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27th April 2001 at 01:00
Science teachers must keep up the practice of writing for each other, says Mick Nott.

Science teachers writing articles for each other about their day-to-day teaching is an invaluable practice and it is a shame that it has declined over the past 10 years. Why should that have happened?

Science teachers seem to have responded to the national curriculum and the regime of inspections and monitoring by an ever-increasing adherence to publishers' schemes at key stage 3 and examination authorities' syllabuses and advice at KS4.

Broad and balanced science means that many teachers spend time teaching outside their main discipline, and innovating in strange territory may feel presumptuous if not impossible. Increased administration and managerialism are sapping teachers' energies, so there is not enough time and energy to write good, novel activities for colleagues. Changes in health and safety regulations have made teachers too cautious. The introduction of e-mail lists and web pages have provided alternative ways of disseminating work and ideas.

I joined the Association for Science Education 25 years ago because it had interesting meetings, and the arrival of my first copies of its members' journal School Science Review was a welcome surprise. Articles by scientists and technologists updated my subject knowledge. I learned how other teachers were changing the curriculum with developments such as mixed-abilityscience teaching or Mode III sciences. Academics wrote about their research on topics such as the conceptual demands of the science curriculum. And the back pages were packed with book reviews and, in those days, audio-visual reviews.

But the articles that used to really excite me as a science teacher were the ones from other science teachers about innovations that they had made with demonstrations, teaching activities and practicals. I used to read what they had tried and tested and think: "What a brilliant idea! I'll try that out."

So I would try things out, especially when the advent of public examinations meant less teaching, or I would ask the technician to make up a demonstration or a new instructional game from the pictures, diagrams and text in one of the articles.

Now, as a journal editor myself, I appreciate even more that listening to teachers proves there is still classroom innovation going on. There is new ICT for teaching, there are new syllabuses and research projects and the pilot KS3 Science Strategy. Trialled and tested developments are back on the agenda. Teachers can contribute articles on these areas and many others. Good practice is spread in this way among the community of science teachers nationally and internationally.

Mick Nott is editor of 'School Science Review'. E-mail: m.nott@shu.ac.ukSSR subscriptions (ASE members only) tel: 01707 283000 or web: www.ase.org.uk


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