Falling Off The Learning Curve

I am probably stating the obvious when I say that science teachers need to know about the experiments they will be teaching and know how to use the apparatus availabe. What is beginning to concern me is the fact that this will not continue to happen for much longer.

Obviously, they will have been taught science in school laboratories themselves but after that they will have had three years of University laboratories before commencing their PGCE courses. In theory, this would re-acquaint them with school lab equipment but in fact they will not have much time for this as there is a whole lot else for them to get through.

Until relatively recently, this would not matter. When the newly qualified teachers started their first job, their colleagues would include experienced teachers (and usually experienced technicians as well) who were used to the apparatus available in that particular department and could train the NQT in its use.

Increasingly, however, older teachers are entering management or leaving the profession altogether so this experience is being lost. At my school there are still some experienced teachers in the department and we have a team of experienced technicians so inexperienced NQTs can be brought quickly up to speed. This is not the case in some other schools in the area. They not only lack teachers with much experience, the old technicians have retired or moved on and their replacements lack knowledge and experience of school science labs. In a situation where you have inexperienced teachers and inexperienced technicians there is no-one to do the mentoring. As a result skills are being lost and some experiments are not undertaken because nobody has the knowledge or confidence to do so.

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One Response to “Falling Off The Learning Curve”

  1. boilingtube Says:

    So right. YesterdayI was delivering a course for school science technicians and running behind time. I was due to demonstrate how to distill synthetic crude oil and asked if I could miss this out. No! Please let us see what is supposed to happen. I did the practical prepared 4 fractions (up to 250C ) and proceded to burn them with varying degrees of smokyness. I got applause. Why are you clapping? Our teachers do not know how to do this and it always seem to go wrong. Later, the Head of Science agreed but was not surprised at my shock of this moment, even though it was quite pleasing to me. She said there was only 2 out of the 15 science teachers (including herself) who enjoyed and were confident with performing practical demonstrations and experiments.
    It all comes to rehearsal and practical knowledge of what you are handling.
    I can agree with your second paragraph completely and our organisation were asked to supply a guide on basic managgment of a science practical. This guide is freely avialable along with all other science and health and safety advice. You ought be able to know who I work for with the last statement!

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