Back in 1901, a small group of science teachers met in one room in the University of London to share ideas on how to improve the teaching of science. This year the Association for Science Education's meeting takes place at the University of Reading (8-10 January), when 3,000 delegates will take over the whole campus. Much has changed, but the sense of common purpose, the excitement and enthusiasm to share and explore ways of enhancing and enriching teaching and learning in science will still be at the heart of all the activities.
Over the three days, the vitality will be tangible, clearly demonstrating the commitment of many teachers, technicians and others involved in science education to their pupils and their own professional development.
However, it is neither possible nor desirable to do everything in three days. Furthermore, there are continuing professional development (CPD) needs which cannot be met at a conference. Other types of event and approaches, including the use of on-line resources are necessary.
Throughout its activities and projects during the year, the ASE supports teaching and learning in science in many ways: through journals, publications, the website, regional events, courses and advice services.
There are interesting new services, too. For example, have you subscribed to the ASE's email service, UPD8 ("update"), which provides topical contexts and activities for science teaching? For information, see Tony Sherbourne's article on page 9. Also, look out for the Laboratory Design for Teaching and Learning resource, to be launched at Reading. And why not sign up for one of the ICT in Science events that are planned for 2004?
The ASE is unique in many ways but other organisations also provide CPD opportunities that support teaching and learning in science. The provision is varied, but for many teachers and technicians there are significant barriers that prevent them from engaging in CPD activities - chiefly, time, space, opportunity and finance. It is against this background that the concept of the new Science Learning Centres was conceived.
The network, consisting of one national centre in York (funded by the Wellcome Trust) and nine regional centres in England (funded by the DfES), is now taking shape to enhance the CPD that supports teaching and learning in science. Moreover, the network will have a significant role in establishing a more coherent and co-ordinated approach to professional development for teachers and technicians.
Its success will depend on all interested parties working together. The ASE is committed to playing its part in meeting the needs of teachers and technicians and through them to engage our young people in the excitement, creativity, intellectual stimulation and ethical issues of science. We hope you will too.
Derek Bell is chief executive of the Association for Science Education Further information about ASE activities and projects and contact details for the Science Learning Centres can be obtained from ASE, College Lane, Hatfield AL10 9AA; tel: 01707 283000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or from the website www.ase.org.uk