STEM cpd (Part 2)

This evening I attended the second part of the STEM cpd, following on from last week’s visit to the Verdant works.

This time we had the opportunity to try out an activity or learning idea that we might use with a class. I chose to make a loom:

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I was able to try out some of the tools and equipment which may be available to a class, and to experience some of the challenges that children might experience. I found that sawing the notches in my loom was difficult and if I was going to use this activity then I would need to consider alternatives. We also looked at some different joints that could be used. I opted for the simplest method which was to glue the pieces end to end, reinforcing the joint using cardboard triangles. It might be interesting to use this as a learning point with the children and to experiment with which joints are the strongest.

Here are a couple of the other creations from this evening:

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I really loved the miniature bricks and think that this would be a lovely way to explore architecture. This team found that creating the archway was a challenge and noted that they would use a mould or frame in future.

The car lift is made using hydraulics where one large syringe is connected to 3 smaller ones. When the large syringe is squeezed, the water splits into the 3 small ones causing them to lift the car.


This cpd gave me lots of ideas and lots of food for thought. It was clear to see how this hands on style of learning could add depth to a subject and help to make it more meaningful. I was proud of my accomplishments and can imagine how satisfied a pupil may feel.


How do I learn?

Learning Styles

In the past, I have used the VARK system (Fleming, 2001) to reflect on my learning style, which showed that I am mainly a read/write learner. This means that I learn best by reading over material, taking time to digest it and then writing answers, responses or notes. Since completing the VARK test last year, I have also worked to develop my learning so that I can become more of an auditory and visual learner. I feel that it is most beneficial to be able to use a variety of learning techniques and therefore I will continue to experiment to find styles that work for me.

On completing the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory test, I discovered that I fit into the type ISFJ. This means that I am fairly introverted, use my own personal values and beliefs when making decisions and avoid conflict. I would agree with the characteristics; especially the idea that I learn best when given alone time to reflect and think about what has been covered. One area of my personality that does not seem to fit in with the MBTI assessment is that I am not afraid to express my opinions and ideas in a group. In fact, I am quite often the first to offer a response as I like to be involved in discussions and to receive feedback.

Active Learning

I found the video about active learning to be really interesting. It confirmed some of the ideas that I had already thought about regarding rewriting and going over my notes to ensure that there are no gaps in my understanding. This will also mean that they can be a useful resource in the future.


I think that this understanding about different learning styles and active learning will also be useful when I become a teacher. It is important to recognise that all children are individuals and approach learning in their own ways. As a teacher I will need to provide activities and learning opportunities that can meet the needs of my class, including children who like to get ‘hands on’ and learn practically in groups and those children who prefer to work alone or quietly.

Working Co-operatively

Being able to work effectively in a group is an essential life skill. Throughout my studies there is much to be gained through working with others such as clarification of ideas, discussions about different topics and the potential for new approaches to be introduced. Everyone within a group is coming in with different backgrounds and life experiences. We all have different levels of education and most importantly; all have different personalities! I feel that bringing together these varied individuals allows us to gain a much deeper and broader understanding of any topics that we are working on.

In the past, when working in a group I have found myself trying to become a leader. I do feel that I have some skills in this area, but after reading Belbin’s 9  team roles I have decided that I am actually more effective as an ‘implementer’. I am dedicated, hard-working and like to get the task done.


Working co-operatively will be a large part of my future role as a teacher. I will be expected to work effectively with other teachers and members of staff within the school as well as outside professionals. I must be able to share my own thoughts and opinions while accepting and understanding those of others. Through doing this I hope to be able to build effective partnerships and relationships that will allow me to be a highly successful practitioner.

My Learning

As part of our online tasks, I was asked to reflect on the things that help or hinder my learning. I feel that it was useful to consider the factors that may become an issue, while positively planning ways to address them.

