Ask the Experts

We asked our Subject Specialist Associate Consultants one question. “How do you develop your own subject knowledge”. Here is what they told us;

Tim Bold – Secondary Physics

“Students still ask me questions that throw me and I then need to find the answers (I usually challenge them to find out, but I still need to know).

Other than that, I regularly keep up with the teacher forums on the Institute of Physics and Royal Society for Chemistry, read the journals and keep up with various social media science sites (NASA, CERN, IFL Science).”

Victoria Gould – Primary English

“I develop my own subject knowledge through a combination of inter-collated activity on both a personal level and a professional level. On a personal level, I am a twitter fan and an enthusiastic and avid reader. I stay abreast of up to date educational research and I wholeheartedly believe that in order to give our children the best life chances, they need to be able to read and write. Becoming a good reader is too important to be left to chance.

My career gives me varying opportunities to build on my subject knowledge. I engage with different networks and CPD at every opportunity, and I am also a member of a few different subject associations. I truly believe that collaboration and partnership is key!

I feel privileged to work with schools all across the region! Having the opportunity to observe a range of lessons allows me to reflect and evaluate my own practice. The beauty of this profession is that there is always the scope to evolve, grow and develop. ”

Catherine Bickersteth – Primary History

“By engaging with different professional networks I am able to connect with others in a range of education settings which is important for having a range of perspectives and sharing practice.  Now  that it is easier  to  engage with events virtually, this makes possible to connect with a wider range of expertise and viewpoints.

It is key to read and learn about history in different contexts  – for example, my subscription  to History Today  means I can access a huge archive of past issues too; articles from the Historical Association and research by historians on areas of particular interest. The UCL Press is a good source of current research. Historical Association membership is really useful. I look out for events run by museums  which can  enhance my subject knowledge. If I am developing subject knowledge in a particular area, I will also seek out useful podcasts and materials that could be useful.  It is important to keep up to date with educational policies,  and one way of doing this is by signing up for updates from the DfE.

When I visit museums and art galleries, which I see as a leisure activity,  I usually find that I take away something that has developed my wider understanding, provoked a question or given me inspiration for further investigation.”

Julia Mackintosh – Secondary Geography

“Membership of the Geographical Association helps me to stay up to date with current issues in geography via the GA Primary Geography journal, online resources and a range of CPD opportunities. I make full use of the free online CPD webinars provided by both the Royal Geographical Society and the Geographical Association for teachers and I attend subject-specific conferences such as the Geographical Association Annual Conference, Charney Manor Primary Geography Conference and Geography Teacher Educator Conference. Conference sessions have highlighted reading and research that I have used to further develop my subject knowledge.”

Lynn Welsh – Secondary Art and Design

“I develop my subject knowledge by attending subject specialist meetings, engaging in a number of Facebook groups for teachers and artists, Twitter alerts, attending exam board training, downloading exemplars from Pearson, AQA and Eduqas websites, regularly visiting galleries and engaging with work online.”

Susan Ogier – Primary Art and Design

“I keep up to date by being engaged and proactive through the subject association, NSEAD, as well as by collaborating with primary colleagues from other subject areas, for example through writing projects, and by being a committee member of NAPTEC. I try to visit galleries and exhibitions as often as I can, as I will always get a new idea that I can’t wait to try from doing this! As a practising artist, I love to plan in arty weekends and holidays to make sure I keep my skills well-tuned!”

Sarah Vaughan – Primary Computing

“For me, one positive of Covid 19 has led to more remote training and support. I am now able to regularly attend webinars and teachmeets with practitioners across the country to share best practice and pick up new skills. Access to networks such as CAS, the pedagogy resources at Teach Computing and my subscription to Hello World also help me keep up to date with my subject knowledge.”

Helen Ostell – Primary and Secondary Physical Education

“I am a member of the Association for PE (AfPE) and of the Youth Sport Trust (YST) which enables me to keep up to date with current developments.   In addition I have a professional twitter account and read widely around the subject.”

Kit Rackley – Secondary Geography

“Continuously reading and talking to people. I love reading non-fiction, and as you may guess, many of them have geographical themes. I actually find reading academic papers and research quite difficult, so enjoying a good book covers me in one sense, but then talking to fellow educators and academics about their work so they can explain it to me in context is helpful.

I host a podcast where I talk to geographers from a range of backgrounds, and they talk about their work. I also will go ‘one step further’ when preparing for a lesson or teacher CPD session – I make educated guesses about what questions might be thrown at me, especially ones that I might not know the answer to, and then go ahead and do some research. I may never be asked some of those questions, but at least I’ve worked on my subject knowledge!”

Kirsty Wilcockson – Secondary Music

  • “I listen to as much live and recorded much as possible, and share these experiences whenever I can.”
  • “I still have piano lessons (!) This is so helpful discuss different approaches to music teaching with another professional and to ensure that I am still able to model at a high level to the young people I work with.”
  • “I read a lot. This can be subject specific, (for example, I am currently reading Unconditional Teaching: a new style of Music Teaching by Paul Harris), it can be more widely around the arts (for instance the work that is being done at Harvard around ‘Artsful Thinking’ or looking at broad teaching and learning topics and reflecting what it looks like in my subject.”

Helen Snelson – Secondary History

“All the time! Reading the latest books. I try to wait til they come out in paperback and I try not to buy another until I have read the one before. I fail! Listening to podcasts. BBC In Our Time is great for discussion, as is You’re Dead to Me. And the HA (the history teacher subject association) has a vast array of podcasts of historians. I listen to them when on the move. I love history museums, exhibitions, monuments and sites. My long suffering husband has been know to protest at yet another castle! And I talk to people. To historians, to colleagues, to the local history group… I talk via twitter, at meetings, over coffee… I am so lucky to work a lot with EuroClio so I get to visit historic places across Europe with history teachers from all sorts of places quite often. So, developing subject knowledge is quite ‘anytime, any place, anywhere’!”

If you have any questions you would like to ask our experts, then please contact us.

Leave a Comment