Published earlier this term (exclusively available to NACE members), the NACE Essentials guide to realising the potential of more able learners in GCSE science offers guidance for science leaders and teachers seeking to improve the quality of challenge in their lessons. In this excerpt, guide author Ed Walsh shares 10 “killer questions” all science departments should consider when reviewing provision for those capable of attaining the highest grades in the subject.

1. How close is the relationship between objectives and questions used in lessons and the outcomes and command words used in the exam specifications?

If the former are dominated by stems such as “know” and “understand”, how well will learners be prepared to answer higher-order exam questions with stems such as “suggest” and “justify”?

2. How are learners being encouraged to apply ideas to novel contexts?

It isn’t necessarily the case that topics should start with concepts and then progress to application; in some cases, application may be a good way to introduce a topic and develop ideas.

3. Are learners presented with evidence to analyse?

What opportunities do they have to engage with something such as a diagram or graph to make sense of and interpret? 

4. What common cause is being made with maths?

What might be learned if a science teacher were to observe more able learners being taught maths, and the maths teacher then to see them in science?

5. Are maths skills being ramped up?

It’s worth deconstructing stretch and challenge questions in terms of the maths skills and then thinking through how to teach these. As well as having mastery of individual skills, students need to be able to select and combine skills.

6. Is a good range of types of high-level questions being used?

Make sure these are not solely based on understanding complex ideas. When asking higher-level questions you can increase challenge by altering the stem of the question, broadening the range of command words you use. You can also ask for a longer response, possibly one that requires linking ideas from different parts of the subject.

7. Is the teacher modelling effective practice in answering extended questions?

Can students recognise such a question, and plan a structure and approach to answering it? Try modelling the construction of a high-quality response, showing how you select key terms, structure the writing and ensure it matches what the examiner is looking for.

8. How effectively is assessment data being used to identify development areas?

How well can learners complete the sentence “To get a good result in science I need to focus on…”? What’s guiding their revision?

9. How has data from the summer 2018 series been used to identify development areas?

It should be possible to interrogate candidate performance to answer questions such as “How well did high-attaining learners in my school cope with AO2 questions and how does this compare with the national picture?”

10. How well does KS3 prepare students for GCSE science?

Is the KS3 course doing its job in terms of getting more able learners to be “GCSE-ready”? How well does it support able learners to master key ideas, understand how to investigate various phenomena and use skills from other parts of the curriculum such as working numerically and developing written responses?

Read more…

  • Log in to our members’ site for the full NACE Essentials guide to realising the potential of more able learners in GCSE science. 
  • Not yet a member? Find out more.

Join Ed in Cardiff or London…

Ed Walsh is running two full-day workshops exploring practical strategies to support more able learners in secondary science – coming to Cardiff on 7 March 2019 and London on 21 March 2019. 

View the workshop programme and book your place.

With experience as a secondary head of science, county science adviser and a regional and senior adviser for the Secondary National Strategy, Ed Walsh is an independent consultant in science education. With a proven track record in helping schools improve their science provision, he has published widely in the field, and developed and delivered training for teachers and heads of science, including on behalf of organisations such as ASE and AQA. As a NACE associate, Ed designs and delivers training and resources to support effective teaching and learning for the more able in science.

Header image: ID 6509643 © Catzovescu

Monday, December 3, 2018