Aug 042014
 

Following the publication of the updated Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Impact Report, Education Scotland hosted a series of conversation days to engage stakeholders in discussions around the findings of the report and to collectively identify priorities for action to secure improvements in science education nationally.

The first of four conversations took place in December 2012 in Denholm House, Livingstone, followed by a further two during June 2013 at Bishopbriggs Academy and Millburn Academy, with the final conversation taking place in Bucksburn Academy on 12th December 2013.

Education Scotland collated the responses from each event and produced blogs for our CfE Learning and Stem Central in Motion sites to disseminate the findings across Scotland and provide opportunity for those who were unable to attend to give their views.

We have now collated the responses from all four conversation days and produced a summary document, which highlights the key themes to emerge and details the views and suggestions of the delegates in attendance.

To download a copy : Education Scotland Science Conversation Days, Summary 

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment.

Aug 042014
 

Delegates attending our fourth conversation day at Bucksburn Academy identified three key themes for improving science education.

Discussions focussed on:

Priorities for sciences education

Identifying partnerships that work

What does great learning in the sciences look like?

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views regarding the third theme, addressing what great learning in the sciences looks like.

What does great learning in the sciences look like?

Science education is important for every child and not just for those who may be headed toward a scientific or technical career.

Great learning in the sciences encourages young people to make sense of the world around them, to be scientifically literate. It develops skills enabling them to analyse, evaluate, think critically, justify conclusions and be creative and innovative; skills required to thrive and succeed in an increasingly globalised and technological society.

Delegates identified factors contributing to great learning in the sciences:

  • relevant and purposeful (real life) teaching through engaging activities, which occur in and out of the classroom environment
  • learning environment has motivated and enthusiastic teachers and pupils
  • lessons have variety, depth, challenge and are interactive, delivered by inspirational teachers with a passion and enthusiasm for the subject and who convey a love of learning
  • consistent and firm discipline
  • learners are taught the skills they need through a variety of methodologies e.g. active, visual, audio and concepts are revisited in  different ways
  • progression is evident                                 
  • subjects are interlinked and connected
  • great learning is different in different schools and classes, and good teachers are still learning.

The final part of this discussion addressed the question, how do we get it right for every child and young person?  Delegates’ suggestions included:

  • good communication between primary and secondary
  • establish where the “starting point” for every child is and identify children who need to extend their knowledge
  • ensure learners feel safe enough to ask for help/guidance
  • quality provision must be evident all the time
  • teaching should be delivered in different order/style depending on the needs of the learner

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment

Aug 042014
 

Delegates attending our fourth conversation day at Bucksburn Academy identified three key themes for improving science education.

Discussions focussed on:

  1. 1.     Priorities for sciences education
  2. 2.    Identifying partnerships that work
  3. 3.    What does great learning in the sciences look like?

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views regarding the second theme which addressed identifying partnerships that work.

Identifying partnerships that work

Delegates identified various partner organisations that they were engaging with including subsea 7, forest rangers, ABC, mentoring John Lewis, STEM ambassadors, car safety, BP renewable, Forvie Nature reserve, university medical students, Zoo lab, forensic scientists, “curious about chemistry”. Learners at Bucksburn Academy had also set up a programme of advanced level lunchtime lectures in relation to STEM.

Delegates put forward suggestions for successful partnership working. It was agreed that this had to be mutually beneficial, providing support, resources and expertise for the school, whilst meeting the business needs of the organisation. In addition delegates highlighted the following:

  • organisation must provide support in the classroom and visit the school (not the other way)
  • partnerships should be innovative, curriculum led, embedded in the curriculum
  • personnel involved are enthusiastic individuals with a willingness to commit extra time to establish short/long term working relationship
  • investment and funding through the partnership provides opportunities for all

Delegates identified areas of partnership working which they regarded as requiring further development:

  • not enough organisations/partnerships to support early years
  • more visiting scientists lecturing at a high level – aspirations needed to be raised
  • speakers need to be able to pitch talk at right level for young people
  • mixture of input needed for different levels of interest required

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment

Aug 042014
 

Following the publication of the updated 3-18 Curriculum Impact Report for Sciences in October 2013, Education Scotland hosted a series of conversation days to engage stakeholders in discussions around the findings of the report and to collectively identify priorities for action to secure improvements in science education nationally.

The fourth conversation day took place in Bucksburn Academy, Aberdeen, on 12th December 2013 and brought together around 40 participants from the local authority, Satrosphere Science Centre, Aberdeen University and representatives from industry, universities and schools. Delegates heard presentations from Kittybrewster Primary School, Bucksburn Academy, Glaxo Smith Kline and the University of Aberdeen.

