PALAVA - teacher researcher group

PALAVA meetings for 2017-18 Provisional Programme
All meetings, except the ASE Conference Sessions, to take place at 33 Lower Mount, Reading, RG1 5HL at 10 am. Regular sessions will close at 12 noon with an invitation to a lunch in a nearby restaurant.
As part of our face to face and virtual meetings we will be studying Critical Thinking (CT) by Stuart Lanscome (2017) Routledge

  1. September 23rd. Reading simple representations in chemistry CT Chapter 1 (Rationality, cognitive biases and emtions)
  2. October 21st. Reading simple representations in physics CT Chapter 2 (​Critical thinking and dispositions)​
  3. November 11th. Reading simple representations in biology CT Chapter 3 (​​Arguments and argument reconstruction) ​
  4. December 16th. Reading complex representations​: ​CT Chapter 4 (Argument forms and fallacies​​)​
  5. January 3rd - 6th ASE Conference Liverpool University
  6. January 27th. Update on whitespace and its role in representations CT Chapter 5 (Arguments and social power: authority, threats and other features of message source​)
  7. March 3rd. Using diagrams for instruction in practical work CT Chapter 6 (Causal arguments, generalisation, arguments from consequences and slippery slope arguments​)
  8. May 19th. Setting up journal clubs for Communities of Practice CT Chapte​r 7 (Arguments from analogy)
  9. June 30th. Radical STEM education​: CT Chapter 8 (Further fallacies)

PALAVA meetings for 2016-17 Provisional ProgrammeAll meetings, except the ASE Conference Sessions, to take place at 33 Lower Mount, Reading, RG1 5HL at 10 am. Regular sessions will close at 12 noon with an invitation to a lunch in a nearby restaurant.

  1. September 24th. Getting to grips with Education for Sustainability (ESD). International perspectives and influences. Resistance to ESD from traditionalists. Latest research, and research overviews, on ESD. Diagrams on ESD that make us think.
  2. October 22nd. STEM and other disciplines integration in Food, including Food Sovereignty.
  3. November 12th. Welding the story of energy in ESD. History of thermal energy in lives, compared with more recent electricity. Who does electricity benefit, the story of inequality?
  4. December 10th. As a prelude to the forthcoming festival season, a fun session on ESD, to be devised!
  5. January 4th - 7th. ASE Annual Conference at Reading. I am expecting some PALAVA sessions to be accepted. PALAVA Dinner on 7th at the Sizzling Spice on Christchurch Road.
  6. January 28th Food as a cultural artifact, leading to separation or being together. We might include menu diagrams as one form of analysing food. Energy and Food, including harvesting, storage and cooking. Historical views of food. Cutlery (chopsticks, invention of fork). Illness caused by cooking food in enclosed space. Removing natural poisons from Food, such as cyanides from cassava.
  7. March 4th Activities for young learners in ESD. to be devised
  8. April 8th To be devised
  9. May 20th to be devised
  10. July 1st to be devised

PALAVA meetings for 2015-16: Provisional programme
All our sessions in the next year will include analysis based on theoretical frameworks and new knowledge claims. The inclusive process is based on respect for research and respect for each other and each other's views. This does not preclude critical thinking. A significant development will be to develop capacity to engage with and carry out education research. We started with Education for Sustainablity last year and there is still a lot of mileage in this topic.

Saturday 12 September at 33 Lower Mount, RG1 5HL 10 am - 12 noon To include a review of our previous work on chemical equations nearly 20 years ago. I intend to provide a substantial summary booklet in advance. A focus will be on frameworks for analysis

Saturday 31 October at 33 Lower Mount, RG1 5HL 10 am - 12 noon To include a review of our previous work on diagrams of travel of sound. I intend to provide a summary booklet in advance. A focus will be on what is special about analysis by a group such as PALAVA.

Saturday 5 December at 33 Lower Mount, RG1 5HL 10 am - 12 noon To include a review of our previous work on diagrams of food and energy nets in biology. I intend to produce a summary booklet in advance. A focus will be on narrative research and its analysis


Wednesday 6 - 9 January 2016 at ASE Annual Conference in Birmingham. Days and times to be announced.

