Book title: The Perfect Science Lesson
Author: John Beasley
Publication date: 2014
1. What is your overall impression of the book?
Dr Reed Johnson referred to The Perfect Science Lesson as a toolkit, and I feel this encapsulates the book perfectly. It’s a selection of different instruments to make, mend and adjust science lessons.
The book is a practical guide that focuses on why science teaching is as it is now, and how to ensure our students receive well planned lessons that achieve maximum learning. It takes apart some of the different aspects of science teaching and lesson planning and suggests a plethora of ways to approach them, providing realistic methods to improve pedagogy. Alongside this, the book considers some overarching themes, such as the teaching environment and learning mindset.
The book appealed to me because my teaching style is influenced by my own early experiences of science, which were very traditional, and I wanted to change this. The Perfect Science Lesson helped me diversify how I approached lessons – from introducing short, snappy activities to giving students choice and control over their learning.
It is an extremely accessible and easy-to-read book that you can appreciate as a whole or dip into when planning a lesson.
2. Who do you think would benefit most from reading the book? What will they learn?
This book is great for anyone planning lessons – whether that’s as an NQT learning the craft or experienced teachers looking to refresh their methods. It is also suitable for primary or secondary teachers – non-science specialists who have become science subject leaders in primary schools might find it especially useful.
I think any teacher who picks up this book will learn how to make science manageable, interactive, fun and do-able within different curriculum designs (creative cross curricular- or subject-led).
3. What did you think about the quality of the writing? Please consider the tone, structure and ideas. Does it suit the audience?
The writing is direct and friendly – similar in tone to a knowledgeable tutor from university or experienced teacher/head. The book is also well structured. There are four chapters, each divided into short sections addressing typical lesson considerations, such as setting clear aims and objectives, or marking and feedback.
The first chapter sets out the current state of science teaching, linking Beasley’s ideas with Ofsted reports. The second chapter considers what makes an outstanding lesson, including topic-specific information boxes and bullet points for aspects such as questioning, starters or assessment. The final two chapters delve deeper into the teaching and learning of science with plenty of practical tips.
4. Please discuss the research used to underpin the ideas. What evidence does the author use? Is it robust and up-to-date?
This book makes use of educational books, journal articles and reports. For example, Beasley uses Ofsted’s 2013 report, Maintaining Curiosity: A Survey Into Science Education in School, to provide an overview of common science teaching issues and examples of schools which have demonstrated outstanding science teaching. He also supports his suggestions on how to model work to students using Berger (2003/2014).
These written sources are cited in the bibliography and many are post-2000, giving The Perfect Science Lesson a very up to date feel. Beasley also includes other references in his book, such as YouTube videos, TES resources or publishers’ websites. These tend to be cited on the relevant page.
5. What did you learn from reading the book? What ideas/approaches/practice will you change or adopt as a result of reading this book?
The book contains many suggestions and issues that I will regularly return to, however a couple of sections really stood out.
Mysterious Science Starters are great for engaging pupils – even last thing on a wet Thursday afternoon. For example, one idea is to have the materials and instructions for a task (e.g. constructing a circuit, assembling apparatus) ready as soon as pupils arrive in the classroom. You then get them to work out what they are doing and why.
I used this as an assessment for learning activity when starting electricity with year 6. They were provided with one battery, one wire and a bulb. They didn’t have a battery holder or bulb holder, and were not allowed to use any additional equipment. Their aim was to make a circuit in as many ways as possible. The activity gave me the opportunity to observe who was or wasn’t confident with the resources, and explore the extent of pupils’ vocabulary and knowledge as they tried to explain what was going on – all in the space of 10-15 minutes.
I will also be reconsidering how to provide effective marking/feedback to students in view of Beasley’s ideas in Chapter 2. I know I include less effective marking, such as “Use pencil!”, and want to rephrase these so that they relate more carefully to success criteria or a student’s targets.
6. Could you share a quote from the book that particularly resonated with you?
‘Being unpredictable at the start of every lesson makes your pupils wonder, before they even get to your classroom, how the next lesson will start. They will look forward to finding out – and so be engaged before the lesson begins.’