Following the welcome presentation participants split into small discussion groups to identify the key priorities for improving science education. Discussions focussed on three themes:

  1. 1.    Priorities for sciences education
  2. 2.    Identifying partnerships that work
  3. 3.    What does great learning in the sciences look like?

 Priorities for sciences education

Attainment

Delegates recognised:

  • initiatives have been undertaken to address the gap in attainment however more was required to ensure those from the most deprived backgrounds are not disadvantaged further by their educational experience
  • the importance of support at home which had to be encouraged through good communication between parents and staff
  • developing good numeracy and literacy skills in primary helped access the sciences curriculum. This did not appear to be continuing at secondary, why?

Support

Delegates suggested:

  • local authorities should lead and coordinate science in all sectors. They should be providing early years and primary teachers with high quality, sustained science CPD opportunities
  • every primary school should have a science coordinator/nominated teacher with responsibility for science.

Confidence

  • Delegates highlighted the lack of confidence in science knowledge and expertise which can affect learning and teaching in the primary sector.
  • Practitioners are fully aware of the  importance of  bringing the real world into the classroom to motivate and engage learners and believe this can be achieved if they have access to relevant,  high quality CPD and are given time to commit to CPD.
  • Authorities should provide financial support to assist practitioners in accessing resources to facilitate and support their teaching.
  • In the primary sector qualified teachers in the STEM subjects would be advantageous

Cluster working

  • Delegates viewed that early years, primary and secondary colleagues should work as a team and there should be greater use of cross – sector links e.g. primary pupils should be invited to the secondary science club

Learners attending the conversation day highlighted the areas they regarded as being the key priorities in sciences education:

  • key to accessing the sciences curriculum is the relationship between learner and teacher and good communication ­– they needed to feel confident about asking for help
  • active learning in the sciences should be a priority
  • Practical activities helped engage learners and develop higher order thinking skills
  • homework should be relevant to the learning at the time and coordinated better between departments to avoid overloading learners
  • learning through real life contexts is extremely important
  • practitioners had to address the variety of learning styles and offer a variety of teaching experiences to engage and motivate pupils.

SECONDARY

Delegates highlighted a number of concerns relating to the secondary sector which they viewed as being key priorities in teaching the sciences:

  •  inadequate amount of time to deliver content within the new CfE qualifications – the issue of pace in learning and teaching has to be addressed to avoid putting learners under pressure
  • sequencing of teaching is a concern
  • Timescales for publishing of guidance documentation, support materials and resources has to be brought forward
  • Examples of assessments and tracking for the broad general education would be helpful
  • Difficulties of teaching N4 and N5 in the same class
  • Clarification is still required with regards to some aspects of assessment within the new national qualifications
  • Can universities help with the added value units?
  • Address gender bias within subjects – must address the image of  women in the sciences to get more girls to take physics.

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment.

Aug 042014
 

Delegates attending our third conversation day at Millburn Academy were asked to reflect on the findings of Education Scotland’s Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Impact Report and, through group discussion, identify what they saw as the key priorities for action.

In the final session of the conversation day participants were encouraged to write down ideas and suggestions as to how science education could be further improved nationally. Suggestions included:

