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A forum for physics

Published: 17 November 2020

In this first virtual gathering, teachers gained insight and ideas during an engaging and interactive online twilight session. James de Winter, Initial teacher education & early career teacher development Lead for the Trust, shared his top tips for teachers and looked at ways to bring research ideas and theory into the classroom. The enthusiastic online audience contributed to James’ session, sharing their own experience, thoughts and ideas. James gave the teachers lots of food for thought as he highlighted a selection of useful research and resources that could help to improve physics teaching practice.

“It’s nice to listen to people excited about research and their teaching. I always find Ogden sessions really refreshing and take something away to think about.”

Teaching circuits
Teaching circuits

A session on teaching electricity then followed from teacher and Ogden consultant Carole Kenrick. Carole gave valuable insight into how circuits can be taught and considered the transition from primary to secondary. The session engaged teachers from across the education phases and encouraged a really useful cross-fertilisation of thoughts from primary and secondary, looking at some of the main challenges and offering some solutions. All of the delegates were able to get hands-on with their own multimeter, supplied by the Trust to all of the teachers who signed-up for the session.

“I found the demonstration on how to use the multimeter great. it was also good to see some different examples of models and suggested materials to help with planning.”

“I find being part of the Network – listening to people that are passionate about not only the subject but teaching the subject – really motivating. I think it is easy to do what you always do, and really important as a teacher to keep learning new ways and ideas, being inspired to read further and generally linking the transition of learning between KS2/3.”

To conclude last week’s meeting, Ogden consultant Charlotte Thorley, introduced practice-based enquiries – one element of the physics education research strand of the Teacher Network. Support for practice-based enquiries has been developed to give teachers an opportunity to undertake research within their own classrooms or schools.

“A research mindset can help teachers to think in small ways each day about what they are doing in the classroom and how they are teaching something,” explained Charlotte. “Research is not just about big projects conducted at universities, it can be about making a small intervention or change in the classroom, monitoring that and evaluating the impact.”

Students investigating science in the classroom
Dan Brown, West Kensington Partnership Co-ordinator, is taking part in a primary science capital action research project looking at how science is taught at his school

Teachers undertaking a practice-based action research project will be mentored by James or Charlotte, who will help to shape the project, direct teachers to the right literature and help them to navigate their area of research. “During a practice-based project, teachers will have to reflect on their teaching,” adds Charlotte. “They will gain an increased understanding of their own teaching environment and the wider education landscape.”

The physics education research programme is one of three specialist strands within the Teacher Network. It has been designed for more experienced teachers who may be looking to progress their classroom practice through broader research, such as a masters, doctorate or practice-based enquiry.

The leadership in physics strand is also aimed at experienced teachers and will offer funded time out of the classroom so teachers can develop physics projects or ideas that can be shared more widely; this could include developing and delivering outreach initiatives or enrichment events or providing mentoring for other teachers. This strand is designed to help talented teachers share their ideas and experience, and to keep them engaged in classroom learning. The final specialist strand is aimed early career teachers and will provide support for secondary physics teachers from initial teacher training through to their fifth year in teaching. It will include coaching, mentoring and topic-based CPD.

Teachers at an Early Career event in 2019
Teachers at an Early Career event in 2019

These three specialist strands live below the broader central programme which will include an annual expenses-paid conference and one physics professional development event each term. That could include visits to leading physics research centres in the UK and ideas on how to bring those research ideas back into the classroom; and opportunities to take part in longer visits and CPD events.

“Over time, at the broadest level, we want the Teacher Network to offer something for everyone,” explained Clare Harvey, Chief Executive of the Trust. “That could be EYFS teachers through to A-level physics, newly qualified through to experienced classroom teachers. We are flexible and open to new ideas about what we include.”

“We hope that all the teachers who join the Network will be able to take part in at least one event or activity each year, but we understand it may not be possible. We will share news, updates and opportunities in our termly newsletter and look forward to building a supportive and collaborative forum for physics teachers.”

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