Recognition/ Reflection Action
What helps my learning? How can I utilise this?
Having good quality notes to review ·         When taking notes, write as much as possible in my own words·         Use colour coding or highlighters to make key information stand out
Having a clear plan of what time I have and how I am going to use it ·         Continue to use ‘to do’ lists, diaries and time tables in order to ensure that time is not wasted and a good balance between studies, work and home life is achieved
Sharing and discussing with colleagues ·         Make use of the discussion boards in order to connect with fellow students·         Use the eportfolio to discuss and share ideas

·         Continue to be a part of communities on twitter where current teachers as well as student teachers connect

Having an effective and organised work space ·         Ensure that my study space is kept clear and free from distractions where possible·         Keep resources (note pads, pens, reading materials) in study space so that time is not wasted finding them
Recognition/Reflection Action
What hinders my learning? How can I address this factor?
Feeling overwhelmed ·         Use my timetables, lists and diary to make sure that I am using my time effectively·         Take breaks while studying

·         Talk to my fellow students about work

Becoming distracted by other chores and responsibilities ·         Set aside dedicated time for household chores and other work·         Use the library for dedicated study time so that I am away from the house
Staring too many things at once and not having a clear focus ·         Time management and effective planning will allow me to keep on track
Distracted by Social Media ·         I will aim not to have my phone with me when I am studying
Not being ‘present’ in the lesson and distracted by taking very detailed notes ·         Look over lecture ppt or notes before the lecture where possible·         Only take notes of additional information that is not on the ppt or will not be uploaded to the VLE

·         Following the lecture, go over the ppt or materials and take notes.


Girls are from Venus, Boys are from Mars

I’ll be honest, my primary school days seem like a very long time ago! When I think back, I can honestly say that there were no occasions when I was made to feel different or separate due to my gender. For me, this all began when I moved into secondary school and started making subject (and later career) choices. One particular example was when choosing our work experience placements; it was clear to see that the boys were being placed in more manual roles whereas many girls were steered towards the caring settings.

During my primary school years I was lucky to have a mix of male and female teachers. I think that this was important and very beneficial to me as each teacher brings their own individual style and it can be argued that males and females approach tasks differently. While attending placements in recent years, I have often found that primary teaching is female dominated. I hope that this is a trend that will change as I truly feel that strong role models from both sexes provide children with the greatest school experience.

When I was at school, it tended to be  the case that girls played with other girls and boys played with other boys. It would be unusual for a girl to have a boy as a best friend. It seems that this attitude has begun to change, as when I observed the children in some of my placements, girls and boys seemed to be far more mixed during their free play time.

Although I believe it is important to recognise and celebrate the differences between individuals, I do not think that gender should be used for separation and categorisation. It should never impact on the opportunities or experiences that children are given.




After writing this, I stumbled across this article which is a really interesting read about a 7 year old transgender child and how the school went about supporting them. It is a lovely success story and really encouraging to see the steps that can be taken so that each and every child’s needs can be met. I think this ties in with the ethos of GIRFEC where children are listened to and their views are taken seriously. Sadly, the article goes on to say that many schools are not so understanding. I think that the heads of these schools need to consider their overall goal and address their out-dated views in order to meet the needs of today’s children.

This quote stood out to me: “As teachers, we have to educate everyone about difference and not segregate.” (Barnes, founder of Educate and Celebrate)

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Get the children outdoors!

While driving home today, I heard a news story about children failing to get enough exercise and the potential dangers of this including cardio-vascular disease and even diabetes.

This got me thinking about the responsibility of schools and teachers with regard to the health and wellbeing of young children. How can children be expected to achieve high academic grades if their health is poor? Some children may not have gardens or outdoor spaces, or have opportunities to join sporting clubs due to money or family situations and therefore it is essential for teachers to plan energetic and outdoor opportunities into school time.

I also started thinking about the types of exercise and energetic learning that is offered to children during school. In my experience, it is fairly limited within PE, sports days and ‘play times’ or breaks.

During my own childhood I was not very sporty and I found organised, competitive games very off putting. As an adult I continue to avoid competitive sport and I am useless at the gym, however I have discovered a love for walking and exploring natural areas such as hills, beaches and forests. As a teacher I hope that I can bring a variety of experiences to the children that will allow them to be active in ways that they all can enjoy. I am very passionate about outdoor learning and feel that, if planned and implemented carefully, this could be used as a helpful tool for instilling a healthy lifestyle from an early age.