  • Resources – Raise awareness of support and resources available from external partners to support and enhance science learning and teaching in schools and how to access these. Create a cohesive bank of locally and nationally available resources including easy-share resources, equipment, ideas and teaching materials
  • Industry links – Supporting teachers to make industry links – identify particular areas of the curriculum where industry could input
  • Rural outreach – Support outreach by science education providers such as science centres, Edinburgh Zoo etc. to remote and rural communities to deliver and facilitate programmes. Financial support would be required for this
  • Assessment – A continuum of assessing and moderation in relation to significant aspects of learning
  • Skills – Progression of skills for life, and thinking skills, for 3-18 in context of the sciences e.g. investigation, fair tests and no gaps in first level Es and Os. Looking at progressive methods to build up skills – models from various schools/authorities to view and discuss. Need to explore more opportunities for embedding higher order thinking skills and ways to evaluate the pupil/staff recognition of their learning in the broadest sense
  • Exemplification – a clear, easily-searchable database of good practice is required which is regularly updated. Include pupil-voice section
  • Local authorities – Education Scotland should promote and support professional learning communities within authorities. If science is a national priority, funding should reflect that to ensure all authorities have a science QIO to increase teacher confidence, help moderation, sharing and development of practice etc.
  • Pupil voice and citizenship – discovering “pupil voice” as a meaningful constructive tool in improving learning. Develop Informed participation – recognising right to learn in United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Valuing wider learning also. Take on board message from young people about problems. Focus on citizenship
  • Time/Finance to help make science a national priority – Scottish Government should support this financially to take science forward. Financial input should also be sought from sponsorship from public/private sectors to invest in in the future of STEM.
  • High quality CPD programme for practitioners which is not generic but science specific and accredited. SSERC do a fantastic job but we need more info about available courses as we don’t all know what’s available – what about a central info point? We need access to web -based learning resources through Education Scotland courses. Need to support teachers in a coordinated way to develop skills, resources, links, assessment methods…
  • Public engagement – need outreach programmes involving all stakeholders in activities that are science based e.g. parents invited in to take part with their pupils
  • Sharing – we need a good way to share expertise, (written and physical) resources and course materials across Scotland with feedback inbuilt into the system. For instance, need a feedback mechanism built into the NQ Glow site so schools and authorities can improve their materials. Need more collaborative working. Develop primary as well as secondary science sharing.
  • Education Scotland – need to simplify the quantity of advice on its websites and make sure that new glow is user friendly. Also, should ask the whole science profession via survey monkey about views on improving science education
  • National qualifications – Can we have clear, agreed timings for Nat 4 and Nat 5 courses please! Can we have guidance on how teachers are to deliver Nat 3/4/5 in the same class? Sadly, this is the reality in our school.
  • Science in the news blog page – items in news, press releases are good to use in lessons but access to a ‘schools version’ on Education Scotland website would be a huge benefit. This would need good links between Education Scotland and industry. Visits to schools are not always possible and there is regular items in the news that can be used as a hook for learning.
  • More choice – access to wider range of courses through online resources to improve choice and access for learners. Being aware that one size doesn’t fit all.
  • Remove layers of bureaucracy! Decide what can go to create space we need.

STEM North of Scotland – web links to resources and programmes available for schools in the North of Scotland provided by Pat Kieran, STEM Ambassador who participated in the conversation day.

http://www.stemnorthofscotland.com/activities-and-experiments/activities-and-resources.html

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment.

Aug 042014
 

Delegates attending our third conversation day at Millburn Academy were asked to reflect on the findings of Education Scotland’s Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Impact Report and, through group discussion, identify what they saw as the key priorities for action.

In the second session of the day, participants were given the opportunity to use the Implemento planning tool to further explore one of the main themes emerging from the group activity in the morning. The following action was chosen as focus for this activity:

Ensure learners are empowered to determine how they learn.

Participants identified the following as the worst outcomes that could arise should this action not be implemented:

  • The status quo persists
  • Negativity and lack of motivation coupled with poor behaviour – time and opportunities are wasted and learners don’t enjoy or value science and are not given a choice in their learning. Don’t develop as global citizens
  • No aims/goals resulting in learners not achieving their potential and schools failing to raise attainment and ensure progression
  • Disillusioned students and teachers coupled with detrimental effect on health and well-being
  • Learners are disengaged and lack independence and are wholly dependent on quality and enthusiasm of the teachers. See science as not being relevant to them and take no responsibility for their learning! Maybe then not accountable either and learners become unable to make informed choices
  • Sausage machine approach to learning – one size fits all
  • Learners don’t develop necessary skills for leaning life and work resulting in national skill shortage – learners not opting for STEM career. Advances in technology may be slower and economy suffers. Society becomes more divided.
  • Unsuitable tertiary courses.

The following actions were suggested to help recover from these negatives outcomes:

  • Create courses that are relevant and interesting to pupils – learners need flexibility and choice to experience all types of learning in order to know what they’re good at
  • To ensure learners are empowered to determine how they learn, participation in planning learning must be structured and iterative. Needs to be part of constant cycle of improvement. Supporting pupils to make choices is necessary – building their capacity so they are aware of their skills and can identify next steps in learning. Need to create opportunity for choice e.g. research questions, how to present, peer tutors, methods of gathering info and so on
  • Teachers need training in order to offer these opportunities and are updated with current/real life science so that it is relevant. They must deliver on promises of learner engagement and be honest with what is possible
  • Negotiated and competence-based assessment is required as are more opportunities for collaborative learning
  • Use role models to show case relevant use of science
  • The John Muir Award offer learners a flexible approach to learning
  • Speak to wider community/customer about what they need/want to learn
  • Provide further opportunities to get back to education in later life (more advice/awareness).

