Can We Really Teach Science Remotely?

January 26, 2021
Aram Sohaib

The answer to the question is yes! The recent move to online learning across the country has been a sudden change in practice but also an invaluable form of professional development. With students learning from home, we have had to adapt and innovate the way that we teach Science

Three key factors affect and underpin the quality of remote teaching:

1. Pedagogical approach: How are we teaching in our lessons? In essence the nature and form of the dialogue that we are having with our students.

2. Organisational structure of the course content, routines of a lesson and its administration, awareness of cultural norms e.g. not being in physical proximity to our class fellows.

3. Technological ​“know how” and accessibility to appropriate technological hardware and software.

If all three of these factors are carefully considered, then remote teaching can be equally and in some cases a better way of teaching science.

How do I engage students in my lesson?

The key is to keep it as simple as possible! Share your resources before the lesson. This will help students become familiar with what they are going to learn and what they need to access independently if they experience technical issues. Where possible, ask students to keep their camera on so you can see if they are listening to you or not.

Chunking and retrieval

Break up your lessons into small parts giving students a chance to respond a question you have asked. Responses can be invited using a range of methods: verbally; via the chat function, via polls using Microsoft or Google forms, or online platforms like Quizlet and Spiralx. Regular retrieval of current and past content, particularly of vocabulary, will not only help students to consolidate their learning but is also a great way to assess what they have learnt, as outlined in the EEF report Improving Secondary Science.

Modelling and worked examples

Work through examples before you ask students to complete their activities, this activates the students’ metacognitive skills. If you have a touch screen laptop you can use a screen pen to annotate and build examples as you work through them. Alternatively, a graphics tablet (Wacom pad) can achieve the same purpose. Paul Kirschner’s superb video on remote teaching highlights the importance of modelling – click on the link to listen to his ​“Ten tips for remote teaching”.

How do I give feedback and keep track of everything?

Make it very clear at the start of a series of lessons what the students are expected to know or be able to do and how this fits into the context of the wider course. The examples below come from my experience at The Charter School North Dulwich using Microsoft Teams, but other platforms all have similar functionality.

Setting up your course structure in the content library on Microsoft Onenote is one way this can be done.

Aram Sohaib
Assistant Key Curriculum Leader Science, The Charter School North Dulwich

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