Rob Butler shares his highlights from the Association for Science Education annual conference at the University of Birmingham

Ase poster[1]

Source: © Royal Society of Chemistry

On the train to Birmingham I reflected on what I hoped to achieve from this year’s ASE conference. I wanted to see how the new GCSE is shaping up. I expected to find some new ideas to engage my learners. I hoped to discover some strategies that will help with delivery and assessment across all Key Stages. And I wanted to regain some of my enthusiasm for teaching science.

Enthusiasm is contagious, and enthusiastic teachers tend to have engaged and motivated learners. There was enthusiasm in bundles in Birmingham, and not just from the presenters. Workshops with lots of audience participation not only stoked this enthusiasm but also helped some of the ideas to stick. I waved whiteboards around a packed room, I saw through an opaque bottle using infrared light, and I found creative and innovative ways of measuring photosynthesis. It was a fantastic opportunity to recharge my batteries and rekindle the enthusiasm that I’d lost in the long run up to Christmas.

GCSE changes

The new GCSE curriculum was a popular topic across the whole event. All the exam boards and publishers were exhibiting their wares and trying to tempt teachers to choose their specifications. There were workshops and presentations to help science teachers choose between qualifications. I learned about the exams that would be relevant to my students and had some of my questions about assessment of the new GCSE answered.

 New ideas were plentiful – I discovered lots for practical work and for meeting the new literacy and numeracy requirements of the GCSE curriculum. I got to see some old favourites present on new topics, like Helen Pollard from the Institute of Physics and Ed Walsh from Cornwall Learning. They gave similar messages with different ideas, and when these voices sing in tandem and give comparable advice you’d be a fool not to take it.

Essential for all

I’d recommend all the ASE CPD events to science teachers of all disciplines, regardless of years of teaching experience. It’s been just over 24 hours since I got home and I’m already looking forward to the conference next year.

Rob Butler is a science teacher and deputy head of the Beech Academy in Mansfield. He blogs at and tweets @cleverfiend