Induction to the laboratory

Science mentors should provide a thorough laboratory induction for a beginning teacher. This not only involves the beginning teacher thinking through practicalities, for instance seating plans, eguipment distribution and collection but more serious contingency issues, such as:

  • • Considering how to evacuate the laboratory in case of incidents
  • • Location of gas and electricity cut-off switches
  • • Location of eye washes and watering stations
  • • Availability and location of fire extinguishers and blankets
  • • Availability and location of sharps buckets
  • • Procedures for cleaning up spills and breakages
  • • Dealing with burns and scalds.

To facilitate discussion, during one of your weekly mentoring meetings ask the beginning teacher to complete Task 14.8.

Task 14.8 Induction to the laboratory on dealing with serious contingency issues

Ask the beginning teacher to:

  • 1. Go through the list of serious contingency issues (above) and identify where they need more guidance
  • 2. Include other issues that they can add to the list of contingency issues
  • 3. Reflect on incidents they have encountered in their practice so far and how they (or the teacher) dealt with them
  • 4. Recall and revisit laboratory hazard and safety symbols for eguipment and materials that are commonly used in practical activities. For any they are not aware of, ask them to research them and record them in their diaries
  • 5. Propose ways to develop their understanding of health and safety in planning for practical activities.

To strengthen this laboratory induction further, you can probe by asking the beginning teacher questions such as:

  • • How has reflecting on the above points supported their understanding, knowledge, awareness and even confidence of conducting practical work to embed NoS in their practices?
  • • What further support do they need in this particular area of development?

Risk assessment for every experiment

It is good practice to reguire a beginning teacher to do a risk assessment for any practical activity they are planning to teach. This should be monitored by you, a laboratory technician and/or by a health and safety officer. This will make the practice of risk assessment habitual for a beginning teacher. For older pupils (aged 15 and above), a beginning teacher can be encouraged to jointly do the risk assessment with them, so as to reinforce its importance among pupils. For more serious risks, such as handling radioactive sources, as a mentor, you should organise specific training for the beginning teacher with a designated person or external bodies (such as CLEAPSS in the UK context) who offer such training. It is equally important to ensure that risk assessment becomes part of weekly meetings where you can:

  • • Discuss every practical activity that the beginning teacher aims to teach in the following week and its associated hazards
  • • Provide guidance on the availability of chemicals, materials and equipment to use and possible safer alternatives and quantities
  • • Encourage the beginning teacher to reflect on the availability of written and verbal instructions to the pupils before and during the practical exercise
  • • Provide some trustworthy written and/or video-based resources on health and safety specific to particular practical requirements.

Health and safety can be documented for every practical lesson by adding a column titled health and safety considerations to the lesson plan pro forma containing the nine NoS elements mentioned above (see Table 14.3, row two, column two). These steps are particularly important in the early stages of initial teacher education in order to (i) identify learning gaps in the beginning teacher's practice, (ii) give them guidance where they find difficulty in anticipating hazards and risks or they find problems in planning to support pupils who they think will experience difficulty in adhering to health and safety procedures, and (iii) recognise that health and safety considerations start from the first element of the NoS, i.e. making a hypothesis and not always from the elements which involve handling of equipment or observations or while pupils/teacher are doing the experiment (Table 14.3).

Table 14.3 A lesson plan pro forma to include the elements of the NoS in the planning and teaching of practical work (including health and safety)


Unit of work:

Learning outcomes:

Practical lesson title:

Elements of the NoS

Health and safety considerations

Practical work

Pupils' activities

Teacher's activities

Making hypotheses

Making predictions

Identifying variables

Accurate use and handling of equipment

Making careful observations

Making inferences

Tables and graphs

Drawing conclusions


[See description on the terms used for unit of work and learning outcomes in Chapter 6]

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