We aim to develop the key skills that students need in order to be successful in science, whilst encouraging their natural curiosity about the world around them.
By the end of Y7 & Y8 students will have developed a broad range of scientific vocabulary, which has been embedded using regular retrieval practice tasks in lessons. Science affords excellent opportunities to engage students through practical tasks and there are certain key skills that can be developed when carrying out these activities. By the end of KS3 the students will have had many opportunities to carry out lab-based practical activities and will have completed extended written tasks based on these practical activities to utilise literacy skills. The students will have also learned and practised numeracy skills to allow them to carry out numerical calculations successfully.
Formative assessments will occur continually through the regular use of retrieval practice tasks, low stakes quizzes and interleaving tasks that link to prior learning. Regular book looks will occur where teachers review the work done by pupils and give feedback on the work completed with time allocated in lessons so that students have opportunity to effectively respond to the feedback. Feedback will also be provided in lessons and students will act on this using green pen to make it visible in their books. Summative assessments will occur at regular points throughout the year, in common with other schools in the Lionheart Academy Trust (LAT). These assessments will be exam-style questions based on topics that have been recently covered and that also involve some questions that are interleaved with prior learning.
The sequence of planning was collaborative across the Lionheart Academy Trust science departments. Subject specialists met and discussed the sequence of topics based on the AQA KS3 curriculum (Big Ideas), deciding on a logical and coherent scheme of learning for KS3 that includes spiralling, interleaving and knowledge-based learning. This new schedule is being implemented in 2019-20 at Y7 and the Y8 scheme will follow the year after.
The KS3 curriculum lays a solid foundation for the work undertaken at GCSE. The key concepts and ideas that feature in the KS3 curriculum are a direct link to the GCSE content that students are required to know for their exams at the end of year 11. Both the KS3 and GCSE curricula are knowledge-rich and so require students to be able to retain subject knowledge over a long time period. Regular retrieval practice tasks encourage students to consistently take information into their long-term memory and retain it for future application, i.e. in summative assessments. By interleaving topics at KS3 we mirror the interleaving of topics studied at GCSE, with long-term planning at GCSE allowing for interleaving between biology, chemistry and physics topics and even interleaving between topics in a given subject. Elaboration is an important skill that students need to be able to use at GCSE and the foundation for this is established in KS3 through appropriate questioning by teachers, and is then continued at GCSE level in the same way.
In KS3, we are guiding the students on how to make predictions based on observations or prior knowledge which is something they are required to do at GCSE. Students would be able to safely carry out practical work and then be able to write coherently about the experiments and share their findings/make conclusions in an articulate manner. The students learn about how to apply mathematical formulae correctly in order to answer questions at both KS3 and GCSE.
In years 7-9 all students are in mixed ability groups so that they may develop without prejudices about the limits that students can reach. They are able to interact and see examples of good work, model answers, what success can look like so that we are able to have high expectations of the level of work students can achieve. In year 10 we have two triple science groups which are chosen by assessments carried out at the end of year 9. This allows for the most able students to utilise opportunities for appropriate stretch and challenge and encourages a focus for what students will achieve in year 9. Students not studying triple science will complete the combined science (trilogy) course in mixed ability groups. This will provide opportunity for students to achieve as stated previously as they are not limited be pre-conceived ideas of what is possible due to the group or set they are in. All triple science and combined science students will be taught by subject specialists so that they have the best opportunity to succeed in science. For students who are very low ability we have one smaller “nurture” group that, because of the smaller class size, can receive more attention, guidance and structure to allow them the best opportunity to achieve success. The core principles guiding our 5 year curriculum are:
Over the course of five years studying science at Judgmeadow students will have opportunity to link together knowledge and skills from other subjects and apply them into their science learning. Or they can take Science learning and apply it to other subjects.
Students will be able to use literacy skills gained in English lessons to write confidently, coherently and articulately about what they have observed. They will apply numeracy skills learning in maths to work out the speed of an object, the rate of a chemical reaction, draw graphs neatly to represent trends or patterns based on data collected in experiments. They learn about history through science with the development of key ideas and their relevance over time. Students get to discuss ethical ideas about the use of technology to affect human lives, something that requires reflection of both sides of a point of view which crosses over with RS.
