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Posts by neilcommons



Supporting Our Students Manage Their Timeplanning

The development of self-management skills are crucial to help our students achieve success.  At AISB we work to ensure that students’ calendars are not overloaded with major assessment tasks (these would be tests or performances). This has still been a busy week for many of our students and this has highlighted those needs.

Here are some specific skills that we promote and additional guidance help:

Keep and use a weekly planner for assignments – This helps a student visualize what is expected and identify in advance busy times in advance. This should include not only the summative assessment tasks which are shown in Managebac but also homework tasks or service learning requirements or sporting trips.

Plan short- and long-term assignments – The Personal Project is a great example of a truly long-term assignment.  Deadlines for every stage of the project have been identified for the year and adequate time provided for these to be met.  These deadlines should be considered with respect to the other shorter term assignment deadlines.  By grade 10 we expect our students to be able to plan to make the best use of their time and not leave work to the last moment.

Meeting deadlines – Formative tasks are designed to help students be prepared for summative tasks and the feedback students receive from these is crucial.  By meeting these deadlines students provide teachers with the opportunity to give advice on what is required to move forward

Create plans to prepare for summative assessments – Breaking any assignment into achievable stages and planning these out over time is always preferential to leaving everything to the last minute.  This is often reflected by teachers whose lessons will reflect the research stage, or supporting writing a specific section of the task.

So if you get the chance talk to your son and daughter about organization skills and help them be prepared.

Supporting MYP students


During this week’s “Understanding the MYP” PTO workshops we have had a chance to discuss the skills which our students will need to be successful in the 21st century.  The presentations can now be found in the files section of the IB parents association groups’ files section on Managebac within the “Other documents” folder.

In his book, “Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our kids in the innovation era” Tony Wagner identifies the skills our students will need to be successful in the 21st century.  These skills reassuringly align with the approaches to learning skills which we explicitly teach here AISB (and shown in the diagram below).


Mastering any of these skill sets will have a positive impact across a number of subjects and so should certainly be a focus for the personal growth of all students.  To support this growth, at present specifically for the grade 9 students, an AISB Approaches to Learning website has been constructed.  It has been built to provide tools which students can use to independently develop these skills and will continue to grow in response to the needs of our students.  By all means take a look –

Mr. Neil Commons – MYP Coordinator

Speaking walls


You may have heard the expression “if only walls had ears” referring to the secrets they would hear. At AISB in our classrooms although our walls do not have ears they can certainly speak and they speak the language of the middle years program and to all our students go on about teaching and learning.
In the corridors we see the celebrations of success with the rolls of honor, the learner profile, our mission statement and service opportunities. Yet it is when we get into classrooms you will really hear the walls yell out to our students about the units being taught, the command terms used, the key words needed and share what has been happening.






So whenever you visit please take a moment to listen to what our walls have to say.
Special thanks for the following teachers with their excellent wall displays: Mr. O’Brien from the Science department, Ms. Parnell in English Language and Literature department, Mr. Pryslak from the math department and Ms. Nedelcu in Language Acquisition department.

Student accountability


In setting up the new academic year, I have been involved in many discussions with teachers about how we can help our students increase their personal accountability for their own success. This is undoubtedly a key life skill but as we all know, simply telling is not an effective teaching and learning strategy. In order to give students the best opportunity to develop this skill, they will need to have both the “time” and “experience” in which to do so. This academic year we hope to implement strategies that provide for both.

Currently, students receive detailed task sheets explaining what is expected of them from all summative tasks. As teachers, we are now working to provide the time in class to help students further understand the levels of achievement. For example, “What is the difference between a level 1 or 2?” Or, “What do I need to do to achieve a level 8?” In grades 9 and 10, students will also have some MYP time (from 12:50 to 13:10 each Friday) available for their own independent learning. This is an experience that we feel will help them develop their own personal accountability.

In summative assessment tasks, the transparency of expectations means that students will be held accountable for every strand of a criterion. Teacher feedback will highlight areas where improvements can be made and our students need to be accountable for making those improvements; or be accountable for the levels achieved if this work is not done. Every student will have multiple opportunities throughout the year to improve on an assessed criterion so that the experience of not achieving the highest levels is also a crucial learning experience.

So at my school, in the Middle Years Programme, we are purposefully providing the time and experiences to help our students develop their own personal accountability. We are also promoting parents, to help at home by finding the time to talk with your child about each completed summative achievement task and asking them what they learnt from that particular experience.

A day in the life of a Cambodian teacher


This is the article I wrote for the Times Education Supplement about a typical day in my life whilst teaching in Cambodia



How does access to an after school learning space impact students


As the final part of my masters course completed action research considering the effect of an after-school “learning space” on student academic achievement and their confidence in MYP Science. If you want to read the whole report please do go to my last post. This post is the abridged version.

