From innovation to impact

The ‘Innovations in Practical Work’ series of publications brought together a number of strands in an integrated way. Key features of the approach were:

  • producing innovative curriculum materials, including new areas of science and technology
  • using the insights gained through pedagogical research to develop new teaching approaches
  • supporting the publications with online resources and by designing novel practical resources and equipment
  • promoting the uptake and impact of the resources through a large-scale membership scheme (SEP Associates)
  • developing school-led workshop training packages for teachers.

Publications: The booklets addressed a range of themes in the physical sciences, two of which are selected here.

Novel and smart materials: The publications included a series of booklets that look at a variety of unusual and interesting materials that can engage the imagination of students. Each booklet in the ‘Innovations’ series includes a section in the style of a ‘workshop presentation’ for teachers, along with practical activities for students that aim to engage the imagination and deepen the understanding of key scientific ideas. Two examples are:

Teaching about energy: These examples are from a series of publications and resources whose design was based on my previous work in this area on curriculum development, research on students’ understanding and insights into teacher implementation of change. The ‘story’ in this theme moves from simple qualitative ways of thinking about energy, through the use of a specially designed energymeter to quantify these ideas, and then applying the energy concept to real world examples such as wind power.

SEP Associates: The design of the publications was underpinned by a model of teacher development that emphasised the importance of putting access to materials and training directly into the hands of teachers working together at the departmental level. The membership scheme, SEP Associates, was started in 2004 and was designed to support this approach. At the time of its closure in 2011, the Associates scheme had around 12,000 members, mainly science teachers in UK secondary schools.

School-led workshops: Once established, the Associates scheme was used as the basis for trials of school-led workshops, in which teachers were supported in organising dissemination and training within their own school departments. They were provided with workshop packages, and supported by guidance and incentives provided centrally. Evaluations from teachers involved showed an overwhelmingly positive reaction to this approach.

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