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Are there any A level Science teachers on here who could advise about lesson format?

(17 Posts)
membershipcard Tue 05-Feb-13 19:11:01


DD started A level Chemistry and Biology at a local school sixth form. (She went to a different school but had to move as they didn't have a sixth form)

At school she enjoyed all lessons, had inspirational teachers and got all A*s in her science GCSEs.
At sixth form she is totally bored by the format of the lessons which rely on textbook work.

Is this usual for A level work or has she been unfortunate with the teachers she has ended up with?

I don't know what is 'normal'; I am a primary teacher and know nothing about secondary never mind sixth form. I want to help her but don't know how. sad


deleted203 Tue 05-Feb-13 19:24:41

Hi, I'm not science, but I teach A Level. IMO any lesson which relies solely on text book work is dull and unimaginative. I think she has been unfortunate in her teachers. Do they not do any practical work? I would have thought, particularly in science, that there were far better ways to teach than simply from the text book.

Kirk1 Tue 05-Feb-13 19:31:54

Sounds to me that she's been unlucky in her teachers. I'm not a teacher but DH has taught A level physics and I can't imagine him ever just teaching from a text book. Currently he's out but I shall ask him when he gets home. I'd have thought chemistry and biology would both entail more practical work at A level.

membershipcard Tue 05-Feb-13 20:12:10

Yes she does practical lessons once a week in both but as she does them both every day so that isn't a lot. The remainder is using the textbook in the most boring way - "read and make notes these 6 pages" or the teacher reads the pages out to then then tells them to make notes!

At school they didn't use text books for anything, ever! Her physics teacher was brilliant; a young guy who made videos in his bedroom to explain things, made up quizzes which would involve him ringing his mum during the lesson to pick a or b (or similar), did "Pasty and Past Paper" evenings. He was really on the kids wavelength ( had a stretcher in his ear). He wouldn't go down well at sixth form!

I think DD is quite traumatised by the difference. But how can I help her?

GinandJag Tue 05-Feb-13 20:16:51

I think it is fairly normal to have timetabled "labs".

The theory should be a mix of tasks.

SweepTheHalls Tue 05-Feb-13 20:17:57

Sounds like a pretty old school teacher, it certainly wouldn't work in my team! Not a lot she can do in class I'm afraid, but you tube is your friend, try websites like S cool for helpful content

membershipcard Tue 05-Feb-13 20:55:07

That's the problem really- she is bored in class, she listens/reads and understands but clock watches the whole lesson. She is coming in each evening feeling really down hmm

I will recommend You Tube and the other site you mentioned. Thanks

membershipcard Tue 05-Feb-13 20:59:01

She's just said that. If it wasn't for break and lunch time she would be better off doing her A levels online, at home! sad

breatheslowly Tue 05-Feb-13 21:34:14

That is not normal for A level teaching. Some A level courses have very specific textbooks to match the format of the course (such as the Salters Chemistry A level) but even then they also have teaching resources for more active learning and teachers are not confined to those resources & books. She can read a textbook at home, if that is all they are doing then what is the point in being at school? I have come across this approach, but it was far from the norm (perhaps one teacher in a department of 15 who then did admin or surfed the net while students did textbook work). When I taught A level science I would have been just as bored as your DD with that type of lesson. Also science A levels are hard and not interacting with students means that you can't assess how well they are understanding ideas and fill in the gaps.

teacherandguideleader Tue 05-Feb-13 22:19:50

I would struggle to lay my hands on a class set of textbooks for my sixth form classes it's been that long since I've used them! Teaching out of a textbook (ie reading it to the class and getting them to make notes isn't teaching). I actually hate getting classes to just note take -I much prefer to give them essential chunks of text that we can then annotate, highlight, do some kind of activity or discuss as a class.

I do work with some though who favour the note taking read from a textbook approach...

membershipcard Tue 05-Feb-13 22:31:19

Thanks everyone.
It is difficult to know what, if anything, we can do about it. She has always enjoyed school and learning and it is so sad to see her miserable now.

Any idea what we could do to improve things for her?

btw this school has just been declared Outstanding!!!

Kirk1 Tue 05-Feb-13 23:35:57

DH says it doesn't sound like the normal way to teach science, but that the difference between A level and GCSE us that A level does involve a lot more writing for the student. He also offers a light, he says some topics are more writing heavy than others and she may just be unlucky in which topics she's doing this half of the year.

In my experience a science teacher is unable to resist a keen learner so your DD may find she gets more out of the teacher by asking leading questions about the topic and taking it beyond the scope of what's covered in the textbook. Especially if she's understanding the subject easily! Does she know what the next lesson will be about? Encourage her to read ahead, research a bit about it and ask the teacher to clarify anything she's found out for herself that is relevant to the days topic. That will either liven up the lessons, or highlight that the teacher is unable to teach without the textbook. Which is a worry for an A level teacher.

Kirk1 Tue 05-Feb-13 23:37:01

BTW, by research, I don't mean copy wholesale from Wikipedia ;)

deleted203 Tue 05-Feb-13 23:40:26

Kirk makes a good suggestion above. If things do not improve I would consider making an appointment with the Head of Dept and flagging my concerns, however. Ask if this is considered normal in their dept. If they have any grace they should be embarassed and at least investigate quietly. I would make the point to them that DD is becoming highly turned off by science lessons and feeling that if all they consist of is reading certain pages and taking notes then there doesn't seem much point in turning up to school. She could do that at home!

(I'm quite stroppy, however grin)

twoterrors Wed 06-Feb-13 08:08:56

This sounds bad, I am not surprised it is getting your DD down. I don't understand how this method will work as they get onto harder concepts - it is discussing new ideas and developing them that helps you understand surely, as well as doing practice questions and discussing difficult ones to cement understanding?

It sounds deathly dull. What are the results like? I think you have to talk to the school. Good luck.

membershipcard Wed 06-Feb-13 18:41:51

Thank you all.

I think I will see how it goes, see if the change of topics improve things, mention Kirk's suggestion to DD and if it doesn't improve then I will make an appointment.

The school gets good results but it is a selective school and as I mentioned it got graded as Outstanding by Ofsted in January. hmm

EndoplasmicReticulum Wed 06-Feb-13 20:21:51

I don't use the textbook in class, my students have it as backup for when they are completing work out of lessons, or for background reading.

I do the same sort of activities at 6th form as I do with the rest of my classes. There is a place for colouring in and playing with plasticine even for A level students.

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