Practical Action Research for Active Teachers. Teachers are very busy, committed to both teaching and high quality personal development. This practical workshop is designed to support teachers in undertaking Action Research and is supported by the ASE Guide to Research in Science Education. It will show how teachers can gain easy access to the primary literature, integrate their research with everyday teaching, and support every step of the way.

IOSTE Keynote presentation Global justice issues (including 'British values') are now more significant in schools than ever but not so much in science education. This session offers a critique of secondary school science in a comparison of global corporate science and technology with science in local communities. It questions whether science education, by concentrating on core content, is indeed neutral. It will focus on mineral extraction, electrical energy production, and agriculture as three major themes that can provide indicators of equity and justice. On the basis of the globalisation of science, it will integrate Case Studies in the UK with those in poor countries, to examine whether science is contributing to poverty reduction and a more just society. The session will make proposals for change based on research evidence

Global Justice STEM Education through Diagrams Teachers are very busy, committed to both teaching and high quality personal development. This practical workshop is designed to support teachers in undertaking learning through diagrams and is supported by the ASE Guide to Research in Science Education. It is targeted on Global Justice Issues such as resource extraction and climate change.

Tactile science diagrams for Visually Impaired and Blind People This will be a workshop about how to construct tactile science diagrams and use them in the classroom for Visually Impaired and Blind People.


Saturday 30 January at 33 Lower Mount, RG1 5HL 10 am - 12 noon To include a review of our previous work on Notebooks and Revision. A focus will be on making new knowledge claims as a result of our research

Saturday 12 March at 33 Lower Mount, RG1 5HL 10 am - 12 noon To include a review of our previous work on observing diagrams including Eye Tracking. A focus will be on explaining impact in the classroom.

Saturday 7th May at 33 Lower Mount, RG1 5HL 10 am - 12 noon To include a review of our previous work on constructing diagrams, including Tactile Diagrams. A focus will be on making our output more accessible.

Saturday 25th June at 33 Lower Mount, RG1 5HL 10 am - 12 noon To include a review of our previous work outcomes of Think Aloud Protocols. A focus will be on methodology.

August week beginning 27th. The content of this Day Conference is still up for discussion but I have in mind focussing on the processes of carrying out research in groups, especially for busy teachers.

The Convenor is John Oversby. His home page.


