Developing resilience through practical routines

Resilience is something that students can lack, especially if we are pushed for time in delivering the curriculum and approaches to developing resilience are not prioritised. This can have a detrimental effect on our students.

Talking from personal experience and to give a real world example, I used to dread teaching electrical circuits. We would begin the lesson, the objectives and outcomes would be shared, then students would go and collect the equipment and set up a simple circuit.

What followed is probably recognisable to anyone who has taught this, especially if you are early on in your career. The teacher spends the rest of the lesson going from table to table as each group repeats the same statement “My equipment isn’t working!”. Instead of supporting learning, you are trying to discover the cause of the problem, whilst other groups lose interest as they are waiting for you to fix their issues.

An approach to building resilience

In Year 7 (ages 11-12) when we introduce circuits, we can demonstrate how to test each component. For example, get the students to take a cell/battery/power pack, two wires and a component, such as a bulb. Set up a simple circuit and if it works they know all those components work. They might then replace the bulb with another, and another, if you need 3 bulbs for your practical. If they work, they can then test the other wires. If something doesn’t work, they can easily identify the broken component and place it in a dedicated tray to be checked by the technicians, and collect another to test. This acts as a practical routine which can be applied to any practical work in electric circuits.

By instilling these practical routines at the earliest opportunity, students quickly develop resilience and will work more independently. This gives you, as the teacher, more time to cover the techniques and discuss the science with them, rather than fixing every circuit in the classroom.

Although this example focuses on electrical circuits, the same principle can be applied in Chemistry and Biology too. For example, setting up a microscope, lighting Bunsen burners, pouring chemicals or performing dissections.

Suggest

In the comments below, provide an example of routine you introduce early on in science teaching that carries through to later years to develop resilience?

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This article is from the free online course:

Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre