Tag Archives: progression

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

At our first face-to-face conversation day in December 2012, delegates heard from young people and practitioners, before joining in discussion in groups to review the key strengths and aspects for development from the Sciences 3-18 Curriculum Area Impact Project report. Groups were asked to consider, what are the key priorities for transforming sciences education over the next 3 to 5 years? Groups discussed key priorities for sciences education, reflecting on the report’s findings and on their own views. We shared these discussions in our 23rd January post.

In the afternoon session, groups selected one of the priorities to explore in more depth, using the Implento tool. Almost all groups chose the same issue – raising confidence of practitioners teaching sciences within the broad general education – and through the afternoon sessions identified actions to help achieve this were discussed.

Below are the discussion notes, in the delegates’ own words:

We decided to work through the following action:

Boosting confidence of practitioners teaching sciences within the broad general education

We identified the following worst fears and outcomes from this action:

status quo; learning and teaching does not improve; teaching to the test is the norm and learners are exposed only to content without higher-order thinking skills; lack of scientific inquiry;

primary sector not including sciences;

science taught is less topical, and lacks creativity; teaching is in discrete subjects and chunks;

children and young people are less interested, and less confident, in STEM subjects; uptake falls;  children and young people have poor scientific literacy, general population is less scientifically literate;

staff feel overwhelmed and disillusioned; loss of practitioners from the profession;

political demand for specialists, diminishing resources;

the skills gap increases; Scotland’s economy suffers, low-tech economy unable to support high-tech business;

decline in life chances, choices and opportunities for young people.


The following actions were suggested to recover from this negative picture:

review, gather evidence, revisit the programme of support; clear and concise documentation for educational matters;

ensure greater accountability;

address leadership weaknesses at all levels—including continuity and school and council level; ITE and GTCS working together to promote strong leadership;

work collaboratively to identify and build body of excellent practice; practitioners involved in building support networks, peer learning and support; practitioners and resources updated; professional learning for and by practitioners becomes outcome and impact-based;

ensure high-quality learning and teaching with on-going professional learning, accompanied by quality dialogue about learning and teaching; use of professional learning communities, for example teacher learning communities; encourage practitioners to undertake classroom based research;

engage with learners and parents to enthuse about science before it becomes a chore; emphasise skills in science to meet industry needs and enthuse learners;

consideration of assessment methods; is the test worthwhile? Is it testing what matters? Learners able to self-select evidence of learning; change community ideas of value of the test by working together;

advantageous tax rates for new, high-tech businesses.


We saw the following positive outcomes as real possibilities:

science for all—not elitist;

Scotland established centre of excellence for science with room for diversity;

better communication and collaboration across all sectors;

increased uptake in STEM by all young people; increase in males in biology and females in physics;

children and young people being given, accepting and eventually demanding responsibility for their own learning; practitioners learning from children and young people with informed debate between learners and staff; children and young people talking about science and more confident;

learners exhibit increased curiosity, creativity, skills development, confidence; increased literacy and scientific literacy;

confident and enthusiastic staff, meeting the needs of individuals, with the confidence to apply science to every-day events;

scientific thinking informs other subjects; clearer natural interdisciplinary learning and understanding; science is relevant, and genuinely inquiry-based;

engaged learners and communities; better parental engagement and understanding of science.

The following were suggested as ways to build on the positive outcomes:

re-identifying the priority: the learner at the centre and development of the four capacities; implementation in an holistic way maintaining performance and enthusiasm; education authorities working together;

collaborating closely between industry and academia to reinforce shared goal outcomes, ES role in encouraging and supporting this;

promoting the development of school leadership;

developing learning communities in education authorities and online; developing mentoring and peer support within education authorities; continue to support publication of reports by online engagement;

creating a portal of research for practitioners and commissioning independent research;

sharing good practice and parental involvement that is apparent in early years to continue into all sectors of education; sharing excellent practice and identifying “champion” schools;

exemplifying excellence in learning and teaching; filtering and recommending practical classroom resources; exemplification of science investigation and inquiry within broad general education;

developing shared understanding of relevant skills,  skills progression and how to develop these skills; emphasise development of higher-order thinking skills and build these into National 4 and 5;

sharing lessons learned in the sciences across other curriculum areas;

planning for contextualised learning with the big ideas of sciences understood; planning across four aspects of the curriculum, and for 3-18 in a seamless way;

ensuring professional learning has a focus on the national perspective and linking to national agenda, with local quality assurance of provision;

reviewing ITE selection processes.

