Science teaching in the 50's

Share your memories and stories from your days at school, and find out the truth behind the rumours....Remember the teachers and pupils, tell us who you remember and why...

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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by postwarblue » Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:43 pm

I think Gandhi is chiefly to be remembered for (1) undermining the war effort by causing military resourecs toi be diverted from the fight against Japan and (2) his interference in post-war politics which may have made Partition unavoidable and so helped to cause the death of hundreds and thosuands of his fellow Indians. I do wish people would try and see through all the left-wing blah about cahracters like him and the terrorist Mandela (necklace, anyone?).

But this has not a lot to do with GvP's Heuristic Methods!
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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by sejintenej » Wed Dec 26, 2012 5:34 pm

postwarblue wrote:I think Gandhi is chiefly to be remembered.............................................

But this has not a lot to do with GvP's Heuristic Methods!
As I understand it the Heuristic Method is to try it and see what happens. Certainly they didn't quite try that method

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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by LongGone » Wed Dec 26, 2012 9:02 pm

sejintenej wrote:
postwarblue wrote:I think Gandhi is chiefly to be remembered.............................................

But this has not a lot to do with GvP's Heuristic Methods!
As I understand it the Heuristic Method is to try it and see what happens. Certainly they didn't quite try that method
It's a bit more sophisticated than that. As in any research-based approach, the first step is to try an formulate an explanation, then create an experiment to test it. For 11-year olds this will require some (hopefully not too obvious) guidance from the teacher, but I do remember believing the ideas were our own.
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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by Martin » Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:34 pm

Sejintenej said that Mr Ronald Crosland “was brilliant and laid-back, or simply adequate”.

I have a recollection of RC from about 50 years ago which still impresses me. I was with a very bright practical partner and somehow the question of movements of a light spiral spring with a weight attached to its lower end arose. RC described the motion, after the weight was pulled down and then released, as simple harmonic motion (SHM). On being asked why, he produced the mathematical analysis. My partner then asked what the difference would be if the spring was not “light”. Without batting an eyelid RC redid the analysis, which was now much more complicated, and again showed us it was again SHM, but with very different properties. I think he did it from first principles, unless it was some sort of party trick he had up his sleeve (highly unlikely). So from Sejintenej’s alternatives, I incline towards” brilliant”.

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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by michael scuffil » Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:55 pm

While we're talking about Crosland, two things spring to mind. One is that he ran the Astronomical Society, and in that capacity managed to get Patrick Moore as a speaker. PM talked about the Moon in the loudest voice anyone had (or has) ever used in the Science Lecture Theatre. He might have been talking in Big School. He also produced an interesting slide, apparently of lunar craters, which he believed (wrongly, as he later admitted) were of volcanic origin. He then revealed that the slide was of the surface of his porridge boiling (hence volcanic, rather than meteoric).

But back to RC. His obituary in the Blue recalled that he also ran the Scout troop, and that no more unlikely combination could have been imagined.
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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by Martin » Mon Dec 31, 2012 8:46 am

Oh the memories that result from this site!

More about Crosland. He also ran the CH Railway Society, mainly dealing with a model railway in a building next to the Manual Training School (now the Doyle School of Design) and on one memorable occasion arranged a visit to the Horsham Railway Complex. Can you imagine a small boy’s delight at riding next to the engine driver of a shunting (steam) engine in motion with a hand on the Regulator (i.e. throttle) – one of the most blissful moments during all my years of formal education.

At one meeting of the Astronomical Society, there was a convincing demonstration of another theory of the origin of the moon’s craters. Onto a tray of gray dust (I don’t remember what the dust was) a stone was dropped. It caused a crater, sometimes with a central small peak, as is seen occasionally on the moon. So if the moon’s surface was dust (its composition was unknown then) a falling solid meteorite could cause a crater.

