Reviewing the chemistry curriculum – wisdom of crowds

Curriculum development is a bit like the Briggs-Rauscher reaction: back and forth, to and fro, back and forth, to and fro…

For various reasons, we need to reconsider the “how to teach chemistry” we include in the @SotonEd PGCE Secondary Science programme. The majority of our partnership schools are 11-16, so our trainee teachers typically teach all three sciences to Combined GCSE, whatever their specialism. This means that, whilst our PGCE curriculum content is definitely about “how to teach” chemistry, there will be trainees who have to work on their own subject knowledge, as well as those for whom A-Level is a breeze. But that doesn’t mean the training has to take account of the essential sequencing in the school curriculum. If topic A is essential in understanding topic B, but A is straightforward to teach whilst B is much trickier to get right, then we might well cover B and just get the trainees to swot up on A.

So, put yourself in our shoes. If there was only one thing you could cover, what would it be? “How to teach balancing chemical equations”, or “How to teach the reactivity series of metals and carbon” or something else. What about if you had three sessions to play with, or six, or twelve (we don’t have twelve!)? I’m interested in what you think is absolutely essential (we can’t cover everything) and your ranking within that essential list.

You can either comment here, or Tweet me @dodiscimus.



2 thoughts on “Reviewing the chemistry curriculum – wisdom of crowds

  1. I don’t think it matters. I think perhaps the early career framework is an opportunity. ITE cannot and should not attempt to cover everything in one year. But consider mapping out what effective preparation to teach chemistry would look like as a three year course. Choose the bits you can reasonably do within the 12 weeks you have, alongside all the general compliance stuff. The rest of ‘how to teach chemistry’ becomes their CPD need in the NQT and NQT +1 years. Alongside that, why expect them to teach chemistry by planning lessons from scratch? Really hard to do where SK is insecure. Provide exemplar schemes of work for the whole of KS3 and KS4. Ask them to critically review the pedagogy after first teaching them.

  2. Sorry, hadn’t seen this as there were quite a lot of suggestions on Twitter. Yes, you are entirely right that we can’t cover everything during ITT. I agree that it is something that happens over several years, although the difficulty with thinking of it as a three year course is that they may well have to teach something that comes in their Y3, whilst in their Y1 or Y2. That’s why I think it does matter what we address during ITT. For example, almost everyone that has responded has said we should cover bonding because it is easy to teach badly, and underpins a lot of the rest of the chemistry curriculum. I do think science departments should have a solid SoW for both KS3 and KS4, one purpose of which is to support new teachers. That ought to mean all trainee teachers have one to work with in their placement schools but, actually, some departments have put a lot more work into developing this, than others. There are still plenty of departments out there that have different teachers doing different things, quite possibly because they are all experienced and want to do different things. We could ask a partner school that has a strong SoW to share this with all trainees but I don’t think it works very well if they are trying to use that in a school that has different sequencing, assessments, and approach. Worth some more thought because perhaps that could still support and/or show what a good SoW looks like (which would be pretty high on my radar if I was looking for an NQT post). Many thanks.

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