Teachers have had to respond to the challenge of the school closures due to COVID-19. Just as we are getting used to a ‘new normal,’ we are having to adapt to the uncertainty and difficulty of the recovery period. Despite our best efforts to deliver our existing curricula, its impact will be greatly variable for our students. We need to take a look at our curriculum and adapt it to these new arrangements.
It is likely that schools are going to be facing the phased return of different groups. It is likely that teachers will be planning for a mixture of home-learning and classroom sessions. This blended learning approach may include online independent learning, video or audio tutorials, formal feedback on assignments, and maybe face-to-face lessons with some groups.
In this blog I set out three considerations for science teachers when adapting their curriculum during the COVID-19 recovery period.
1. What can be learnt and assessed alone?
Independent learning, without the teacher to intervene, can lead to mistakes, misunderstandings and misconceptions going unchecked. To avoid this, we as teachers need to select learning activities that focus on key knowledge development, self-testing and improvement. Many parts of the science curriculum lend themselves to this. Look at the scheme of work and decide which parts are most suitable.
For example, the learning of key words and their meanings, using text books (physical or online) to create knowledge organisers, or using knowledge organisers to commit this learning to memory.
Most of these do not need to be assessed by the teacher; just a quick online knowledge quiz will be enough.
This is also an opportunity to consider providing learners with workbooks, either commercial or made in-house, to support them with acquiring knowledge, retrieval practice of the key knowledge, and worked examples.
2. What needs teacher support?
Look at your curriculum and identify the tricky areas. What do learners often get wrong? Which parts are tricky? What are the common misconceptions?
These are the areas that you may wish to support through assessment opportunities. Set activities that challenge these common mistakes, misunderstandings and misconceptions. Many of these exist already. The BEST materials  are free and diagnose the common misconceptions and provide resources to challenge them. In addition Pinch Point activities  can help identify a mistake and make appropriate interventions .
When deciding what to assess, ensure that you focus on one of these areas to help ensure that errors can be challenged and addressed.
In face-to-face (or video) opportunities where there is a chance to interact, focus on those mistakes that have been identified through assessments. Use a variety of explanations or demonstrations (if safe to do so ) to discuss and explore the concept.
3. Develop learners’ self-regulation skills
Never has it been more important to invest time in helping learners to develop their self-regulation skills . I see these skills as essential for life beyond school, but they are often overlooked in favour of getting through the curriculum.
There are many strategies that be used to support learners when they are working at home. Making a guidance sheet to support these skills can help learners to overcome obstacles. For example, make a sheet or online page called ‘Strategies for when I get stuck in science.’
This could include:
When I get stuck, try the four B’s: Board, Book, Buddy, Boss
- Board can be re-read the instructions on the sheet (in school it might be look at the board). Do you understand what you have to do?
- Book can be look at the textbook (or other information) that may help you understand the concept or find the answer.
- Buddy can be someone at home: ask them if they think it looks right.
- Finally, Boss, ask your teacher by sending an email (or other avenue).
- Move onto the next activity.
Specific ‘When I get stuck’ strategies.
- The plan, monitor, evaluate cycle.
- How will I try to solve this problem? (e.g. Try 4 B’s)
- How am I going? Am I nearer to an answer or solution?
- How did I do? What have a learnt through solving this problem? How will I approach this type of problem next time?
In addition, you can encourage learners to list anything they need to ask you when they get the opportunity to talk to you.
It is times like this that make schools, teachers and maybe students reconsider the nature and purpose of our curriculum. It reminds us that it is not a static document, but a dynamic set of ideals that can be changed and adapted in response to changing needs.
Dr Andrew Chandler-Grevatt has a doctorate in classroom assessment and a passion for science teaching and learning. Having worked as a science teacher for ten years, five of which as an AST, Andy has a real understanding of the pressures and joys of teaching. Alongside his research in school assessment, Andy is a Senior Lecturer in Science Education at the University of Brighton, and is a successful published assessment author. He is the Assessment Editor for Activate, AQA Activate, AQA GCSE Sciences Third Edition and OCR Gateway GCSE Science.