A Mile Wide An Inch Deep.
Secondary science education has been likened to an ocean of knowledge “a mile wide and an inch deep”. Even with generous allocation time, science teachers have to fill every lesson with new words, facts and concepts. The move to linear exams requires students to assimlate a very large body of knowledge and for many students this is not an easy task. I started this blog to help me see my own “Progress over time.”
Part way through the year, I was given a challenging year 10 science class that had gained D grades in GCSE science the previous summer. And I discover, they are pretty much still stuck on D grades now. The class is a tale of two halves. The first half are cooperative and willing, with weak literacy skills and poor knowledge bases. These students respond well to teaching and feedback. The other half of the class, are more able students that exhibit continual low-level disruption in order to deflect from the hard work of actual learning. Their deflection techniques are legendary.
I spent my first half term with them on coursework. This helped, as every man (student) and his dog, seems to appreciate the value coursework brings to improving the overall grade. However, subject knowledge for exams, was and is where our problem lies. I spent half a term using exam questions and mark scheme answers to try to illustrate the knowledge, vocabulary and skills of meta-language needed. But this did nothing to raise their grades nor did it improve the quality of their understanding or writing. Nor did it improve behaviour in lessons. My own sanity waning fast. On Twitter I found teachers trying all kinds of different things. So began my journey to select the next tools to get this class working on knowledge acquisition, meta-language and scientific literacy to raise their aspirations and grades in science.
Like a Magpie at a jewellers shop – The three tools I selected to try were “What if I marked every lesson?,” DIRT and SOLO taxonomy. You can guess at my desperation, that I needed to use three strategies simultaneously to start closing this gap. My success criteria will be – finally breaking more students through the C barrier, and as students begin to take more personal responsibility for their learning, reducing the low-level disruption. “DIRTy SOLO every lesson” – here I come.