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 exemplification

In our 10th December discussion day, exemplification of learning and teaching within the broad general education and senior phase was discussed as being helpful to practitioners.

One of Education Scotland’s approaches to this within the sciences is through STEM Central, our web based resource which provides rich, stimulating and challenge contexts for learning, exemplifying how to make connections between sciences, technologies and mathematics in strong Scottish contexts. The contexts published to date include energy-saving house, electric transport, water, renewables, bioengineering, games and sound, with our latest context “Rescue Vehicles” going live very soon.

Within each context is a selection of teaching ideas, activities, videos and interactives, designed to help practitioners plan learning and teaching, identifying and using quality STEM resources from partners and the web. Learning journeys also exemplify how to incorporate responsibilities for all, and develop capabilities, attributes and higher-order thinking skills.

Practitioners working with colleagues have found it helpful to use the learning journeys as the basis for talking together to understand standards. STEM Central has also been used to support primary / secondary cluster work to plan for progression through the broad general education. In this context, as well as using the STEM Central resources directly, staff have found that they can use the STEM Central approaches as the basis for their own planning.

Learning and teaching in the Senior Phase is also exemplified through our published advice and guidance.  Over the last six months this has included advice, guidance and exemplification of themes for learning such as Food Security, Energy Security and Health, as well as exemplfication of learning and teaching to support skills development.

Recently published Professional Focus Papers highlight important features of learning which are enhanced or different from previous arrangements at SCQF 4 and 5.

How are you using exemplfication as the basis for professional dialogue, planning for learning and teaching or directly in your classroom?

Talk with us…about using the Concept Development in conjunction with Es and Os

Within the report, the Concept Development in the sciences (2009) paper was highlighted in a number of sections:

“too many teachers across all sectors are unaware of the Sciences: Concept development in the sciences (2009) paper which should be used in tandem with the sciences experiences and outcomes (2009)”; 

“too many staff from across all sectors are still not aware of the Sciences: Concept development in the sciences (2009) paper and learning consequently lacks depth in a few key areas”;

“there is a need to ensure that learning sequences are well-planned to develop concepts in a coherent way. The Sciences: Concept development in the sciences (2009) paper could be used better as the basis for such planning.”

The Concept Development paper can be used by practitioners to aid understanding of level of complexity and depth of treatment.

Consider two Es and Os:

By investigating floating and sinking of objects in water, I can apply my understanding of buoyancy to solve a practical challenge. SCN 2-08b

Through experimentation, I can explain floating and sinking in terms of the relative densities of different materials. SCN 4-08b

Both talk about “floating and sinking” so how do these differ? What makes one appropriate to second level and the other fourth? The Concept Development paper fleshes this out to illustrate the depth of treatment at second level.

“At second level (SCN 2-08b), experiments on floating and sinking allow learners to identify materials which are lighter (less dense) or heavier (more dense) than water. They can carry out a practical challenge to design, construct and test objects made from more dense materials but which will float.”

Notice also that the fourth level outcome calls for explanation rather than investigation and application, and explanation in terms of relative density which is more challenging conceptually.

Now consider:

I have collaborated in investigations to compare magnetic, electrostatic and gravitational forces and have explored their practical applications. SCN 2-08a

Is this “too hard” for second level?  Is SCN2-08a more difficult than fourth level SCN4-08b because “floating and sinking” sounds easier?

The Concept Development paper again fleshes out depth of treatment and complexity, to illustrate what this looks like at second level, and the purpose of the learning associated with this E&O.

“At first and second levels (SCN 1-08a and SCN 2-08a), playing with magnets introduces learners to forces which can act over a distance and helps them identify magnetic materials (most commonly iron, but also nickel and cobalt) and non-magnetic materials (e.g. aluminium, copper and brass, and all nonmetals).

At second level they develop their understanding of forces by exploring magnetic, electrostatic and gravitational forces as examples of forces which can act over a distance (i.e. the objects do not need to touch). An important distinction for learners is that they recognise that magnetic and electrostatic forces can attract or repel, while gravitational forces always attract. They learn that the force of gravity between two objects is normally only observed when one object has a very large mass e.g. the Earth or the sun.”

STEM Central materials on Rescue Vehicles for second level explore approaches to learning and teaching incorporating SCN2-08b, exemplifying what this can look like in practice in the context of flood rescue. Currently in development, publication is anticipated early in 2013.  

STEM Central in Motion offers ideas around learning and teaching for STEM subjects, and our new STEM Professional Learning Community at bit.ly/stemhome  (Glow login required) offers a place for educators to share, and to access professional learning associated with STEM, using community tools to measure impact.