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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Yvonne (Technician): It’s good for teachers to work alongside technicians to improve the practical work, because we can work through things together. It’s good for me to know how the experiment works and what they’re expecting it to do. And it’s good for us to work through it together so that I can provide the right equipment, so I maybe modify it accordingly to the group sometimes.

Skip to 0 minutes and 28 seconds Tony (Teacher): I think working closely with a technician is really key to you being able to deliver effective, practical lessons. That link between you and your technician is so vital for having the equipment or understanding the practicals. We’re very lucky. Our technician will often go through practicals with myself, just to make sure that I know how to use the equipment and I’m comfortable with what’s being brought into the room. So that– them knowing ahead what your practical’s going to be is really vital. And, again, how they fit into your schemes of work.

Skip to 1 minute and 4 seconds So we work closely with our technician, not only on a lesson by lesson basis, but our technician knows when the practical is for each year group and what they’re doing– what that will lead to. So she knows the sequence and the order.

Skip to 1 minute and 15 seconds Yvonne (Technician): So I say that I can contribute to practical lessons by getting everything to the lessons that’s needed, all the chemicals, the equipment, the timing of it, so that everything’s ready at the right time. Everything’s been practised so that we know it works, that we know that the solutions haven’t lost their efficacy or anything like that. So everything’s good to go.

Shared understanding of the purpose of practical work

Establishing the purpose of practical work is a key part of the planning process. Having a shared understanding of the purpose of a particular practical activity can help identify possible points where additional support is required, or assist in prioritising equipment across a department.

In the video above, Yvonne discusses her role as a technician when working with teachers, to look at how equipment is put together, risks, improvements and a shared understanding of the purpose of the experiment. Tony, Director of Science and PE, describes how teachers and technicians work together to understand the place of practical work in the department.

Depending on the learning outcomes of the lesson it may be that students only have to complete certain steps in the practical. For example, if the learning outcome is to collect and analyse data in order to draw conclusions, students might not need to spend 10 minutes setting up the equipment. It may be better to have the experiment set up and ready to go, thus allowing more time to gather the data and draw meaningful conclusions.

Conversely if the purpose of the practical is to learn a particular skill or technique then students should do all of the set up and manipulation of the apparatus.

If you are considering moving to an approach which requires equipment to be set up in advance, you should discuss this with your technical team as it will undoubtedly increase the preparation time for the lesson.

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This video is from the free online course:

Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre