Waiting to start your teacher training
There’s plenty you can usefully do in preparation for your teacher training.
Some training providers will give you personalised tasks to address issues identified at interview. Others will set assignments they expect all students to complete before the course begins. Most send out a reading list.
We’ve outlined below some activities you may like to do before starting your teacher training, if you have the time. These suggestions are based on information training providers give to prospective students.
Get your funding in place
IOP Teacher Training Scholarship
IOP scholarships are awarded to the very best individuals who impress us with their academic record, physics subject knowledge and commitment to teaching.
Most UK physics initial teacher training students are eligible for a government bursary. Make sure that your paperwork is in place before beginning your course so you’re not chasing up funding while trying to prepare lessons.
Means tested grants
Some universities offer means tested grants, so if your training will be university-based, get in touch with student finance to find out what they can offer and if you are eligible.
Refresh your physics knowledge
“The best thing about the PGCE is that it has reinvigorated my interest in science. I’m noticing science everywhere I go, giving me ideas for potential lessons and examples of science in the real world. I’m also interested again in science documentaries.” (PGCE student, 2012)
The real test of your subject knowledge will come when you try to teach it, so revising before you begin your course may not be time well-spent. Most teachers agree that the first few years in the classroom involve a steep learning curve, as you get to grips with topics that you thought you understood. They report that their subject knowledge developed and deepened in ways you cannot anticipate.
What’s on the curriculum
Familiarise yourself with the current GCSE and A-level physics and mathematics specifications to get a feel for what is expected at those levels.
Attempt some GCSE and A-level physics exam questions from a range of exam boards to see where you need to brush-up.
Log your progress
Put together a portfolio as a way of auditing your knowledge. Start by picking an A-level and a GCSE spec and the National Curriculum and track your progression. Record your confidence in your own knowledge and understanding. Then think about your confidence to teach it. You’ll begin to notice that these are two different things…
Have a go at performing the experiments and explaining them to friends, relatives etc. Even try videoing yourself, watch them back and perform a self-critique.
Classroom resources for different age groups
If you have the time, familiarise yourself with these resources before you begin planning lessons; you’ll find them really easy to use later on.
Build a support network
Learning to teach physics is a process which extends beyond the initial year of teacher training. During your first few years in the classroom there may be times when you need extra help and support. This could be because you’re struggling to teach a particular topic or you could do with someone outside your school to talk to.
Strong support networks can make a big difference to how your teaching develops, especially after the support from your training year tails off. Start building the help and support networks now that will see you through the early years and beyond.
TalkPhysics The IOP’s online teacher discussion forum offers a place for teachers to share resources, ask for advice, share their experiences and meet other teachers.
Physics Teacher Network Our Teacher Network offers free CPD, support and advice to teachers of physics in the UK and Ireland.
“I wish I could have observed more other teachers, both in physics and other subjects. I rarely get the chance to do this now, but every time I do, it is incredibly useful to see what the teachers do and how the students respond.” (NQT, 2013)
Tutors often tell us that the most important preparation you can do is to get into school as much as possible. Observe classes and talk with teaching and technical staff. If you can, take on a volunteer teaching assistant role. If the school will pay you, fantastic!
Of course, being able to do this very much depends on your circumstances, and if you’re working or in full-time education in the run-up to starting teacher training, it may be impossible.
But any time you can spend working with young people – perhaps volunteering in a youth movement or doing something physics-based – will help towards your own teaching practice.
The Department for Education’s Get School Experience service can help you with finding getting school-based experience local to you.
Physics outreach isn't formal teaching. Instead, it's about demonstrating physics and having informal conversations with members of the public. It can be a great experience and some of the skills you’ll gain will be invaluable in the classroom. You can do physics outreach yourself wherever suits you. Or you could join one of the many programmes run by university physics departments, the British Science Association or our very own physics outreach and public engagement team.