Hints and Tips - 4 minute read
Andy Brunning, OCR Chemistry Subject Advisor
Directing remote learning has plenty of challenges for teachers, and the stakes are arguably highest with students who will be taking exams next summer. In this blog, I’ve tried to distil the feedback received from chemistry teachers, highlighting some useful tips on approaches you could take with your year 12 students for the remainder of the academic year.
After our recent science blog post suggesting content A Level Biology teachers might like to focus on, I wondered how chemistry teachers were approaching the current situation with their year 12s.
Are they making changes to their plans?
What content are they prioritising?
What have they found to be particularly effective?
A big thank you to all the teachers who got back to me with details on their approaches.
A little over half of the teachers I asked had stuck with the teaching order they had planned before schools were closed.
Some had originally planned for revision of year 12 content to fit around the now cancelled AS examinations, so had continued with this as intended, in some cases not planning to move onto year 13 content until September.
Others felt that the content they had planned was already well-suited to remote learning anyway.
Those who had made changes to their teaching schedule aimed to avoid topics which are heavy on linked practical work, such as rates of reaction, organic synthesis, and acids and bases. There was also a desire to avoid teaching skills perceived to be difficult to teach remotely, such as graphing in the rates topic.
Several teachers mentioned shifting their focus to topics such as organic analysis, Kc and Kp, enthalpy and entropy, and equilibrium. The suitability of modelling calculations for ‘equation-heavy’ topics was cited as a reason for some of these, while for others it was the opportunity to easily refresh and build on prior student knowledge.
Some also noted their intention to review content covered during this period on students’ return to school, either through relevant practical work or re-teaching of some parts of topics.
Several teachers stated they were simply waiting until students were back in school to address anything relating to practical work. Others planned to focus on the aspects of the practical endorsement which could be addressed remotely, including planning, risk assessment, and research tasks.
By far the most popular resource relating to practical work was the Royal Society of Chemistry’s screen experiments and in particular the aspirin synthesis screen experiment. A number of teachers had originally planned to carry out this experiment towards the end of year 12.
While these teachers still intended to carry out the actual practical work with their students during the next academic year, they and their students considered the simulation to be useful preparation.
Some teachers were using practical videos from CLEAPSS to familiarise students with practical work they’ll carry out in future. One teacher commented that a particular issue with practical videos elsewhere online was one of quality, with many including errors or showcasing poor technique.
Another teacher detailed some home practical challenges they were setting their students, including making a biogas generator or baking sourdough bread and explaining the fermentation process.
Many teachers were using past paper questions, such as those available on our ExamBuilder tool, to develop indirectly-assessed practical skills. Some were doing this as an explicit activity by specifically choosing practical-based six-mark questions, while others were simply including some practical-related questions as part of remote assessments.
Some teachers I spoke to were giving live lessons, though in some cases there was a perception that these led to student passivity. Others had created their own videos using visualisers to explain content. MaChemGuy’s chemistry videos were also given multiple shout-outs.
The use of multiple choice quizzes to assess student progress was a popular option. Some multiple choice quizzes are available from the OCR qualification page (under planning and teaching > teaching activities).
Teachers also used questions available through Kerboodle and Seneca. Question banks for shed-loads of practice (SLOP) were also mentioned as a source for questions beyond multiple choice.
Many teachers had used online platforms as an anchor for remote learning. Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom were both regularly mentioned, with some teachers indicating they planned to continue using elements of these even once students were back in the classroom.
Don’t forget that, in one of our previous Science blogs, we’ve highlighted a range of useful online resources for remote learning.
How have you tackled teaching A Level content remotely? What content are you prioritising? What additional resources could we produce which would be useful, both now and when students return to school? Let us know in the comments below.
If you have any queries or questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or Tweet us @OCR_Science. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Andy Brunning - Subject Advisor - Chemistry
Andy joined OCR in September 2017 as the Subject Advisor for A Level Chemistry. Before joining OCR he worked as a chemistry teacher in Bournemouth and Cambridge, and is particularly interested in context-based teaching approaches. In his spare time he enjoys photography, graphic design, and playing the guitar.