Recently I hosted a cluster meeting for all the science co-ordinators in the local schools and I’m proud to say it went really well. It’s not the first time we have met, in fact we are quite an established group; it’s good to meet familiar faces every term who are as passionate about science as much as you are.
This last meeting the only item on the agenda was to moderate science. A mammoth task- so we allowed that to be the only focus for the hour long meeting. Opening the variety of books, ranging from Foundation stage to Year 8 (yes the secondary school science teachers come too), we quickly realised the moderation task was virtually impossible. All 10 schools were assessing science slightly differently. Yes, it was lovely to look at the variety of learning but moderating just couldn’t happen. So the discussion quickly moved to how can we all assess science? Three schools used the idea of a concept map, where key vocabulary was pre-recorded on a sheet, then children fill in ideas at the beginning of a topic (to see knowledge before) and again afterwards, in a different colour (to see knowledge gained). Children are able to link words and more importantly explain why they have linked those words. An example of a completed one is below, this was just filled out at the end of the topic as a trial run with my Year 3 class.
From here you can easily see the knowledge learnt and any misconceptions. Also it might lead to asking further questions to allow the children to explain concepts in more detail, for example I would ask this child ‘Why can you see through transparent objects?’ With the hope they would explain that light passes through the object allowing you to see through materials such as glass.
So the plan when we meet again in October is for all schools to use this way to assess and then bring examples to moderate. Key Stage 1 children will probably fill out as a class or group, but from Year 3 onwards they would be trained to fill out independently. My point is that working as a team has allowed us to come to this decision, it’s so important to share ideas rather than work in isolation.
I have taken this a step further by sharing on twitter, this got a great reaction. Then my tweet got shared on a Science Co-ordinators group on Facebook. This told me two things, first teachers struggle with ways to assess science and are looking for ideas to help them. Secondly, I want to help others with this so when I make a bank of concepts maps for my teachers next year I will share with anyone who wants them. We need to work together.
Finally, it has allowed me to think how the idea of the concept map can be developed further. One person, who is the person I turn to with all things scientific, commented on twitter that concepts maps are great but if used too often children could get bored. Very true. She recommended a book which uses similar ideas to assess science. It’s so important to share ideas and then learn from sharing these ideas. How many times do teachers work in isolation, merrily slogging away night after night? I truly believe we should be sharing ideas more, with a wider circle than our own school, so each teacher is not working in their own little bubble.