I compared two classes studying science; one which did not have access to an after school learning space and the other which did. I looked at how this impacted academic progression and student confidence in science. Although the findings showed a positive response to the intervention this was not statistically significant. However, when considering the sub-sample of english as second language students it did reveal a statistically significant improvement in confidence in Science. A prior literature review and my own data however also highlighted that with irregular/ low attendance the impact of a learning space in negligible.

Upon reflecting on these findings this year I am working on the involvement of more teachers and a stronger promotion of students to attend regularly. I hope that this will have a positive impact. I will just have to wait and see. Please review the presentation supporting my action research below.

The effect of an after-school “learning space” on student academic achievement and their confidence in MYP Science



Twenty seven 10th grade MYP Science students across two classes attending Northbridge International School of Cambodia participated in an action research study exploring the question, “What is the effect of an after-school “learning space” on student academic achievement and their confidence in MYP Science?  A two group pre/post design measured change in confidence and academic achievement in MYP Science.  The comparison group completed an MYP Science unit on Car Safety before the learning space was opened whilst the experimental group completed the unit with the learning space support available.  Results identified no statistically significant changes between the two classes with confidence or academic achievement.  However, a statistically significant change was identified with the confidence of the sub-sample of English as a second language (ESL) learners indicating a positive impact of the intervention.   Yet the lack of regular attendance by students may have impacted the results and resolving this issue will be the key focus of a further action plan.


With a gross national income of only $880 (The World Bank, 2014), to be able to send your children to a fee paying international school in Cambodia is a strong indicator of economic success within families. However, due to the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, many of the parents who are now enrolling their children in an international education did not have a typical educational experience, let alone one with an international bias.  For during their youth, schools were converted into torture and detention centers and often the educated were intentionally targeted for being enemies of the state.  Hence, they did not receive any consistent schooling.   Therefore, those Cambodians who have now succeeded, and indeed are affluent enough to send their children to an international school, did not find success based on education but are more likely to credit their success to an incredible combination of luck, hard work and a willingness to seize an opportunity in difficult times.  These experiences appear to have impacted the student motivation and willingness to put in the time required for academic success.   Furthermore, many of my students are faced with the additional challenge of being English as a second language learners (ESL) without the support of competent English speaking parents/ guardians.  Difficulties with the lingua franca of our school often cause students to get accustomed to failure which can furthermore impact their motivation to succeed academically.

During a discussion with my own grade 9 homeroom about suitable learning environments, the idea of an after-school space, which also contained teacher assistance when required, was suggested.  This idea was further developed into the creation of the learning space, found in a multipurpose room after school from Monday to Thursday and supported, with the presence of a teacher.

Literature studies had identified the positive benefits of similar homework projects (Cosden, Morrison, Gutierrez, & Brown, 2004), especially for ESL students.   However, a study of homework centers (Bender & Stahler, 1996) had also identified regular attendance as having a major impact on the success of students in such programs.  The type of tasks being given to students as homework was also identified as an issue (Sanacore, 2002).

This study has is designed to produce quantitative evidence in response to the question, “What is the effect of an after school study “learning space”on student’ (particularly ESL students) academic achievement and their confidence in MYP Science assessment tasks?”  My hypothesis was that attendance of an after school learning environment would help students gain greater levels of academic achievements and confidence.  This would be due to the additional teacher support provided which would help explain the requirements of assessment tasks and impact the students’ confidence.  Furthermore a positive learning environment, free from distraction and unlike that available at home, would allow students to more focused time on their assessment tasks which could also improve their academic achievement.

Review of Literature

When considering the effects of an after school study support environment on students’, particularly those who have English as a second language (ESL), it was important to identify research that described a similar scenario to the learning space being created for this action research investigation.  It soon became apparent that after school programs appear in a range of guises.  Often the driving force is also not always to exclusively increase academic achievement, but a more general youth development stance through a range of classic extracurricular activities.  These can include youth organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (Hirsh, 2011).  Furthermore, the location does not always have to be the school. For instance, the role of local libraries in the United States of America was highlighted by R. J. Rua (Rua, 2008).  However, the learning space was an after school study support environment for students to receive access to a positive learning environment and/or to offer general academic assistance in accessing the literature, which provides the greatest similarity within the review of literature  to school based “homework clubs”.

Cosden, Morrison, Albanese and Macias (2001) analyzed the benefits and the required structures of effective homework clubs.The homework-intervention components that were viewed as integral to the success of the program were the provision of (a) time, (b) a structured setting for homework completion, and (c) instructional support for students.  This data also suggested that after-school homework-assistance programs can serve a protective function for children who are at-risk for school failure, particularly those who do not have other structured after-school activities or for those whose parents do not speak English at home. In general, it was noted that the effectiveness of a homework club is mediated by the availability of homework assistance at home, the quality of the after-school homework program and the nature of the homework assigned.

