Last week I started a three month internship with Education Scotland, collecting and developing resources to support physics teachers in delivering the new Curriculum for Excellence. Scotland’s education system is devolved from the rest of the UK and is built upon a different philosophy to the education system in England. The curriculum in Scotland aims to enable all learners to become “successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors” and seeks to provide for both academic individuals and those suited to more vocational learning. Within physics, the curriculum has been reshaped to bring modern research into the classroom in a flexible and exciting way, making physics seem more relevant by adding context and helping students to develop real-life skills. Adding context is particularly important when engaging girls in STEM.
This vision of the role of science in education – relevant, engaging and linked with world-class research taking place in Scottish universities – is an exciting one, but it also presents challenges to teachers in the classroom. The curriculum has deliberately been left quite open, to give individual teachers more room to pursue topics and projects suited to their students. The new syllabus includes advanced topics such as general relativity, quantum mechanics and cosmology, previously only encountered in university-level courses and perhaps unfamiliar to high-school physics teachers with an engineering background. There is also a lack of suitable classroom materials available in these areas, and the materials that do exist are scattered across the web.
This is where my internship comes in – I’ll find, collect and develop resources in the challenging areas of the syllabus that Scottish teachers have asked for help in. As my specialism is quantum physics, I’ll focus my efforts there, at least initially. I’ll bring relevant online resources together in one place so that physics teachers can access them quickly and easily. I’m organising a series of webinars in which academic experts give a short online presentation on a topic from the syllabus and teachers watch live and ask questions. I’m working with SSERC to develop experiments and practical demonstrations suitable for the classroom to help prevent the new content from being too dry and theoretical.
Almost a fortnight into my placement, I love the variety that comes with my new role. I speak with academics, governmental staff, teachers, outreach co-ordinators and more. I’m collaborating with research institutions, government agencies and academics. I’ve played with experiments (something I don’t often get chance to do as a theorist) and found loads of interesting resources for physics education. I hope that during the rest of my placement I produce lots of useful resources and continue to have lots of fun!
Have you seen any physics education resources that you’d like to share? Are there any resources you’d like to see being developed? Let me know!
Featured image credit: http://www.bayer.com/en/school-science-projects.aspx