Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsAdam: Hello, I'm Adam.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsTom: Hello, I'm Tom.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsAdam: Thank you for taking part in our FutureLearn online physics course. As the course has progressed, you've been submitting some questions and we're going to answer a selection of those right now.

Skip to 0 minutes and 15 secondsTom: We had a question from Maureen about finding context that the students are interested in and career connections that could inspire them. I think one thing that I would do, or you could do, at the beginning of the year, is to take a survey of the students and see what kind of things that they're interested in, hobbies that might have. And then, you could look at any connections with things that you're doing throughout the year, so that you could try and kind of relate the classwork to things that kind of inspire them.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsAdam: And one other thing I would suggest is that we've got quite a wealth of STEM ambassadors that are all round the UK where you can get people from a variety of backgrounds to come into schools for free to talk about the work they do. And that can be anything from cutting edge science researchers, PHD students. It can be people working in industry. There's a huge wealth of people out there that you can draw upon.

Skip to 1 minute and 10 secondsTom: Yeah. And there might be also parents as well, obviously, that have STEM related careers that you could link in to and it might be worth kind of trying to find that out from your students as well. Is there anything that they do? It's that whole kind of science capital thing. Are there people that they have within their family that would have some science related occupations that they could talk about?

Skip to 1 minute and 31 secondsAdam: I think as well, if you've got local universities nearby, just speaking to people there. What research is currently going on? Because I know just in York, where we're based, we have people who are doing work with nanotechnology, using viruses as wires. We have people looking at nuclear fusion and everyday applications of that and, hopefully, bringing forth the nuclear fusion generators of the future. Lots and lots of cutting edge science going on possibly in your local area. The next question we've got is from Jenny. And Jenny's asking about the mathematics, really, in science. Rearranging of formulas, gradients of graphs, and various other things.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 secondsThis is something we get asked quite a lot on a lot of our courses here, and something the students really do struggle with. One of the things we've developed over time is that we've developed a science and maths course where we bring together heads of maths, heads of science, and see how they can work collaboratively. Because, a lot of the time, maths teachers are teaching a lot of the skills they need in science but need a context in which to put it into, which is what, as science teachers, we can provide. And so, that helps build the skills of their students. And then, also in maths.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 secondsBy speaking to the maths department, we can see how things are taught, the stages. And with the new way of teaching maths, and really testing understanding, that's a great way to see where students are coming from as opposed to when we were at school; just learning a set formula and set rules, which doesn't necessarily apply anymore.

Skip to 3 minutes and 7 secondsTom: Yeah, that's right. And I've actually got a particular method that we've used before, when I've been teaching, for rearranging equations. So, I think we'll put a version of this that you can see a bit better than the webcam version. But it's called the Battenberg Method, only because it's actually related to the cake Battenberg. So, you've got, like with a Battenberg cake, you've got opposite squares, diagonally opposite squares of the same color. And the idea is that you put the equation across these squares, which I'll show you in a second, and you can move anything from the dark squares into other dark squares and anything from light squares into the other light squares.

Skip to 3 minutes and 41 secondsAnd it helps them to rearrange that equation. Here's an example, which we'll give you a better version of as well, but this is Newton's force equation for gravity. And you can see, if I'm trying to rearrange this to find m1, the mass, then I can move these around between the squares diagonally and I'll end up with the correct equation at the bottom. You've got to be a little bit careful with this one that it only work for equations where you're multiplying and dividing things. If you're adding or taking-away things in that equation then you need to be careful that you can't just move the whole lot down.

Skip to 4 minutes and 22 secondsBut it certainly helps to get them beyond the kind of three things in a triangle, which they get stuck on sometimes.

Skip to 4 minutes and 30 secondsAdam: There's also some great documentation out there as well.

Skip to 4 minutes and 33 secondsThe ASE produced a while ago, the Language of Maths in Science: LoMiS, and that's a great document where you're able to see case studies of how you can use maths skills in science. And also, great interactive elements out there on the internet such as GeoGebra, which is great for helping plot graphs and get students to understand gradients of graphs and various other things. And they're all free online resources.