In a later article Cosden, Morrison, Gutierrez and Brown (2004) noted that homework projects had a particularly positive impact on students who were ESL learners. This reflects the majority of students who would be involved with the learning space at my present school.  However, certain risks relating to after-school homework programs were highlighted, and taken into consideration for this intervention:

  • Taking parents out of the homework “loop” may reduce parental opportunities to communicate with their child about school
  • Homework support cannot be coordinated by classroom teachers
  • Required participation in homework activities may prevent participation in other activities that would benefit student bonding to peers and the school

Joseph Sancore (2002) employed the expression “children home alone” to describe a scenario of children often at home, unaccompanied for several hours a day who are at risk to the distractions of the outside world and utilizing their time in non-thoughtful activities.  These non-thoughtful activities were identified asexcessive watching television, gaming, socializing on the telephone and other such activities which did not extend of complement school related goals. He describes homework clubs as an important alternative to this bleak scenario, wherein almost all students benefit – but especially those who struggle with traditional learning models.  Yet it was also noted that for this to happen, professional development would be required to help teachers create stimulating homework assignments.  In hisarticle, it was identified that such homework task must extend classroom learning, engage students with powerful read-aloud opportunities, guide learners to read and write interactively, provide opportunities for shadowing the students during the act of reading or writing, match individuals with appropriate resources, invite learners to make choices, encourage students to be reflective and motivate learners to evaluate their own progress.  These requirements go well beyond my initial study, and the learning space itself, though it would be an interesting avenue for directed professional development in the future.

The creation of the learning space, does not, in itself, guarantee academic progression.  Bender and Stahler (1996) studied homework centers run by the Pottstown Homework Centre Partnership, in Pottstown School District, Pennsylvania.  This study compared academic development between 1st and 4th quarters of 34 randomly selected non-participation students from the school district with 34 low participation students (who averaged less than one attendance per week) and 34 high participation students  (who averaged at least one participation per week).  The results from this study clearly demonstrated that there was an increase in achievement of students who participated on a regular basis but there had been no impact on the low participation students or, unsurprisingly, the non-participants.  This highlighted the importance of encouraging students to attend the learning space more than once a week.

In conclusion, the review of literature highlights the positive impacts of an after-school homework club, on which the learning space is modeled, especially those students with the greatest needs.  However, it also highlights some of the issues related to moving this opportunity away from the family unit and the impact of poorly designed homework tasks.  Crucially, and of greatest concern to my own intervention, is the impact of attendance which may be difficult to ensure with the voluntary attendance model developed for our learning space.


Research Design

To answer my research question I used an action research intervention study with repeated measures across two group pre/post design. The independent variable was the presence and availability of the learning space for 3 months whilst completing of a grade 10 MYP Science unit on Car Safety.  The dependent variables will pre/ post academic achievement and confidence. This would provide data for causal-comparative research.


The intervention was the introduction of the learning space (see appendix A for proposal details) to the after-school schedule in January 2014.  Due to the rotation of the two grade 10 classes it was possible to make a comparison of the impact of the intervention since the first group would complete my car safety unit before the introduction of the learning space and the second group, who are taught from January, would receive the additional learning space access.


The learning space was available to all students at Northbridge International School of Cambodia (NISC).  The secondary school student demographics are as follows:

Sample size 134
Age Range Grade 7 to10 (12 to 16 years old approx.)
Sex Distribution 40% Female 60% Male
Nationality Breakdown Cambodia 52%, Korea 16%, Australia 4%, USA 4%, Thailand 2%, Pakistan 2%, Germany 1%, Malaysia 1%, Afghanistan 1%, Kenya 1%, France 1%,  India 1% plus Singapore, Austria, Peru and China
Location Northbridge Community, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Other characteristics NISC is a fee paying school on the suburbs of the city which has recently become an IB World School with now two cohorts completing the IB Diploma to date.


However, this intervention will only consider the grade 10 that had completed the previous academic year at NISC and this sample demographics are as follows:

Sample size 27
Age range 15 to 19 years old
Sex distribution 46% Female 54% Male
Nationality breakdown 44% Cambodia, 18% Korea, 7% USA  and Australia, 4% Pakistan, Kenya, China, Malaysia, India and Thailand
ESL students (paying for additional support) 4 students
English language B students 5 students
Notes These students were only fully introduced to the MYP during grade 9.

The two groups taken from this sample were known in school as 10A and 10B and hence these were groupings of convenience. However, these classes had been designed to have a similar academic level and with a similar distribution of ESL students. There is no academic streaming at our school.

Instrumentation and DataCollection

The pre-intervention academic achievement data was the final criterion levels total in MYP Science from the culmination of grade 9 records.  In sciences, students have the opportunity to gain a maximum level of 6 for each of the six criterion. The final level for each criterion must then be added together to give a final criterion levels total for sciences for each student. Therefore, the maximum final criterion levels total for sciences will be 36 (International Baccalaureate, 2010).

