Liz Leach and Julie Williams were both teachers at Cathays High School, Cardiff before Liz moved schools. They created practical videos and introduced more modelling in lessons to support their students during the pandemic.

Tell us about the project you carried out with support from Elevating Chemistry?

Liz: We couldn’t run practicals last year, and are still limited in what we can do, so I filmed all the practicals that weren’t available from the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC) at KS3, KS4 and KS5. Initially, we used the videos for online lessons, but we’ve carried on using them in class as well. Our students are a bit wary of people they don’t know and they don’t engage as much with a face they’re not familiar with, so by doing the videos ourselves, we felt they would have more impact with the students.

Julie: We also bought a visualiser, and I never stop using it. I model everything using it – for example, drawing graphs, working through calculations, doing model answers, etc. Being able to narrate the thinking process is a lot more flexible than preparing answers in advance because you can give students as much or little as they need – so the scaffolding is appropriate for them in that moment. I don’t know what I’d do without the visualiser now.

What were the main challenges?

Liz: There were a couple of technical issues with the videos, but nothing major. I’ve since moved schools, and am still using the videos now in my new school.

Julie: What Liz has done is in the same style as the WJEC videos – it’s just her, with the practical set-up in front. So it can be applied in lots of cases. I used one in my year 12 lesson today, because it came up in our conversation and seemed appropriate to show them.

Do you still use the videos in the same way?

Liz: Last year, I was embedding them into online lessons I was teaching. This year, we’re not allowed to do KS3 practicals at my school, and KS4 only if necessary, so I’m using them in lessons so the students can take notes, take the readings and still practise some of those skills.

Julie: We are doing a bit more practical work than at Liz’s school, but I still use them a lot – before, during and after students do the practical. Before, I find it handy to demonstrate a practical, and then use the video to go back and look at an area in more detail. During the practical, the videos can provide scaffolding, particularly with my lower ability classes. We can read the instructions, watch the relevant bit of the video to model the technique and then do it as a class together. Then, afterwards, I often refer back to the videos as we’re talking further about the theory.

How have your students benefitted most from the videos?

Liz: Confidence. That was the main effect.

Julie: The videos gives students the confidence to know where they’re going, and then have a go. Sometimes they’re fearful that they won’t do it right and there’s an element of the unknown. With missing so much due to the pandemic, confidence has been a real issue, particularly with the older students, and the videos have given them that extra support.

How did you and your colleagues benefit?

Liz: I like knowing the videos are there if you need them.

Julie: I agree. And now we’re trying to widen the knowledge of what videos we’ve made and how they can be used so other teachers in our department can use them more as well. We’ve got a chemistry teacher who’s recently joined, as well as a newly qualified teacher, and they could both benefit from understanding how the videos could be used. Doing the project has also made me think I should video more things – for example, more practicals, or modelling of written answers through the visualiser.

Beyond that, I think I need to encourage the biologists and physicists to get videoing themselves.