I should probably have blogged about what I’d do with maths first, but I got into a thing with this morning’s post about how children end up not really knowing much science at the end of KS2, so here are my thoughts on how SCITT science days for primary teachers should be run.
- Challenge misconceptions
I think the very first thing that should be done is to educate new teachers on how exactly a scientist is made. To get them to understand that scientists don’t go into their field of research because they really like doing things with micropipettes and liquid nitrogen in labs is the main order of the day. Teachers need to know that scientists are keen to research (which happens to involve experiments) because they want to KNOW more about that particular aspect of science, not because they want to blow stuff up. Then, of course, we need to let new teachers know that a child has no chance of becoming a scientist if he leaves primary school unable to access his secondary science lessons.
Any SCITT tutor would need to be very diplomatic because in letting teachers know how a scientist is made, they are also letting them know that, actually, the primary science teacher is really setting the child up to have that spark of interest well after they have forgotten who their primary science teacher was. I think this aspect should be on any primary teaching course because we should not have huge egos – it is better to be prepared to step back knowing that every child has a chance to really love that subject but it will and should be the secondary science teacher whom the child remembers as the one who made them feel like they want to become scientists.
2. Teach teachers how the world of science works.
This would make teachers realise that the experiment is but a mere part of the collective evolution of science knowledge. Through this, teachers also need to end up fully understanding that it is science knowledge and vocabulary that children need, like a scaffold, not endless experiments.
3. Initiate new teachers into the best of current research in how children learn and retain what they have learned. This is where teachers are given no-nonsense information about how to put knowledge at the centre of planning and teaching, how to make sure that children receive the information (ie they are paying attention) and then how to make sure that children are given opportunities to remember such as with regular quizzes and tests. Of course, a plethora of experiments that help to consolidate knowledge should form part of this training too.
4. Ensure that the new teachers know the new curriculum inside and out
This would be a test/exam and it would show that teachers know what they need to teach.
5. Let them see some real science teaching.
And I mean real, not the whizz-bang lessons teachers are shown on video. If they could just watch about ten science lessons then they would really feel like they had an idea about what they were doing! They would also understand that even when no experiment is done, science lessons can still be fascinating for children. Further, this should be proper fly-on-the-wall experiences. What is it with SCITT training that requires new teachers to constantly work with a group or with the children with SEN during input such that they never get to see the bigger picture of a lesson? This really does my head in: they’re not TAs! Let them watch the teacher and see how the children react!
6. Let them know that they have a responsibility to work with the literacy coordinator to ensure that the children they teach are fluent readers and have access to a plethora of interesting science books.
And that’s it really.
Who’s with me?