The post-intervention (and control) academic achievement data was the final criterion levels total in MYP Science following the completion of the grade 10 car safety unit (See appendix B), where all six criterion were also assessed.

The confidence in Science survey (Appendix C) was used to develop a comparison with a students’ confidence of success in MYP Science before and after the intervention (and control). Scores from the confidence in science survey were allocated:

0     = strongly disagree

1     = disagree

2     = agree

3     = strongly agree

With 10 questions within the survey each student will receive a pre and post score out of 30.

Threats to Validity

Maturation – group 2 will complete the car safety unit 3 months later with additional MYP Science experience

History – All participants could have been impacted by different prior experiences although this should be reduced as there was only one grade 9 teacher of Science.

History – The unit related to the intervention is Physics and there may be historical reasons why certain students perform better in this science specialism.  However, the criterion related assessment of the MYP is skill based on not subject specific so this should reduce the impact.

Mortality (loss of students) – There may always be students who relocate during the academic year.


To answer my research questions I used ttest analysis to assess whether or not there were significant differences between the two groups with respect to achievement and confidence in MYP Science. To consider the effect on ESL students, the comparison between two sub-groups containing only ESL students is replicated.


An unpaired t-test did not quite show a statistically significant improvement in achievement in for the experimental group (t=1.814, df=24, P value==0.0822).  Table 1 shows related means and standard deviations.

Table 1: Means and Standard Deviations of Group Gains

Group Control Intervention
Mean -5.1 -1.3
SD 6.51 3.14

Figure 1 below demonstrated the mean pre and posttest scores in achievement for the control and experimental classes. Notice that the mean decreased for both groups but the intervention group’s performance decreased less.

figure 1

Figure 1. Visual representation of mean pre/post tests for each group in achievement



To understand whether the treatment affected students’ confidence in MYP Science the change between pre and post-tests was analyzed. The unpaired t test showed that although the confidence of the invention group increased and the control group decreased, overall this was not statistically significant (t=0.6990, df=35, P Value=0.4910). The related means and standard deviations are shown in Table 2

Table 2: Means and Standard Deviations of confidence in Science

Group Control Experimental
Mean -0.5 0.5
SD 4.26 2.43

figure 2

Figure 2. Visual representation of pre/post scores in confidence in MYP Science


Within the literature research it was highlighted that attendance is an important factor on academic improvement related to after-school homework club attendance.  As the number of times all students attended the learning space had been registered it was possible to analyze the intervention group data to see if the learning space study followed this trend.

figure 3

Figure 3. Visual representation of the relationship between Learning Space attendance and change in academic achievement.

The near vertical trend line and a low R2 value indicate that in this study there was not a relationship between attendance and increased achievement.  However, it should be noted that even the student who attended the most would have only met the criteria of a low attendance student, of attending less than once a week, as identified by Brender and Stahler (1996).

Achievement (ESL)

An unpaired t test does not show a statistically significant improvement in achievement for the experimental group (t=0.497, df=6, P value=0.6687).  Table 3 shows related means and standard deviations of ESL students only.

Table 3: Means and Standard Deviations of group changes of ESL students only

Group Control Intervention
Mean -3.3 -1.5
SD 7.54 1.91

Figure 4 below demonstrates the mean pre and posttest scores in achievement for the control and experimental classes. Notice that the mean decreased for both groups but the intervention group’s performance decreased by less.

figure 4

Figure 4. Visual representation of mean pre/post tests for each group in achievement (ESL students only)

Confidence (ESL)

To understand whether the treatment affected students’ confidence in MYP Science the change between pre and post-tests was analyzed. The unpaired t test showed that the confidence of the ESL invention group increased and the ESL control group decreased.  However, for this sample, this was considered statistically significant (t=3.0358, df=5, P Value=0.0289). The related means and standard deviations are shown in Table 4

Table 4: Means and Standard Deviations of confidence in Science

Group Control Experimental
Mean -2.0 0.5
SD 2.94 1.73

figure 5

Figure 5. Visual representation of pre/post scores in confidence in MYP Science (ESL students only)

Attendance (ESL)

There is not a large enough sample range to fairly analyze the relationship between Learning Space attendance and change in criterion levels total for the ESL sample.

Discussion and Action Plan

The learning space intervention did not show a statistically significant improvement in academic achievement or confidence for all students in the study.  However, for the ESL students it was shown to have a statistically significant impact on their confidence, which was originally hypothesized. However, the data also highlights that a lack of regular attendance of the Learning Space could also have been a major factor in this as highlighted by Brender and Stahler (1996).  Over the intervention period the attendance was steadily growing and the full impact of the Learning Space may only be identified as it continues into the future.

