Tuesday, 13 January 2015

ASE conference - practical science

The unofficial theme of this year's ASE conference had to be practical work and how to assess it. It seemed to be the topic on everyone's lips.

I was really excited this year to be asked to be part of a panel debate on the topic of the royal societies 2035 vision for science and maths education. I was asked to speak for three minutes, I managed to say what I wanted in four. I was really pleased to be invited as it helped me clarify my thinking about the report and its importance to the future of science education. It might not be perfect, but it is a great deal better than what we have got.

Afterwards I was able to talk to Tanya Demster, who is the ASE field officer in the East Midlands. I found myself being encouraged to send in my CSciTeach form (which I have written, but not sent). She suggested that if I achieved it I could be presented with it in assembly. Which I thought was a great idea. As someone who is supportive of the professional learning journey model I suppose I should get my act together. I see CSciTeach accreditation as a useful CPD reflection tool on a personal level as well as a sign post of potential quality and knowledge of a teacher to senior leaders.

This image below shows the model, at the Wellcome Trust reception on Friday, where the post it notes show where we were invited to comment. I wondered what professional skills are, and whether subject knowledge is actually harder to come by than subject pedagogy? (I know of too many teachers not passionate about their subject).

From the point of view of the ASE and other science education bodies, where does the relationship between the ASE and the teacher go when the teacher moved into senior leadership? I don't know the answer, but I suspect cracking it would help retention of members.

The Thursday afternoon debate has become a 'must' attend session for me. Last year it was about research this year about practical assessment. I feel we must do something that empowers teachers to see the benefits of practical work in their own practice. It is a good experience to hear the range of opinions from around the room and different angles.

Jane Winter spoke passionately at the debate, I think I want to be a reception teacher!

I think a really important part of the conference is the exhibition. The stands with the biggest crowds and that I enjoy visiting are ones like SAPS and the RI. Hands on tasks and wonderful science to look at is more inspiring than a leaflet.

I did manage to catch up with OUP, (I didn't see Deb, but got the rep to label my for, for her attention! A new version of advanced physics for you should be heading my way). Collins, Pearson and Hodder. The exhibition was quiet at 9am on Thursday so managing to do my school focused visited so quickly was a real bonus.

Another session that was very useful to me was by Natasha from OCR science, taking about the changes to GCSE science. I was really shocked to hear that the exam boards have to use the national curriculum as their specification. I was expecting them to be able to put a twist on it that would improve what we've got. I really do think this is a mistake by the government. If we should trust teachers, then we should also trust other educational professionals like exam board staff.

I did hear during this talk that one of the main issues with controlled assessment in science is that it is predictable, and assessment should not be predictable. I like and dislike this idea. I want to know where the goal posts are when teaching my students...

I was interested in the talk by the Lord Speaker, Baroness De Souza (not that one). She seemed very shocked when one lady expressed concern over the fear that teachers feel during their every day lives. As a friend said 'does she not read the papers?'

It was fabulous to see the practical hub, sponsored by AQA so busy during the conference. If practical work is dead thanks to the changes then this part of the conference proved to the contrary of that. I went to hear from Gemma Young and Tony Sherborne about engaging science, a new set of resources using a tool to help with the delivery. I was interested to hear that Tony is delivering training to go along side it. He is right that giving resources without supporting people with the pedagogical approach means often they can't make the most of what you are trying to achieve.

On Saturday I went to see Fran Scott blow stuff up using computers.

To be fair, she said a lot of really interesting and useful things about how to engage young people. Fran really makes an effort to understand the science she is demonstrating during 4 minutes on TV.

She showed us three attempts she had to explain Archimedes principle and her reflections on each one. The third one being one that obeyed her rules above and ultimately was nominated for a children's BAFTA.

Her talk made me think about how I might start to consider if I understand my own subject well enough (could do better) and how I help students understand.

I have to say the main thing about the conference is the chance to talk to like minded educators outside of my own school. Swapping ideas and feeling the positivity.

Well done to the ASE conference team.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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