Dr. Keith Taber is the physics education tutor on the secondary
PGCE course. My role includes interviewing candidates, and helping
to make recommendations on admissions, acting as Faculty tutor to physics
trainees, teaching the physics group during the subject specialist sessions,
and supervising and assessing academic assignments.
The Science/PHYSICS route is designed for those who wish to prepare
to become qualified teachers (for the English/Welsh system), as
science teachers specialising in physics.
Applicants are normally expected to have a first or upper second class
degree and/or a higher degree which is relevant to the science topics taught
in the National Currciulum. We welcome those looking to enter training on
graduation, and those having relevant professional experience or having taken
a break to bring-up a family. Details of the course and applications process
are included on the Faculty
website. The following comments reflect my own perceptions:
We expect applicants to have recent experience of (at least) obserserving
science teaching across the age and ability range in one or more maintained
'comprehensive' schools in England/Wales. Many schools are prepared to arrange
such periods of observation: you should ask to see a range of classes, both
in terms of age and ability. Many of our applicants also have recent experience
of working in schools (e.g. as learning assistants, or during 'outreach' placements
whilst during undergradaute or postgraduate courses), or undertaking related
work in other contexts (community youth work, teaching overseas etc.) This
is not essential, but we do expect canddiatess at interview to be able to
at least discuss recent observations of school science.
Relevant subject backgrounds for this route include physics, astronomy,
most engineering subjects, many broad science courses, many geoscience courses,
many materials science based courses, many environmental science courses,
etc. Potential candidates unsure about the suitability of their degree background
are invited to contact me informally (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There are courses sponsored by the TDA to help those with related subject
backgrounds wishing to develop subject knowledge to then enter teacher preparation
as a physics specialist. We do not offer such a course at Cambridge, but
are happy to consider applicants taking such courses elsewhere. (See the TDA
website pages on subject
knowledge booster courses.)
The PGCE course is an intense experience - involving 24 weeks (equivalent)
of school placement (in the East Anglia region) under close superrvision
of experienced teachers including a trained mentor, complemented by 12 weeks
(equivalent) of Faculty-based study pitched at Master's level. Succesful
completion of the course involves being recommended for QTS (Qualified Teacher
Status) on the basis of meeting the government's statutory standards and
writing a set of academic assignments synthesising theorietical learning with
analysis of practice. This includes a substantial minor research project (see
below). This work is assessed and examined at Master's level within the University.
Course members are prepared to teach physics to sixth-form level (A level
or similar), and to teach across the science curriculum, at least to lower
secondary (KS3) level. Teaching across the school subject ('science') is
a government requirement, and all trainees must show they are competent and
enthusiastic about teaching 'science' to complete the course. As the physics
education tutor and Faculty supervisor, I welcome applications from those
who who see themselves entering training to become physics teachers (appreciating
and able to make links with other science topics), and those who wish to
prepare to teach a broader range of sciences in school, with physics as their
strongest area. At the present time schools take a wide range of approaches
to staffing within science: so on completion of the course it is possible
to take up a post as physics teacher, a science teacher teaching mostly physics,
or just as a science teacher working across all topic areas. During training,
however, it is necessary to negotiate a timetable within the context of the
placement school department's preferred approach!
The Cambridge course is deliberately labelled a post-graduate course,
i.e. having the characteristics of a masters level qualification. We expect
our trainees to take on the role of reflecting professionals who can both
evaluate their own work, and are able to undertake small-scale classroom
enquiry to collect data to inform pedagogic decison making. We see teaching
as a research-based
profession. One of the course assignments is an 8000 word account of a small
scale research project, usually having the flavour of a case study of teaching
and/or learning, or the evaluation of some limited action research intervention
to improve teaching/learning in the classroom. (Suggestions for references to begin your
Themes of previous student projects have included:
A former PGCE Physics trainee initiated the Physics Learning Exchange
- A critical analysis of teacher questioning techniques to promote
- A case study of students with English language difficulties in science
- A case study using multimedia to teach 'pressure and moments' in
- A comparison of progression in learning of two year ten classes
of different ability studying waves and radiation.
- How certain original resources relating to forces and motion facilitate
teaching and learning for yr Y10 students.
- A critical analysis of a set of resources for teaching the sound
and hearing module for Year 8 to extend gifted children
- Differentiation Techniques Used in the Teaching of a Year 8 Science
Class Based on the Professional Placement Experience
- The use of the notion of cognitive layers in the process of teaching
- Teaching and learning styles in a class of AS Level Physics students
studying Quantum Mechanics?
- A critical analysis of how the ‘thinking science’ course caters
for all students, with particular reference to two Year 7 sets, one of which
has a majority of pupils with SEN.
- Pupils’ Responses to Teacher Demonstrations in Science.
- The Impact of Different Teaching Styles on a Small Group of Year
10 Students’ Understanding of Electricity
- Do Analogies Aid Students Understanding of Electrical Circuits?
- Exploring the effectiveness of practical work in reinforcing theoretical
- How can the use of intervention materials help a group of underachieving
Y9 boys to improve their skills in Sc1?
- How kinaesthetic teaching strategies can enhance interest and learning
of geology modules for a high ability year 8 group.
- The impact of interactive whiteboards and associated technology
on motivation and enjoyment within the teaching of year eight microbes and
year seven electricity
- The Big Bang and God: A case study of the range of beliefs and ideas
about the origins of the universe among the students in one Y10 class, and
a critical evaluation of the implications for science teaching.
- The use of animalistic and anthropomorphic analogies in the teaching
of the Year 10 “Metals” topic.
- The value of a carefully designed revision process.
- Teacher questioning techniques to promote spontaneous participation.
- Under-achieving Year 9 students' responses to a novel digital video-enhanced
- Year 9 students' responses to a novel digital video-enhanced resource
pack for a KS3 “Speeding Up” unit of work.
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