.edu/read/4962/chapter/4> [10/02/16]

OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] (2003) The PISA 2003 Assessment Framework – Mathematics, Reading, Science and Problem Solving Knowledge and Skills. Paris: OECD.

Oxford Dictionary (no date): Literate: [online] Available from: <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/literate> [10/02/16]

Radio 4, Science Betrayed, Thursday 24 March 2011 at 20:59 (available online at http://bobnational.net/record/55921)

 

Why do we need to be qualified to teach dance in primary schools?

I found that this was the first question in my mind when I saw our dance workshop early on in a Friday morning. I never would have thought that as a Primary Teacher, this would be a requirement as part of the curriculum. I do not particularly look back fondly upon the many hours of mandatory social dance throughout my secondary and primary school careers but as a teacher, I can try to make a difference to the attitude to social dance and maybe make it slightly more enjoyable for the children being taught by me. I feel like I fully understand the need for enthusiasm when teaching any subject, especially for those that the teacher may not like themselves because pupils can be impressionable and will pick up when a teacher does not like the subject they are teaching.

Image of dance workshop in school

Therefore why do we need to be qualified to teach dance in primary schools? Well, after looking up the subject, I now understand why it should be included in our curriculum. Here are a few reasons:

Dance can link to other parts of the curriculum

Dance is seen as fun even by the least enthusiastic of pupils, and if you provide a lesson plan which links to the current class project as either an introduction to a new topic or reinforcement of the things that are being learned in class, you may in turn be able to increase enthusiasm for the project and dance itself.

It is a simple way of getting children to expend energy outside the classroom

This seems a simple reason to teach dance but it is an effective way of ensuring that children have burned off energy before they sit down in your classroom and take part in a lesson.

Dance encourage pupils to be creative

Instead of expressing themselves through the standard approach of writing, children are encouraged to be creative and show how they feel through body language and movement. Ken Robinson displays the view that schools squander creativity and I feel that dance is a way of bringing the creative element in to schools.

Dance provides a good team building exercise

Dance can be a form of collaborative learning, and some forms of dance can easily be used as team-building exercises. Group dancing also allows you to see which kids are possibly being left out so you can target your teaching more effectively and provide support for that pupil and help them to become more involved and part of the team.

The process of giving and receiving feedback

Receiving Feedback

When I receive feedback, I appreciate it because if it is critical, it helps me to improve my practice and writing ability as I can take the advice on board and incorporate into what I do next time. Critical feedback also suggests that the person writing it has taken the time to consider what I have said so it makes me feel as if my work has been appreciated.  If it is positive feedback, then it does not help me to better myself but serves to boost my self-confidence so receiving both types of feedback can be useful. I will probably receive feedback in the future from my superiors so it is good at this stage to learn how to take feedback and use it to improve yourself.

Giving feedback

I also find the process of giving feedback helpful as if you read someone else’s work and then think of constructive criticism, that is not only helping them to improve their own writing but you might also be able to apply it to your own work. Later, when I become qualified to educate in a primary school, during meetings with staff members I should be able to confidently give advice to fellow colleagues because I have started with feedback to cohorts now in university.

 

What it means to be an enquiring practitioner

For me, an enquiring practitioner is a professional who is able to adapt the way they teach or learn based on critical research in to what works and what does not work. It is someone that is capable of reflecting upon their own previous teaching/learning and think critically about how they could better themselves. This evaluative process is intrinsic to being an enquiring practitioner.

The benefits of being an enquiring practitioner are that you are able to develop and improve the curriculum along with other teachers which would stop the curriculum from staying set and rigid and would mean it is constantly being modified to improve upon it therefore providing students with a better education over all. If this is the case for the curriculum then it enables general improvement of the educational institutions themselves and means that every school will not necessarily be teaching the same curriculum. It also provides teachers with a capacity for self-improvement in terms of the way they plan lessons and teach the curriculum. Being an enquiring practitioner would also mean that a teacher would be more likely to take constructive criticism and use it to refine their own lesson plans and style of teaching.

The challenges of being an enquiring practitioner I would imagine would be it would be difficult to align your way of thinking if you were not used to the process of enquiry and evaluation as it is difficult to challenge your own assumptions. Some would also argue that enquiry is fairly limited as it is contextual as even if one approach works in a school somewhere, it does not necessarily mean that the same way would work in a different place. The process of enquiry can also be rather slow as there is no real fixed end point as you can steadily continue to improve yourself for an indefinite period of time. Many classroom practioners who use enquiry can get off topic but the enquiry needs to be connected to teaching or learning.

I believe that if I want to be a successful teacher and continue to improve my teaching style and ability to educate that the process of enquiry and evaluation should be at the core of my planning and practice.