What teachers want

This is a quick summary of what we’ve found out so far from teachers. It’s been really useful talking to them. Most have been excited about the event, but some exhibited what you might call a bit of skepticism about the new GCSE curriculum, which coloured what they thought of the idea of a dialogue event… This varied by exam board (I won’t name and shame, but it seemed that some exam boards are seen to have done a better job of incorporating HSW meaningfully…).

We’ve run two focus groups (one in Bradford on Avon and one in Bristol) and also had feedback by email. The main findings were:-


  • June ideal, exams out of the way and more free time
  • Yr 11s could maybe do it in early December and Feb – depends on when module exams are

Target audience

  • All v keen on using it for year 9s after SATs – good intro activity
  • Year 10s possible (again, after exams)
  • Year 11s, prob too busy to fit it in
  • 6th form – less likely to be into the voting, but would appreciate the careers side (i.e. chance to speak to real scientists about what it’s like, how they got where they are).

Teaching resources

  • Definitely want them differentiated – different sheets and lesson plans for core/extension/support
  • Or all pitched at middle ability with v clear suggestions for how to adapt
  • Structure – objective/starter activity/main bit/plenary
  • Flag which bits you can skip (so can adapt for time/group needs)
  • Make clear what skills/curriculum points covered, helps planning
  • Should be easy for teacher to run with straight away – clear, not lots of prep
  • The less photocopying needed the better!
  • Supply in PPT, PDF, Word (so teacher can customise if nec) and paper form – so can read easily, write on, etc
  • Prefer electronic stuff on a CD – school download speeds can be slow


  • Data reliability is a difficult concept
  • What constitutes a fair test? – students use the phrase but don’t understand
  • Don’t have a lesson/sheet explicitly on a curriculum topic (e.g. Accuracy) – have a case study or similar instead – but don’t fit too many curriculum points into one activity.
  • HSW has a lot of debate/discussion expected, but often students don’t really know how to go about it. Activities which help them develop those skills would be good. Needs to be very structured and step-by-step for some – model how to construct an argument and express an opinion.

Other points

  • Practicals are good – GCSE now has fewer but students like them and find them exciting
  • Incorporate lots of different learning styles as much as poss – visual/aural/kineasthetic
  • Controversy good – animal testing, nuclear power, global warming, cloning, stem cell research
  • Make resources flexible so teachers can pick and choose
  • Big difference between KS4 and KS5 is the sixth formers want to be there

Benefits of I’m a Scientist

  • Brings science alive
  • Relevant to the curriculum
  • Work done for you
  • Students get to have a say
  • Incorporates ICT

Possible challenges

  • Fitting it in
  • Some teachers think there is too much discussion stuff now and not enough facts, may not be receptive to the idea
  • Some groups you wouldn’t want to let loose on the internet in class

Concluding remarks

So, that’s what the teachers we’ve spoken to so far have said to us. I’ve also had quite a few teachers email me or register on the site, wanting to be involved. They mostly mention the fact that it sounds a stimulating and exciting way to develop students’ skills. Shane (my boss) reckons that, ‘People like to learn things, but they don’t like to be taught’* and the idea of I’m a Scientist is definitely that young people learn things by doing them, not by being drilled.

I’d love to hear from teachers who have any comments to make on the above. If you disagree that’s great. If you agree that’s also great, because it shows that our teachers so far aren’t atypical. Or just write if you have anything to add. I’m particularly interested in hearing from people teaching KS5 as several of our teachers so far have been at a school with no 6th form. Cheers!

*although that may just be him ‘cos he’s a stubborn old curmudgeon**

**Happily for me, I publish this blog directly, so he doesn’t get to see it until after it’s gone up. Hello Shane! **Waves**

Posted on February 28, 2008 by in How Science Works, Science Education. Tagged , , , , , , , . 1 comment

One Response to What teachers want

  1. SophiaC says:

    Pam Large, by email

    “You will be doing well if you satisfy all those requirements. I would only add that I often produce curriculum resources myself and find the most difficult thing to get hold of is real data. the government statistics website is good but quite difficult to cut down to a manageable size. So I’d welcome any activity where students get to manipulate fairly genuine secondary data.”

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