The Association for Science Education’s annual conference took place from 6–9 January at the University of Birmingham.
My colleague Tamsyn and I arrived early on Wednesday to set up a drop-in area in the Physics West building, where we laid out an array of resources for teachers to help themselves to. We also made sure our workshops timetable was conspicuous (mainly by plastering it on as many walls as we could) as we wanted to reach as many teachers as possible and showcase all the continuing professional development (CPD) we currently have on offer.
We ran more than 20 workshops, out of which only two were repeats: Lights, Camera, Images and How To Run An Engineering Day.
What I refer to as the ‘in-house’ sessions (those that aren’t necessarily attached to an individual project) were varied, from the IOP’s Improving Gender Balance team making a presentation on their findings and the Opening Doors report, through a brilliant workshop on our resource Thinking On Your Feet: Football and Physics, to a panel discussion on school-based CPD, which included delegates from the Ogden Trust and NCTL among others.
The Stimulating Physics Network (SPN) team, meanwhile, looked at highlighting the work we’ve done with the programme’s link schools, and so the SPN teaching and learning coaches (TLCs) ran their sessions alongside a link-school teacher. I spoke to one of the teachers who was a nonspecialist and had first started as a teacher in a partner school attending TLC-led CPD sessions. After 12 months, their school had become a link hub, and they were running CPD sessions themselves.
Also worth noting is that some of the equipment provided by our link-school teachers was truly outstanding. Think of an actual ultrasound scanner:
Finally, our physics network coordinators brought in some brilliant CPD sessions that we currently offer at no cost, as well as some new workshops covering subjects such as graphs, physics and athletics, and particle physics. One of the highlights of the conference was having to stand outside Dan Cottle’s ‘Fruit & Sweet Physics’ workshop, as the room had become so overcrowded it was actually turning into a health and safety risk.
The education team spent a lot of time in the drop-in area, talking to teachers and offering guidance. This ensured good participation in our workshops and allowed us to remind delegates of our projects and how they can benefit from them. Most importantly, it promoted the Institute’s goodwill, professionalism and sense of community.