Well, we met today. I will try to keep meeting reports and announcements on our web site at We were delighted to have Klemens with us today. Klemens is a colleague from Berne in Switzerland. He is both a school teacher (in a Gymnasium) and an academic lecturer in a university. He has a strong position in both camps to give us an unusual perspective. Our next meeting will be on Thursday 8th January, 4pm at the ASE Annual Conference at The University of Reading, Whiteknights campus. We have an hour session booked on diagrams. Our next booked meeting is on 14th February, which seems a long time off. Therefore, I will be adding an extra meeting on 17th January, at 10 am, as usual. Klemens came to reading to conduct collaborative research with me on the role of diagrams of galvanic cells. Klemens has collected diagrams from his students (Gymnasium) based on work he has done in class. We had no idea how this might work out but it has been an amazing journey of discovery for both of us. The notes below do not give a full picture of our collaboration. Klemens will be taking a part of the 8th January workshop mentioned above, and will be presenting a poster at the ASE Research Specialist Interest Session on Saturday. In addition we have been thinking that we should present our work at the ESERA Conference in Helsinki in August/September 2015, and probably elsewhere. As is normal, we expect to produce articles for both academic and professional publication in due course. Watch this space. Between us we have collected diagrams in English, German, and from the internet. We have also researched the origin and development of cells. Luigi Galvani was first to notice the inadvertent effect of cells when he touched a frog's leg with an electric spark and saw it twitch in 1780. Galvani was an Italian physician, physicist and philosopher based in Bologna. He invented the term animal electricity. Galvani died in 1798. He published his work as De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari commentarius in 1791 published by Accademia delle Scienze in Bologna. He wrote in Latin and it is available in translation, into Italian. the diagrams are at The next person of note was Allesandro Volta, who tried to repeat Galvani's experiment. Count Volta was born in 1745 in Como in northern Italy from aristocratic and noble descent. He died in 1827. He spent much of his working career in physics in the University of Pavia, an old traditional university. Volta replaced the frogs' legs with brine-soaked paper to investigate the significance of the metals, finding that highest emf (potential difference when no current was flowing) was when he used zinc and silver as the metals. He published his work in 1800. We can only imagine that he spent the intermediate years playing with different metals, and published his work when he fell out with Galvani. For a YouTube on some of this work see The dates I have found in various pieces of literature can vary by a year. It has been suggested that the size of the volt was determined by the emf of the Daniell Cell. John Frederic Daniell reported the construction of a practical cell, giving constant current as long as its components were not used up in 1836. There were many scientists working on the problem of polarisation (falling away of current, temporarily, as the products prevented current flow) and Daniell provided a solution by using zinc dipping in zinc sulphate solution, and copper dipping in copper sulphate solution. More details at To separate the copper and zinc sulphate solution he used ox-gullet and this was swiftly replaced by a porous earthenware pot. His designs were cylindrical with the zinc rod in the middle but schematic representations, as opposed to construction designs, had the zinc on the left, and copper on the right, which continues today, despite the change from current to electron flow around 1900 or so. The Daniell Cell found a valuable use in early telegraphy in the first part of the 19th centuary, and it may be that this use is related to its invention. Hans Christian Ørsted discovered in 1820 that an electric current produces a magnetic field which will deflect a compass needle. In 1825 William Sturgeon invented the electromagnet. Joseph Henry improved it in 1828 by placing several windings of insulated wire around the bar, creating a much more powerful electromagnet which could operate a telegraph through the high resistance of long telegraph wires. In 1835 Joseph Henry and Edward Davy invented the critical electrical relay. This was then an important time of invention based on current electricity, and the two worked symbiotically to produce these developments. In the 1920s, Hittorf and others explored the nature of species in solutions based on measurements of rate of solution movement. We will develop this section in due course, in relation to the movement of ionic charge in solution. So, that is where the history is. Klemens and I have been examining diagrams and animations. Here are some of our findings. 1. Classification. Some of the diagrams are of the construction type, being entirely macroscopic but sometimes in perspective and sometimes in section. Other diagrams which are mainly schematic, they are combinations of macroscopic (beakers, solutions and electrodes) with particles (circles and ovoids) and/ or symbols. We call the latter hybrid, as considered by Justi and Gilbert. 2. The zinc is always on the left. Various separators are used, such as salt bridges and perforated plates. 3. Sometimes the external circuit has a depiction of electrons (circles, ovoids, or e minus symbols). Sometimes the external circuit has a voltmeter (but still, often, with current flow) and sometimes has an ammeter or more often a light bulb. 4. Only sometimes do the solutions have ions inside, a few of them, but usually without movement. We notice that external connections can have charge flow at the same time as there is no charge flow in the solutions. 5. Sometimes there is shown flow of ions across a perforated pot, but rarely and hardly ever in the salt bridge. 6. The ions in solution are often depicted without being hydrated, and sometimes the aq form is used. 7. Colour is often used. Zinc is depicted as white or grey, usually. Copper is red or orange. the copper sulphate solution has a range of blue colours from Royal Blue to Cambridge Blue. The zinc solution is ofetn grey, and sometimes white (colourless). 8. If there is any depiction of electrode changes, this is highly simplified, in hybrid form. Sometimes the depiction is extreme as the diagram exaggerates the changes arising from electrode reactions. 9. rarely do diagrams show changes in species not related to metals. We have not yet finished this work. We noted the term simplification but were hard put to think of its antonym!