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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by Fitzsadou » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:51 pm

I agree with point 2 from Michael Scuffil. It can lead to the question of why are the sciences taught at CH? From my own experience, I suggest it is to arouse interest in the sciences’ intellectual content, in terms of their internal logic (including relevant history of science) and their pertinence to everyday life and understanding of the world. Probably the following are not principal reasons for teaching these subjects at CH, though they are very important elsewhere: the need to pass exams and to train researchers (for which the heuristic method is ideal).

Could the moderator use his influence to have the staff’s qualifications included in the CH staff list at the website: http://www.christs-hospital.org.uk/home/staff/ Half a century ago this was done in the “Alphabetical List”, which even included names of the universities which awarded these degrees. A comparison with today’s situation could be of great interest.

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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by J.R. » Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:59 am

Fitzsadou wrote:I agree with point 2 from Michael Scuffil. It can lead to the question of why are the sciences taught at CH? From my own experience, I suggest it is to arouse interest in the sciences’ intellectual content, in terms of their internal logic (including relevant history of science) and their pertinence to everyday life and understanding of the world. Probably the following are not principal reasons for teaching these subjects at CH, though they are very important elsewhere: the need to pass exams and to train researchers (for which the heuristic method is ideal).

Could the moderator use his influence to have the staff’s qualifications included in the CH staff list at the website: http://www.christs-hospital.org.uk/home/staff/ Half a century ago this was done in the “Alphabetical List”, which even included names of the universities which awarded these degrees. A comparison with today’s situation could be of great interest.

Beyond my realms of capability, but perhaps Julian or John H could assist.
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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by bakunin » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:09 pm

As a chemistry and physics teacher I am interested to find out that some CH teachers used original and potentially very effective methods in the 50s. There is an increasing amount of evidence that something along the lines of "heuristic teaching" is much more effective than just being lectured at. The Nobel prize winning physicist Carl Wieman had found that retention and interest is greatly improved by posing an interesting question and asking students to answer it as best they can before any relevant facts or concepts are introduced. The question is then revisited after the students have learned relevant information, and answered with much greater success than with other teaching methods.

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/04 ... e-teaching

On another note I agree that the safety restrictions are often an unfortunate obstacle to learning! There is still a lot that can be done that is fun and interesting, and sometimes the exact safety requirements can be interpreted in a less restrictive way.

I wish there had been an Astronomical Society when I was there...unfortunately not much extra science stuff was on offer except electronics.

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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by sejintenej » Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:18 pm

bakunin wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:09 pm
As a chemistry and physics teacher I am interested to find out that some CH teachers used original and potentially very effective methods in the 50s. There is an increasing amount of evidence that something along the lines of "heuristic teaching" is much more effective than just being lectured at. The Nobel prize winning physicist Carl Wieman had found that retention and interest is greatly improved by posing an interesting question and asking students to answer it as best they can before any relevant facts or concepts are introduced. The question is then revisited after the students have learned relevant information, and answered with much greater success than with other teaching methods.
I think that in Physics and Chemistry working out how and then actually doing the experiment meant that one learned far more and one remembered more. I remember one task Mr Crosland set was to measure the ?tensile strength? of water by pulling something upwards to break the bond. He did supply some glass slides as a suggestion but pointed out the corners might cause a problem because one needed a known length. My partner and I manufactured a solution which Mr Crosland claimed he had never seen before - Whether or not that was true or said to boost our ego I don't know but 50+ years later I still remember that and many other experiments.
In chemistry we had to manufacture some of the glass equipment we needed - no boredom and enjoyable lessons (even when we put dihydrogen iodide under Mr Potts' shoes!
On another note I agree that the safety restrictions are often an unfortunate obstacle to learning! There is still a lot that can be done that is fun and interesting, and sometimes the exact safety requirements can be interpreted in a less restrictive way.
I don't know if it is the rules themselves - I suspect that it is the terror of a pupil getting a hangnail. Means kids don't learn to use common sense. Had a case of this at the local school; kids coming out of school would compete to be the closest to the car when playing chicken. I suggested to the head teacher that he should give a general warning but he refused pointblank in case it come back against the school. A pupil died - ahh, but he was technically outside school grounds.

