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Tips and techniques for science teachers in 2018

05/04/2018 Anthony

The digital age is presenting students with new ways of learning – and indeed, new career options to explore post-study. But while the future for some students may be digital, the need for practical science teachers in our schools remains stronger than ever. Specialist science teachers are in short supply across England, with the Migration Advisory Committee pushing for science teachers to be added to the list of most-needed professions for those applying to work in the UK. That makes skilled and qualified professionals precious resources for schools across the nation – but how can science teachers ensure they’re reaching all students and adding value to their classrooms?

The following tips for science teachers in 2018 will help to engage students at all levels.

Hands-on science remains important

The need for traditional, practical science teaching methods remains strong for students across the country. The Gatsby Foundation’s Good Practical Science report outlines how schools are under increased pressure to perform in written exams, neglecting to maximise the potential of their practical science facilities. Of the 10 benchmarks the report sets for practical science in English schools, 36% of schools don’t meet any requirements, while no schools achieve more than seven benchmarks. And with 29% of GSCE students undertaking practical sciences lessons less than once a week, it’s clear that more needs to be done to introduce hands-on science in schools.

Improve your school’s performance – and your own teaching practice – in this area is by ensuring at least half of your science lessons involve direct practical activity. Research shows that active learning increases student performance in science, and kinaesthetic learners in particular will benefit from the introduction of more practical lessons in the classroom. Utilise your school’s laboratory where possible, but if you lack resources, you can get creative with classroom-based experiments. Liquids poured on top of each other can be used to show density and viscosity, while centrifugal force can be demonstrated by swinging water in a mug in a circular motion over your head. Don’t let small budgets or a lack of resources prevent you from teaching practical science.

Don’t forget to connect the practical with the theory

When conducting practical science lessons, ensure your students have both a ‘hands-on’ and ‘minds on’ experience. They need to be able to make connections between what they see and what they know – for example, if a solution changes colour in a chemistry class, ask them why it changes colour and what that reaction means. When vinegar and baking soda inflate a balloon, encourage pupils to think about why and how this has happened, and what gas has been produced to enable this. It’s important that students don’t just ‘follow recipes’ to create fun reactions (although the joy and wonder of science should always be encouraged) – remember to teach the theory behind an experiment before a lesson, so that the practical task answers the objectives and questions students are already thinking about. Hands-on science lessons should ultimately enable students to make links between theoretical and practical science.

Introduce technology to the classroom

While the traditional practice and application of science will always be relevant, 21st century students are digital natives who demand the use of technology in the classroom. In fact, as many as 94% of students want to be able to use their cell phones in class for academic purposes – and technology can help you to stay relevant and engaging as a teacher, too. Due to the dynamic, complex nature of science, teachers must adapt and remain curious in order to develop professionally and keep up with modern trends. Introduce more technology into your classroom by using devices such as digital whiteboards to present information, online libraries and cloud-based resource systems for independent learning and homework, and probeware to allow students to collect more precise data in larger amounts. While your school will have different restrictions and budgets around the provision of technology, its potential as a teaching tool is significant, particularly amongst digital-minded pupils.

Are you ready for your next opportunity?

Science teaching is a challenging and rewarding career that evolves with the times. The modern science professional must be inquisitive, enthusiastic and adaptable in order to maintain the interest of 21st century students. If this is you, and you’re looking for your next science teaching job, see our latest vacancies here.

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