Mark Langley, our Science CPD Lead, offers some valuable pointers...
Starting out in your first year of teaching is exciting and also quite daunting! Even more so given current times, where initial teacher training has been anything but normal. Access to hands-on practical science in particular has been a challenge and, where it has happened, it has taken place in a very different environment to what we hope to return to, come September.
Many teachers come to science teaching with good subject knowledge in their own area, but it can be a little patchy out-of-specialist, particularly in secondary education. For most primary teachers, science is not that often their background. So, for all teachers starting out, it’s really important to consolidate their content and pedagogical approaches in the first couple of years, so that their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) can evolve, helping the young people they teach to continue to make good progress.
The importance of mentors for early career teachers in schools is vital. Working together with both external organisations and experienced colleagues in schools can really support those starting out teaching to be highly effective, as well as giving them the reassurance to stay in the profession as they forge their own path through teaching.
With this in mind, STEM Learning has two pathways for early career teachers (ECTs) - one for primary and one for secondary - which are squarely aimed at providing this level of support. There is a mix of online, remotely delivered and face-to-face courses that an ECT mentor in a school might choose to support the professional development of an early career teacher. Working together, appropriate levels of CPD can be chosen to develop non-specialist subject knowledge, as well as advancing in their own field, plus behaviour management in science lessons, effective health and safety, and wider school contexts.
Good resourcing is important, and our resource pages for primary science and secondary science can give ECTs well thought-out activities to add to the scheme of learning they are working from. There are also excellent resources for developing teachers’ own subject knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, all of which are free to access.
We know from research that schools who actively support their teachers with effective, subject-specific CPD, from primary through to post-16 teaching, are more likely to do well in national assessments, and that teachers invested in with this are more likely to remain in the profession.
The pathways are a great starting point for ECTs and their mentors to plan their subject-specific support over the first crucial months and years of their teaching career. Added to that, the bursaries and discounts available for those signed up to the pathways - including free access to online courses - it makes economic sense as well.
There are also two “early career club” groups on the STEM Community, so that teachers starting out can have professional conversations with other early career teachers outside of their school and training environment. These are open access to anyone and provide a great space to share good ideas.