In short, for the Learning Space to have further measureable impact, actions must be put into place to increase the number and regularity of students attending.  This could be achieved with a combination of features designed to both attract students and occasionally coerce them.  One of the key points discussed by the school faculty was the type of attendance expected of the Learning Space.  It was decided that the Learning Space should not be a place that students are sent to for having not completed homework or as a form of punishment.  However, this study also highlights that many of the students in greatest need are often not initially willing to take regular advantage of such an opportunity.  Therefore, for those students at greatest risk it may be worth incorporating learning space attendance into student behavior contracts. In an attempt to attract students, a schedule of focused subjects and relevant additional supporting teachers will be developed – for instance Math Monday and Science Thursday.  Teachers will also be encouraged to promote special sessions in the Learning Space that will focus on supporting a specific assessment task, rather than the teachers own room.




Bender, D. S., & Stahler, T. M. (1996, Novemebr). After School Homework Centres: A Succesful Partnership. Middle School Journal, 28(2), 24-28.

Cosden, M., Morrison, G., Albanese, A. L., & Macias, S. (2001). When Homework is not Home Work: After-School Programs for Homework Assistance. Educational Psychologist, 36(3), 211-221.

Cosden, M., Morrison, G., Gutierrez, L., & Brown, M. (2004). The Effects of Homework Programs and After-School Activities on School Success. Theory into Practice, 43, 220-226.

Hirsh, B. J. (2011, February). Learning and Development in After-School Programs. The Phi Delta Kappan, 92, 66-69.

International Baccalaureate. (2010). Middle Years Programme Sciences Guide. International Baccalaureate Organisation.

Rua, R. J. (2008, November). After-School Success Stories. American Libraries, 39, 46-48.

Sanacore, J. (2002, November – December). Homework Clubs for Young Adolescents Who Struggle with Learning. The Clearing House, 98-102.

The World Bank. (2014). World Bank – Data: Cambodia. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from The World Bank:

Weiss, H., Little, P., Bouffard, S. M., Deschenes, S. N., & Malone, H. J. (2009, April). What Happens Outside School to Improve What happens Inside. The Phi Delta Kappan, 90, 592-596.





Appendix A – Learning Space Proposal


The school recognises that our students are often not adequately supported as learners beyond our walls due to a range of language and cultural issues.  It is hoped that “The Learning Space” will combat this issue by providing a supportive environment conducive to learning.


The environment

Refined from a list produced a grade 9 homeroom group whilst discussing effective learning environment during an approaches to learning (AtL) session.


  • Quiet space where people can use headphones if they want to listen to music
  • A range of seating options – couches, large desks (where multiple people can work together and smaller desks where a single person can spread out there stuff)
  • Snacks e.g. popcorn or fruit to provide extra energy
  • Teacher chaperoned (teacher present and available for help)
  • Peer support (older/ other students trained to help)
  • Time from end of school until the last bus
  • Grade level specific assignment calendars



The multipurpose room (5101) has been offered and will be further developed to fit the varied requirements.



Jordan and Neil will each initially support two sessions a week to help provide consistency through the initial launch period. Eventually this will be supported by all secondary staff sign-up rotation.


When supporting the learning space it is imperative that teachers rotate around and help get students started by reviewing the tasks.



Attendance will be monitored with a sign in sheet but this will just be used to track overall impact and to help teachers identify those student using this support tool.


Students may be advised to attend the learning space by a teacher with associated guidance on what to do which can be should be shared with the learning space team



“The Learning Space” will open in the second week of the new semester in January 2014. This will be supported with posters/ a video/ student notices




Appendix B – MYP Science Car Safety unit planner

NIST MYP Unit Planner

Unit title
Car Safety
Subject and grade level 11 Science
Time frame and duration 22 lessons

Stage 1: Integrate significant concept, area of interaction and unit question


Area of interaction focus

Which area of interaction will be our focus?
Why have we chosen this?

Significant concept(s)

What are the big ideas? What do we want our students to retain for years into the future?

Health and social educationIn this unit students will:Consider ethical and safe use of transport

Reflect on their own behaviour to make informed choices


Sudden change can have dramatic impacts
MYP unit question
Does speed kill?



What task(s) will allow students the opportunity to respond to the unit question?

What will constitute acceptable evidence of understanding? How will students show what they have understood? Which MYP objectives and criteria will be addressed?

