I think Blooms is a brilliant way for teachers to ensure they are helping pupils progress as well as students can identify their skills easily. I love blooms so much, one of the first things I did when I got my new classroom was paint a massive triangle on the wall, and get pupils to add “I can” statements on it when they can do something new. I think the issue I have with blooms is and don’t think I am alone is, we are good at creating wonderful Schemes of Work and Units, but actually sign-posting our skills and how that links into Higher Order Thinking is our downfall. Also I know i have been guilty of focusing on the task and not the skills being used.
I have given myself 2 new term resolutions this year.
Use less PowerPoint and look at other teaching and presentation methods.
Highlight skills progression to the pupils.
My first task has been to create these posters.
These break down the skills, the types of activities and question stems that can be used – an amalgamation of several posters I could find on Pintrest. Here’s the file to download the posters yourself: blooms posters.
So now my aim is to get pupils to be able to self evaluate their own learning and skills at the end of a task/ unit/ lesson. I also made up cover sheets for my junior classes that will be stuck into their jotters with the intended skill progression of the current unit we are on- encouraging them to color in the triangle as they move up the thinking skills.
I think Blooms can be used in many different ways and it is important that we share resources and ideas in order to encourage pupils to be using their thinking skills in a variety of ways.
When we came up with the Pedagoo name we decided to go for a properly hosted site, but how would we host it with no money? Kirsty’s boyfriend Paul kindly offered to help out, and so Pedagoo.org was launched.
Four years later and Kirsty & Paul are now married with a young family, and all this time Paul has been hosting Pedagoo.org for us. So anyone who has ever posted on Pedagoo.org, or enjoyed reading a post on Pedagoo.org, or taken part in #PedagooFriday, or attended one of our events, owes Paul a thank you for making it possible way back in the beginning and keeping us going all this time.
Paul’s career has since moved on from hosting websites for folk and so it will soon be time for us to part company and find alternative arrangements…in the meantime however I really wanted to extend this thank you, especially as I’ve never managed to buy him that pint I promised him 4 years ago!
We’ve tried flipping lessons and we thought it didn’t work. There’s a bunch of research in favour of the idea, but also lots against it.
Essentially, as I understand it, a ‘flipped lesson’ is one where the students do the preparation by learning low order concepts (like basic knowledge) at home and come to the class ready and raring to discuss the higher order concepts (explaining, linking, ranking, coming to conclusions etc). Research suggests that students should do the difficult learning in school and the simple stuff can be done at home- in other words flipped from the traditional approach where a teacher might lecture in class and then set an essay to be done for homework.
The problem is that there is also plenty of research that in school settings rather than in universities ‘flipped learning’ may not work so well. In my school asking students to do regular homework is a challenge, and it doesn’t take many students who’ve not done their preparation to make the subsequent class go less well. Another problem is that for many students the ‘low order’ concepts are not really distinguishable from the higher order ones- lots of the knowledge for example requires explanation and support to understand.
However we have been trialling over the years in social subjects a variation on the ‘flipped lesson’ which we think might have made a really significant difference to our exam results. Students were given lectures and knowledge questions in class, but what they did at home was the revision exercise- in this case planning for an essay. We then did the weekly essay homework in class. The students were allowed to use their revision plan sheet when they wrote their essay, but nothing else. This gave them a significant incentive to do their homework. This flipped approach to homework was done in one topic in both History and Geography Higher classes here- and the results in those papers were significantly higher than in the other papers where we didn’t do this.
Might this mean that flipping can work after all? Or is it more the sheer regularity of practice? What do people think?
In ten years of teaching I can specifically recall on one hand the names of pupils who had me down and out on the classroom ring floor in terms of their excessive challenging behaviour. Each teaching moment with these pupils created a daunting sensation in the pit of my stomach and overwhelming emotions of incompetency, where I believed myself to be ill equipped to manage their behaviour.
Those un-teachable moments can shatter your confidence and make you question your ability to teach effectively. Experience has taught me that the repertoire of behaviour strategies is often not creative enough to tackle and address the challenging behaviour of some pupils. Sometimes a re-thinking of the problem is what is required and often it can be as simple as meeting the child where they are, on a cultural, social, morale and peer hierarchical level.
How can we help teenagers and young adults to overcome self-defeating beliefs and habits from holding them back?
On episode 27 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Steve Beckles-Ebusua, a Change and Life Skills Expert, and I discuss simple teaching techniques that can help radically transform a pupil’s behaviour and their ability to re-frame their thought-process.
What behaviour strategies have worked for you in the past? What would be your ideal solution to address challenging behaviour (regardless of boundaries and resource restrictions)?
Overcoming pupils’ self-defeating beliefs
How to adapt your teaching to address challenging behaviour
Allowing pupils to physically experience the learning
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INSPIRATION 4 TEACHERS
BRINGING YOU INTERVIEWS WITH INSPIRING PEOPLE WHO ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION!
