Harry Shuttleworth, TES Author ChemCatalyst, explains his approach to creating chemistry resources and incorporating mastery techniques
Tell us about your professional background and why you joined TES.
I have been teaching for 14 years. After working my way up from head of chemistry to head of science, I am now a director of training and staff development.
I started making resources to help teachers in international schools having experienced the isolation of being the sole chemistry teacher in the school and being unable to depend on colleagues for help. That’s why my resources include answers and explanations for teachers, so that the content is accessible for them, as well as their students.
TES seemed to be the best way to spread the word and share my resources with other teachers. I have had lots of positive feedback and have branched out across numerous exam boards.
You talk about using a mastery learning approach in your resources. Can you tell us more about this?
Mastery is the idea that you shouldn’t move on until you are up to 80% in terms of understanding. Therefore, my resources try to push understanding as quickly as possible. For example, by using questions that go beyond knowledge such as do you agree or disagree with a statement and why. While some students are debating a statement, it gives teachers time to help those learners who haven’t reached 80% understanding yet.
This approach is also focused on how students conceptualise their understanding and thinking about what excellence looks like. I like to include slides with extension level questions or try to link together topics to help pupils with conceptualisation.
Additionally, I use a selection of nasty questions that are designed to push students and get them out of their comfort zones. After all, you can’t predict exams as easily these days so it is even more important for pupils to be flexible and roll with the punches.
What do you want students to experience when using your resources?
For me, one of the failings of textbooks is that they don’t offer relatable ideas for learners. For example, if I am teaching isotopes, I give my class the analogy of ice cream so they think about different flavours of the same element. Also, unlike textbooks, I purposely avoid using academic language that can hinder students’ access to learning. My goal is to make sure the class understand the chemistry, it's not that important how we get there.
I use animations, gifs, videos and drawings to make my presentations visually pleasing; everything in my resources is is either Creative Commons licensed or I have made it myself from scratch.
What’s next for ChemCatalyst?
So far, the shop is filled with resources for the AS syllabus, across four different examination boards. I hope that teachers are finding the resources useful and I want to make sure the quality stays the same. With help from friends who are also teachers, we will be working on the rest of the A-level syllabus, which is going to be a challenge!