When I started at Green Bay High School in 2011 the junior science schemes were pretty traditional, which was nothing surprising - I had never been exposed to anything different. They were as I'm sure many of you know, basically lists of content to cover with some suggested activities, practicals and workbook pages.
After taking a while to settle back into regular teaching after being a 'Mission Commander' in the US for a year (I'll do a post on that one day) I came to be dissatisfied with the status quo. The approach of rushing the kids through a mass of content and then those who could regurgitate half of it on a piece of paper would 'pass' and - I think I'm preaching to the choir here...
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for.'
Thank you Barack Obama for such inspiring words. I wish I had googled 'change quotes' back then! Anyway, I started reading. I read books, lit reviews, white papers, websites, a lot! A vision started to develop that included...
1. The Nature of Science - super important! The NZC even tells you! Yet the schemes we had didn't even mention it. This had to be part of what we did.
2. Big Ideas - a couple of papers (such as this one) got me onto this. The content should be whittled down into some coherent units built around some really important scientific ideas. An excerpt from the paper linked before regarding developing Big Ideas: "The process will test your content knowledge to its limits and inevitably push you to deepen your understanding of even the most fundamental ideas of science." Rad. (It still amazes me the number of gaps in teacher understanding we uncover while collaboratively developing units). We should expect mastery of these ideas, not 50% coverage.
3. A Big Question and a Thesis - Teaching Science With Interactive Notebooks by Kellie Marcarelli introduced me to the Big Question idea with a Thesis to answer it. The Big Ideas alone are just content. The Big Question puts the Big Ideas into context. The Big Question brings in the Nature of Science. The Big Question was the glue we needed.
I could go on and on. So feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments.
I put it all together in a document. Check it out. (That reactions topic was a brand new one to replace acids and bases - I can be sneaky like that :P)
Assessment is by a short test in a novel context - to prepare for externals - and by the thesis - which is great preparation for internals.
It blew everyone away, was implemented, went incredibly successfully with the students last year, and has set us up incredibly well for BYOD (which was not intended, so yay!).
Next time I'll go through a topic with you - Y9 Energy. I promise it'll be more reflective.
Anyway, the take home messages are:
Don't be afraid to be the change, just make sure you back it up with research and evidence.
There's loads of good ideas out there, but mix a few together and you could create something great.