Since we launched the L2 Btec Applied Science course, interest in the L3 has been high. Last year we had 60+ students enrolled across Years 12 and 13 – as we are not a “traditionally” academic school, this has been held up as a success for non-academic pathways.
This success has come at a price for those teaching the course.
Students enrolled on the L3 Applied Science are not your “usual” A-level candidates. Whilst the learners have x10 to x12 GCSE equivalents, most have come through the school following vocational pathways. The only examined GCSEs that most possess are English and Maths — and those with D/C grades. This step change in candidates has been a significant challenge for our teachers, who have been used to “assuming” certain things about sixth formers.
We’ve struggled for two years with this “new” intake of learners and have come to some challenging conclusions:
- The vocational route into the sixth form does nothing to prepare learners for the challenges of sixth form life
- Learners have experienced a KS4 where they can “do the portfolio” without actually “understanding” the content – perhaps we focus too much on the product and not the process
- Vocational courses are more tolerant of lower literacy and numeracy that examined GCSEs
- Our new sixth formers have little or no experience of recording notes, studying and retaining facts and generally being exposed to learning that is “hard”
Over the past two years, me and my team and hit the wall and bounced many times — and now, 2012-2013 we are ready to try a new way.
Flipping the Science Class
Much has been written on “flipping the class” – lots of it USA centric, but the ideals are just as applicable here in the UK. I’m not going to reinvent justifications or analysis on “flipping” – but in a nutshell – students work on the “instructional” part of learning at home and come into class to practice what they have learned. Almost like “doing notes at home” and coming to class to do “homework”.
For us in Science, the biggest challenge in moving from L2 to L3 Applied Science, is that the L3 course is hard and requires skills that are far in excess to the L2 course. The transition is greater than for traditional GCSE > A level. For example, the L3 Applied Science course uses Log10 and Loge - whereas this is GCSE A/A* — most of our L3 students have D or at best C grade in foundation maths.
This means that we spend every Btec lesson effectively teaching 4 or 5 sub lessons – those that can do, those that can’t, those that can’t be bothered, those that don’t have the equipment, and those who where 30 minutes late. 5 restarts before the class is ready to move forward.
Enter “Flipping the class”
The first strategy in tackling the variability of learners / attitudes has been to create a series of YouTube videos taking the instructional content out of the classroom.
(Now these are still evolving and the format / style has yet to crystallise)
From September 2012, our Year 12 L3 Btec Applied Science students will be required to prepare for class by watching a series of clips (and possibly AudioBoo’s) and work through an example – either on paper or on screen.
When the learners come to class, we will go straight to implementing the learning — that way, the teacher can circulate round and embrace the role of “sage on the side”.
As the videos and the project evolves, I’ll post more.
Are you flipping your classes?