Talk with us…about sharing practice

The Sciences report discusses sharing practice.  In our first face-to-face conversation day which took place on Monday 10th December, some participants discussed the value of reflecting on others’ practice, and highlighted the importance of Education Scotland’s role in sharing practice in the sciences and more broadly in terms of planning and leadership for example.

“For many schools and science departments, improving the consistency of high-quality learning and teaching remains a top priority.  Overall, there is still work to do to share good practice effectively to help raise standards.”

“There has been an overall positive shift towards increased collegiate working in recent years across all sectors.  Teachers more often use non-class contact time to discuss and share ideas, experiences and resources with each other.  In the best examples of collegiate working, there is often a strong climate of self-evaluation and a commitment to improving outcomes for learners.  The strong ethos of collegiality observed in several schools helped to generate opportunities for effective professional learning.

Staff were comfortable in sharing their strengths and identifying areas for development.  Teachers are increasingly supporting each other and sharing practice across classes in primary schools.  Secondary staff are increasingly doing this with colleagues within the science department or across departments.  In a number of sciences departments visited for the purpose of completing this report, teachers of different discrete sciences were sharing good practice very well and supporting colleagues in delivering new learning programmes in areas of the curriculum in which they were less confident.  Some staff have formed partnerships with colleagues as members of Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs) which are proving influential in supporting a culture of professional dialogue.  Staff are increasingly sharing and developing good practice by visiting colleagues in other schools and at times visit colleagues in a different sector.  This is not yet a consistent feature of good practice across schools.”

There are a number of routes through which Education Scotland shares practice, whether focused on sciences, or more broadly on Curriculum for Excellence, and learning and teaching.

One is the Journey to Excellence website. This is a professional development resource which describes the Journey to Excellence  and its five associated areas: learning and teaching, vision and leadership, partnerships, people and culture and ethos. Videos of thought-provoking and innovative practice from across Scotland are shared, along with a range of other resources for use in reflection, discussion and planning for transformational change. All films are also available through iTunes U. Other resources include:

  • learning together packs to support individual and collegiate working
  • research summaries and extracts
  • famous Scots describing what excellence means to them
  • leading educational thinkers talking about key issues.

The site is searchable by key words (e.g. science). Further work associated with the Sciences 3-18 Impact report is currently underway and new videos will be available in early 2013.

Through a number of avenues, for example our e-mail news services “Today’s News”, our twitter feed and Facebook pages, we share news of excellence identified through our inspection programme; for example excellence in implementation of CfE at Calderglen High School in East Kilbride, announced yesterday. 

Education Scotland evalutes and shares evolving practice and this is reflected in the series of Curriculum for Excellence briefing papers, of which paper 6 (parts I and II) has been recently published. The series of Curiculum for Excellence briefing papers can be found on our website.

The Opening up the Future blog is also a route through which innovative practice associated with the use of the “promoting innovative practice and transformative change” tools is shared. This approach, which brings a “futures” perspective into the improvement planning cycle, and increases the likely success of innovative change projects, was used as the basis for our recent sciences conversation day.

The Sciences Curriculum Area Impact Project report included 34 examples of good practice, and we’ve been pleased to receive inquiries around these, and to be able to facilitate discussions between practitioners and schools as a result. These examples of good practice will be updated from time-to-time as we gather evidence of emerging innovative and through-provoking practice in sciences across Scotland. The Sciences 3-18 blog provides a route for discussions and sharing practice associated with the sciences. It’s public and anyone can comment; so please feel free to do so!

STEM Central in Motion is an outward facing public Glow blog set-up to provide a mechanism through which children and young people, practitioners, partners and the wider STEM community can share practice associated with learning and teaching in sciences, technologies, engineering and mathematics. The purpose of the blog is to help practitioners identify what works to improve outcomes for children and young people by sharing practice, and hearing from children and young people themselves.

Earlier this year we launched the  STEM professional learning community (Glow log-in required), tying in with the work associated with taking forward Teaching Scotland’s Future.

 This community provides you with the opportunity to connect with other educators with an interest in sciences, technologies, engineering or mathematics. You can tap into online learning opportunities, and keep up to date with STEM related professional learning opportunities available in Scotland, sharing practice with others in the community.

Community tools can help you to measure and track the impact of your professional learning on outcomes for learners. The community brings together relevant information from CPDFind the Education Scotland learning blog, the STEM Central in Motion blog and The Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Area Impact Project blog.

Are there ways of sharing practice which Education Scotland is not doing which would be helpful? Which of the current mechanisms do you find most useful? Do you use practice shared nationally as the basis for discussion in your department or faculty, or as a basis for reflection on your own practice?