Criterion Assessment Task MYP Objectives assessed
AB Car Safety Leaflet Criterion A

  • Explain the ways in which science is applied and used to address specific problems or issues
  • Discuss the effectiveness of science and its application on solving problems or issues
  • Discuss and evaluate the moral, ethical, social, economic, political, cultural and environmental implications of the use of science and its application in solving specific problems or issues

Criterion B

  • Use scientific language correctly
  • Use appropriate communication modes, such as verbal (oral and written), visual (graphic, symbolic) and communication formats (laboratory reports, essays, presentations) to effectively communicate theories, ideas and findings in science
  • Acknowledge the work of others and the sources of information used by appropriately documenting them using a recognized referencing system
C Car Safety End of Unit Test Criterion C

  • recall scientific knowledge and use scientific understanding to construct scientific explanations
  • Apply scientific knowledge and understanding to solve problems in familiar and unfamiliar situations
  • Analyse and evaluate information critically to make judgments supported by scientific understanding
DEF Collisions Investigation Criterion D

  • State a focused problem or research question to be tested by a scientific investigation
  • Formulate a testable hypothesis and explain it using scientific reasoning
  • Design and carry out scientific investigation that include variables and controls, materials and or equipment needed, a method to be followed and the way in which data is collected
  • Evaluate the validity and reliability of the method
  • Judge the validity of a hypothesis based on the outcome of the investigation
  • When relevant, suggest improvements to the method or further inquiry

Criterion E

  • collect and record data using units of measurement as and when appropriate
  • organize, transform and present data using simple  numerical and visual forms
  • analyse and interpret data
  • Draw conclusions consistent with the data and supported by scientific reasoning

Criterion F

  • Work safely and use the materials and equipment competently
  • Work responsibly with regard to the living and non-living environment
  • Work effectively as individuals and as part of a group collaborating with others

Stage 2: Backward planning: from the assessment to the learning activities through inquiry


What knowledge and/or skills (from the course overview) are going to be used to enable the student to respond to the unit question?

What (if any) state, provincial, district, or local standards/skills are to be addressed? How can they be unpacked to develop the significant concept(s) for stage 1?

Knowledge and Understanding

  • How unbalanced forces gives rise to change in motion
  • Awareness of technological developments designed to increase car safety



  • Calculate speed, acceleration and related forces
  • Analyse distance-time and velocity-time graphs
  • Draw free body diagrams
  • Measurements relating to collision investigation
Approaches to learningHow will this unit contribute to the overall development of subject-specific and general approaches to learning skills?What approaches to learning skills will be explicitly taught during this unit?
ATL Skill Feature Explicitly taught in context of…
Organisation Using time effectively in class Meeting deadlinesCreating personal goal settingBeing organised for learning Expected progression during investigationClearly identified and discussedUsing required knowledge checklist

Research scaffolding/ Revision checklists

Collaboration Analysing others’ ideasUsing the ideas of others criticallyRespecting others points of view Forces and Motion conceptual review task with individual, pair share search for misconceptions
Communication Being informed by a variety of media Comparison of drink driving advert strategies
Information Literacy Referencing sources in a bibliographyIn-text referencing (citing) Car Safety task support materialsCar Safety task support materials
Thinking Skills Generating ideas through brainstormingChallenging informationUsing the inquiry cycle

Logical progression of an argument

Introduction to course promoting consideration of different contextsConsideration of car safety information sourcesUsing the scientific method

Embedded in the scientific method

Reflection Reflecting at stages of the learning process Course review requirements
Transfer Using knowledge and skills from other subjects Media analysis discussed for drink driving advert consideration
Digital Standards

How will this unit contribute to the overall development of the digital standards?

Data logging

  • collect and enter data into a spreadsheet
  • collect data through data logging equipment

Displaying data

  • use spreadsheet data to create line graphs (investigations)

Interpreting graphed data

  • fit a function to a set of data displayed as a scatter diagram using appropriate software
  • electronically extract information contained in graphed data to describe features of the data


Learning experiences

How will students know what is expected of them? Will they see examples, rubrics or templates?

How will students acquire the knowledge and practise the skills required? How will they practise applying these?

Do the students have enough prior knowledge? How will we know?

Teaching strategies

How will we use formative assessment to give students feedback during the unit?

What different teaching methodologies will we employ?

How are we differentiating teaching and learning for all? How have we made provision for those learning in a language other than their mother tongue? How have we considered those with special educational needs?

Car Safety

  • Prior knowledge identified with table then class discussion on car safety
  • Guiding question “Does speed kill?” unpacked and pre-unit answers developed
  •    Videos – Extreme crash, Crash test dummies and Top Gear’s Train crash – used to stimulate thought
  • Car Safety KWL (prior Knowledge, Learnt content and Want to learn)
  • All unit assessment with task specific rubrics introduced.
  • Textbooks, knowledge checklists and related websites highlighted for optional support

  • Reflect on speed prior knowledge and the different methods this will be applied (theoretical and practical)
  • Speed questions allocated to verify expected calculation and re-arranging skills (allowing for formative assessment)
  • Distinction between distance and displace and also speed and velocity highlighted.
  • Use world record information to introduce distance-time graphs
  • Practical data collected to be processed into a distance-time graph (supporting kinaesthetic learners)
  • Groups (pre-selected to mix ability) deduce answers to distance-time graph problems (formative assessment)
  • Discussion of task and key knowledge of distance time graph highlighted
  • Distance-time graph homework task allows for further formative assessment



