Teaching the Science Curriculum
The lessons do not follow a single template, as science can vary widely in the ideal approach. However, the following elements will be present over the course of a topic:
- ‘Do Now’ slides that review prior learning - this is usually in the form of a short, self-assessed quiz, but teachers are encouraged to adapt these to address or identify specific assessed gaps in learning. There are often slides following the ‘Do Now’ to cover essential prior knowledge, which teachers will need to use adaptively, depending on their class context.
- Explanation guidance - where relevant, we have included guidance for teachers when explaining key concepts. It is not expected that teachers will routinely ‘click through’ these explanations, but they are provided to support less experienced teachers and non-specialist teachers.
Modelling – in many lessons, some slides provide models for teachers to exemplify best practice. In some cases (e.g., drawing a free body force diagram) the slides are provided to support teachers who are not confident in 'live' modelling using a whiteboard or visualiser. However, ideally, it is expected that teachers model these processes in 'real time' with students, using questioning to support and develop their construction. In writing, the resources contain model responses (WAGOLLS - What A Good One Looks Like) which exemplify a model of good writing for that concept (e.g. explaining natural section). As before, teachers are encouraged to use these to inform ‘live’ modelling of written responses as well as highlighting the features of good responses.
- Guided practice – in many lessons there are specific slides to support guided practice, with prompts to support teachers in working through an activity after it has been modelled. This often includes the use of mini-whiteboards to check for understanding as practice is being guided. It may also involve showing how to use scaffolds to frame written work.
- Scaffolds – where appropriate, examples of scaffolds have been provided to support student practice and structure their thinking. These include the provision of essential terminology to use in writing, tabular frameworks to help structure longer response writing and success criteria to inform self-review during a task.
- Self/peer assessment – in all lessons, there is an emphasis on students assessing their own work. Where relevant, the key terminology, or features of a correct response are highlighted so that teachers can direct students explicitly to these during self/peer assessment.
It is expected that teachers should adapt the lesson resources for their class contexts. Guidance on what should be considered when adapting the lesson materials can be found here.
So, when we walk into a science lesson, what should we expect to see?
- In all science lessons we expect to see:
- A low stakes knowledge ‘Do Now’ quiz
- A short review of any prior knowledge essential for that lesson (this may be included in the ‘Do Now’, or follow from it)
- Lesson activities that relate clearly to each learning outcome and no activities that do not relate to them (excepting the ‘Do Now’).
- Student self-assessment against success criteria/mark scheme/model answer for all written carried out out in the lesson.
- Authentic lesson activities, by which we mean:
- activities are both scientifically valid and;
- representative of what students will be expected to do in exams (e.g., labelling organelles in cells rather than drawing cells, no poster work).
- Written work that is always the product of a student’s own thinking. There should be no copying of notes (any notes should be printed for students when required).
- Over the course of several science lessons we would expect to see:
- Explicit command verb skills development (e.g., ‘evaluate’ ‘compare’ ‘describe’ ‘explain’ with appropriate modelling via ‘I, we, you’, this should be particularly frequent in Key Stage 4).
- Maths skills and working scientifically skills are taught in context and gaps are assessed and addressed via fluency quizzes.
- Independent practice that includes application activities, including core exam command verb practice, maths skills and WS skills where applicable.
- Homework set that is based on self-quizzing of core knowledge, topic question packs and further exam question practice (there are examples of homework activities in the curriculum materials).
- In Sixth Form science lessons we would not expect to see anything fundamentally different to the above, and all the features of Key Stage 3 and 4 lessons apply to Key Stage 5. However, some differences may be as follows:
- Checks for understanding are likely to look different to those found in Key Stage 3 or 4, given the greater likelihood of smaller classes at Key Stage 5, but they should still be regular.
- More new material can likely be delivered in larger chunks (given the ability and age of the students) before, for example, any guided practice.
- Teacher modelling will likely involve more complex concepts which cannot easily be broken up without losing meaning, therefore we may expect to see longer direct instruction. Teachers should avoid lessons becoming long lectures, and student should still get the opportunity to consolidate new material before moving on.
- ‘Do Now’ may be more complex at Key Stage 5 but will still involve regular retrieval practice.
- The length and complexity of independent activities will be greater at Key Stage 5, as will the nature of any scaffolding, which will more likely be scientifically focused and will be less likely to guide students’ general literacy.
Our curriculum is designed to provide a challenge for all learners. Teachers are expected to adapt resources for the needs of their students. For lower attaining students, this may involve adapting scaffolds. This will vary depending on the class context, but teachers should ensure that the students are being taught the same learning outcomes. The general principle is that the outcomes are the same for all students, but that the scaffolding is targeted to different students’ needs.
Working scientifically skills are embedded in lessons, and always taught within a science context. We do not have standalone working scientifically units or lessons, and wherever possible each skill will be delivered across each of the three sciences.
The working scientifically content of lessons should be adapted by teachers for each class, based on formative assessment. Fluency quizzes (see assessment section below) are available in both Key Stage 3 and 4 and are intended to provide regular practice of the skills and core knowledge, as well as being a simple tool for teachers to identify gaps, informing future in-lesson interventions.
In Key Stage 4, we have taken the approach of assigning two lessons to each required practical activity, where appropriate, so that there is a lesson to complete the practical and one further lesson consolidating working scientifically skills in the context of that practical.
In Key Stage 3 many topics have a ‘required’ practical, and accompanied Working Scientifically KPI task, to mimic the approach at Key Stage 4. A list of these practicals can be found in Appendix B. Schools are free to adapt these resources, and the practicals, but whatever they choose, they are encouraged to have a set of required practicals to be delivered by all teachers, to ensure a minimum set of practicals in Key Stage 3 so that there is a consistent, guaranteed minimum offer of working scientifically across the key stage.
In both Key Stage 3 and 4, it is not intended that these practicals constitute the only experience of working scientifically for students. Teachers should be aiming to include elements of working scientifically in most lessons, and that these should be responsive to assessed gaps in students’ knowledge or understanding (e.g., via fluency quizzes).
Safe Practical Work
It is the responsibility of all schools to add risk assessments to their schemes of work. The United Learning schemes of works do not include risk assessments or detailed advice on health and safety. It is expected that teachers should practice practicals before the lesson and consult with technicians or senior teachers where necessary to clarify the risks involved. In addition, all teachers will need to adapt the school risk assessment to ensure that all practical work is risk assessed in the context of the individual laboratory and class in which it is carried out. Further details on what risk assessments in science should look like can be found in CLEAPSS guidance document L196 and PS090 (available from the CLEAPSS website or the A-Z section of the H&S pages on the United Hub).
All United Learning schools are members of CLEAPSS and can access their resources via the group log-in, which is published on the A-Z section of the H&S pages on the United Hub. The United Learning Group Health & Safety Manager is Stuart Males, who is also the Radiation Protection officer for the group. If you are a Head of Department who wishes to make enquiries about United Learning policies concerning health and safety (e.g., radiation protection) in science should email him in the first instance at Stuart.Males@unitedlearning.org.uk. Queries about science in general (technical, procedural, etc.) should be directed to the CLEAPSS helpline.