One of the professional associations that I still support even though I am no longer full time in the classroom, is the local Science Teachers Association of Victoria, (STAV). I find that for most conferences they offer, (and in the past they have offered quite a few), I can cobble together something of interest. This year I have been in a position where I could for the first time support, The Beginning Science Teachers’ Conference. There were a couple of things of note about this decision, given the title I had assumed, (incorrectly), that there would be a reasonable primary teacher cohort amongst the participants and given past experience with STAV events there would be plenty of these participants. Iwas wrong on both counts. Alas the conference attracted fewer than 50 delegates and all were from the secondary not primary sector.
Of course by the time I found all this out it was too late so I had to plough ahead regardless. Fortunately the participants in my sessions were genuinely enthusiatic young teachers eager to interact even if it was with a primary school focussed facilitator.
For one of the sessions I had decided to explore a constructivist based approach known as the 5E’s approach. In this case the five E’s represent Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration and Evaluation. Now the 5E’s approach has been around for some time and is certainly not anything that I have had anything to do with in terms of development. It is however an interesting and useful way to structure teaching and learning units in science to better ensure connection and interaction within and between science sessions and is one that has informed my science teaching for some time.
As I have done with most of my recent presentations, I settled on a wiki, 5escience, as the vehicle for the discussion, and once again the wiki format proved a neat way to make available the content of the session and at the same time free up more of the session time for activity and interaction. As much of the basis for this session and approach is in the nuance of the method it was particularly important not to have the participants head down taking notes but rather working hands-on and in groups situations. Thankfully also there were some lively members of the group who were willing to speak up and make the conversation that I was able to work with to accentuate the various stages discussed. Because of this I came away from the session with a nice feeling that the participants may have at least an appreciation of a framework against which they can question and develop their science teaching.
As to the future of the conference, speaking with the organisers in a break they had to admit that other STAV conference were struggling for numbers as too were similar conferences run by other subject based organisations. The reasons for this may be many and varied however there definitely seems to be a trend away from traditional large scale gatherings with multiple and diverse session offerings, but more of that another time….