Students will gain a better understanding of how things work; they practise following methods and considering risks and hazards which can apply to other subjects like food technology or PE, in addition to their everyday lives. Science is a subject that allows students to not just remember the “What?”, “Where?” or “When?” questions but also consider the “How?”, “Why?” and “What If?” and develop new ideas for the future in a creative and constantly evolving subject.
The science curriculum has been developed with all of these ideas in mind. The curriculum is knowledge rich so that students are able to take in as much information as possible so that they have this information as a tool at their disposal, to be used when necessary and applied appropriately. There are practical activities where students can get “hands on” with the theories they study and get to observe them in action. The curriculum includes opportunities for practising numeracy skills as it is a minimum requirement for the GCSE exams that students carry out some sort of mathematical skills, not just science knowledge. The curriculum allows students to broaden their vocabulary, particularly with the use of tier 3 or subject-specific words. The science curriculum affords the chance for students to become knowledge rich through regular retrieval practice tasks embedded on a regular basis and carries out assessments that contain questions from previous learning so that students practise interleaving, as well as retrieval practice.
The science curriculum is planned to incorporate opportunities Effective Learning Strategies which are being implemented across the school. In lessons we use regular retrieval practice activities, with the aim of building a long-term memory. These can take the form of homework tasks that use Knowledge Organisers which students are asked to memorise and tested on a regular basis. Interleaving is seen in the curriculum as we have key ideas and concepts that are studied in science from year 7 to GCSE to varying depths and detail. We also use interleaving of topics that take the form of “da Vinci moments” which are short, low-stakes quizzes that can used at any point within a lesson and are usually based on prior learning, often from previous topics. This “Spaced Practice” is one of the effective learning strategies that aids in the building of secure long-term memory as it provides regular re-visiting opportunities for ideas that may not have been recently studied. This re-visiting is shown to improve retention of memory.
Within lessons there are Effective Learning Strategies used in conjunction with Effective Teaching Strategies. Teachers use modelling of their own examples and use exemplar work by students as this helps to scaffold to help students achieve the same goals. Teachers and students using concrete examples helps students to grasp some more conceptual ideas that some may struggle with, rather than solely using analogies that can sometimes lead to misconceptions. Questioning in lessons helps students to create a more detailed picture of a concept by encouraging elaboration. This elaboration can take the form of asking an individual student to elaborate on their own answers or to ask other students to build on the answers that other students have provided. Teachers use “cold calling” in lessons which is a strategy that means all students will have the opportunity to answer questions, not just those that raise their hands. The “cold calling” questioning is enhanced with a “no opt-out” strategy that allows a student who doesn’t know an answer to be re-visited after they have heard the answer from another student. This encourages resilience and aims to build confidence that a student who might not know an answer can say it aloud and get it correct, even if they didn’t know the first time.
Verbal and written questions can allow for assessment of students’ knowledge and understanding with the use of hinge questions. These diagnostic questions often use misconceptions as possible answers, as well as the correct answer, so that teachers can see if a class/student is ready to move on to new ideas or to review the current one.
Feedback is provided to students on a regular basis in a written format. Often, this is based on some extended writing or long answer questions which the teacher will mark and pick up on the more common errors made with those questions. Feedback and guidance are provided in follow-up lessons which students use to improve their work in green pen. Verbal/visual feedback is also provided in lessons when low-stakes quizzes are set and students are regularly encouraged to use green pen in order to highlight where feedback has been provided and improvements have been made.
These strategies are strongly influenced by “Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction” where questioning, modelling & providing examples, checking responses using hinge questions, providing feedback and generally guiding students all build towards students being able to work independently using the instruction they have received.
We are implementing a “Highly Instruction Process” (HIP) strategy for Y7 and Y8 which is a strategy aimed at improving the vocabulary for our students when being introduced to a new topic or ideas. At the start of each topic there will be a section of lesson or whole lesson devoted to the reading and understanding of an article related to the topic which is about to be studied. The aim of this is that students are “pre-taught” new tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary prior to the topic so that they are better equipped to understand and use these words in lessons, their written work and homework. The increased depth and breadth of vocabulary will enable students to better understand the world around them and engage with science generally, as well as providing a sound basis for further studies in science subjects.
Mr Alec Grant