ASE Conference Talk Details

This is a sub-page containing my notes on each of the talks I attended at the 2016 ASE conference, the main page is here

CASE to Lets Think.

I know it’s not science, in that it is unevidenced, but I’ve always like Piaget’s ideas about kids constructing internal models and a concrete/abstract transition at some point after adolescence, because they seem to me to have good explanatory power for what I see in my Physics classroom. Therefore CASE (Cognitive Acceleration in Science Education) which was a program based on Piaget’s ideas and which reported big gains not only in science but for other subjects is really appealing.

CASE seems to have rather fallen out of fashion, so it is good to know that it continues through “Lets Think”. However, this presentation was a little disappointing because they couldn’t tell us the results of their trials because they were in the process of being written up for publication.

Have to wait for EEF to report I suppose.

Practical Work in Science.

This was the Keynote for the day from Sir John Holman, he reported on the progress of a project to survey practical work in science lessons across 11 countries.

Amongst the questions asked by the project was “Why do practical work at all?” answers included:

  • To teach scientific enquiry
  • To improve understanding of theory
  • To teach specific skills
  • To motivate and engage
  • To teach generalisable skills
  • Plus to encourage communication, teamwork and perseverance

Sir John thought it was interesting that it was generally true that teachers rated “motivation” as a driver more highly than official documents, while teachers rate the teaching of specific skills via practicals less highly than officials.

He also noted that many teachers feel that scientific enquiry has been reduced to following a recipe.

Of the specifics discussed the Dutch model was particularly interesting; 80 hours per person must be spent on research projects by Dutch 17 year olds. As a consequence open ended research is undertaken throughout science teaching in Dutch Secondary Schools in order to prepare students for their “profielwerkstuk”.

An International Perspective from the National STEM Learning Centre.

This was a bit of fun, we got to launch stuff across the room!

It was interesting to discover that the National STEM centre is teaching Physics from an engineering perspective in conjunction with Rolls Royce.

A snippet that I wrote down was “is it enquiry or inquiry based learning?” “enquiry means to ask a question, inquiry means a formal investigation”.

Science Teaching: What Works?.

Hmm, I made a mistake in going to this one, it was the “group work is good” CPD that you get a lot of in school. The room was packed and most seemed to enjoy it so it was just me being a grump, long day.

Teaching Using Real Weather Data.

The wife being a weather forecaster I had to go to this one didn’t I?

It turns out that the agricultural research station at Rothamsted has a lot of data that they would like to make available to schools, and they were keen to talk to teachers about how to go about this.

I hope we were useful in our answers. If you are a Biology teacher in need of real data on external effects (weather, fertiliser, pests, etc) on plant productivity get in touch with them, they will be very keen to help.

Language of Mathematics in Science.

Richard Needham started off with a very interesting exercise; he distributed data set into PC & B contexts and asked each table to graph their data. Only after sharing the very different graphs that resulted did he reveal that we all had the same data, just different contexts.

You have to wonder, if science teachers can’t agree on the look of a graph, how science and mathematics teachers can possibly agree on anything. Hopefully the “Language of Mathematics in Science” book will help when it arrives.

Physics Problem Solving: BPhO & Isaac Physics.

 Judging by the reaction to my tweets this talk by Robin Hughes was the most important that I attended.

I found out more about Isaac Physics than I had known – I didn’t realise how set up the website was for using in class and as HW. But the two things that had impact were two comments from Robin:

  • “When solving a Physics problem always draw a diagram (if there already is a diagram draw it bigger and better)!”
  • “If you want to involve kids in hard extra curricular Physics offer tea and cakes”

I have adopted both as gospel!

Frontier Science: The Mystery of Antimatter.

I loved this – well outside of my speciality, but pitched so I could follow the lecture – Professor Cristina Lazzeroni was infectious in her enthusiasm for the problem of the lack of antimatter.

And just as importantly I’ve enjoyed going back into school and talking about her lecture when teaching Particle Physics – it is so nice to be able to say “she said” – not something that often happens when describing particle physics.

Broadening the STEM offering at KS4 from AQA.

AQA wanted to talk about the development their STEM “Technical Awards”. It seemed crazy that the government had decreed that they could not have any overlap with the GCSE so designing them was incredibly hard.

Unfortunately for AQA there was no one in the room from a UK state school (two Jerseymen and an American!), which tells you how much take up there will be for their hard work.

How to Get Published.

 This talk was specific to the IOP’s “Physics Education”, but I went along because student research/publishing is a direction that I want to gently push my dept. I came away with a good check list of the steps that need to be taken before publication that I can share with the boys.

The Trials and Trails of Particle Physics.

This talk was given by David Cotton. Now before the talk I’d never met David, but it was clear from that we shared interests and he had been generous in sharing stuff with me. I was looking forward to it, and wasn’t disappointed!

His talk included a lot of reference to Becky Parker’s “Research in Schools” which is an interest of mine, and I learnt that I’d never been able to demo the photoelectric effect at school because my tube was UV-A and I needed UV-C. Just that was worth the airfare!

Using Models to Teach Electricity.

I’d intended to attend this talk out of interest since my first degree was electronic engineering and a lot of electricity teaching makes me unhappy. In the end I couldn’t justify occupying a seat just out of interest, because the session filled, and then just kept filling. So many worried looking teachers wanting to know how to approach electricity with their classes.

I have to wonder whether the worry the kids feel about electricity is something that they have picked up from their teachers.

Science Education/ResearchEd.

 This talk had a stellar cast: Charles Tracy, who leads a lot of what the IoP does on education, and Tom Bennett, government tsar and founder of the ResearchEd movement.

The ideas to be conveyed were that the IoP was developing an online tool to connect education research with the Physics classroom and the ResearchEd was holding its first Maths and Science specific conference in the summer.

The discussion that followed was interesting – I tried to hold my tongue and not be too forceful in my opinion that much published Education Research is very poor – I wasn’t successful!

Frontier Science: Is Man Just Another Animal?.

Can I admit to a bit of mancrush on Professor Steve Jones? When he’s on the radio I have to stop everything to listen. So whisper it quietly (I am a Physicist afterall) this was the talk I was most looking forward to.

Wow – he covered so much ground, I tried to write all the topic headings down on my phone as he ranged far and wide across evolution – I could barely keep up and I was only writing one or two words per topic!

@Bio_Joe tweeted about how SJ was a lesson to us all in the economy of his slides. I couldn’t agree more – the minimal powerpoint definitely did not distract from the talk. Great way to end.


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