Home' Teacher : October 2010 Contents 20 TEACHER OCTOBER 2010
equip themselves with the safety meas-
ure they thought appropriate to the task.
Surveying the room yielded a satisfying pic-
ture -- every student was wearing aprons,
glasses and gloves.
Demonstration with a difference
Now that I'd got them following safety pre-
cautions, my next objective was to get them
to observe reactions. We proceeded with the
experimental activity, but with a changed
approach, the most noticeable being that
it was no longer a small group activity but
a demonstration prac -- with the students
doing the demonstrating.
I utilised the video flex, laptop and pro -
jector to show the chemical reaction to all
of the students. The practical activity con-
sisted of a number of smaller experiments
that pairs of students carried out in front of
the class. This meant they were responsible
for running the demonstration and talking
about observations -- not the weekend. I
facilitated some discussions, but the more
confident the demonstration pairs became,
the less I had to facilitate.
Students listened closely to their peers.
If they hadn't heard and asked me to repeat
what a student had said, I put the responsi-
bility of finding the answer back on them.
I had realised at the STAL workshops that
although I say to students that I won't repeat
myself, I do, all the time.
This single lesson helped me to realise
that it was the way I started each practi-
cal activity that demon strated that prac -
tical work is all about doing something
rather than thinking. I talked about safety
procedu re s a nd demonstrating practic al
method, but nowhere in my experiment
preparation with the students did I empha-
sis e the need to take time and really look
at what happens during the reaction, or
use time to reflect upon what thes e results
Always, in the back of my mind, I've
been thinking we only have 50 minutes
today; 15 minutes for lesson recall, discus-
sion and setup, 25 minutes for prac, and 10
minutes for pack up and follow-up discus-
sion, if time allows.
With all this rushing, it's little wonder
that my students thought that experiments
were all about doing something quickly.
Amy Beale teaches science at Padua
College, Melbour n e.
A version of this article first appeared as
'Interpretive discussion' in Looking into
Practice: Cases of Science teachers' pro -
fessional growth, published by Mon a sh
Print Services/Catholic Education Office,
Melbourne, a s part of the Commonwealth
governme nt's Quality Teacher Program.
Reproduced with kind permission. For the
full set of cases on which this series draws,
see Berry, A., & Keast, S. (Eds). (2009).
Looking into Practice: Cases of Science
teachers' professional growth Melbourne:
Mon a sh Print Services/Catholic Educ a-
tion Office, Melbourne.
We often develop routines for our teaching
that have evolved over many years and that
seem to serve us well. Amy Beale describes
this in terms of her teaching of science exper-
iments: she has her routines, and her students
look forward to doing experiments, but in
the back of Beale's mind are questions about
her students' involvement and learning.
It's often when we really question our
practice, when we ask why we teach the
way we do, that real change to our teaching
practice is possible. As happens here, some-
times to understand our practice, we need
to turn our teaching on its head, changing
the way we do things and analysing the
purposes of what we do. By articulating to
herself the purposes of experimental work
for her students' learning, Beale is able to
reassess the way she teaches experiments.
Linking practical work to theoretical
concepts is a problem for many science
teachers, partly because we have a different
purpose for teaching experimental work,
than ou r students have for doing it.
As Beale explains, her students focused
on the process of the experiment rather than
the experiment and its results. Such a focus
meant they didn't appreciate the purpose of
the experiment or what the results showed
in terms of the theory. The purpose of sci-
ence experiments for teachers is to answer
questions raised in the theory, or experi-
mentally confirm theoretical ideas. Here,
the focus is on the results, understanding
them in terms of the purpose and using them
to influence further experimentation. From
One step backward,
two steps forward
BY STEPPING BACK AND LETTING YOUR STUDENTS HAVE SOME CONTROL OF THEIR LEARNING, YOU
CAN STEP FORWARD IN YOUR OWN PRACTICE, AS STEPHEN KEAST AND REBECCA COOPER EXPLAIN.
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