IOP pillars of the community
You may have begun to notice changes to the way the IOP is operating, especially in our support for physics teaching and learning. Charles Tracy, IOP Senior Adviser, Learning and Skills, describes how a dual approach is addressing familiar challenges in new and innovative ways
The IOP is now moving wholeheartedly into implementing activities to support our current strategy. Our work with teachers and students in schools and colleges is built on two mutually supportive pillars:
- doing all we can to make sure that no student feels excluded from physics and that all students feel that they can take an interest in the discipline and consider a future working in it
- ensuring that any seed of interest that they have lands on fertile ground in school and that they all have access to a world class education in physics.
The first pillar mainly comprises our Limit Less campaign which is designed to influence policy-makers, senior leaders and anyone who themselves influences young people. As well as trying to drive systemic change, the campaign will change attitudes to physics and debunk a number of misconceptions and myths about the discipline – such as that it is difficult, boring or the preserve of certain exclusive groups. We want young people to see physics as accessible, creative and inclusive. The campaign will break down the barriers above and reduce damaging expectations that navigate some groups of students away from physics.
This work is quite new and, as such, is a little experimental and quite thrilling. We recently launched a TikTok initiative which is well on its way to getting a million views. And we are currently asking teachers and secondary school leaders to sign up in support of our manifesto – to give us weight and influence with governments (please do sign up via the link below and encourage someone in your SLT to do the same on behalf of your school).
The second pillar will be more familiar to you – though we are shifting slightly in the way we build it. Our desire is to ensure that all students have a world class experience of physics through excellent teaching of a great curriculum. This is part of a programme to improve the whole ecosystem of physics, in particular to make it more inclusive.
With the current shortage of in-field physics teachers, we therefore have our work cut out – to increase their number and to support those who are teaching physics out-of-field. To increase numbers, we will have three strands of activity: recruitment, retention and retraining. In part, this will be working with policy-makers but we will continue to pilot or manage specific interventions to increase recruitment and reduce attrition. We are also planning and advocating for a ramping up of in-service retraining courses to address the acute need for physics teachers in schools that currently have none.
As part of this work, and to align with our role as a professional body for physics, we will increase our focus on building a community of physics teaching – bringing people together, hosting events and providing means of on-line support. Whilst we will no longer be running major government CPD programmes, it is our intention, as outlined in our Subjects Matter report of 2020, to underpin and assure programmes that do exist and to improve the ease with which teachers can choose and access professional learning in physics.