Find article “77% of children not getting enough exercise” here

Reflections on ‘Study Skills’ reading

‘The Study Skills Book’ by Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers is a book which includes lots of practical guidance and advice for those moving into the realms of higher education and university. I have found it an interesting and informative book so far and am sure that it will be a valuable resource as I continue my studies.

Starting out

Being a mature student who has lived away from home for many years; I am confident with negotiating bills and household finance. Despite this, money continues to be an area of concern for me and I am currently considering the option of a part time job. I do not want to take on anything which will have a detrimental impact on my studies; particularly as I’ve had to give up so much in order to get to where I am now. This is not a decision that I will take lightly.

The book covers much about getting settled into a new city and a new home, however this does not apply to me as I have lived in Dundee for over 6 years now.

Adapting to University studies

I have always been an organised person who thrives on schedules, diaries and lists. Over the last year, as I completed my Access course at Dundee and Angus College, I was able to improve my study space at home so that it can be used effectively. I was also able to become well practiced at planning and using my time wisely in order to complete tasks and reading for a range of subjects while also keeping on top of the demands of everyday life. This is a skill which will be invaluable throughout my time at University and indeed in my career.

During my previous studies I looked into the different learning styles and found myself to be mostly read/write orientated. However I also discovered that visual notes are effective and this is a method which I have begun to use in my own note taking; using mind maps and spider diagrams where appropriate.

The style of teaching and learning at University is an area of excitement for me. I am used to conducting my own reading and research, as I have done much of this through my work within the Early Years and also during my college studies. I feel that taking so much responsibility for my work and learning will allow me to take pride in the results that I achieve.

In the past I have found that reading over the PowerPoint notes beforehand is a helpful method of being able to remain focused and present during the lecture. I hope to continue this method while taking a few notes which can prompt or remind me of areas to conduct further reading.

Development of personal skills

I feel that my life experiences, career and previous studies have provided me with a selection of useful, transferrable skills, however there are also many which I hope to improve and develop over the coming years. I have identified a few of my own areas of improvement, including:

  • Take more risks and occasionally move out of my comfort zone
  • Become able to accept professional criticism and avoid taking it personally
  • Become more confident with maths and numerical problems
  • Reflect on my experiences and learning effectively in order to make improvements or change in the future.

I am already taking steps to improve myself, for example; I will continue to use this blog in order to develop my reflective skills. I will continue to reflect on my own skills while completing the Online Tasks that have been set.

My overall goal and what I’m hoping university will provide me

My goal is to become a skilled and high quality primary teacher which is why I will continue to work hard in order to achieve my potential. I hope to succeed in my education and come away with a good final qualification which will open doors to me. In longer term I also hope to begin a family and also to travel around Scotland, as I have not yet explored much outside of the main cities.

University could be said to limit my options as I am taking a specific course with a specific end role, however as a mature student I feel that I have had enough time and experience to make a fully informed decision about where I want to go, and therefore this focussed route is the most appropriate.

In 5 years time I hope to be fully qualified and feeling confident as I begin my long term career. I hope that university will help to develop my personal and professional skills so that eventually I may be able to take on some extra responsibilities; for example some leadership roles.


One of our TDT’s this week was to watch this clip from RSAnimate:



This video discusses the fact that our education system remains very much unchanged from when schooling became available to all, whereas our children and the needs of our society have changed greatly. I was particularly interested in the part about Divergent Thinking and the fact that children start by being able to think laterally about concepts but this ability declines as they are ‘educated’. It reminded me of this cartoon which really illustrates the idea that we are not teaching our children to think for themselves, only to conform and think in the way that ‘we’ have decided is right. It also shows that a teacher cannot teach children to think in new and different ways if they continue to think in the same, closed and traditional ways.



I am a strong believer that this needs to change and children need to be allowed and encouraged to be individuals; learning in ways that excite and inspire them. I feel that the Curriculum for Excellence has begun to take steps in the right direction, placing more focus on children’s interests however this seems to become less important as children move through their school life and have to focus on learning the concepts and information which will be covered within formal tests and assessments.

