The ASE annual conference – what I learned and how to make it stick #asechat #aseconf

Having returned from ASE conference and started to unpack the wealth of resources collected there,  I feel that going was very worth while.  Attending the conference is about CPD, about recharging enthusiasm and networking as well as getting the latest news and ideas from the world of science educations.

With my role as a school leader, my choice of workshops was skewed towards assessment, progress and the new GCSE.  These were interspersed with practical ideas and workshops on literacy and numeracy.

The IoP had a heavy presence at the conference and they certainly had impact.  I went to two of their sessions and wasn’t disappointed.  I didn’t feel able to own up to the shame of being a biologist, but their sessions were as useful to me as to a proper physics teacher.  Medical physics had some excellent ideas on teaching X-rays (modelling a CT scanner using IR rays), teaching total internal reflection and examining the Doppler effect using audacity software.  There was a lot of information and a fair number of participants at both sessions I attended despite both having the 9 o’clock slot.

IMG_20160108_091659 IMG_20160108_094019


In a session on assessment I learned how to use mini-whiteboards to demonstrate progress in an interactive session.  Lots of useful ideas and audience participation will help to make the ideas stick.  This was complemented with a “real” science teacher talking through evidencing progress in books.  This was similar in principle (but far more convoluted) than the system we use for marking (progress and literacy) at my school.

I went to several workshops with a GCSE focus – certainly enough to know that my students are probably going to get shafted as they have to recall more information (including equations) and recall the key practicals (which look to me like they are chosen from the most boring practicals featured in GCSE).  As well as curriculum briefings there were excellent ideas for the teaching of literacy and numeracy.  Both Ed Walsh and the IoP were giving the same message about equations – both proposed that students need to understand the mathematical principles behind them rather than learning formulae (or even worse – formula triangles).

IMG_20160108_140436 IMG_20160108_141002 IMG_20160109_113155

There are plenty of practical ideas to be had at the conference, the photos above show some ideas from CLEAPSS and SAPS that are suitable for use with students.  There were plenty of drop-in workshops although the timetablers seem to have put these at opposite ends of the campus which made dropping in and out within a single time slot quite difficult.

Another important aspect of the conference is networking and it was good to meet up with familiar faces from Twitter and the ASE.  Unfortunately the sheer number of workshops and the number of exhibitors in the exhibition hall mean that there isn’t much time for catching up.  To those followers who were there and didn’t get to see me I must apologise and hope to catch you next year instead.

So now I am back what am I doing with all the information I gathered.  I hate paper so I will be scanning all the handouts and materials from the workshops and attaching them to the notes I made in Evernote during the workshops.  These are tagged and searchable by keywords so I should be able to find them easily in future.  Because I am very organised and keep my planning and resources in tightly organised folders I can drop resources (for example SAPS practical guides) into the appropriate folder so they are waiting for me when I come to teach a topic again.  Of course this takes time which is a commodity in very short supply, regardless of time of year.

I’d be interested to hear from others what their highlights from the ASE conference were and what they do to make sure there is some impact from the workshops they attend.


ASE CPD (East Midlands) with Anne Goldsworthy

The ASE organises many regional CPD events for those with an interest in science education. These events are open to members and non-members (although there is usually a significant cost saving to members). On Nov 3rd 2012 the North/East Midlands committee of the ASE ran such a CPD session. The venue was kindly provided by Riverside Community Primary School in Birstall, and the event consisted of a series of short presentations by ASE committee members, and a two hour session from the inspirational Anne Goldsworthy.

As part of the mini-presentations I spoke about #ASEchat and using Google Apps for collaborative writing, and I’ve embedded these at the bottom of this post for those who are interested.

Following the mini-presentations, Anne Goldsworthy spoke about scientific enquiry. I had been fortunate to attend one of Anne’s sessions before and I came with high expectations. Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed. Anne used materials from her books, examples from real classrooms and fun activities to help teachers develop scientific enquiry skills in students of all ages. The course participants tried a range of activities that might be used with students, and the photos and video clips below show you the level of engagement.


You can find details of Anne’s books on her website and I can wholeheartedly recommend them to teachers from KS1 to KS3 (I confess to owning a copy of Scientific Enquiry Games myself!).

It was great to see so many enthusiastic and committed primary school teachers giving up their Saturday morning to attend this CPD session.  There was also a large contingent of students from Derby University (which says something to me about the calibre of students they are selecting!).

If you aren’t already a member of the ASE then you might want to check out membership deals including the new Primary e-Membership.

How do you develop children’s scientific ideas through play – #ASEchat summary

The question was asked how do you develop children’s scientific ideas through play. Richard Needham (@viciascience) recommended that educators check out the new EYFS framework. The discussion opened with what we mean by play. Cardiffscience said to them ‘play’ means exploration and investigation, preliminary to deciding what to explore in more depth. Cleverfiend referred to a session at the NSLC (National Science Learning Centre) in which teachers were given a selection of toys to play with (investigate) and generate questions about how they worked. Cardiffscience went on to suggest that play tasks be open ended and not simply guessing what the teacher is thinking.

Ideas for play included acids and alkalis with indicators, use of indicators from plants/food, parachutes, electrical circuits and playing with cornflour and water. Apps on a tablet or phone were suggested as good play activities including physics based games like Angry Birds.

When asked “does science play have to be structured to be useful or is promoting interest and asking questions enough?” the group decided that all three are useful for types of activity. Lethandrel made an excellent point “I say “Don’t play”, I say “Explore” which implies there might be a purpose to the activity.

@TESscience mentioned role play as a possible activity and cleverfiend pointed out that his students love role play activities like hot seating. The discussion went on to talk about different apps/software that could be ‘played with’ including Beebot (See links). Paramount to the idea of play based learning is teacher confidence, and the idea of modelling play based activities in our teaching.

A wide variety of points and comments were made and I’d recommend that you read the full transcript of the chat if you are interested in taking play based learning forward in your own classroom.

Top Tweets

@cardiffscience ‘play’ means exploration and investigation, preliminary to deciding what to explore in more depth #asechat

@Mr_D_Cheng #ASEchat here’s some acids, some alkalis som ui. In ten minutes I want to know what you found out!

@agittner Does play sometimes promote trial and error rather than a systematic approach to problem solving (not necessarily a bad thing) #asechat

@cleverfiend Does science play have to be structured to be useful or is promoting interest and asking questions enough? #asechat

@Lethandrel I say “Don’t play”, I say “Explore” #asechat

@NeedhamL56 Is play best used as part of a project, ie not over in 50 mins. Certainly good for group work communication, and reflection #asechat

@agittner I think play can be powerful at second when you start to get the stdts to talk about the play strategies they used (metacognition) #asechat

@anhalf @iSciTeacher definitely..use ofblooms and question dice to genrate qns..#asechat see that som qns cannot be answrd

@RevErasmus hot and cold water and watching the hot water swirl, and chromatography. I let them play in golden time too. they love it.

Top Links

@cardiffscience Great blog post btw ks2 enquiry, literacy and science





Summary available from ASE website or from here