In biomedical research, small model organisms such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogasterare important pillars in the process of scientific discovery. I have been using Drosophila as my organism of choice and my essential discovery tool to study fundamental principles of the nervous system (LINK1, LINK2) for 26 years.
Together with my colleague Sanjai Patel and other colleagues from the Manchester Fly Facility, I have been actively engaging in science communication for 5 years now, aiming to raise public awareness of the importance of fly research with a strong focus on school activities. From this, we realised the enormous potential that Drosophila has beyond research also for biology teaching. It is a powerfulmodern teaching tool not only for classical Genetics but for many curriculum-relevant areas of biology, providing unique access to informative, inspiring and memorable classroom experiments. To capitalise on this opportunity, we now collaborate with teachers and schools on the droso4schools project (see 1st movie below), developing freely available sample lessons with adjunct materials (e.g. teacher notes, risk assessments, homework tasks, exercises, experiment instructions), and a dedicated website (Resource 1) providing many helpful online resources.
Why is Drosophila so important for biomedical research?
Naturally, students want to know why flies are used to learn biology. The explanation is made easy with our two “Small fly, big impact” movies (see the two movies below), which were tested in schools with great success. Furthermore, there is a dedicated tab on our droso4schools website which provides further background information (Resource 1b). In a nutshell, the films and website explain…
…that it was serendipity which brought flies into genetic research a hundred years ago,
…that it were the many practical advantages and cost-effectiveness of Drosophila which made it so popular for studying the function and biology behind genes, and
…that it is the astonishingly high degree of evolutionary conservation from flies to humans that makes understanding of biology in flies so relevant for biomedical research even into human disease, having led to five Nobel prizes in Physiology and Medicine so far.
Why is Drosophila so useful in biology classes?
As will become clear from the sample lessons explained in the next section, there are two important advantages for using Drosophila in classrooms, in particular (1) the breadth and depth of conceptual understanding of biology in the fly, and (2) the fact that flies are uniquely suited for live experiments in schools.
Conceptual understanding: A century of cutting edge research has turned Drosophila into the conceptually best understood animal model organism that we have to date. It has not only taught us about how genes are organised on chromosomes and the rules of inheritance, but also fundamental concepts of development, nervous system function, the immune system, our biological clock and jet lag, evolution and population genetics, the genetics of learning, principles of stem cells, and even mechanisms of disease including cancer and neurodegeneration (see Resource 2b “Why the fly?”). But how does this help in classrooms?
The breadth of biology topics investigated in flies provides potential teaching materials for a wide range of curriculum-relevant biology specifications, ranging from classical genetics to gene technology, gene expression, enzymes, neurobiology and even evolution and behaviour.
The sheer volume of knowledge in each of those areas provides a plethora of examples, experiments, anecdotes and facts that can be used to illustrate and make lessons more engaging and entertaining.
The depth and detail of conceptual understanding in flies facilitates teaching, based on the simple rationale that teaching is the easier the better the contents are understood.
Live experiments: It is straightforward, cheap and ethically unproblematic to use and breed flies in schools, and there are many simple experiments that can be performed (see our sample lessons in the next section). This brings living animals into classrooms which, combined with experiments that reflect relevant contemporary research, tends to leave long-lasting experiences. I frequently talk to people who were taught classical genetics with flies decades ago and still hold positive memories.
Examples of biology contents that can be taught with flies
There are many ways in which flies can be used as teaching tools in schools. Here we will give some examples for which resources are either provided online already or can be made available upon request.
(1) Life cycle
Teaching the life cycle in primary schools is often done using metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs or of caterpillars into butterflies, but experiencing these examples in real time can only be done during a certain period of the year and takes many weeks. With flies this can be done in one day since all life forms are available at any time, and the whole life cycle can be experienced in real time during less than two weeks (see image below and Resource 2c).
Click on this image to see its animation.
(2) Drosophila and ICT
In ICT classes, the Scratch program has become a sensible and powerful way to introduce students to the logic of computer programming, and Scratch tempts to be taken on as a hobby at home. To engage on this path, we have published a computer video game (see below and LINK) which uses the funny cartoons of the Drosophila life cycle as the basis, and where fly stocks need to be maintained against the odds of parasite infestation and infections. Since all programming code in Scratch is open, this game can be modified or further levels added and, for this, all the used figures (“sprites”) have been made available for download (LINK). Beyond this, we envisage that easy behavioural experiments in Drosophila offer ways to generate biological data that could be analysed using more advanced and well supported programming languages like Python and the cheap computing power made available through Raspberry Pis (LINK).
A Scratch video game based on the Drosophila life cycle.
