Friday, 27 May 2016

The language of Mathematics in Science

The Association for Science Education (ASE) is the largest subject association in the UK. As the professional body for all those involved in Science education from pre-school to higher education, the ASE provides a national network supported by a dedicated staff team. Members include teachers, technicians and advisers. The Association plays a significant role in promoting excellence in teaching and learning of science in schools and colleges. Working closely with the science professional bodies, industry and business, the ASE provides a UK-wide network bringing together individuals and organisations to share ideas and tackle challenges in science teaching. The ASE is an independent and open forum for debating science education, with unique benefits for members. It provides a unique range of services to promote high quality Science education by developing resources and fostering high quality Continuing Professional Development.

From these lines, I am very pleased to inform you that The Language of Mathematics in Science: A Guide for Teachers of 11-16 Science is now available to download from the ASE website . The aim of this guide is to enable teachers, publishers, awarding bodies and others to achieve a common understanding of important terms and techniques related to the use of Mathematics in the Science curriculum for pupils aged 11-16.

This publication provides an overview of relevant ideas in Secondary school Mathematics and where they are used in Science. It aims to clarify terminology, and indicate where there may be problems in student understanding. The publication includes explanations of key ideas and terminology in Mathematics, guidance about good practice in applying mathematical ideas in Science, along with a glossary of terms.
The main part of the guide consists of ten chapters, organised around the "kinds of things we do in Science":

  1. Collecting data
  2. Doing calculations and representing values
  3. Choosing how to represent data
  4. Drawing charts and graphs
  5. Working with proportionality and ratio
  6. Dealing with variability
  7. Looking for relationships: line graphs
  8. Looking for relationships: batches and scatter graphs
  9. Scientific models and mathematical equations
  10. Mathematics in the real world

You can download the publication directly from here.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your active participation  in the CLIL seminar in Getxo and to remind you that I will let you know about  the new seminar sessions for 2016-2017 next September. Meanwhile, we will go on meeting through the diverse virtual learning spaces we share. 

Last but not least, let me wish you a very well-deserved summer break and remember that  “ rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” (John Lubbock, The Use Of Life)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Developing thinking skills: what Socrates would say to Bloom

I do not know whether you have read a superb book that was awarded the Espasa Essay prize in 2003: "Lo que Sócrates diría a Woody Allen", by Juan Antonio Rivera. Each of the chapters of this book focuses on a film that arises an ethical issue/dilemma and the reader is offered several possibilities to make him/her take a stand on it.

Why am I  writing about this book today? We started our seminar sessions last October and it is time to reflect on the work we have carried out to contribute to develop the so-called "thinking skills" in our students. For instance, have we used the Socratic method  and exploited  its benefits by questioning our students to help them  develop their own understanding? Let me give you an example for a Geography class. 

Why are questions so important in teaching? 

Research  leaves no doubt that instruction which includes posing questions during lessons is more effective in producing achievement gains than instruction carried out without questioning students.

When we  think about the nature of our questions,  we also need to consider the purpose of those questions, that is, what are we trying to achieve in questioning students at any particular point in our teaching time?

There are a number of purposes in asking questions, among which I would highlight: 

  • to determine the level of knowledge students bring to the lesson to help activate prior learning
  • to encourage motivation through active, democratic participation in the classroom
  • to demonstrate  that we (teachers) have an interest in students' thoughts
  • to foster cooperative learning, by helping  students learn from one another
  • to help us (teachers) with classroom management since students get so involved with the task that behaviour issues are reduced significantly 
We cannot ignore the huge difference between "skinny" questions and "fat" questions, i.e. LOTS (Lower Order Thinking Skills) and HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills. The following video summarizes Bloom's everlasting theory  in a very visual  way:

Tomorrow I  will deepen on the use of  "fat" questions that stimulate critical thinking in our students  and I will show you some activity types that are bound to fulfill the same purpose of strengthening thinking skills. For an appetizer, click here to see an example on  a Technology lesson on  batteries.