Research School Network: Can We Really Teach Science Remotely? Aram Sohaib, Chemistry teacher, The Charter School North Dulwich

Can We Really Teach Science Remotely?

Aram Sohaib, Chemistry teacher, The Charter School North Dulwich

by London South Research School
on the

The answer to the question is yes! The recent move to online learning across the country has been a sudden change in practice but also an invaluable form of professional development. With students learning from home, we have had to adapt and innovate the way that we teach Science.

Three key factors affect and underpin the quality of remote teaching:

Pedagogical approach: How are we teaching in our lessons? In essence the nature and form of the dialogue that we are having with our students.
Organisational structure of the course content, routines of a lesson and its administration, awareness of cultural norms e.g. not being in physical proximity to our class fellows.
Technological know how” and accessibility to appropriate technological hardware and software.

If all three of these factors are carefully considered, then remote teaching can be equally and in some cases a better way of teaching science.

How do I engage students in my lesson?

The key is to keep it as simple as possible! Share your resources before the lesson. This will help students become familiar with what they are going to learn and what they need to access independently if they experience technical issues. Where possible, ask students to keep their camera on so you can see if they are listening to you or not.

Chunking and retrieval

Break up your lessons into small parts giving students a chance to respond a question you have asked. Responses can be invited using a range of methods: verbally; via the chat function, via polls using Microsoft or Google forms, or online platforms like Quizlet and Spiralx. Regular retrieval of current and past content, particularly of vocabulary, will not only help students to consolidate their learning but is also a great way to assess what they have learnt, as outlined in the EEF report Improving Secondary Science.

Modelling and worked examples

Work through examples before you ask students to complete their activities, this activates the students’ metacognitive skills. If you have a touch screen laptop you can use a screen pen to annotate and build examples as you work through them. Alternatively, a graphics tablet (Wacom pad) can achieve the same purpose. Paul Kirschner’s superb video on remote teaching highlights the importance of modelling – click on the link to listen to his Ten tips for remote teaching”.

How do I give feedback and keep track of everything?

Make it very clear at the start of a series of lessons what the students are expected to know or be able to do and how this fits into the context of the wider course.The examples below come from my experience at The Charter School North Dulwich using Microsoft Teams, but other platforms all have similar functionality.

Setting up your course structure in the content library on Microsoft Onenote is one way this can be done.

Picture1 LI

Pages within each section can be used for the relevant parts of the specification as well as teaching resources.

Set assignments regularly, and ask students to upload specific tasks (not everything they have written or drawn) that you have set onto the class notebook which you can use as a digital exercise book.


Here you can give feedback by privately to students at relevant points (as shown in the picture above) in their work using the draw tool or double clicking and typing in feedback. Alternatively, you can give them voice feedback if at different point in the text. If your school is using Microsoft teams, the Class Notebook can be paired with your assignments making it easier for students to upload their completed work on to their class notebook.


Whilst teaching many, much of our time will be spent screen sharing. Using the mouse to direct students to what you are saying is the simplest way of helping students keep track. After a while you may find this limiting and writing and drawing with a mouse is arduous, a good alternative is to invest in a graphics tablet, which start at a cost of roughly £30. These enable you use the draw functions on the new MS office 365 software. Failing all this you could use a visualiser (a mobile webcam), here you can focus the camera on the page that you are writing on and project it onto your computer screen.

Picture 4

Keeping our lessons simple with plenty of chunking and retrieval, organisation and appropriate hardware can make the experience of online teaching just as meaningful as being in a physical classroom.

Next time: how can we replicate the experience of a practical in the online science classroom?

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