2016 In review


Being featured in the Telegraph Education section (Feb 2016) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/12141124/Bridging-the-chasm-between-classroom-and-lecture-room.html highlighting my unique role bridging the point of transition between school and higher education. Telephone interviews with journalists are harder than I had imagined and the professional photographer they sent to school certainly got the boys’ attention!

Publishing my first academic paper in chemistry education in J.Chem.Educ. (April 2016) http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00981 A paper that had arisen from my school teaching practice and a wet weekend in the craft section at Asda! The concept in this paper was my Science on Stage 2015 project https://royalsociety.org/grants-schemes-awards/science-on-stage/international-festivals/2015-festival-uk/2015-uk-delegation/ and followed up at the ASE conference in Birmingham in Jan 2016 (and also appearing in Reading, Jan 2017). I have also worked with the examination board OCR to produce a classroom resource using ideas from the paper http://www.ocr.org.uk/Images/346972-modelling-covalent-bonding-lesson-element.docx a valuable link to take chem ed research into mainstream classroom practice. My experience of writing the paper as a first time ed researcher and author is here in the EiC blog (Jul 2016) https://eic.rsc.org/opinion/my-first-experience-of-publishing-education-research/2010058.article and I hope I can inspire more teachers to give it a go.

Having the fantastic experience of working on BBC country file (23rd October 2016, Autumn Special) talking to Naomi Wilkinson about the work of Chaim Weitzmann in trying to get acetone (for the production of cordite) from conkers using bacterial fermentation. One of the most terrifying things I have done but unbelievably enjoyable. I went down to film at the World Conker Championships and set up my chemistry set in the woods using vintage distillation kit (retort) and a Bunsen powered by camping gas because of the location and complete lack of gas/water supply. An amazing experience, more difficult than I had ever imagined I’d do it again in a shot!

A-level mindset training got me thinking about the skills that successful A level chemists have beyond just a good memory or what may be perceived to be natural intelligence. My thoughts on this are in this blog https://eic.rsc.org/opinion/the-7-skills-of-a-good-a-level-chemist/2010012.article  Unfortunately a lack of time has meant I am struggling to follow up my initial work with my students, something to return to definitely!

Some of the work I have done inspired by my A level mindset training

Also publishing my first feature for EiC. I have blogged for EiC for a number of years now and contributed opinion pieces like EndPoint and also review articles but this piece https://eic.rsc.org/feature/assessment-time/2000066.article  on historical assessment is my first feature. I hope to be able to write more longer pieces this year.

Continuing my role into 2018. It’s nice to know that I wil be continuing my hybrid role into the 2017-18 academic year. It means I’ll see my current y2 BSc students through to graduation which will be amazing and also means I can make better plans for collaborations with other chem ed people. I also need to think how I can spread my net further with this, as I said at ViCEPHEC2016 I would love to have an army of people like me doing similar jobs. Now I need to think how I could make that happen!?

Making connections. This year I have been lucky enough to be able to travel a fair bit to meetings and conferences in the UK and have collaborators visit me here in Manchester. In January I attended my first ASE national conference in about 10 years and got to meet some of the #asechat people in the flesh! I’m looking forward to next week (ASE national conference 2017, Reading) and catching up with people again. I spent a busy couple of days in January in the exam archive with Michael (Seery) dissecting what makes chemistry exam questions difficult and planning collaborations. In February the RSC editorial symposium meant I got to catch up with my first ever boss from the RSC Phil (Robinson) now deputy editor of Chemistry World and the bus journey back with Phil, Adam Brownsell and Paul McLellan was memorable if only for the fact that I was repeatedly told I was wrong! I caught up with Catherine Smith, my coauthor on Starters for Ten http://www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry/resource/res00000954/starters-for-ten?cmpid=CMP00001405 when I spoke at her East Mids A level chemistry teacher conference. The Wessex A level chemistry teacher conference (where I was the understudy….) was really interesting, hearing David Read reflect on his journey from school teacher to Professorial teaching fellow and also connect with teachers ‘down south’ as well as make links with OCR. MICER  https://micerportal.wordpress.com provided a useful pause to think about future research methods as well as catch up with many colleagues and friends both in chemistry and physics education (Met Tom Husband and Fraser Scott for the first time and also reconnected with Ross Galloway, Jacquie Robson, Michael, EiC’s Karen, Simon Lancaster, Andrew McKinley). ViCEPHEC2016 in Southampton (thanks to Paul Duckmanton for sorting out necessary accommodation arrangements!) saw me be proved the social butterfly of the conference in terms of Twitter activity! I’d like to think it’s because I have made connections across the chemistry/physics/teacher/HE divide but it might just be that I talk a lot!). I love the direction ViCEPHEC is going, chemists, physicists, research focused lecturers, teaching focused lecturers and everything inbetween. Good to catch up with Stephen Ashworth again who has an uncanny ability to keep things grounded in common sense. I find that it is these personal connections that I really place value on. We can have hundreds of interactions across the Internet but nothing replaces real human connections.

Enabling others. Late on in 2016 I got involved with the Maternity Teacher project http://www.mtpt.org.uk which aims to empower teachers who become parents to stay connected with their CPD during parental leave. Whilst my particular journey as a lone parent meant I had a very different (and short!) mat leave compared to most, I still feature as a case study http://www.mtpt.org.uk/case-studies/ and hope to contribute to this project in 2017. Before that it was nice to hear that another academic colleague had used my example and stamped her foot about taking her young baby to a conference.

On a similar note together with my local RSC education coordinator Kat Presland I have begun to develop a science/chemistry TeachMeet culture in our area http://www.boltonschool.org/senior-boys/news/school-hosts-chemistry-teachmeet/ helping teachers claim back their profession and reconnect with their subjects. For too long a teacher’s CPD has been dictated by the focuses of their school, exam specific training, Kagan structures, assessment for learning, evidencing progress…. There has been limited opportunity for teacher to access subject specific training beyond those expensive day long courses and we have found a low cost model that works pretty well, recently joining with the IoP to reach more non specialists.

So onwards into 2017….

More connections, more teaching, more research, more writing… Can’t wait!



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