PALAVA Reports


PALAVA at ASE Annual Conference, Reading


PALAVA had two sessions at the Conference. Although I was not able to attend all of them, I have been well-advised about their content. Sadly, the audiences were not large, but that sometimes happens. Wynne Harlen and I spoke to one person at one session one year. It was very productive though.

David Mayo, now an NQT in Bristol kicked off with a presentation on Cognitive Dissonance. Although the title is rather grand-sounding, it embodies the constant challenge of finding out existing ideas of learners and devising ways of changing some of these ideas to match more closely those that scientists hold. A good start to understanding this idea is the Wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance . The author of this Wikipedia article points out the negative feelings that can be engendered by challenging these ideas. The article goes on to say:
'Noticing the contradiction would lead to dissonance, which could be experienced as anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment, stress, and other negative emotional states. When people's ideas are consistent with each other, they are in a state of harmony or consonance.'
David mentioned the PEEL project from Monash University, Australia (http://www.peelweb.org/) which seeks to enhance effective learning, especially through Cognitive Dissonance.
Sean Moore (now an NQT in Bracknell) and Miranda Creed-Miles (also an NQT) spoke about their project to build up a wikispace on YouTube videos. This was a project that they devised during their PGCE Year. The index is at http://sciencevideobank.wikispaces.com/ and is freely available. Sean and Miranda are still extending the database but are also working on how access to it affects their teaching.

In a second session, Ginny Kearton, Head of Science at Courtmoor School in Fleet, outlined her study of changing ideas in her department about using science exercise books. This has been a challenge and is as much concerned with people change as science teaching. This is an ongoing project for the PALAVA group. Ginny has spoken about this project at ASE Council, where it was well-received. Sheelagh Bowker, Senior Science Teacher at Maiden Erlegh School, Reading, presented her thoughts about ways to help students revise, built on various ideas of what revision means. Sheelagh has been a long-standing member of PALAVA, working on chemical equations at first and presenting at various ASE conferences. Regretfully, Penny Robotham, Head of Science at Alcester Grammar School, was unable to speak as her car broke down on the way! Her work on innovative ways of recrding learning is also an on-going project.

The PALAVA group has many regular meetings, and the web site is www.palava.wikispaces.com. All colleagues are welcome to any of our meetings.