Science solutions

24th November 2006 at 00:00
Two months into the new science GCSEs, how are you coping with the different emphasis and approach?

Have you ditched the facts of science to hold discussion groups and debates?

Or do you, like Charles Dickens's Mr Gradgrind, believe that we should "teach 'em facts, and nothing but facts!"

There are ways of achieving interest and relevance as well as getting pupils to digest some of the facts of science.

All good teachers know that you need hooks to get the pupils interested in your lesson, and the new GCSE provides you with them.

The science does not have to be dumbed down, despite what some critics may say. James Williams explains how Charting the history of an aspect of science from its discovery to the present day lets you show how new knowledge gained changed the original theories


Set up debates well in advance.

Tailor the homework given before the debate to allow the pupils to research and find out the science behind the controversy.

Get pupils talking to each other about ideas or concepts.

Have a discussion in class. Have pupils explaining the science to each other, rather than just stating an opinion.

Peer teaching

Split the class into groups to research a topic or concept. Differentiate the tasks on the basis of ability, stretching the more able and encouraging the less able with tasks that are not too difficult.

Produce briefing sheets for the pupils to guide their research.

Set each group a time and place for feeding back the results of their research.

Allow pupils to develop their ICT skills using the internet and PowerPoint.

Science now and then

The history of science provides opportunities to tell the class an interesting story.

Charting the history of an aspect of science from its discovery right up to the present day allows you to demonstrate how new knowledge gained changed the original theories. It can also allow the pupils to challenge old ideas.

Story ideas

Phlogiston to oxygen;

Lamarckism to Darwinism;

continental drift to plate tectonics.

Being a science journalist

When you are planning your teaching, try to use contextual material. Using stories from newspapers or setting pupils the task of writing science stories for their own school newspaper can access the creative thinkers in your classes as well as encourage co-operation between different pupils, acting as researchers, writers, picture editors or editorial teams.

If your school has a newspaper, get pupils to write stories about science in the news.

The journalist's creed helps a novice construct the story. The pupils need to write a story that tells the reader

Who - the scientist(s) involved waswere.

What - is the story about, i.e. the science?

Where - did the discovery, idea or controversy happen?

When - did the discovery, idea or controversy happen?

Why - is this story important?

How - the science works.

Pupils could write stories based on recent scientific events or about relevant issues such as GM crops, cloning and global warming James Williams is a lecturer in science education at Sussex University

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