Sunday, 22 January 2012

ASE Conference 2012

After being a member for a few years, this year I finally got the opportunity to go to the annual conference.  Luckily I'm only a couple of hours away by train so I planned to go on the Friday just for the day.  As others have said, this is great CPD - I wish I'd known exactly how it works before I went so I could've planned my time there better and maybe stayed for another day.  I really want to go to next year's now, I know I could get a lot more out of it.

I spent a fair bit of time in the Exhibition Area, yes collecting free pens, but also talking to people from the Science Museum, the Met Office, the RHS and various exam boards and publishers about the resources they have for teaching science.  There were plenty of places to spend some serious money (new lab benches, fume cupboards and glassware...), and there was a lot of technology on display (it seemed that every stand had at least one iPad...)

I was able to meet up with some of the great people from Twitter too.  They've provided me with help, ideas and support for a year or more, so it was good to put faces to names and have a chat about how teaching is the same and difference in FE, and in other areas of the country. Thank you!

After lunch I went to a talk about Active Learning for post 16, mainly to get some reassurance that the things I have been doing with my classes have value and to get some new ideas too. I've always loved the idea of encouraging independence in 6th form pupils, after all if they plan to go onto higher education then they need to know how to study for themselves.  Unfortunately, all too often, year 12 and 13 become all focused on exam results and just want the information they need to pass handed to them.  Some top tips were:

  • Don't read practical instructions to pupils.  Make the method available to them before the lesson (via homework or moodle for example), and then they arrive at the practical ready to start.  This leads onto the next one...
  • Let the pupils fail. They learn from this, they'll read the instructions the next time
  • Encourage pupils to buy science dictionaries, or make their own.
  • Develop self and peer assessment
  • Brainstorming sessions - a pupil writes down what they know and this is passed to another pupil to correct and add to, before being passed on again, and so on.

There was a bit of discussion about entering year 12 pupils for exams in January.  There's the idea that they don't know how to learn at that stage of the course, so underachieve versus the wake up call they can get from a poor result.

I also liked the self-evaluation form - I scribbled down the main headings for this, so I'll get that up here as soon as I put it into a document.

Other active learning ideas included:

  • Making models, eg of muscles and cells
  • Dominos with question and answers.
  • Matching cards
  • Sequencing cards, eg the cardiac cycle
  • Finding a picture or diagram and getting pupils to write about it
  • Marketplace

The Phillip Allen book, "Friday Afternoon Biology" was recommended as it has many of these activities already prepared, as was "The Teacher's Toolkit".

Overall then, I'd absolutely go again because I got so much out of it, even in a few hours. Thanks to the ASE for organising this great CPD.

Other people have also blogged about the things they did:

@teachingofscience - here
@Bio_Joe - here
@hrogerson - here

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