Discussions from the magazine, website and social media. Teacher training and tasting sweets

Talk Chemistry

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We've had some great feedback on last issue's Endpoint on teacher training by Vanessa Kind.

Alan Crooks wrote

I can only agree. For example, I can recall from my time in research a PhD student with a first class Honours degree in physics coming to work in the lab. She didn't know how to make a 1 molar solution! 

Duncan Armour joined in the debate: 

There are lots of issues. For example, twenty years ago when I did my degree the number of students gaining a first class degree on each course was far fewer than would today. So as the current system now provides bursaries based on the class of first degree awarded, older potential teachers are discriminated against as they are far less likely to have got a first. And yet these experienced people are exactly who we should be desperate to attract into teaching. 

Is it acceptable for a non-chemist to teach chemistry or indeed a non-physicist to teach physics? The reality is that I can't believe that it makes much difference at GCSE. There are good conversion courses available which address many of the concerns raised in the article. Clearly at A-level though there are real risks for the non-specialist. I have however met a number of very fine teachers who can turn their hand to chemistry and do it very well despite it not being their degree subject. 

Finally, Catherine Smith said:

Surely, as professionals, is it not the responsibility of the trainee teachers themselves to ensure their own subject knowledge is secure before they teach the topic? 

No Initial Teacher Training programme can possibly guarantee the subject knowledge of all its trainees in all three sciences up to GCSE level. The quantity of material is simply too much. Besides, it is only by getting into the classroom and being questioned by the students that you identify gaps in your own subject knowledge. It is not simply a matter of knowing the facts but understanding the way in which the students think, listening to their misconceptions and appreciating the reasons behind them. In my opinion, you only get this insight from standing up in front of the class and teaching.

Personally I believe school based teacher training is a great option but the support and funding for it must be passed on to the schools. It is not something that can be tagged on to the workload of already overworked teachers as a professional development exercise.

Ranking sweets

Jelly babies

Jelly babies

Source: iStock

Leonard Winning needs some help identifying a teaching resource: 

I can remember once seeing a resource that involved students taste-testing various penny sweets and ranking them on a scales for sweetness/sourness, hardness/softness, chewyness/brittleness or similar, plotted on a polygonal (hexagonal?) grid. I think it was intended as a general activity to illustrate measurements and data handling, so it might be from a chemistry source or a more general science one. 

I had thought this would be a great cross-departmental activity, but I can't now find the resource! Does anyone recognise it? 

Can you help locate this resource?

You can read all the contributions in full, and carry on the debate on the Talk Chemistry website.