#CogSciSci 2019 to do list

Goal-free effect:

Adam Robbins, @MrARobbins, https://reflectionsinscience.wordpress.com/

goal free
A goal free mathematics question

What is it? The goal of this problem might be to find the length of CB. A goal-free task would be to ask students to calculate as many of the unknowns as they could (Sweller 1998). The goal-free approach reduces the amount of extraneous cognitive load from holding the goal in mind (Sweller 2011). It may also lead to a deeper understanding.

What it’s not? The goal-free effect only works when the student has sufficient knowledge so may not be suitable for novices.  It also only really works where there are a finite number of unknowns. It’s not a concept map. Concept maps are good (Taber 2002) but they’re a form of elaboration (Dunlosky 2013) not the goal-free effect.

Find out more: https://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2550&context=edupapers

To do list item 1: Try the goal-free effect in the following situations: Mole calculations, organic mechanisms, data analysis exam questions, questions involving graphs.

Improving vocabulary – practical applications in the secondary science classroom:

Amanda Fleck, @AJT71, https://twentyyearsinandstilllearning.wordpress.com/

What is it? Morphology is the study of the different parts of a word: prefix, root, suffix.  Knowing the word origin or etymology of a term can also help to identify its roots and can make it easier to understand its use in science (Quigley 2014).


Why is it important? Literacy was highlighted by the EEF report into SES and science attainment (Nunes et al. 2017) as one of the ways to close the gap.

Find out more:

  1. Resources from the National Strategies: https://www.stem.org.uk/system/files/elibrary-resources/legacy_files_migrated/16278-Notes%2520for%2520tutors.pdf.
  2. Education in Chemistry articles based on the EEF Science guidance report: https://eic.rsc.org/feature/teaching-challenging-vocabulary/3010369.article and https://eic.rsc.org/feature/how-to-help-students-decode-science-vocabulary/3010205.article

To do list item 2: Review the KS4 Chemistry glossary to identify words where students would benefit from being taught the morphology or etymology. Try Frayer model with KS3 or lower ability KS4 group.

Framing the Chemistry curriculum

Izzy Monk

Really pleased to hear that the RSC have been framing their curriculum in terms of big questions.

Find out more:

  1. An article from school science review:  https://www.ase.org.uk/system/files/SSR_September_2018_30-35_Gibney.pdf.
  2. Enquiry questions are very popular in History:  https://www.historyresourcecupboard.co.uk/enquiry-questions-key-stage-3-necessity-not-luxury/

To do list item 3: Try an enquiry question over a series of lessons in September.

Writing in Science

Pritesh Raichura, @Mr_Raichura, https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/. Thomas Millichamp, @TChillimamp, https://medium.com/@tomchillimamp. Matt Perks, @dodiscimus, https://dodiscimus.wordpress.com/

What is it? Three suggestions for improving students’ written explanations:

  1. Provide students with a kernel (short) sentence and ask them to expand this sentence in three different ways using the connectives ‘because’, ‘but’ and ‘so’.
  2. Improve the quality of their sentences by adding definitions as appositives.
  3. Correct misconceptions using the following format: State misconception, explicitly say this is wrong and state the accepted scientific view.
  4. Scaffold paragraphs by using storyboards, prompt questions, jumbled statements and CLOZE paragraphs. If using significant scaffolding repeat next lesson with a different context.

Why is it important? See above in terms of closing the gap. If students can write well it also gives you the chance to use written work to identify and address misconceptions.

A word of caution: All these activities require careful planning e.g. to make sure that ‘because’, ‘but’ and ‘so’ all produce useful sentences.

Find out more:

  1. Slides from the session: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vGyTntyojoEzwqjSu_Amsr6Ik-eVqBSn/view
  2. Writing in Science symposium: https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2018/10/03/writing-in-science-a-symposium/
  3. The writing revolution article: https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/ae_summer2017_hochman_and_wexler.pdf

To do list item 4: Try ‘because, but, so’ with year 10 using the sentence kernel: Plasticisers make polymers more flexible. Try overriding misconceptions with intermolecular forces.


Dunlosky (2013) Strengthening the student toolbox. American Educator. Fall. Available at: https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/dunlosky.pdf

Nunes T, Bryant P, Strand S, Hillier J, Barros R and Miller Friedmann J (2017). Review of SES and Science Learning in Formal Educational Settings. EEF. Available at: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Review_of_SES_and_Science_Learning_in_Formal_Educational_Settings.pdf

Quigley (2014) What is in a work? Etymology for every teacher. Available at: https://www.theconfidentteacher.com/2014/05/word/

Sweller J, Van Merriënboer JJG and Paas F (1998) Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational Psychology Review, 10, 251–295. Available at: http://mrbartonmaths.com/resourcesnew/8.%20Research/Explicit%20Instruction/Cognitive%20Architecture%20and%20Instructional%20Design.pdf

Sweller J, Ayres P and Kalyuga S (2011) Cognitive Load Theory. Springer-Verlag New York

Taber (2002) Chemical Misconceptions: Prevention, diagnosis and cure: Theoretical background, Volume 1. Royal Society Chemistry. London.

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