By challenging our traditional approaches to teaching and learning, we may be able to open up education to those who are currently failed by the system, and (as mentioned in the above video) we can hopefully move away from sorting individuals into the two very narrow categories of ‘academic’ or ‘non academic’.

Reflecting on STEM cpd

This evening I was fortunate enough to attend a cpd course held at the Verdant Works which encouraged us to explore the possibilities of this setting for STEM based learning and lessons. The course was open to a wide range of teaching professionals including postgrads and high school teachers and so this was a good opportunity to meet and mix with those who have had different experiences to my own.

As part of this course we were invited to explore the museum and exhibitions, as well as the learning areas which can be used if teachers were to bring groups. One of the most interesting features of the visit was the huge steam engine, which I am told will be functioning soon so that visitors can get an understanding of how it worked. There are also wonderful displays of the process of creating Jute – from the plant to the finished product which included demonstrations of real, working machines.

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Although I was excited and interested in what I saw, I found that I was struggling to take this into a STEM mindset and think about how I could plan learning activities and experiences appropriately around this subject matter. I tend to find that I lean towards creative and literary learning ideas and this experienced caused me to realise that I need to strengthen my knowledge of the STEM outcomes. I plan to do some research and reading to this end and this will help me during the second session of this cpd where we plan to carry out some of the possible activities.

My story so far and where I’m going next

How did I come to this point?

From a very young age, I always knew that I wanted to work with children. I was inspired by my mother who worked both as a child minder and nursery nurse and as I spent time with her in these roles, I experienced the  satisfaction of sharing in the children’s achievements.

On completing my GCSE’s I felt that my strengths were not within academia, but rather I was eager to get out into the working world. I chose to undertake a BTEC National Diploma in Early Years which allowed me to develop my professional knowledge while undertaking many hours of practical placements. This course allowed me to spend time with children aged from babies to 10 years and it was at this time that I began to recognise that my strengths laid within the education rather than care side of childcare. My favourite placements were within schools where I was able to work with and support the most fantastic and inspirational teachers. I also enjoyed my time within pre-school settings and at that point I felt that this age group would be the most suited to my skills.

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After the BTEC course I worked within numerous nursery settings both within England and Scotland, always working with older children and finding a great joy in helping them to learn and develop. While working, my confidence began to grow, allowing me to take on positions of responsibility such as room leader and later Deputy Manager.

The decision to move into Primary Teaching came while working as the Deputy Manager at my last job within a fantastic nature nursery. When taking the position I had been promised that I would continue to spend the majority of my time interacting with the children, but as the management workload had built up I was finding that I spent less and less time doing what I loved best. I spent many hours discussing with colleagues and loved ones about where I felt my career was heading and with their support I decided to push myself and take a chance on moving into higher education, specifically; to undertake the MA Education Course.

I was incredibly nervous when making this life change as I had never considered myself to be particularly academic and I wondered whether I would be able to cope with the demands that would be placed on me. I undertook an Access course which allowed me to gain the qualifications that I needed for teacher training and while there I discovered my love for learning and was amazed to find that my hard work allowed me to achieve better grades than I believed possible!

What kind of teacher do I want to become?

During my time working in early years settings, I have come to understand the importance of strong bonds and relationships between adults and children. I have found that the best practitioners are those who are open, honest and have a true interest in what the children and their families have to say. I hope to bring these skills to my work within the classroom and to become the kind of teacher who allows every pupil to feel valued and listened to.

My work within the nature nursery has opened my eyes to the many benefits of outdoor learning, from greater concentration and focus to creative skills and health and wellbeing. This is an area which I have found a great passion for and would like to continue as I begin working with older children.

Finally, I feel that I am an enthusiastic and positive individual and I would like to become the type of teacher who other staff can approach for support, ideas and guidance where possible. Within a School setting, no teacher is an individual and everyone is working with a common goal which is to provide children with the greatest possible experiences and opportunities throughout their education. I hope that in the future I can be a valuable member of any team that I am a part of.