  • Starter – Building on prior knowledge deduction of what a curved distance-time graph shows
  • Acceleration formula introduced and use modelled.  Practice questions set providing opportunity for further formative feedback.  Final understanding confirmation task
  • Groups (pre-selected to mix ability) deduce answers to velocity-time graph problems (formative assessment)
  • Discussion of task and key knowledge of distance time graph highlighted
Kinematic Graphs

  • Starter – Building on prior knowledge deduction of what displayed velocity-time graph shows (200m World Record)
  • Distance and Velocity data paired collection task allowing for comparison and key features to be highlighted in both graphs (formative feedback opportunity)
  • Distance-time and Velocity-time graph problems (formative feedback opportunity)
  • Extension work using Marion Jones race analysis
ForcesReflect upon prior knowledge (in year 9 F=ma is introduced)

  • Force questions allocated to practice expected calculation and re-arranging skills (allowing for formative assessment) with culminating task
  • Groups with no formal teaching develop diagrams showing forces of 4 situations (falling ball, book on table, fish at constant speed and accelerating bike) to identify understanding and misconceptions
  • Correct diagrams are modelled and resultant forces introduced
Forces (Resultant)

  • Group resultant force task used to clarify understanding before problems to build individual confidence (formative assessment opportunity)
  • Newton’s 2nd law Challenge provides practical problem solving extension
  • Forces and motion conceptual review considers conceptual understanding without a mathematical requirement.  The individual, pair, table completion identifies misconceptions and promotes scientific discussion.

Extension: Vector analysis including non-right angle forces

Forces (N3)

  • Newton’s third law thought experiments
  • Newton’s third law problems and newton’s pairs identification
  • Link between equal and opposite forces and ability to calculate forces applied onto cars in crashes
Forces (Review)

  • Forces on a trolley in different situations to encourage hands on application
  • Problem solving reviewing all 3 laws

  • Group problem solving task using prior knowledge to calculate acceleration of a trolley using a ticker tape machine and a ruler (formative feedback opportunity)

Further problems relating to ticker tape

Car Safety EssayOpportunity for research, note taking, bibliography and in-text referencing formative assessment
Breaking Distancesi)              Equations of motion

  • Related reading followed by questions and answers (formative assessment opportunity)

ii)             Friction

  • Related reading followed by questions (formative assessment opportunity)

iii)            Drink Driving

  • Consideration of 3 videos to consider cultural differences and graphical research task also relating to cultural differences.


Plenary task evaluates understanding from all 3 bases.

Terminal Velocity and unit revisionGroup task designed to encourage reflection of prior knowledge relating to resultant forces, distance-time graphs and velocity-time graphs of a parachute jump.Student choose revision tasks with advised

Unit knowledge check sheet is offered to support revision

Car Safety Test

  • Car Safety unit test


Collisions investigation (4 x lessons)Practical investigation of collisions with differentiation available through guidance with task (highlighted with extension support relating to self-teaching of momentum and impulse)
Car Safety test review and unit reflection

  • Review of test to provide formative feedback
  • Car Safety unit reflection promotes development of action response

What resources are available to us?

How will our classroom environment, local environment and/or the community be used to facilitate students’ experiences during the unit?

Classroom specific:Key words, AOI, Significant concepts and guiding questions for display 

Science Department:

All required equipment


Ongoing reflections and evaluation

In keeping an ongoing record, consider the following questions. There are further stimulus questions at the end of the “Planning for teaching and learning” section of MYP: From principles into practice.


Students and teachers

What did we find compelling? Were our disciplinary knowledge/skills challenged in any way?

What inquiries arose during the learning? What, if any, extension activities arose?

How did we reflect—both on the unit and on our own learning?

Which attributes of the learner profile were encouraged through this unit? What opportunities were there for student-initiated action?

Include more challenging problems

Expressing of units in same style

Emphasize vector component

Check terminology consistency

Equal and opposite reactions bring in




Possible connections

How successful was the collaboration with other teachers within my subject group and from other subject groups?

What interdisciplinary understandings were or could be forged through collaboration with other subjects?


AssessmentWere students able to demonstrate their learning?How did the assessment tasks allow students to demonstrate the learning objectives identified for this unit? How did I make sure students were invited to achieve at all levels of the criteria descriptors?

Are we prepared for the next stage?