Participants saw the following as the best possible outcomes of the action to empower learners:

  • Highly professional, confident teaching workforce able to maximise potential of empowered learners by guiding/facilitating learning rather than being the centre of attention
  • Less stress and more positive classroom ethos. More time spent learning resulting in better progress, achievement, attainment and results! Balanced partnership between teachers and pupils with ethos of mutual respect
  • Relevant, useful learning at school resulting in improved health and wellbeing, better community links and spirit and more parent helpers.
  • Systematic approach to offering professional learning opportunities to school science educators at all levels supported by the appointment of a science officer for every authority
  • Aspirational students with tools to get there. Pupils would know more about how they learn best as individuals. Every learner values themselves and their skills/abilities. And develops as responsible and independent citizens who are lifelong learners with a positive, can-do attitude.
  • Scotland will be globally competitive with a skilled workforce which brings inward investment and creates new business. There will be less unemployment with better prospects and equity in society
  • More flexible resources and approaches to learning (incl. online resources) with an increase in peer support across the school.

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment.

Aug 042014
 

Delegates attending our third conversation day at Millburn Academy were asked to reflect on the findings of Education Scotland’s Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Impact Report and, through group discussion, identify what they saw as the key priorities for action.

Priority areas for action

The priorities below are listed in order of prevalence. Those mentioned more frequently in group responses appear closest to the top of the list.

  1. Cluster approach – Local cluster science improvement plans should be developed – early years/primary/secondary school links, including links with further and higher education institutions, should be further developed to allow staff access to specialist equipment and expertise and to facilitate dialogue between practitioners.
  2. Primary science – There is a lack of specialist knowledge in primary schools. There is a need to increase access to and quantity of science learning pre-secondary by building confidence of primary practitioners. Science should be made explicit in primary schools – not just taught through interdisciplinary learning. There is a role for science champions in primary.
  3. Transitions between early years, primary and secondary and into work/FE/HE need to be improved. There should be planned progression through increased dialogue within and between centres and clear maps of learning and contexts.
  4. Leadership for sciences within schools at every level, including learners, should be developed to ensure support is in place and to facilitate good communication.
  5. Pupil voice should be strengthened at departmental and whole school level – the experiences of learners, and their involvement in decision-making, can be used to drive improvement. There is a need to develop a culture of talking to learners and including them in evaluation of learning. Facilitation of informal feedback should be encouraged and programmes of learning should be explained to learners.
  6. Better and more accessible links with industry, including STEM ambassadors, are required – it is essential to secure the involvement of people with real experience of STEM subjects. A coherent approach, and mapping process, is required to pull together different agencies and employers to ensure support structures are in place and to make young people aware of job opportunities.
  7. Learning and teaching in sciences needs to be dynamic and up to date so that learners understand the relevance and applications of their learning. More outdoor learning and interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary learning (IDL) should be encouraged to put science into context. There should be consistency in terms of the provision of high quality learning and teaching in sciences.
  8. Increased opportunities for science related career-long professional development, including through initial teacher education, should be made available to develop enthusiastic, confident and skilled practitioners who employ effective teaching strategies.
  9. Resources – Practitioners need to know about the resources out there. Funding to local authorities and partner agencies should be prioritised to ensure all centres are well equipped. Effective dissemination of available resources is required including online resources, outdoor spaces for learning etc. Education Scotland should consider developing a resource bank with download log and feedback.
  10. Practitioners would benefit from increased sharing of good practice at all stages.
  11.  Skills – There is a need to improve knowledge and expectations in terms of wider skills development.
  12. Science a priority – Raising the awareness of education leaders, directors of education, head teachers, councillors of the importance of science is necessary. They should all recognise that science and STEM is a priority.

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment.

Aug 042014
 

Delegates attending our second conversation day at Bishopbriggs Academy identified four priority theme for sciences:

  1. Equity in education – science for all
  2. The importance of planning across school clusters
  3. Career long professional learning and support for practitioners
  4. Partnerships

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views regarding the fourth priority which addressed partnerships.

Delegates viewed that:

