Aim: To develop teachers’ subject knowledge, both within and beyond their subject specialisms by sharing good practice and expertise within the Science department. To increase uptake of both Triple Science at Key Stage 4 and Science-based subjects post-16.
Background: The nature of the split site required most members of the Science team to teach beyond their area of specialism. Staff specialisms at the start of the project were: Biology 58%, Chemistry 17%, Physics 25%. Key Stage 3 practice focused largely on the KS3 curriculum, with little consideration of future requirements at KS4.
Year 1: Staff completed subject-knowledge audits and audits of confidence in relation to areas of pedagogy (e.g. questioning strategies, group work, differentiation) and subsequently staff attended training in Spencer Kagan’s Cooperative Learning. In the inspection that academic year, this style of cooperative learning was identified as more successful than those lessons where more traditional, often less structured, group work activities were used. The whole department mapped the skills required for the GCSE syllabus, e.g. planning practicals, in line with the requirements of the Individual Skills Assignments. Sharing good practice became a larger proportion of departmental meetings.
Year 2: A series of teaching and learning ‘twilight’ sessions were organised around curriculum topics with titles such as ‘Difficult, dull and dangerous Chemistry’ and ‘Physics for the unenthused’, as well as some Biology sessions. Enrichment activities available for students included: Royal Society of Chemistry Bill Bryson Award (national winners in this academic year) UK Chemistry Olympiad (60% of students receiving an award) Spectroscopy in a suitcase (including links with the University of Essex) STEM trip to Hawaii Astronomy Club
Year 3: A whole-school STEM coordinator was appointed with a view to further raising the profile of STEM subjects and facilitating work between STEM departments. Enrichment activities continued with an Ecology Club, who planned and built a pond and wildlife area which is also used by the local primary school. The whole department developed a best practice guide for constructing schemes of work and staff worked collaboratively to write them.
Evidence: Exam results, subject take-up.
Impact: There was an increase in the number of students taking Triple Science, from 15% to 22%, and an increase in the number of classes for A Level subjects: Chemistry and Physics increased from 2 to 3 classes and 1 to 2 classes respectively. In the final year, 85% of students taking two or more A Levels in Science subjects went on to study Science at university. Developmental lesson observations highlighted an improvement in subject knowledge for teachers, especially where Science teachers were delivering lessons out of their subject area. A member of the Science team was accredited as a Specialist Leader in Education. This accreditation was facilitated by a number of activities that had been undertaken as part of the PTI project being completed.
Reflections: Overall, we feel the project has been successful as it has not only led to improvements in the areas identified in this report, but it has also influenced the way we think, identify priorities and strategically plan.
Contact: Simon Harding, Curriculum Leader Science (11-18) / Specialist Leader of Education, firstname.lastname@example.org