Expertise is hard won; and all responsible teachers have a personal responsibility to ensure that they maintain and develop the knowledge and skills relevant to their professional practice. The continuous progression of capability and competence requires active engagment – but the choice of CPD opportunities available can be hit and miss and may often boil down to cost and where you live. Attending national conferences can be expensive and some regional courses might not meet your needs, which is why self-teaching and online learning makes a great deal of sense for busy teachers looking to maximise their skills.
One very trusted source of new online courses is the Royal Society of Chemistry, which has a range of flexible learning opportunities for specialists and nonspecialists to enhance and advance classroom teaching that can be completed at your own pace. Six courses are currently available with a further eight planned. These high-quality interactive learning experiences have been designed to help develop subject knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and confidence.
I signed up for the course ‘Energy and Change’ and was immediately impressed at the resources available, the organisation of the course and the links to pastures new; it fizzes with intellectual activity. I began looking at the overview page, which gave a neat and tidy explanation of what to expect in the module and what I would be able to do by the end of it. The course development plan provided would help me keep a record of my learning and development and so I was ready to explore the ten topics on offer.
You access the course via a clean, sharp and professional site that is a doddle to navigate. There is a user guide on screen to click and this takes you through each part of the course so you know what’s what. For starters there is a clear and simple navigation pane that shows you the contents of the topic and beneath this there is an easy to open route to access other topics within the course. Moving between topics is easy enough. Within each topic there are six areas to engage with and this provides a reassuring structure.
The course begins with the ‘Core Idea’, which clearly explains the key ideas at work, and then moves on to ‘Explore Understanding’, which looks at what students need to know, what they find difficult and a teaching sequence full of advice, tips and links to the excellent National Stem Centre site. ‘Develop Understanding’ includes demonstrations and questions to consider (I found the video on Screaming Jelly Babies fascinating…)
‘Check Understanding’ is next and this is a useful, quick, multiple-choice question section to test how well you have grasped the concepts; ‘Applying Understanding’ contextualises what you have learnt with exciting news stories, articles, demonstrations and studies. The topic then rounds off with ‘Additional Resources and Activities’, which link to pdfs and web resources.
The content is very well explained and written to a high standard throughout. What really stands out is the way ideas have been linked so that there are stepping stones of understanding that excite and inspire. If you weren’t a specialist before then you soon could be as, it is easy to get immersed and find out more. And if you are a specialist then there is still plenty here to help you expand your skills, as the course as a whole offers real depth and breadth.
More to explore
Besides the courses, there is more, too, with tabs devoted to further learning. Click into ‘Resources’ and this will take you to Learn Chemistry, a site with over 3000 teaching resources featuring chemistry demonstrations, assessment tools, hand-outs, worksheets, downloads and interactive resources galore. Then there is Learn Chemistry Wiki - a site for learners to help one another by sharing resources. An online Communities section enables you to join Talk Chemistry, hook up with other teachers and share your thoughts and ideas by joining discussions, accessing articles and registering for the Learn Chemistry Partnership.
Cost-wise, the underpinning skills courses, such as Developing and Using Models, are freely available. Subject courses, such as Quantitative Chemistry, cost £50 per user for one full year’s access to the course material. Despite all the treasure on offer I think there is still room for a CPD online diary so teachers can record their development - and a CPD matrix would be useful to assist appraisers and teachers in their discussions. Webcasts would be good too, so that video recordings of lessons and lectures can be viewed.
CPD of this quality will create a lasting impact and help you achieve professional and personal growth, contribute towards your learning and update your classroom fitness. It will also put your individual development and learning needs into a team and multi-professional school context and help you acquire and refine the skills needed for new roles and career development.
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