  • Need to ensure STEM is added to local authority plans as a priority, with weight added by national government:
  • Competing demands of secondary schools is a particular issue – work on new national qualifications is a priority
  • Schools have been getting to grips with some of the key aspects of CfE, including the ‘responsibility of all’ areas
  • East Dunbartonshire had offered a presentation on the 3-18 Sciences report to its schools, which had then prompted primary schools to integrate sciences into their planning.
    • Need to consolidate all of our efforts and join up our business (especially in the context of dwindling resources).
    • Partnerships tend to depend on postcode lottery – need coherent approach and consistency across the country.
    • Partners should move towards provision of long-term support – in some areas they are already queuing up to be involved. They also need to move from promoting their own interests to promoting a common purpose.
    • Activity with partners still tends to be an add-on – we need to embed it within learning.
    • The business case is compelling but is not being communicated in terms of the impact on children.
    • We need to celebrate success stories from the STEM Ambassador network for instance.
    • Teachers are a vital source of career information but their knowledge about jobs in science in inconsistent – we need to address this.
    • It is important that everyone has a sense of the existing landscape – the new SSAC Coordinator can help with this task. This will bring coherence and a sense of common purpose to our activities.
    • Education Scotland has a role to help make connections between schools, partners and different organisations and needs to consider the validation or endorsement of providers.
    • We need to consider the role of specialists to support STEM activity within clusters:
      • Connection with STEM  Ambassadors
      • Work with the science centres and HE
      • Ensuring partnerships are meaningful and not ‘one-off’ – they should dovetail with on-going learning.
  • The example of the Department of Geosciences at Edinburgh University was cited as a model for partnership working – final year undergraduate students have been working with a school cluster. The schools have gained but also the university students have gained too in terms of employability skills, communication skills etc. This work provides them with 20 credits towards their degree qualification.

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment.

Aug 042014
 

Delegates attending our second conversation day at Bishopbriggs Academy identified four priority theme for sciences:

  1.     Equity in education – science for all
  2.     The importance of planning across school clusters
  3.    Career long professional learning and support for practitioners
  4.    Partnerships

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views regarding the third priority which addressed career long professional learning and support for practitioners.

Delegates viewed that:

  • More emphasis needs to be placed on recognition of lifelong learning for all practitioners:
    • Need to provide support from FE, HE and industry
    • There should be a clear opportunity for teachers to extend learning to master’s-level
    • Drawing together of HE and other organisations to facilitate a move towards accreditation.
  • Specialist support for teachers may be of benefit – potentially in the form of a visiting specialist.  Children age 9 + would be appropriate target audience.
  • There is often an artificial connection between formal and informal science education – and a recognition that the structured/rigid way which science is taught in secondary schools needs to change to reflect the realities of the wider world.
  • Promoting science in the classroom is not solely about teaching resources – teaching method (pedagogy) and leadership are key to success:
    • Need to ensure that there is a focus on STEM skills, rather than just content
    • Role of interdisciplinary learning is important – Bishopbriggs Academy has been undertaking an interdisciplinary project on the Commonwealth Games which connected with science learning.
  • Initial Teacher Education has to recognise importance of STEM specialism – primary schools need access to teacher specialism
  • Important to influence the work of the National Implementation Board to ensure needs of education system in relation to sciences are met
  • Need to ensure that newly qualified teachers (NQTs) have appropriate level of support to ensure their practice aligns to principles of CfE
  • Teacher support in sciences:
    • How does a leader create an environment for a practitioner to thrive?
    • Need to involve learners in prioritising improvements
    • We need to move away from tick box approach in identifying outcomes.
  • Practitioners in primary schools are mostly not science graduates but the question was raised whether practitioners need a science background to be able to teach science effectively?
  • CLPL in science needs to be targeted at all staff – not single practitioners.

  Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment.

Aug 042014
 

Delegates attending our second conversation day at Bishopbriggs Academy identified four priority theme for sciences:

  1.     Equity in education – science for all
  2.     The importance of planning across school clusters
  3.     Career long professional learning and support for practitioners
  4.     Partnerships

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views regarding the second priority which addressed the importance of planning across school clusters.

Delegates saw cluster working as being important for a number of reasons:

  • It is a key way of ensuring primary and secondary colleagues can learn from each other, and also build an understanding of learning and expectations for learners in each sector
  • It provides opportunities to support the professional development of practitioners
  • Issue of priorities – will clusters have science on their list of subjects to cover?
  • Pressures of resource and time to establish and continue effective clusters.  Teacher cover can be an issue, despite local authorities provide funds to pay
  • Need to give teachers adequate time for professional learning. Could an allocation be offered for a ‘block’ of cover for science?
  • Stronger cluster work could help address lack of consistency in primary experiences across a local authority – benefits for secondary in terms of ensuring good pupil progression.

 Primary and primary/secondary transition should be seen as a priority for cluster working:

  • STEM needs to be on school improvement plans
  • Will see benefits for learners once they reach secondary school in terms of seamless transition/progression
  • We need to avoid the fresh start approach in secondary schools – a greater focus on transition and progression is required
  • More time is required for secondary teachers teaching S1 secondary classes to work with primary counterparts
  • How can we encourage schools to use exemplification, and build on what is already being done?
  • Pressures of asking primary schools to take on development of all subjects
  • Signposting of support needed – what’s the best use of school funds and time?
  • Important to ensure smooth transitions, not just from primary to secondary, but also beyond school education into HE/FE or work.

 Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment.

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