Today was the first day back after the spring break and we had one of our fortnightly ‘Subject Planning & Development Sessions’. I have blogged about these before here. The purpose of them is simple – for subject teams to work and plan collaboratively to address this simple question – what are we teaching over the next fortnight and how can we do it really well?
I was in one of these sessions tonight, led by our Director of Science, Steph Temple. It was fantastic and exemplified everything that effective CPD should be about – in my opinion. The science team are just about to teach using moles to find the ratio of reactants and products and balancing symbol equations to year 10. Quite a challenging topic, especially if you are not a chemistry specialist. The session went something like this:
- Steph modelled on the white board how she goes through the process of solving these equations, just as she does when she is teaching the class – stressing the importance of starting from the basics, to make sure they are secure and then working up. Every step of the process was discussed and unpicked. Staff felt comfortable to ask questions such as ‘why did you do that bit like that?‘ or to offer their own input.
- By doing it like this, she was also stressing the importance of actually modelling the process live on the board with students, as opposed to simply showing them the solution as a powerpoint (more on this here).
- As she went along, she pointed out the common mistakes that students make and how to avoid them.
- She also pointed out some challenges to add in, especially when going through the basics e.g. adding in some (OH)2 when working out the relative formula mass.
- Mark allocations were discussed, when it comes to exam questions on this topic, including why students often miss marks e.g. they don’t then re-write the balanced equation, once they have worked out the ratio of moles.
- With a particularly tricky question, a mistake was made – which actually proved to be a good discussion point for the team i.e. what do they need to stress in their explanation/modelling to their students to ensure that their students don’t make similar mistakes?
- The team were then given the opportunity to try out lots of similar problems for themselves, whilst discussing the possible sticky points with each question and how they would overcome it.
When done well, this really is proving to be the most effective form of CPD we have done for a long while. Why?
- It’s within the context of the subject – modelling something effectively in PE is not the same as modelling something in science.
- It’s within the context of what they are teaching now – the work that was done tonight, will directly impact the teaching that takes place in lessons over the next fortnight.
- It encourages teachers to talk about their teaching and learn from others, especially when it comes to thinking about student misconceptions, mistakes and challenge.
- It’s not a one off event – the work that has been done tonight, will be further developed in the next session in a fortnight, and then again in another two weeks and so on.
- It reduces workload – rather than everybody having to struggle together to plan the same sequence of lessons, why not plan it and share resources together?