(3) Principal functions of our organs
The physiological requirements for life are so fundamental that most of our organs have common evolutionary roots. An active and effective way to learn about our organs is therefore through exploring their commonalities with organs of other organisms. This strategy can capitalise on the vast knowledge that we have about the tissues and organs of Drosophila. To facilitate this, we provide a dedicated webpage describing the structures and fundamental functions of our organs in direct comparison to those of the fruit fly (Resource 1c).
(4) The genetics of alcohol metabolism
Click on this image to see its animation: A simple staining reaction for alcoholdehydrogenase activity, lasting 5-15 mins and easy to perform in the classroom.
This lesson is fully developed, was tested with eighty Year 13 students (one high achievers class, two mixed ability classes, one support class), a PowerPoint file with adjoint materials is available online (Resource 1a, e, 3b) and a dedicated webpage is available to support revision and homework tasks (Resource 1e). It is an excellent synoptic, end-of-year lesson which establishes conceptual links between at least seven curriculum-relevant biology specifications. These include fermentation, the gene to protein concept, enzyme function, pharmacology and associative learning, genetic variation, and principles of evolution. Students dissect normal and alcohol dehydrogenase deficient fly maggots and use a colour reaction to assess the maggots’ ability to metabolise alcohol. They observe the effects of alcohol consumption on normal and mutant flies, and they compare different alleles of the Adh gene by translating their DNA code into RNA and protein. This lesson offers excellent opportunities to achieve differentiation and to discuss the social relevance of alcohol and alcohol abuse.
Genes encode enzymes which catalyse specific chemical reaction that can be assayed with simple staining reactions
(5) Applying statistics to performance tests of young versus ageing flies
A simple climbing test comparing young versus old flies
This lesson is also available as a resource online accompanied by 5 dedicated webpages (Resource 1a, d, 3a). It was tested on sixty Year 9 pupils. It uses a low-cost, easy to set-up experiment known as the “climbing test”: two groups of flies (one week old teenagers versus five week old seniors) are tapped down in two parallel vials and are given 15 seconds to climb back up, at which point a picture is taken. Students then determine how far the ten individual flies in each vial have climbed on a scale of 0 to 10, usually finding that the young flies show much better motor-performance. This is then used to draw graphs, understand the importance of sample numbers and learn to apply statistics. To illustrate relevance, concepts of ageing and neurodegeneration are introduced accompanied by activity sheets, and examples are provided on how the climbing assay is used during ageing and neurodegeneration research on flies.
(6) Classical genetics
This lesson is not yet available online, but will be sent out upon request. During this lesson, students learn about classical genetics and the practical uses of marker mutations as they are applied in contemporary research laboratories (including Punnett squares). For this, excellent low cost dissection microscopes can be used (see Resource 2c “Outreach Resources”), and we developed simple activities where student success in identifying markers is easy to monitor. Furthermore, the lesson provides an insight into the process of scientific discovery (how it was found that genes lie on chromosomes), and how this helps understanding biological phenomena in humans, such as male predisposition to colour blindness. Where transgenic flies are permitted on school grounds, modern genetic markers can also be used, in particular fly strains containing green fluorescent proteins. Using a simple hand-held fluorescent lamp with integrated camera (see Resource 2c “Outreach Resources”), gleaming organs can be observed live in these maggots.
A simple activity in which students identify genetic marker mutations
(7) Fundamental principles of the nervous system
Click on this image to see its animation: A simple illustration of wiring principles in the brain
This lesson introduces to the wiring principles of the nervous system, action potentials, and the working of synapses, illustrated by shaking epileptic flies into seizure or paralysing flies through warming them to body temperature. Where transgenic flies are permitted on school grounds, we have a set of simple experiments demonstrating the use of state-of-the-art opto- or thermo-genetics (using light or temperature to manipulate nerve cells and fly behaviours; see this TED talk).
Further ideas or requests?
Many more curriculum-relevant topics can be taught using Drosophila as a modern teaching tool, and we are curious to hear which ones would be of interest to you, and we will collaborate with you to implement such lessons. Feel free to contact us: Andreas.Prokop@manchester.ac.uk and Sanjai.Patel@manchester.ac.uk.
an overview of the project and of available sample lessons;
the “Why fly?” page explains the advantages of Drosophila in research;
the “Organs” page compares tissues and organs of flies and humans with helpful overview images.
