The Teacher Fellowship Scheme
The Teacher Fellowship Scheme seconded physics teachers working in schools and further education (FE) colleges, into their local university physics departments to work on a range of objectives concerned with the progression from school to university physics.
The aim of the Teacher Fellowship Scheme was to forge and foster stronger links between schools and university physics departments, and to ease the transition for students between school and higher education. The scheme allowed ten teachers the opportunity to work within eight physics departments. Benefits were felt by the teacher themselves, the school and the host departments.
The Institute’s objectives for the Teacher Fellows were:
- to gain an insight into current university teaching practices in physics by assisting with teaching on introductory courses, laboratory practical sessions, seminars or tutorial classes.;
- to enrich school physics teaching by using insights gained from time spent with the university and utilising facilities available within the university.;
- to broaden students’ horizons beyond school-level physics by bringing concrete examples of physics and its applications experienced first-hand during the time spent with the university;
- to advise and assist the physics department on its recruitment of students and its widening participation strategy;
- to advise the university about varying A-level curricula;
- to advise on adapting the university’s existing curriculum and teaching practices to improve retention rates;
- to provide better informed advice to school students on the university applications processes;
- to write an interim and final report for circulation to HEFCE, the University, the school and other stakeholders;
- to write regular summary progress reports for the Stimulating Physics Programme Manager (Access);
- to agree to be subject to the rules and conditions of service at the university, as notified in writing, whilst working there;
- to work under the university’s direction and control during the Programme;
- to carry out all the university’s instructions and transfer to the university the intellectual property in any copyright works that are created whilst working for the university as part of the Programme.
Benefits to the teacher fellow
By viewing the infrastructure of a university first-hand, the teacher fellows gained insights into the teaching practices of their respective host university physics departments; they could see the topics that were being taught, the teaching methods adopted by the university lecturers, and the careers that students became involved in post-university. It also allowed them to revive their passion for the subject by reacquainting themselves with topics not found on the A-Level curriculum.
Benefits to the host universities
The universities were given a better understanding of topics being taught within A-Level curricula, and the capability of incoming students. This allowed them to modify their first year courses appropriately, with the aim of improving retention. Teacher fellows also had a positive impact on retention by acting as a ‘bridge’ between the student and academic staff.
The influence of teacher fellows was also very apparent in the practical laboratory sessions and lectures, where they informed teaching and learning. For example, the teacher fellows advised universities that some of the literature (such as laboratory scripts), was often not as user-friendly as resources found in schools. They also noted that teaching style and student support could be improved with a better understanding of modern teaching methods widely used in schools that were not present in universities.
The teacher fellows were also able to give advice to universities regarding recruitment, by providing insights into why students have not traditionally chosen to study physics further, and what they might expect from marketing materials. They also advised on better targeting of school interventions for widening participation. These suggestions were taken up to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the university.
Benefits to the schools
The fellows’ schools also benefited from the scheme, as they gained a teacher with a renewed enthusiasm for the subject, with a better understanding of education post-A Level.
Some of the teacher fellows also commented that laboratory teaching in their schools had improved as a consequence of seeing the laboratory work done at the host universities.
The fellows also provided an invaluable link to the host university.