Skip to 5 minutes and 1 secondTom: Our next question is from Faith, and she's a trainee teacher still, and she's asking about one piece of advice to engage and motivate her learners. I would say that it's very important, at the beginning, to build that relationship with the students so that they gain confidence in you. And the more confidence they have, the more they will be engaged and motivated in your lessons. Talk to them about things other than the physics, so that you can kind of build that professional relationship with them.

Skip to 5 minutes and 32 secondsAdam: I think you're right with the whole confidence issue. The students, when they see you are confident, they have that belief in you. So, the fact that you're a specialist, Faith, according to this, that's automatically a step up straight away because they see that you're a physics specialist, you have that subject knowledge. For those of you that aren't subject specialists in physics, coming on courses like this and face-to-face CPD, you develop your skillset, and you basically become a better teacher across all the sciences. And the students have that confidence in you from that, and you develop great relationships with them and have great lessons with them.

Skip to 6 minutes and 13 secondsCatherine has asked us about progression and sort of how there's a big push on attainment and how students progress in lessons in the UK, as it were. How can we show that when there's very limited timetabling and we're struggling for time, we've got a lot of content to get through? One of the things I would suggest, and something that has been successful over the years, has been SOLO taxonomy. For those of you who are not sure about this, I suggest you go online, you Google it. Possibly we could provide a link here. So, by looking at SOLO taxonomy, what students do is they will start off by saying, "I know nothing at all." So, it could be electric circuits.

Skip to 6 minutes and 57 secondsWhat do you know about electric circuits? I no nothing at all. And then they're able to recall one fact about electric circuits. It might be they're able to identify a cell or a battery. The next step up is they're able to recall quite a few facts. So, it might be they're able to recall what a cell looks like, what a bulb looks like, identify a few of these items. They are then able to start linking these together.. So, you can start maybe building a circuit and saying, "Well, I know the cell powers this, which then.. Plug in the wires, you plug in a bulb, you get a complete circuit." But then, it's about linking those ideas to more abstract concepts.

Skip to 7 minutes and 34 secondsSo, you've built a circuit then. And then, how you can spread that information out across other things, so you've not just built a circuit with a bulb in but where that might apply in real life. So, it could be a street lamp. And then developing it into harder things where you're looking at more complex components such as light dependent resistors or thermistors. So, SOLO taxonomy is starting off with no knowledge at all, building up to a little bit of knowledge, linking that knowledge together, and then being able to apply it to abstract concepts..

Skip to 8 minutes and 8 secondsTom: Yeah, and I think it's so nice that when students are able to.. They get to that point where they're able to start making links to other topics within physics and beyond, in fact. You can see that their little light's come on and they'd kind of think, "Ah, actually that bit in electricity actually links to another bit in physics as well." So, that's nice. And, what I was going to mention was feedback. So, the small progressions that they're then making within the class. Make sure that you are giving them that feedback. And you might want to take someone aside, just at the end of the lesson, to say, "Well done for the last couple of lessons.

Skip to 8 minutes and 41 secondsI can really see that you've progressed. You're understanding has improved in this topic." And just those little kind of bits of feedback, as you're going through the lessons as well, will help the students build confidence in what they're doing.

Skip to 8 minutes and 56 secondsAdam: The next question we've got is from Asuquo and they've asked us and said that their students assume that, in the modern day world, that the only relevance physics has is that it's the research that's going on in this subject area. And just trying to find ways and ideas of how to engage their students more, especially seeing as they're all girls.,

Skip to 9 minutes and 22 secondsSo, the first thing I would just say is: are we assuming here that girls don't have an interest in physics?, or they lose an interest in physics quite quickly? And do we bring that bias to the table? And where does this information come from? Is it from speaking to our students and finding out their background and what it is they're interested in? There's lots of research about this, which I think Tom'll be talking about in a second.

Skip to 9 minutes and 49 secondsBut one thing I would say, to get girls more engaged with physics, is offering up what careers are available to them because they do tend to struggle between that link of the subject and where it can take them in their lives and careers. A great example, and someone I would suggest looking up online, is Professor Danielle George, who's a female engineer, who talked about getting the students to just have a little play round with everyday things in their lives. And just to show that engineers aren't these people that walk around in boiler suits and hardhats and with the beard and develop things and just work in shipyards and various other things.

