A survey in science education for school children in the USA has proven that although the students understand the facts they lack any real understanding in how to apply the science. Maybe this outcome once again proves the ancient Chinese proverb; “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” The real problem is how this can be achieved in an already hectic teaching programme.
Archive for June, 2012
The UK Labour party is mounting an attack on the proposals by Michael Gove to reintroduce O level exams in secondary schools. Replacing the ailing GCSE exams, Labour see the move by the government as “consigning young people to the scrapheap.” The courageous move by the secretary of state for education to pull UK schooling ahead of to reverse the disastrous downward trend decade in the standard of academic achievement in secondary schools as measured by the OECD.
Educational Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove is on a roll. Having announced the potential reintroduction of O levels in secondary education he is now planning to wage war on poor performing primary schools. Hundreds of schools rated poor during Ofsted inspections will be turned into academies. Defending the expected teaching union negative reaction to academies schools academies damned if you do damned of you do not. Michael Gove said “It would be morally reprehensible to allow children to be taught in poor schools year after year.”
As we learn of the financial hardship being experienced by 7 million professional families that are finding it hard to cope, could there be a solution to boost the income of families with school children by copying the Australian initiative.
From the 1st of January 2013 families receiving tax benefit part A will receive Aus$ 410 for each child in primary school and Aus$ 820 for each child in secondary school. The payment is designed to help the families of 2.2 million school kids pay for uniforms, books, school excursions, stationery, and other costs like music lessons and sports registration fees.
Guest blog by Tudor Davies.
If you think back to your time at school then your former teachers will fall into several different categories, such as the boffin professor who told you fact after fact, the strict teacher who made you work hard, the apathetic teacher who just told you what you needed to know and the passionate teacher who made learning fun. Now, let me ask you: “which one do you mostly fondly remember?” and “which one taught you something that you still remember?” For the most part, people will say the passionate teacher but how can current and prospective teachers become that type of teacher? What do they need to know and what approach should they take? Well, keep reading.
Realise that you are shaping minds A lot of teachers are under the impression that teaching is about making students learn facts, well it’s not. It’s about inspiring students to think for themselves and to asks questions rather than just parrot responses. You are really teaching students to have a love of knowledge, which will hopefully shape the way that they see the world and will stay with them for the rest of their lives. So rather than sticking rigidly to a lesson plan, try to be more creative by implementing more interactive activities. For example, get students to have discussions between themselves or have group activities where they have to solve the problem or find the answer to a question without your help. The new Thinking Dice is an ideal catalyst to start discussions flowing.
Think twice about giving students the answer When someone asks you a question it is very tempting to just give them an answer but in order to instil a love of knowledge in students you really should refrain. Instead, ask a student their opinion or ask them to express their view on how to discover the answer, etc. Obviously this approach is less appropriate for subjects like mathematics and yet for English, PHSE and even science it is perfect. Students need to realise that the question and having a desire to answer that question are much more important than discovering the right answer.
Right or wrong doesn’t matter One of the disheartening things about being a teacher is when you see a student that is afraid of getting the answer wrong, so they just don’t say anything. As our educational system and society is goal orientated you can understand why students come to think in this way, so as a teacher you need to make them realise that right or wrong don’t matter. Instead a student needs to appreciate that trying to discover the answer is a lot more important than getting the answer right. Effort is more important than attainment, as some of the most successful people in the world have overcome educational shortcomings by applying themselves and putting in the effort.
Learning needs to be subliminal If you adopt the right approach then you will find that you can teach without having to stand by the whiteboard reading from the text book. Often by setting a group activity, showing students a video or setting up a class experiment students can learn something new without realising that they are doing so. It is amazing that by making lessons interactive, dynamic and fresh you can subtly make students understand and remember facts in a way that you couldn’t with other teaching methods.
So if you’d like to be the passionate teacher that all your students remember many years from now then try to implement one, two or maybe all of the techniques above.
This is a guest blog by Tudor Davies who is a former psychology lecturer at Stoke College. He is currently working within the online marketing industry and is writing on behalf of Hardy Farm student residence in Manchester.
The provision of educational inspectorates in our schooling system has a clear mandate; to police systems, procedures and standards in our academic establishments. A clear and responsible duty but sadly Ofsted and Ofqual have erred on their respective duties much to the dismay of our teaching resources, parents and students.
With around 33,000 schools, 450, 000 teachers and 12.5m school children the stakes are high. Get it right and the UK educational standards can be judged to be safely improving as we would all wish and frankly expect. Get it wrong and the system falls into disrepute at the speed of light. It would be crass to assume something as vast as our educational schooling can run itself; there are too many factors involved. It therefore becomes a basic integer of a sound educational system that the checks and balances of the schooling system are steadfast and effective. We owe this to the students.
Yet we still struggle to maintain effective control. Successive Secretaries of State for Education have come and gone with desperately short tenures. Heads of Ofsted, the independent educational inspectorate, have started their tour of duty with high expectations and equal frustrations. Many have been recruited from the teaching profession, adopting the poacher turned gamekeeper role. And they certainly have a job to complete. The challenge is enormous. To achieve any success the head of Ofsted must possess the steadfast ability to challenge the government and motivate the teaching profession. Get it wrong and the Ofsted head is seen as a pariah by the teaching profession and an outcast by the government. It takes a brave unwavering soul to succeed.
Chris Woodhead some 18 years ago accepted the challenge. He, unlike his many processors could see a strategy to make a change. He gained acceptance from teachers and challenged the department for education whom he accused of failing to maintain the progressive educational standards our children needed. He achieved notoriety rather than outright success. In the end the system beat him. He retired frustrated still full of ideas and criticisms that harangue the system even today. Sir Michael Wilshaw the current head of Ofsted has an equally daunting task. The system hasn’t improved that much. Educational standards are still falling. Children are still subjected to manipulation of academic criteria and results induced by the dreaded achievement of targets. The Ofsted inspections are loathed rather than welcomed. And to cap it all Ofsted have been discovered to have been deploying cut and paste report writing tactics that would fail any student for plagiarism.
The biggest problem lies in the need to police the educational system. Simplistically the values and experience of Ofsted do not seem to be passed on. Sir Michael Wilshaw proved himself to be an exceptional head teacher in an inner city school that was ailing and failing. By the time he left Mossbourne academy in Hackney, London, its achievements were inspirational. The real benefit to our schooling system and the teaching profession would be to capture this knowledge and ability and project it as a positive function to head teachers and government departments. The inspectorate function of Ofsted should be handled by a separate team less it detracts from these positive opportunities. Instead we learn more of negative reports of the exploits of Ofsted; dawn raids, plagiarised inspection reports, school inspection shenanigans with poor teachers being given the day off, disruptive children being taken out for the day. We such scurrilous activity we obviously need a school police force. But this should be a different entity to the role Sir Michael could play in demonstrating how teachers could act to excel. A master class from an obvious master freed from the clutter and criticism that surrounds the structure of the current role.
The third element of our schooling structure should focus on curriculum development. Enough of the lowered exam standards leeched into the system by Ofqual resulting in inadequate commercial relevance and restrictions in the scope open to teachers. But this needs to be led by a Secretary for Education who is in the role for the long term. Rumours now abound that Michael Gove may shortly be moved to a new role in the cabinet and yet another short term Minister will take over and attempt to reorganise our educational process in the 18 months they are in the role. We owe our children a sound, relevant and high quality standard of education that can match or better the standards in the global market. A league table the UK is slipping down badly with little hope of a trend reversal without a radical review of the role Ofsted and Ofqual should play.
The importance of renewable energy in the national curriculum can now be strengthened with the new Clean Energy Trainer teaching resources from Heliocentris and keen2learn. Exploring the benefits of wind, solar and fuel cell technology this classroom resource helps children explore the components of the energy chain including, generation, conversion, storage and supply.
The learning objective of this comprehensive approach to modern science in school allows children to understand the scientific processes involved in power conversion. The physical, chemical, biological and environmental concepts and processes are explored through practical experiments to heighten awareness. The Clean Energy Trainer reinforces the lesson content within the curriculum in a series of enjoyable and memorable hands on practical exercises.
The equipment and lesson plans allow each area to be explored in isolation before being merged to capture and distribute energy. The wind generator allows the number of blades and angle of attack to be adjusted to explore and plot efficiency curves. Wind speed is measured by the anemometer supplied as part of the kit. The solar panels power the electrolysis process allowing students to measure efficiencies and produce hydrogen as a key process in power storage. Variable fuel cell stacks generate electricity from the stored hydrogen and oxygen and allow power characteristics of fuel cell to be observed.
The Clean Energy Trainer is supplied with a comprehensive series of experiments and lesson plans to meet with the curriculum. Students will have great fun exploring the interrelating source of green energy whilst measuring the performance of the processes through experiments that controlled and recorder on a data logging computer program.
The great teaching resource can be used with the supplied software-based simulation of different weather conditions and load profiles. The program also allows manual and automatic generation of characteristic curves and supports measurement and experimentation based on the extensive lesson support and experiment instructions.
See a demonsration of the Clean Energy Trainer:
Green renewable energy is becoming a crucial feature in our daily lives. The concepts may have been around for decades but the commitment to its use is growing and children in school will have the task of making renewable energy ever more efficient. And the Clean energy trainer is just the start to whet their appetite.
A question on most parents’ lips; what are academies realty trying to achieve. Teachers resources in school tend to view them either as the ultimate cure by the Department for Education (DfE) for poor performing schools or a get out card for better performing schools to avoid DfE control. If academies have profound benefits, as claimed by the DfE, why are they playing educational games with our children’s schooling by also using them as a threat? Ask the average teacher or Head teacher and they inevitably flinch at the thought of converting to an academy. So why is the government promoting academy status as a confusing combined threat and benefit?
If academies are the positive development that schools should aspire to, why are not all schools realigned as academies. The DfE would have us believe academies, with their enhanced autonomy from central control, benefit from the subsequent influence from third parties operations that result in improvement in the schools performance. If this were categorically true, teachers who claim an extremely stressful existence within the state system would surely welcome the relief the move to become an academy would achieve. But this is not the case.
The average school being transferred to become an academy view the move as a distasteful reflection of their performance. Not perhaps the positive vibes intended by the DfE. Academies can therefore kick off their existence with a despondent teaching resource perhaps akin to the football team that has just been relegated. The threat is complex. The outcome scorned. Schools that are turning themselves around, showing positive improvements to clear their OFSTED “special measures” classification have been summarily pushed into becoming an academy as if this was the intention all along. They have little hope of resistance. Schools faced with this eventuality are told if their governors do not apply for academy status they will deemed as having “weak leadership.” Something odd here; resistance which can normally be deemed a strength becomes the antithesis of strong leadership.
Birmingham has become embroiled in the Academy battleground. As the largest local authority in the UK the incidence of conflict would be statistically larger. Currently there are 60 primary schools who believe they will be caught by the switch or die syndrome. Some Birmingham schools and members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) say this is a stealth policy to inflate the number of schools transferring to academy status that will be used by the DfE to present the programme as a success story.
The incentive to manage an improvement programme is now at risk. One primary school in Birmingham, whose head teacher has been working hard to improve the school standards, sees all her hard work being wasted. Despite the achievement the school is now being forced to become an academy. When the transfer is complete the management of the new academy have carte blanche rights on the future employment of the teachers involved. The warning bells are ringing in all schools in the danger zone. To them Ofsted inspections have taken on a new level of anxiety. But is this really the best option. If the government truly believe academies are the way forward and not a convenient option to get struggling schools out of their hair why play educational games with the staff, pupils and parents. The manoeuvers do little to instil faith in the system that is detracting teaching commitments from the students who desperately need it.