There are some times when it is advisable to be strict. As a result of Page's creation of the Civil Defence section in the CCF I have almost always been involved in rescue and safety of one type or another. In one office we had an area which had a significantly higher (though still low) risk of fire. There were plenty of extinguishers there but the ladies refused to set them off against a petrol fire in a steel tray in the courtyard. They were simply terrified of pulling the handle and the noise but after being coerced to do it they realised that the noise was better than being burnt to a crisp.

On the other hand I have no worries about a kid getting a bruise or even a cut - I simply teach them how to deal with it and hope that they remember for the rest of their lives. Chief Constables Commendations have been involved.
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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by Alex » Fri Jun 22, 2018 4:39 pm

I agree that ‘doing’ usually increases ‘learning’ and ‘remembering,’ though some do have more highly developed auditory and/or visual memories.

However the heuristic method at CH goes back far longer than to the 1950s. It was introduced when the school moved to Horsham in 1902. Then the four, spanking-new, specially-designed, science laboratories of the Old Science School, conceived by HE Armstrong, became available for use by CE Browne and his three fellow science teachers. They taught ‘pure’ heuristic science. This was soon modified and diluted by slightly increasing the class numbers, including some demonstration experiments, etc., for clear reasons. ‘Pure’ heuristic classes had to be small and hence expensive. Also fewer scientific scholarships were won because the examiners loved lots of facts and although heuristic pupils almost certainly had a deeper understanding of the relevant scientific principles of those days, they had learned fewer facts. Even so, it took some decades before many other schools copied CH’s approach to science teaching.

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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by LongGone » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:32 pm

Having taught for ~50 years at every level from 14-years-olds to training Ph.D. students, I believe the 'hands-on' approach in the sciences is not for every student (and certainly not for every teacher), but it is a very effective way of identifying and nurturing those who have the necessary 'spark.' It certainly worked with me, thanks to Richard Fry, and I have found that time spent in the lab helps most students to apply what they have been told in lecture. This becomes particularly true when students have a chance to design and conduct their own experiments and eventually take part in some level of independent research. The value of this approach, at least in my area, was demonstrated in my department. Although a small state-funded (Ha!) institution we turned out students who were extremely competitive in applying for graduate work. In fact, over 20 years we had more students accepted to the Yale Molecular Biology program than any other school in the country, in large part because they had already demonstrated an ability to do research which is typically more important that good marks. Of course, getting into graduate school is not the only measure of success, but for those whose interest lies there, the heuristic approach seems to be very successful.

As I have mentioned before, I am disappointed at how little news or recognition of the sciences is in any of the CH publications. After 80+ years I would have expected a new science complex to have been built: I believe the 'New' Science building is from the 30s.
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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by postwarblue » Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:33 am

Personally I far preferred to learn facts by rote. I have always been poor at practical things and one experiment taught me that the Specific Heat of water was 1.5. Goodness knows how I scraped my A-level Physics Practical.
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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by J.R. » Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:41 am

I'm pretty sure that some of the experiments I was involved with 'Phallic' Mathews in his classes would not be allowed today und 'Elf & Insanity'.

I can also remember some pretty 'hairy' experiments in Uncle Kirby's lab out of school hours, but under Uncles very watchful eye !
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Re: Science teaching in the 50's

Post by sejintenej » Tue Jun 26, 2018 11:00 pm

postwarblue wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:33 am
Personally I far preferred to learn facts by rote. I have always been poor at practical things and one experiment taught me that the Specific Heat of water was 1.5. Goodness knows how I scraped my A-level Physics Practical.
Robert; I fully understand where you are coming from. We are all different - I could never ever learn anything by rote (it was discovered long after I left CH that I am dyslexic) but put in a practical situation I had no problem at all. As an example, I learned to speak two foreign languages fairly fluently "on the streets" in weeks but after two years of one to one tuition I still know no German. (Oh, and languages are one of my two phobias)
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