Skip to 10 minutes and 28 secondsIt's such a diverse world out there, and being able to introduce a lot of these girls to the wealth of careers out there I'm sure will spark their interest.

Skip to 10 minutes and 38 secondsTom: So, the Institute of Physics, in the UK, have done quite a bit of research recently around gender balance. So, looking at girls in physics, in the classroom. One thing that came out of it was role models. So, the positive use of female role models, in the classroom, will help girls relate to physics better. And also, looking at the kind of social context of it as well. So, the human element of physics. So, trying to build that in will help girls' engagement in physics.

Skip to 11 minutes and 13 secondsAdam: This question from Albert is asking about students that, during class time, they're able to answer questions, they find it quite easy. But when it comes to the exam, and they have to apply that knowledge in a different concept, they tend to struggle with that. And what advice can we give in helping them translate their learning to answering those more abstract questions? So, the first thing I would suggest is, as soon as the exams are over, and the examiners' reports are produced, you get them and you have a look through, and you straight away identify where the areas of strengths and weaknesses are.

Skip to 11 minutes and 47 secondsSo, for example, if I get one, I go through and for each question I highlight 'this is where students did well and this is where they struggled with.' So, that will help inform my teaching as I go through the next year with my planning and preparation. I would also get the students when they do this to have a read through the examiners' report themselves to see, "You know what? I struggle with this area. It's nice to see that lots of other students struggle with that area," because it helps them with their confidence as well.

Skip to 12 minutes and 18 secondsBut then, getting them to sit down, with an exam, and looking at what the actual question is asking them, and pulling out those command words in the question. And not just answering willy-nilly and just "Oh, I'll put an equation down," or, "I think it's looking for these words." A big mistake that students just sort of go, "Well, it's asking about forces, so I need to make sure that I just reference a force in there." And students miss out on that sometimes. Or they pick up on the wrong thing and they just go down the wrong sort of avenue. So, it's just making sure that students are able to see crystal clear what it is they want.

Skip to 12 minutes and 58 secondsSo, sit down and just, as they're going through the exam, underline what's the key bits of information? What is it actually asking me to do? Tom?

Skip to 13 minutes and 7 secondsTom: Yeah. And often the examiners are looking for particular keywords in the answers. So, getting used to the idea of using that particular vocabulary and looking at those keywords in your answer will get them the best marks. When they're doing practice exam papers together, they can do peer assessment. So, they can look at each others' papers, and they can also come up with some model answers as well between them. So, what's the best answer for this particular exam paper? What should we include? So, work together in teams to come up with model answers. And perhaps even come up with an example of what wouldn't be such a good answer. What would get me fewer marks on this?

Skip to 13 minutes and 43 secondsAnd that way they'll kind of get to practice what kind of things they should be picking out from those exam papers. Thank you for all your questions during this course. We've really appreciated them and enjoyed answering them. If you're doing the MOOC and you're doing the steps beyond the supported period, you can join the group on the STEM website.

Skip to 14 minutes and 3 secondsAdam: And also, there's plenty more CPD available to you. We have the Assessment for Learning course on FutureLearn coming up in January.

Skip to 14 minutes and 12 secondsAnd this course [Teaching Practical Science: Physics] will be running again in March and June time, in 2018. So, if you've got any colleagues that want to take part with that, we welcome that. We also have biology and chemistry, for those of you that are interested in those subjects as well. Thank you very much.

Skip to 14 minutes and 31 secondsTom: Thank you.

Q&A with Adam and Tom

After the supported period for this course, on 21 November Adam Little and Tom Lyons answered a selection of your questions posted below as part of a question and answer (Q&A) session. The recording is available above.

If you are joining the course after the recording was made, then please feel free to post questions to other learners within the course steps or join us on the STEM Group for secondary science teachers or participate in the next run of this course.

Video uploaded 21 November.

0:15 Finding contexts relevant to students (Maureen)

2:02 Mathematics in science and rearranging formulas (Jenny)

5:02 Advice to motivate learners (Faith)

6:15 Showing progression in lessons (Catherine)

8:58 How to engage students, in particular girls, with the relevance of physics to the world (Asuquo)

11:16 Applying knowledge to different contexts in exams (Albert)

13:50 Advice for further support

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Practical Science: Physics

National STEM Learning Centre