'A footprint means pressing down and global means world, so 'global footprint' means pressing down on the world and we don't want to press too hard' (child's definition of a Global Footprint)
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Central Foundation Project

Socratic Talk and GCSE Coursework - Using Socratic talk to develop science coursework

Literacy skills Objectives –

  • Raise achievement among disaffected year 10s
  • Improve literacy in Science in coursework
  • Build students’ confidence and enable them to bank higher coursework grades

Key features of the project

• Weekly planning meetings between teachers and school literacy coordinator
• School literacy coordinator jointly delivered coursework skills lessons
• Students developed their vocabulary through Socratic talk strategies
• Students analysed exemplar coursework
• Students were supported by writing frames and sentence starter packs

First session with students

Students were given mark scheme and exemplar work. They worked in small groups to grade the work– Students’ marking was particularly lenient on the D strand – linking ideas to environmental and socioeconomic contexts, indicating the least understanding of requirements– This was chosen as a focus for intervention

Second session with students

Students were given complex texts about passive smoking and worked in groups to answer closed questions on the text. Students then worked in teams to formulate questions about the issues raised in the texts.

Third session with students

Socratic talk session
– Two groups of students
• Group one: Involved in discussion
• Group two: Observing group one
– Group one have open discussion about issues raised in the stimulus texts, having had time to research and prepare notes
– Group two have lists of trigger words and phrases and note if they are used.
• I.e. “nevertheless”, “economic impact”, “environment”
– Group one is debriefed at end of discussion

Fourth session with students

• Students attempt to write coursework essays
– They are given sentence starter kits themed around each strand.
• I.e. Strand B - Interpreting Data
– “This table shows…”
– “The trend is…”
– “…does not fit this pattern”
– “…is increasing by…”

Parallel class (given the same support materials but didn’t take part in Socratic talk pilot)
• Average CW points: 16.1
• (KS2 APS 26.4)
• Even correcting for differences in KS2 APS, the pilot class still overachieved significantly
*predicted grades from Fisher Family Trust


• Students performed best in strand D out of the four analytical/evaluative strands.• The intervention resulted in a marked improvement on coursework scores. 

Evaluation and next steps

• The original plan to use video cameras for Socratic talk was problematic and ended up being abandoned.
The “distraction” factor outweighed the “novelty” factor.
• The intervention has been presented to the faculty by the teachers involved, as have the materials used.
• We are nominating a teacher to lead the faculty on Socratic talk and how we can apply it across the Science curriculum.


Intervention pilot class (had access to all activities and materials described here):
• 56% beat predicted* grade
• 40% met predicted grade
• 4% (1 student) missed predicted grade
• Average CW points: 21.6
• (KS2 APS 28.2)