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Seminar Meetings

Cambridge (Faculty of Education) Seminar Series
Michaelmas Term Seminar: Saturday 5th October, 2002
Meeting the needs of the most able in science - What do we know? How do we proceed?

This was the inaugural meeting of the seminar series, and set out to explore the issues of how to recognise high ability in science, and how the seminar series could be use to move the project forward.

Professor John Gilbert (University of Reading) started proceedings by suggesting a list of the characteristics that might allow us to identify a group of pupils that we would consider of particular high ability in science.

Carrie Winstanley (University of Surrey Roehampton) provided an input from the perspective of special needs / inclusion. In particular, she described how some pupils could present a very uneven 'profile' of abilities - seeming quite gifted in some areas whilst having special needs in others.

Sue Muswell (Module-club) described how she had worked with pupils who had considerable potential in science, but who were often seen as less able - perhaps because specific learning difficulties or particular learning styles made it difficult for them to meet the teacher's expectations in typical classroom settings. Sue described how she had set up a form of science tuition especially geared to the needs of such pupils, to enable them to achieve their potential.

Professor Mike Watts (University of Surrey Roehampton) reflected on the three presentations and the areas highlighted during the morning. One clear outcome of the session was the realisation that there were at least two potential focus groups - (a) pupils of exceptional ability able to respond in normal science classrooms, but not always stretched by the demands made of them, and (b) pupils who are not meeting their high potential in school science because of other barriers (limited literacy, disaffection, etc.)

After lunch there was a productive discussion on how to move the project forward. It was decided that the next meeting (planned for 15th March) should be a themed workshop to provide teachers with some ideas and activities they could use with able pupils in their classes. The following meeting would (as well as exploring a different theme) provide an opportunity for teachers to report back on their experiences trying out the ideas from the March meeting.