Ever wondered how on earth you will fit all that science into the time you have left with Year 11? I had that same thought for years as a Head of Science, with the turbulence of the past couple of years proving this to be even more challenging. After multiple lockdowns and disrupted learning for all year groups, we knew before returning to school that Year 11 in particular would have some significant gaps in both their knowledge and their confidence. Having struggled to find the images and compact explanations I was looking for to teach my own children through lockdown, I decided to make the resource I couldn’t find – this is where the idea for the intervention solution that became Secure Science for GCSE started.
Excitingly, Secure Science is a resource that breaks all the rules: we essentially unpacked the entirety of the science curriculum, selected the key ideas that students need and mapped these essentials across 30 sessions that are linked using the natural connections between topics. Secure Science is a blended print and digital intervention solution that will help students to feel confident in their exams, but also to understand the science they will come across throughout their lives, which I’m sure you will agree has never been so important.
GCSE Science key ideas in 30 sessions
I’ve supported thousands of students through their GCSEs and worked alongside some astonishing teachers who have supported many more. Those teachers can instil confidence in their students by teaching vast swathes of science content in just one lesson, using the natural connections that exist between topics. Secure Science covers all the basics in 30 sessions, so if you feel like your students have lots of gaps then you can fast forward through lots of them in just one session. In my experience, students who know the basics of most of the specification tend to do well in the exam, as they have a way in with the vast majority of the questions.
How does Secure Science work?
So, what is in the special sauce? I’ll condense it down into the key elements:
Each Secure Science session has the same format. This helps to reduce the cognitive load so that students can focus on the key concepts. Once each topic has been covered in the main session, there are a series of practice questions, with a suggested sequence in the Teacher Resource so that students can practise applying the key ideas to different types of question and structuring their answer using the framework that appears in each session. Students build their knowledge using the same sequence of ‘think > connect > solve> practice’ in each session.
A simple technique for improving students’ exam performance is to make sure they understand what a question is asking. Secure Science translates the command words into plain English and each session structures how to answer each type of question. There are also plenty of practice questions for each command word, so students can feel confident with any type of question in the exam.
The process we use to help students build on what they already know is based in cognitive science research. This strategy helps students to access and build their long-term memory of the key science ideas. Each session has a key question, and the session takes students through a process of finding out what they already know, then gives them some content to fill any gaps in the form of a knowledge organiser and a card deck.
We then support students to construct an answer bit by bit, before pulling together a full answer. We know that sometimes students are flummoxed in exams because they just don’t know where to start with a question. We hope to help with that by breaking questions down into accessible pieces and supporting students to build their answer on what they already know, using the content displayed in each session.
Once students have worked through each type of question and the content in each session, they should then revisit each idea and question type over time, so they practice making the connections and deepen their understanding of the key ideas. There is plenty of advice in the teacher book about how to schedule the revisiting of ideas in different timeframes. You can use Secure Science if you have a tiny amount of time and a lot to cover before the exam, or if you want to build your students’ conceptual understanding over two or three years, and anything in between.
Adapt® – adaptive learning
The cognitive science really comes to life in Adapt – the digital element of Secure Science. Adapt uses the same process of thinking through targeted assessment questions to find students’ starting point, connecting what they already know using the video content on Adapt and then using what they have learned to solve a new set of questions. Adapt intelligently manages the learning and assessment so that students are presented with content that moves them forward in every session. Adapt then feeds back to teachers so that lessons and Adapt sessions are perfectly integrated. Investing in EdTech is always a big decision, and we have thought carefully about how to make Adapt valuable so that your investment results in improved outcomes for your students. Although the workbooks and teacher guide can make the best use of the time you have in lessons, Adapt makes the best use of any study time when you are not available. Students can log in on any device and even the shortest session will improve their understanding and confidence in science. I recommend that you use both together so your students develop a really secure science understanding.
By Lucy Wood
Educator and teacher trainer
Lucy has been obsessed with the link between science teaching and real-world science since she started teaching 20 years ago. She was a secondary science teacher and head of science until 2015 and since then has worked in and around schools in several roles, including working with Ofqual, the BBC and Ark. These experiences have strengthened her understanding of how policy becomes practice, and how great teachers help students understand the most complex scientific ideas. Lucy says, “I owe those teachers a debt of gratitude, as without the time in their classrooms and the hours unpicking what they were doing, Secure Science wouldn’t exist. Those techniques are the special sauce that makes Secure Science work”.