The new Cosmos Lessons unit format

A quick backgrounder

Students at school switch off in science classes because they don’t see the relevance of what they’re learning to their lives or to the real world. It’s all just an abstract fact-learning exercise as far as a lot of them are concerned. What’s more, there is an overwhelming perception amongst students that the only reason to study science is to pursue a career that will wind you up wearing a white lab coat playing with bubbling test tubes.

In 2013 we at Cosmos Magazine had an idea and seized an opportunity. We started building online, interactive science lessons based on science news. We lead curriculum-mapped topics with relevant science, directly showing students how what they are learning is relevant to their lives and the real world, as well as showcasing the vast multitude of science-related career opportunities.

I couldn’t be more humbled by the success that we’ve had. We now have over 300 subscribed schools and get great feedback from teachers and students including, “This is easily the best science resource that I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot.”

Having a great resource, however, isn’t good enough for us. We are committed to continually improving what we do.

Announcing our new unit format

This Friday marks the first release of a Cosmos Lessons unit (our 79th) in our brand new format. I’d like to take this opportunity to detail what we’ve changed in our new format and why.

More comprehensive curriculum coverage

We’ve moved away from our lesson structure of Introduction, Gather, Process, Apply, and Career. The primary reason for this is that all of the content delivery had to be squeezed into Gather and Process, which led to some lessons being content dense.

To help to ensure deep concept understanding you’ll see that our new format now has content delivery across multiple lessons. Cumulatively, these lessons cover all of the relevant curriculum points and each gradually scaffold learning from lower- to higher-order thinking.

Learning goals and quizzes

Each of our new lessons now clearly states its learning goals. This is a great way to flag to students what they are about to learn and focus their attention. Importantly, to accompany these goals, every lesson ends with a short quiz (which can be used as an exit pass) that explicitly tests student understanding of these learning goals. This allows teachers to use Stile’s analytics tools to easily identify how well their class, and individual students, understand what is being taught.

End-of-unit tests

Several schools have told us that they no longer use their textbooks and instead use Cosmos Lessons. However, the one thing that some schools value in textbooks that isn’t in our lessons is end-of-unit tests. Until now. Every new unit will have an end-of-unit test that consists of 20 multiple choice questions (auto-marked by Stile, providing teachers with real-time analytics on student responses), as well as 10 written-answer questions.

Science and society

We’ve expanded the career section of the lessons into what is now known as “Science and society”. This section still includes a career profile, but now also looks at a current societal issue that often brings in the ethical, political and economic aspects of science in modern society.

And more…

Finally, you will see two other big additions in our new units. One is that we’ve started producing our own videos. Why? Well, as many of you know, many of the videos available on YouTube are, well, terrible. Secondly, we’ve started building more interactive simulations to provide another medium for students to explore concepts and engage them in the topic.

That’s it for now. If you aren’t yet using Cosmos Lessons in your science classroom, there couldn’t be a better time to start! I’d love to hear your thoughts on our new format and any further suggestions for improvement.

Yours in a commitment to great science education,

Danny Pikler
Head of Education
Stile Education