Data collection How did we decide on the data to collect? Was it useful? To meet all objectives




Appendix C – Confidence in Science survey



Confidence in science survey 1


Name:                                                                  Grade:


Statement I strongly agree … I slightly agree… I slightly disagree… I strongly disagree…
1 I am confident about all of the terminology of science assessment task
2 I am confident  that I successfully complete a science assessment task
3 I am confident about all the  stages of a science assessment task
4 I am confident that I can gain a level 6 looks on a science assessment task
5 I am confident that I have the skills required for a science assessment task
6 I am confident that I can cope with all the requirements of science assessment
7 I am confident that I have the skills to achieve high levels in a science assessment task
8 I am confident that there are no words in the science assessment task which I do not understand
9 I am confident about my understanding of the science assessment instructions
10 I am confident that I will be able to succeed with a science assessment task



















Should success and failure in MYP always be the same?


success or failureIn each subject in the MYP students gain a final grade dependent on their final criterion levels total (which is the sum of the allocated level in each of the criteria).  This value is matched against a set of grade boundaries to identify a final grade from 1 to 7.   Each of these grades has a related descriptor such as:

  • Grade 1 – Minimal achievement in terms of the objectives
  • Grade 7 – A consistent and thorough understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them almost faultlessly in a wide variety of situations.  Consistent evidence of analysis, synthesis and evaluation is shown where appropriate.  The student consistently demonstrates originality and insight and always produces work of high quality.


At no point in the Holy Grail of the MYP – from principles into practice document, is failure mentioned.  Note that in the coordinators handbook schools can fail but seemingly students can.  Now, by the way, I am fine all with this.  I consider everyone on their own personal continuum of understanding, and appreciate that the MYP reflects this.


However, many schools’ (all the ones I have taught in at least) still feel that they still need to identify what it means to fail (although some schools may disguise this as a cause for concern).  In later years when these MYP grades are incorporated onto a university friendly transcript which certainly clearly identifies what it means to fail.   This is where the inconsistency comes in at my present school a grade 2 is considered a fail yet at my previous school failure was considered to be a level 3.


Something similar happens at the other end of the academic achievement spectrum as reflected by being placed on the honor roll.  Last school MYP success meant getting a 52 or higher and presently a 44 gets the same accolade.


If I just based my school evaluation on final student achievement grades my last school would be higher up the ladder.  Now I moved to this school partly because I was so excited by the growth potential and the ambition to move higher up the academic achievement ladder.   Yet this all does lead me to be asking some questions:

  • Should the standards a school set reflect the school or the aspirations of the school?
  • Would raising the standards help nudge the students in an upward achievement direction due to increased expectation or bring about an acceptance of failure?

Any thoughts on this topic would be greatly welcomed.

If you build it they will come….


PhotoI didn’t want to rush into anything and have spent 6 months trying to understand the dynamics of my new school and the needs of my students.  The overriding feature, compared to my previous experiences, appears to be a lack of English language.  They are attentive and quite motivated students but too often when they are required to work outside the classroom I see them just missing point. I fear that the key element is that without first language English support at home the students are not getting that additional guidance that they need.

So my response is the creation of the Learning Space – an after school space designed to be conducive to study.  To help this we have a quiet room, a range of materials, various seating options, snacks and on-hand teacher support.  So now I sit and wait.  I don’t want this to be a place that students get sent to for missing deadlines.  I want it to be a place they come to because they know it helps.  For this reason I have gone for a relatively soft launch and now sit here waiting for the students to come.  I hope that they will come and intend to track the progress of all students against those that regularly attend.

Please reassure me that they will come…

Approaches to learning how do you do it?





I am delighted that my school has decided to dedicate one home room session per week (which is 40 minutes) to the teaching of approaches to learning skills.  This post is going to explain how my school is moving forward with this opportunity but also to ask for advice from any schools further down this path.  Now for those not aware of this IB Middle Years programme (MYP) jargon; these are a set of useful transferable skills sets which have been identified as underpinning successful learning in the MYP, and can include organisation, information literacy, collaboration, communication, reflection, problem solving and transfer.  Now it is clear that these represent an important range of transferable skills and I am confident that they will really help the diverse learners found at my school – if it wasn’t really my style I would place a smiley face emoticon here to indicate my happiness with what is going on.

In response to this need my school has procured copies of the teacher and student versions of “Approaches to learning: A practical guide”.  The teacher book has plenty of guidance and most usefully a very thorough set of clearly explained lesson plans for stand alone teaching of the key ideas.  Plus additional content relating to the integrated teaching within specific subjects and or clusters.  For my school I think that the described lessons will really help both keep the pressure off the teachers and provide a consistent template for us all to follow. Imagine another smiley face here.

So moving forward I hope that a well organised set of shared folders relating to what is being taught will also provide a place for related resources to be shared and and the opportunity for the identification of some school wide best practice tools which will, in the future, help both teachers and students with the added consistency – at least that is the plan.  I can see this all taking quite a lot of time but am in no rush and if there ends up being 4 years worth of content then all the better in my book.


So please let me know if there is anything which  I am missing or any issues your school has come across or even any better ways of doing things.  Help us on this journey.


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