IOP celebrates new teacher training scholars

13 September 2016

Maintaining a work–life balance, using others’ teaching resources and asking for students’ feedback were among the pieces of advice given to 69 of the IOP’s newest teacher training scholars at a celebration event held on 10 September.

IOP celebrates new teacher training scholars

Scholars gathered at Royal Institute of British Architects in London for the first of two annual events celebrating the year’s successful candidates. The second of this year’s events will take place in Manchester on 17 September.

Scholarships are funded by the Department for Education and scholars are selected in a competitive process to receive £30,000 of funding as well as mentoring support and IOP membership during their training year. The Institute offered scholarships to 145 candidates for 2016/7.

The pair of celebration events are held each year, giving scholars the opportunity to meet the mentor assigned to them for their training year, hear some of the experiences of previous scholars, and get advice from other IOP education staff.

One of last year’s scholars, Ingrid Flynn (pictured above), returned to share some of what she’d learned during her training year and to give scholars about to embark upon teacher training an idea of what to expect.

Flynn advised scholars to make the most of the support on offer to them, particularly the masterclass sessions. “If you spend a weekend marking year 7 homework, you’re not going to remember that weekend, but you’ll remember the masterclass sessions for years to come.”

Flynn added that she recommended using available teaching resources, not taking work home, and asking for students’ feedback. “Ask them what they thought – the best bits and the worst bits,” she said. “It’s so valuable because they’ll say things you’ve never thought of.”

IOP celebrates new teacher training scholars

IOP head of education Charles Tracy (pictured left) had welcomed scholars to the event by sharing some thoughts on physics education, emphasising the cultural entitlement of all children to have a high-quality education in physics and the opportunity to experience what it is to think as a physicist.

Tracy noted that physics teachers are central to students’ experiences of physics in schools, and that the conception of science as a subject, with the loss of a separate identity for physics, led to a decline in specialist physics teachers and lower uptake at A-level. He said: “Scholarships are an attempt – and so far a successful one – to recruit more specialists and improve the experience that children have.”

Tracy said that the inclusion of IOP membership in scholars’ support for their training year makes them members of the same organisation as people such as Professor Peter Higgs. “Teaching physics is doing physics,” he said, adding that scholars are contributing enormously by educating the next generation. “We are teaching children about the world, what it’s made of, and how those constituents behave. They’re going to see the world differently because of the things you do with them.”

Tracy said that scholars will learn more physics in the next few years than in their lives to date, and go on to innovate – and perhaps become mentors themselves. He said that they won’t stop learning until they stop being teachers, and will constantly be thinking about why they’re doing something and how they could do it better.

IOP celebrates new teacher training scholars

IOP teaching and learning coach (TLC) Lawrence Cattermole (pictured left) discussed the mentoring support that scholars will get and the nature of the relationship between scholars and their mentors. Comparing his role to one of an uncle or godparent, he said that mentors are somewhat peripheral but are there to offer support. Unlike others such as school or university tutors, they’re not doing any assessment of scholars, he added.

Cattermole and other TLCs gave numerous examples of specific ways in which mentors had supported scholars in the past, from helping to find them jobs to putting together groups of physics teachers in the same area who were at a similar career level. On mentors’ capacity to support scholars he said: “There’s as much pedagogical firepower in this room right now as you’ll find in the country. Collectively we’re pretty good actually.”

Cattermole noted that one question common among scientists is “how do we know that?”, and that this also applies to teaching. “You don’t know you’re teaching unless the kids are learning,” he said. To illustrate this, he showed scholars some basics of the alphabet in British Sign Language and had them sign responses to some physics questions – a technique he suggests is useful in the classroom as a quick checkup at the end of lessons.

IOP celebrates new teacher training scholars

Later in the day, scholars carried out a practical activity by dividing into groups for balloon-rocket races.

Speaking after the event, IOP marketing executive Nicole Averiss, who organised the celebration days, said: “This event has been a thoroughly enjoyable opportunity for the IOP education team to get to know the scholars, celebrate their successes and begin to build a supportive relationship that will extend far beyond their teacher training year.

"We wish them the best of luck over the next 12 months and look forward to working with them as they embark on their physics teaching careers.”

• IOP Teacher Training Scholarships are funded by the DfE and mentoring for scholars is currently provided through the IOP’s Stimulating Physics Network, which is also funded by the DfE.