More on the mobility of ions. Around the end of the 19th and early 20th century, according to Glasstone (Textbook of Physical Chemistry, 1948, pp918-920) measurement of transference numbers to explain ionic mobility in solutions was the subject of many tedious methods. There were some obvious anomalies, such as the increase in mobility of lithium ions to caesium ions, indicating decrease in ionic size, opposite to that expected. This was explained by varying hydration numbers, which were calculated Bredig in 1984. Today we have a multiplicity of spectroscopic methods such as NMR for alternative ways yet the general pattern established by Bredig holds, despite the methods measuring slightly different parameters. This work confirms the notion that ions are hydrated in solution, the exact number of waters of hydration depending on whether short term interactions are being measured. It seems therefore that the nature of the ionic species in solution is not as certain as we may expect, although we can be highly convinced that the ions are hydrated. Whether this uncertainty affects diagrams of ionic solutions is not sure at this point. It may be a reason for identifying the ionic species in solution other than as a simple ion, or for omitting it altogether. There is also some evidence that hydration numbers are affected by total solute concentration ( Probably, Richens, David. T. (1997). The Chemistry of Aqua Ions. Wiley, is a very highly authoritative text on this matter.

Finally, Penny provided us with a fascinating pack of work on Sustainability, which we did not have time to do justice to. Next meeting perhaps? John

The next meeting will be a mixture of activity!

1. Klemens Koch from Switzerland is working with me on galvanic cell diagrams. In particular we have some focus on the development of complexity in diagrams over the last 160 years (!) and how this helps us to think about his student's diagrams. I hope he will be able to share this work in progress with us.

2. I am keen to learn how our collaborative work is affecting what you do in the classroom, and we shall have a space for you to tell us how it is going. I hope we can include progress (?) on the book about diagrams.

3. We promised to diversify into Education for Sustainability. Some of the research amplifies what we have been saying about engaging pedagogy. Try looking at for four areas for us to contemplate. Try also from the same source. The Journal of Sustanability Education is what it says (on the tin) and is at Finally, a report by WWF might be interesting at We are just starting on this topic with PALAVA so don't expect massive hints and tips for the classroom. Note that none of these examples are from science. There may be something for us to think about in that.

4. At the risk of over-extending the meeting, I hope to have a short chat about the ASE Conference activity.

The site below gives the live stream for the Science and Technology Select Committee held on 29th June 2011
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PISA 2009 UK The report is 106 pages long. It is well worth a read but science was a minority part in the 2 hour test, with around 10 000 15 year old students taking part here. In England science is statistically above the PISA and OECD average. Headteachers and pupils report that classroom management is good, while staffing resource is an issue in Mathematics, and the number of computers is criticised.

Programme 2014-15 (always subject to revision)

The programme is ready, I think, for some revitalisation (a bit deeper than adding Comfort to the washing, and likely to be uncomfortable!) I have just started reading Tom Bennett's book 'Teacher Proof' on why research in education doesn't always mean what it
claims, and what can you do about it. His topics are: How do we know anything?; Voodoo teaching (about everyday urban myths such as Multiple Intelligences, Neurolinguistic Programming, Group Work, Emotional Intelliegence, Three part Lessons, Learning Styles). He is certainly controversial, and it would be interesting to put his thinking to the test of our razor sharp minds! He is not a teacher of science but we will have some fascinating discussions for sure.

28th August, 2014 Whole Day workshop at Reading University Institute of Education. Diagrams as Tools for Thinking

11th October, 2014. Review of our diagrams work to set the scene for the new year. Launch of the web site for 8th January and involving PALAVA in designing pre-Conference activities and reading material.

22 November, 2014 Launch of ESD project. Finalising 8th January workshop programme. Tasks for PALAVA members including international colleagues who can not attend. Book progress. Data collection and analysis on diagrams, especially story boards.

8th January, 2015 ASE Conference at Reading. Workshop on Diagrams as Tools for Thinking. All invited to be involved wherever you are 1600-1700 GMT.

17 January 2015. Sustainability

14th February, 2015 Review of 8th January, successes and things to improve. Book progress. Diagrams data and analysis. ESD continuation

28th March, 2015 Diagrams data and analysis. Book progress. ESD continuation

9th May, 2015 ESD continuation, Book final drafts. Diagrams data and analysis

4th July, 2015 ESD continuation. Book report. Design of 2015-16 project.

August, 2015 Day Conference. Topic to be decided.