Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Scicon 2016 musings - Part 1

Scicon (The biennial conference for science educators) was held in Wellington this year; it's actually only the second one I've been to, the first one was in 2012 when I was still feeling rather fresh to the whole teaching thing. I've come away from this one feeling really positive and hopeful for the state of science education in NZ. Not necessarily because things are changing quickly - I feel like there is definitely an increase in how fast the ball is rolling, but there is still a long way to go! But more because there is a groundswell of support for change. There are many people on the same page, all keen and eager to see how they can change things for the better, for their students.

Cairan and I presented a workshop (which really turned into more of a Q&A session - but that's how we roll! Responsive to the situation at hand!), which had some really positive feedback. Our overview was that we were going to talk briefly about our teaching experiences in modules specifically, focussing on our experience in a cross-curricular environment (i.e. how we go about combining learning areas), and then get people to work through a few things, including giving them some scaffolding to think about how they could combine achievement standards from two learning areas together. All of our presentation material plus resources can be found here.

It was a very re-affirming process to share our experiences and hear such positive feedback, and to feel like people were planning to go back to their own schools to try and find a like-minded teaching buddy to bring about some change, if not trying to change things on a larger scale.

A couple of teachers from the same school, who both had backgrounds in Geography as well as Biology were incredibly enthused, and had easily seen how they could combine standards from Geo and Bio together - and even if they couldn't find another teacher to join them on their journey, then they had ideas about how they could combine two learning areas in their own classrooms, just by themselves.

Another teacher gave a very insightful comment, which I hadn't coherently pulled together before - not only are we teaching in a way that doesn't silo learning areas, but we are also teaching in a way that doesn't silo strands within the science curriculum, and also in a way that doesn't silo year levels - just because a student is in Year 11, doesn't mean we are restricted to offering a level 1 standard; we are better valuing our students by recognising the curriculum level that they happen to be working at.

So there were lots of positive comments and lots of good networking done also - I haven't really been so concerned about 'networking' aka making new friends at conferences before (well teaching conferences anyway! Science research conferences were always about networking...) But more than ever I'm seeing how important it is that like-minded teachers in NZ form a coherent, supportive network so that we can bring about real change. It's also important to me that I get to share the cool things that we are doing at HPSS, given that we do exist in what might seem like a privileged bubble sometimes...

Right, more musings to come - I was also asked to be part of a panel discussing the future of NCEA, alongside tertiary, MOE and NZQA representatives. Some really interesting discussions and reflections came out of that experience, but it deserves a whole post to itself!

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