Talk with us…about inspiring girls in STEM

At Monday’s Improving Sciences Education 3-18 Conversation Day, Catherine Colvin, a former pupil of Monifieth High School in Angus, and now a student of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde shared her experiences in the sciences at school. She talked about inspiring learning and teaching, leading to her choosing to take Chemistry and Physics at Higher, and Physics at Advanced Higher. Catherine also talked about her involvement with editing Exploring Engineering videos for Education Scotland’s STEM Central website, which she found helpful in understanding the possibilities of careers in engineering. In particular, the interview with Amber Gell, an engineer with NASA gave Catherine the confidence to pursue engineering at university.

If you’re interested in seeing those inspiring videos, you can find them on STEM Central.

Talk with us…improving science education 3-18 conversation days

The first of our face- to-face Improving Sciences Education 3-18 conversation days took place on Monday 10th at Denholm House in Livingston.

Setting the scene for an inclusive agenda for the sciences for all our children and young people were Education Scotland’s Ken Muir, Graham Norris and Marie McAdam. The It’s My Future song Believe , written and performed by children and young people from across Scotland about their hopes and expectations for the future, and what they want from education to help them achieve these reminded us of the purpose of the day and the impetus for change.

Without a doubt, we have a tremendous will and willingness in Scotland to ensure that our children and young people have access to the highest-quality sciences education. Curriculum for Excellence provides us with the ideal vehicle for doing so. A theme which came across throughout the day is that there is no magic answer, no “one size fits all” solution but that collectively we are in a far better position than working alone. Working together, we have a real opportunity for transformational change in sciences education 3-18.

We were delighted to be joined by children and young people, parents and practitioners from early years, primary, secondary and special schools, further and higher education, as well as a range of partners, and by the geographical spread represented at the day.

Kerry Edwards, from Strathallan Primary in Fife, shared with the delegates the Strathallan story of change in the sciences, from early years to primary 7, recognising the challenges experienced and the positive outcomes resulting from facing these challenges. Cara Jackson, Georgea Speedie, Fraser Foye, Scott Mitchell and Robyn Gardiner from Bellshill Academy told us about their experiences of sciences in the context of STEM – what inspires them, what motivates them and how these experiences have impacted on their views of science. Catherine Colvin, a former pupil from Monifieth High School who is now studying Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde shared her experiences and what inspired her to pursue engineering in higher education. Scott Harper, a former pupil from Kirkcaldy High School who is studying Maths at St Andrews, reflected on his learning in the sciences. He described the key motivators for him, drawing out issues such as opportunities for meaningful interdisciplinary learning, the motivation of succeeding in work which is challenging and the importance of quality opportunities to see relevance and opportunities beyond the classroom. Donna McMaster, Head Teacher at Inveralmond Community High School, closed this first segment by highlighting the very real opportunities presented to us as we move forward in sciences education.

The delegates participated in three discussion group sessions, broadly

–          Where are we now? What does the evidence tell us? Using the Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Area Impact Project report as a tool for reflection to arrive at a shared understanding of Curriculum for Excellence in the Sciences

–          Where are we going? What should the sciences 3-18 look like 3-5 years from now, getting it right for every child and young person?

–          Moving forward. How can we work in partnership to increase the momentum for innovation, to achieve transformational change?

Sessions were structured using the “Implemento” tool for transformational change.

Over the next few weeks, we will share with you the outcomes from the discussion sessions, and as we develop our business plans for 2013/14, details of how these discussions are impacting on our plans for moving forward.

Education Scotland has licensed the Transition Leadership tools and the Three Horizons toolkit for the specific and sole purpose of improving Scottish Education and the partner services that support it. We are delighted to have partnered the following people and organisations in this venture: Executive Arts Inc.; James R. Ewing, ForthRoad Ltd.; International Futures Forum and Graham Leicester.

Talk with us…about what makes a good science teacher

Young people from S2 at Bellshill Academy, North Lanarkshire, joined us in Livingston yesterday for the first of our face-to-face conversation days around improving sciences education for 3 to 18 year olds. They shared their STEM work, joined us for discussions throughout the day, and captured their thoughts about what makes a good science teacher.

” A good science teacher is one who inspires us by showing enthusiasm, which makes us see that the subject can be enjoyable. Confident, one that teaches us why it is relevant in the workforce. One that explains and is patient. A teacher who is approachable. A teacher who genuinely seems to care about you, that their motivation to come to work is to make a difference in our lives. Also you want a teacher who is fun and upbeat because they make your lesson a lot more interesting . A very important thing is a teacher who is willing to learn new things from their pupils , also able to admit that they can be wrong , good at listening and supports you.”