the “L1-Climbing Assay” tab provides 5 pages of information supporting the motorskills experiment: (1) a description of the experiment, (2) background information on neurodegenerative diseases and ageing, (3) information of how flies are used to study these conditions, (4) a glossary of relevant terms, and (5) explanations of relevant statistics;
the “L2-Alcohol” provides background information for the lesson on alcohol, covering fermentation, principles of enzymes, drug treatment of alcohol addiction, natural variation of alcohol tolerance and their genetic basis, the geographical distribution of variations and their evolutionary basis
two educational “Small fly, big impact” movies describing the origins and importance of fly research (part 1 – “Why the fly?”) and how research in flies can help to understand disease and find potential treatments (part 2 – “Making research fly”)
a film explaining the droso4school project through interviews with all involved
Two and a half hours of death by PowerPoint and where the only engagement with a hall of teachers were mini exercises, that if you had pre-read the course material you would have found all of the answers. I’ve been subjected to some pretty poor CPD events, and it makes me angry! Our profession works incredibly hard to raise the aspirations of learners and to ensure that we all have a better future, yet we are often subjected to poor CPD! I want to learn and improve my professional development; any teacher worth their salt wants the same.
But how do we construct CPD environments where teachers receive rich professional learning? WE have to construct it for ourselves! On episode 26 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Bill Lucas Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning and Professor of Learning at the University of Winchester, shares his experience of teacher research groups to divulge his discoveries on developing rich professional learning communities for schools.
Together Bill and I discuss thought-provoking ideas on constructing safe CPD opportunities for teachers to allow them to develop strategies for experimental learning.
Developing rich professional learning communities for schools
Constructing safe CPD opportunities for teachers to develop strategies for experimental learning
Being brave and honest about the true importance of education
What has been your worst and best CPD experience? What would be our commandments for exceptional CPD?
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INSPIRATION 4 TEACHERS
BRINGING YOU INTERVIEWS WITH INSPIRING PEOPLE WHO ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION!
I was unloading the dishwasher yesterday and I dropped a mug. Not just any mug either; it was my brand new, most favourite mug (it’s dinosaur mug, by the way, but a cool one, obviously). Seconds before it smashed to smithereens on my kitchen floor, I threw out my foot, bounced it off my ankle and caught it mid-air. In your face, mug-smash sadness!
I looked around triumphantly and saw… no one.
No one to witness my small (but epic) win.
Teaching’s a bit like that sometimes. You plan the lesson. You teach the lesson and somewhere in the middle of the teaching your classroom goes through that indefinable change that means your learners are totally engaged. You know the change I mean- that tiny difference that lets you know something really good is going on. A little quieter (even the serial rustlers and fidgeters are with you on this one) or a little louder (is that the kid whose only spoken twice in the last 6 months getting in on the discussion?!).
Whatever it is, it’s magic. It’s what happens when, as educators, we get it right.
That magical moment can feel surprisingly elusive; behaviour issues, wide variations in ability, time constraints and general pressure can sometimes make real, quality engagement with learning feel like a needle in a very large haystack.
And it’s sad that there’s no other teacher in the room to see you make the good stuff happen. If you were a professional footballer having a really good day at work, people would be jumping on you and hugging you round the head right now.
And much, much worse than the fact there’s no actual witness to your great lesson, (which would be a nice, though clearly not essential, ego boost) is that a lot of the time there’s also no one around whose up for a debrief.
Footballers have to sit as a team and watch action replays over and over, analysing exactly what went right, what didn’t and why. Working together to identify good practice, agreeing pathways for ensuring more of the good stuff happens.
That kind of in-depth analysis of your practice is foreign to most of us as educators. I’m not suggesting we start recording lessons and organising playback sessions, but how great would it be to have a team of your peers watch what you do best and then give you high quality feedback on how to do even better?
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘That would not be great’. You’re thinking ‘I’d rather stick my head in a basket of rats than teach in front of my colleagues.’
And I get that. But you know what? It’s time to get over it. Would you accept the basket-of-rats response from your learners? Hardly! We are constantly encouraging our young people to seek out and give each other high quality feedback- it’s the mantra we embed for all improvement; know where you are, know where you’re going, know how to get there.
It’s time to practice what we teach.
I understand that the ick-factor is high. Most of us have limited experience of being observed by our peers. Those of us that have experienced it usually find the experience less than enlightening. Once a session peer observation at the behest of management is a box-ticking exercise. Watching a colleague teach for twenty minutes and then telling them how wonderful they are in every possibly way (regardless of whether you actually think this) is a big, fat waste of everyone’s time.
What I’m talking about here is actual discussion. Professional dialogue that results in measurable, improved practice. Sharing what you believe is excellent about what you do. Putting it in front of others and discovering if they agree.
Scary? Absolutely. It means taking a chance. Trusting others to be respectful with something you have invested in. But it’s no more than what you ask kids to do every day. Share your learning. Ask for feedback. Use the feedback to make your performance better.
I want to be part of a profession where sharing what I do is just part of what I do. It shouldn’t be scary, or icky, or involve baskets of rats. It should just be what we do in order to get better. And wherever possible, it should involve cake.
So I set up #PedagooPeebles. I’ll be there, being brave and sharing what I do.