Retention Done Well

We talk to Doug Simon, who takes issue with the assertion that CPD is not C, P or D for Physics teachers.

Having heard from Mark Whalley last episode about some of the gotchas that schools can fall victim to when trying to hang on to their (physics) teachers, we hear this week from Doug who reports some of the positive things they do to support their science teachers and keep them teaching.

First up, though, Thomas and Robin talked electricity as that is what they both had been doing this week.

Thomas had demonstrated a bit of uncertainty that GCSE students can get their heads around: the meters sometimes lie! See below…

Thomas’ three ammeters and three voltmeters reading randomly

This is a nice way to introduce a discussion on precision and accuracy in measurement.

Robin had been investigating LDRs and Thermistors and trying to avoid the pitfalls he has hit in the past – either it takes waaaay too long, or it causes cognitive overload with all the fussy details: digital multimeters on the ohm setting, light meters (probably for the first time), multiple experiments, different scale settings with different units, new circuit symbol (ohm-meter anyone?). Doing both together might seem odd, but if you emphasise that both experiments are effectively looking at the same thing – an energy transfer changing resistance – students can see parallels. You only have to set the DMM up once, and I always explain that it is doing what they did recently: measuring voltage and current at the same time and working out R for them – they like that. There are better ways to teach this, sure, but this is ‘quick and dirty’ if you are short on time (and we always seem to be!). See the thermistor practical in the links section – thank you Mrs Cook! I hope you are still teaching physics.

… and talking of still teaching, back to Doug who gives us practical advice on how science teachers can be nurtured and recognised. Some highlights:

  • a specific period per week to support planning & teaching
  • commitment to the subject in department meetings (not exam admin, other initiatives, safeguarding etc.). Meetings are used for discussion / CPD
  • CPD for teachers in meetings based around answering tough questions / misconceptions and ways topics have been taught.
  • Ensuring a common language in maths. Where skills are common (e.g. rearranging equations) can you provide physics-based maths exercises to your maths colleagues?
  • 6 periods per fortnight for KS4 science.
  • specialist physics technicians whose CPD is also worthy of investment.

Doug’s school has had success in holding on to their teachers – it can be done! Why not reach out to a school doing good things and keeping science teachers? Culture can make a real difference and Doug’s school has shown how positive culture can help a school keep its teachers.

Thanks to Doug for getting in touch. Do let us know if you have anything to share with the physics teaching community. It was great for us to be in contact with Clare Harvey from the Ogden Trust this week (we’ll hear from her on the podcasts soon). the Ogden Trust do great work supporting physics teachers and we will be hearing about their work and how they can help support your practice.


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