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.


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” (, 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 (no date): Scientific Literacy: [online] Available from: <> [10/02/16]

National Science Education Standards (no date): Chapter 2 – Principles and Definitions: [online] Available from: <> [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: <> [10/02/16]

Radio 4, Science Betrayed, Thursday 24 March 2011 at 20:59 (available online at


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.

My Understanding of Reflection

Reflection is defined as either “serious thought or consideration” or “an idea about something, especially one that is written down or expressed” by the Oxford dictionary but I believe reflection has a deeper meaning than that. Reflection, to me, is being able to look at your actions or writing critically with no bias and I believe that this is very difficult to do as it is nearly impossible to look at your own work with no bias. Reflection also involves being able to look at your actions from different perspectives so as to gain better understanding of their impact. I often find myself trying to look at things I have done from the perspective of others and usually find it interesting to try and get inside someone else’s mind. I also believe that reflection can also be important before you act by considering all the different ways your action can be construed.

I do not think that it is a natural thing for a human to reflect, especially in a critical way, about their doings but I believe that reflection is more of a learned behaviour in a sense. However, i feel it is important that we learn how to reflect especially due to the impact an ability has to reflect on learning. Reflection greatly increases the quality of writing someone is able to produce as it enables them to polish pieces of work without the aid of a teacher before handing it in. It may be a good idea to educate those in primary school on how to reflect so they know how to for when they have to produce work of a higher standard. As a primary school student, I never would have thought about my work critically or even have thought about ways of improving or bettering my work. The only times I would think about that would be when I had my work given back to me with penned in teacher’s comments in the margin. I firmly believe that if I was taught how to reflect on myself before this stage, it would have prepared me better for later study.

Virtues of Teaching

In a recent lecture, Derek Robertson asked us to reflect on what we thought five important virtues were for teaching and I believe that these five core values are necessary to be a successful educator.


For a teacher to have tolerance means that they are able to tolerate children from any background without having any pre-conceived notion of how well they may do. A teacher with tolerance should not judge a child based on race, gender or socio-economic class. They must be open minded to any culture and not impose their own views on the classroom or any students mind. A tolerant teacher would also set a good example for their students as it would teach them not to judge or bully anyone and treat everyone equally regardless of their culture. It is also very important for a primary educator to display tolerance as pupils are at a very susceptible age and could potentially copy some of the teacher’s behaviour.


In order to set a good example for the pupils, a teacher must treat them all fairly. When I was in primary school, I noticed some of my teachers acted in a sexist way, which was possibly subconscious, because they would discipline the males in the class more than they would the girls. I feel that disciplinary measures should be applied based on circumstance and regardless of gender.

It is also good for primary students to learn fair etiquette early on in their life in the hope that this would carry on for their behaviour as adults. For example, teaching children to share when they are given something seems like it is very good practice.


A patient teacher to me means an understanding teacher who can adjust their teaching style to the different speeds at which their pupils work at. For example, a teacher with patience will not get annoyed by a pupil interrupting their lesson with questions or with a request to slow down and will be prepared to explain a concept as many times through as is required.

As a primary student, I felt too nervous to ask my Maths teacher a question or to slow down because the teacher had a reputation as being “strict” and I was too embarrassed that I would look stupid if I asked. If a teacher was able to give the impression that they were patient and happy to answer questions, the pupils may feel less afraid or ashamed.


I believe that a teacher should be able to display empathy to their students in order to truly be an effective teacher and make a difference in a pupil’s learning. If a pupil feels like their teacher does not understand how they are feeling then they will never give full confidence or trust to the teacher which can be important for pupils to feel happy in the classroom.


Kindness is also very important when dealing with primary students. Difficult students can seem to need more discipline when sometimes this is not the case. I know when I was in primary school, for my first two years, I caused trouble constantly and was punished for it constantly until I was placed in a kind teacher’s class where I learned to behave myself without the need for stringent punishment.

However, with this virtue there needs to be more of a balance as it is equally important for a teacher to be firm with discipline as the teacher could easily be taken advantage of as a lenient teacher.

Benefits of Active Learning and Co-operative Working

The Benefits of Active Learning

Active learning is the process by which students engage in their learning in order to prevent the occurrence of passive learning which is when the mind does not fully absorb what it is being taught as it is working in an automatic fashion. Learning actively helps pupils to fully understand reading and writing and retain this information for longer. Rote learning would be an example of a learning style which does not promote active learning and only helps students to have short term retention of information. There are many benefits of active learning over passive learning, for example, it aids in improving a student’s critical thinking abilities as they are not just learning for their exam. They have a more deep, insightful understanding of subject matter enabling them to think critically about it and even pick flaws in the arguments presented to them rather than just accepting  information unquestioningly. Active learning can also serve to increase enthusiasm and motivation in students and also teachers that use active learning styles. To be able to truly complete a task and feel that you have independently been able to finish it makes an activity feel like more of an accomplishment for a student. Teachers gain confidence as students are more stimulated by their teaching and incorporating active learning into their teaching can help to improve results. For all these reasons, I believe there should be more of an emphasis in the curriculum on assimilating active learning techniques into lesson plans.

The Benefits of Co-operative or Collaborative Learning

There are many benefits of co-operative learning and team work whilst working on a task. One potential benefit is the fact that it gives a platform for healthy debate between cohorts to take place. Debate can give wider depth of knowledge to everyone in the group as it gives perspective on both sides of the issue. Co-operative learning can also help students to learn their roles they naturally fit into, whether that be a leader role or more of a thinker/contributor. It also means that students can learn to work with all sorts of different types of people. Working as part of a team can also help to build upon a student’s interpersonal skills as they have to learn how to communicate their points eloquently whilst still respecting the opinions of others. The fact that students have to share their opinions should also result in an increase of confidence as they have to be sure in their opinions so they can debate their point with well-founded evidence within the group. Group dynamics at an earlier stage can also be helpful as working as a team often reflects what the workplace will be like and reinforces the skills that are needed to be an effective worker. A group is also a chance for a student to get feedback that they may not get if they are just working as part of a class under the supervision of one teacher as it is impossible for a teacher to give constant feedback to every one of their students. However, within a group, ideas and opinions are constantly commented on.