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outsourced teaching of laboratory sciences

Discussion in 'Science' started by ajrollason, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. I am trying to ascertain the level of demand, if any, for
    outsourced Physics/Chemistry Laboratory classes from secondary schools,colleges and academies across the UK.

    As an experimental physicist who held responsibility for the provision
    of university undergraduate physics laboratory classes for many years, I believe
    in both the value of such student activities and the difficulty of adequate and
    efficient resourcing within an individual institution.

    I believe an effective and affordable method of delivering such classes could be through
    access to 3rd party Physical Measurements Laboratories that run regular laboratory
    classes for schools, offering a
    comprehensive, high-quality educational experience of experimental science through shared
    What enthusiasm or reservations do any science colleagues have for such an initiative?
  2. Although I have some sympathy for your thoughts and could see some potential in a large urban area, for me working in a rural situation it would be impossible to provide transport and the REQUIRED supervision. This is typical of the "wonderful" sharing ideas which come from Central Government from time to time.
    From a personal (physics teacher) perspective, I would strongly oppose it, as it would sound the death knell for Science Departments. To have zero integration of colleagues across a reasonably coherent subject would not appeal to me. It would represent compartmentalisation of the worst form.
    There would also be a division of the child from its school - limited pastoral care/responsibility; limited cross-curricular interaction; limited parental communication.
  3. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Interesting idea - but I have difficulties with the practicalities.My big rural school can (just) cope with taking groups to college for whole or half days for things like engineering and hairdressing. Shorter sessions would not work.
    There could be scope for "come and see infra red /nmr spectroscopy or MS in action" for one offs, but even these are difficult to organise. I've decided that it's not worth 4 hours of minibus for 2 hours of spectroscopy (especially as the MS was broken when we got there).
    Apart from spectroscopy, my school is well enough resourced and staffed to deliver all the science we need to.
    Best wishes,
  4. If you are offering free lectures with low cost/free transport included there may be some interest. Otherwise you may find that the costs and practicalities will deter most schools.
    Many science teachers are highly experienced ex-industry people, in addition to being au-fait with current exam requirements, so the attraction would be in one-offs to see specialist equipment in action (eg MS, Electron microscopes, DNA sequencers).
  5. These are good points. My thoughts are along the lines of holding sessions lasting whole or half days every so often - perhaps twice a term - to keep the bussing issues manageable, important even for shools in conurbations.The sessions could provide hands-on encounters with more professional apparatuses than are affordable by many schools or experiments such as nuclear science that are very difficult to implement due to safety and legislative issues. The experiments would be devised to support the National Curriculum syllabus. The emphasis is on supporting and enhancing the teaching of physical science in schools and colleges where and when a school requests it.
  6. Realistically, once a year would be achieveable. Once or twice a term would be impossible- even for AS/A2 students. To ensure the correct student to teacher ratio is met, there are large costs incurred buying in lesson cover even before transport and insurance costs are considered. (Just a simple "free" half-day out can work out at £500+ for a class of 25) With budgets shrinking rapidly.....
  7. AshgarMary

    AshgarMary New commenter

    Don't know how this would work, but could you kit out a large 'mobile home' / portakabin type affair and you drive to the schools or a local area rather than them come to you and maybe you get a local school to 'host' your mobile for say 2 weeks or so. They have mobile mammography units for xrays etc, so there must be ways of getting suitably 'shielded' mobiles for some of the radioactivity and other experiments?
  8. AshgarMary

    AshgarMary New commenter

    PS I just found this! Maybe it's worth your while contacting them and seeing what you can add to the party, especially at the higher levels?

  9. Thanks for this. I have come across "lab in a lorry" ventures a few times. They are good vehicles for demonstration experiments but not so effective for more hands-on, developmental experimentation where the experimenter needs access to stores and prep rooms. Better than nothing but not nearly so impressive as a professionally outfitted laboratory.
    There are two obvious main hurdles to outsourced laboratory support that I can see - timetabling and costs (of activity and transport). Are there any others?
  10. Ssn77

    Ssn77 New commenter

    Spectroscopy in a suitcase is free, and some university departments also offer free workshops. We already struggle to fit in as many practicals as we would like because of lack of time.

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