Episode 73: COVID-19 Science Education with Mr Forhad Hussain, Science Educator

In this episode Dr Bahijja Raimi-Abraham talks about Chemistry, Science Education and the impact of COVID19 lockdowns in secondary schools with Mr Forhad Hussain (see bio), a Science Teacher.

Image of classroom by MChe Lee.

Dr Bahijja: Tell us a little about yourself, to start off.

Mr Forhad: I am a science teacher and I teach in Essex, and I have been teaching for around 6 years. I was born in London and brought up there, and my parents are from Bangladesh and migrated to the UK in the 1980s.

Dr Bahijja: What is your favourite song at the moment?

Mr Forhad: Not necessarily a favourite song, but I enjoy listening to conscious music — music with a focus such as politics, world affairs — that type of genre. Some of my favourite artists are Loki and Akala.

Dr Bahijja: Can you recommend a film and/or a book?

Mr Forhad: Going back to Akala, he wrote a book called “Natives” about race and class and how they are linked, especially in the UK. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it!

Dr Bahijja: What is chemistry to you?

Mr Forhad: Right — chemistry to me, as an educator, it is everything I see, hear, taste, touch. It’s about understanding all the reactions going around us in the world and passing that information on to my students that I teach on a daily basis. It is instilling that appreciation for matter and how it shapes the world around us.

Dr Bahijja: What was your journey like into science education?

Mr Forhad: So, my journey into science education really began when I was studying myself. I studied science at the GCSE level and I had limited information about what was available — that was pretty common back then. I then went on to study science A-levels, with chemistry and biology, as well as politics and maths. My direction to these courses came a lot from my family background, as science careers were preferred. That influence directed me originally to medicine, but because of the limited information I had I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. At university, I originally did biomedicine and upon completing my Bachelors, I was invited to a taster event in South London. That was really my first exposure to teaching. I then applied for training and now six years later, here I am. […]

Dr Bahijja: What is the process of translating complex chemical mechanisms into something comprehensible for secondary school students?

Mr Forhad: That is literally the art of teaching, you know. It is about getting students involved — all of them involved, regardless of the level they are working at. Teachers develop their own strategies, but there are also research based strategies one can implement for this kind of thing. There are models and ways of thinking — one common one is scaffolding. All of the “supports” are added to make the information more manageable to learn. Schools nowadays are working harder to implement a lot of these research based teaching technqiues.

Dr Bahijja: Do you think losing the ‘nuances’ simplifies the science too much?

Mr Forhad: Honestly, it’s all about the age and level appropriateness. There is a time and place to be technical and at different stages in education, different levels of complexity or “scaffolding” can be given to the students. We aren’t necessarily oversimplifying, but different levels of information need to be given at different times in a student’s journey to make sure they are understanding the content being taught — if you go too complex, students can feel overwhelmed by learning too much at one time, too soon.[…]

Image of empty classroom by Ivan Aleksic.

Dr Bahijja: How has COVID-19 and the lockdowns been for you?

Mr Forhad: We are still in the lockdown a bit [here in the UK], just easing out towards the finish line. Honestly, it has been quite strange and unprecedented — something like this hasn’t happened in the UK for the long time. However, its given me a good opportunity to reset a little and chill out a bit, and focus more on the important things. Never has the world paused like this for so long, in our lifetimes, especially so suddenly. I suddenly had a lot of excess time and I’ve been more conscious over how I spend my time.

Dr Bahijja: How have you found switching to online teaching during COVID-19?

Mr Forhad: At this stage, we are back with face to face teaching (and we have been since March 8th) — but before then, we used Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. We had groups and we had developed our methods to a good standard and level we were all happy with. There was a huge development in online learning platforms in a short period of time, and so by that point in time we had really had it all figured out. We really all took a massive step and have made monumental progress in getting everyone on board with remote learning.

Dr Bahijja: How do you feel the lockdown has impacted the secondary school students? Is there going to be long term consequences of them “missing out” on education and peer interactions?

Mr Forhad: There has been a lot of talk about that loss of learning, and its true that the first time around we probably lost around 6 months of education, and this time around, probably around 3 months. Work is going to have to be done inevitably, to address this, but I see it as less of a problem, as there is a far greater damage to the culture that school’s foster. Students have forgotten routines, teaching has become more difficult for both teachers and students, etc. We are focusing less on teaching and now more on enforcing rules in a new environment students are new too, so that students can actually pay attention and learn. Students have also been affected in their mindset and feel less inclined to work as hard as before, as they feel its a bit of a waste of time. So while the loss of learning is a concern, the affects on worth ethics and social educational climates is far greater. […]

Image of students using computers by Scott Graham.

Dr Bahijja: Based on your experience, how do you feel online teaching during the pandemic has transformed science education?

Mr Forhad: I do that online learning has transformed the education and it has really encouraged as to take to technology more than we previously did. On the whole, all of us are utilising technology more and it has improved many aspects of the learning. Teaching as a whole has also changed, we have a more blended approach using more technology. A lot of it has brought very positive additions.

Dr Bahijja: What is your Instagram page “Gram Science School” about?

Mr Forhad: I opened the instagram page recently, during this second lockdown. It’s basically where I share my learning materials from my lessons — hopefully it can provide students revision materials, or practice. It can also help students all accross the UK, as we all have the same curriculum.

Dr Bahijja: What does being a Chemist mean to you?

Mr Forhad: Chemistry, to me, means experiencing and understanding the world around us and then passing on that ability to understand it to those around me, especially my students.

Dr Bahijja: Do you have any take-home messages for the audience?

Mr Forhad: My key takehome messages are that science education has become more important than before in recent history. We have all seen firsthand the importance of scientific literacy, doctors, nurses and other science professionals, such as chemists, pharmacists and statisticians. There is also a massive shortage in science teaching professionals, so we need to encourage more young people to get into these professions. Especially, being Bangladeshi, I also think its important for science professionals to really show and highlight diversity and show students that people with the same backgrounds work in these fields — that it is possible for them to go into chemistry.

If you have any questions you’d like to be answered by Dr Bahijja, feel free to send them in via the website chat, or email MondayScience2020@gmail.com. You can also send us your questions as a voice message via
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An engaging podcast bringing you the latest research in Science, Technology and Health.Hosted by award winning scientist Dr Bahijja Raimi-Abraham.

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