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Q&A with John Connolly

John is a Lecturer in Initial Teacher Education for Science in secondary schools, and taught Physics in Greater London for 10 years.

What attracted you to take up your position at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE)?
My first experience of the IOE was when I studied for a Science PGCE, specialising in Physics, in 2003/4. This was a transformational experience on many levels, particularly as I had come from working as an engineer in the private sector which proved to be quite a monotonous and unfulfilling occupation. 

I now was involved in engaging with young people and having an impact on their lives which meant work provided new experiences practically every day for ten years. Being a mentor for student teachers meant that I remained connected to the IOE whilst I was teaching and I decided that I wished to further my experience in teacher education and was lucky enough to get a job at the IOE doing just that, working on the Science PGCE.

How long have you been at the IOE?
I am in my fifth year working at the IOE. Prior to working here, I was a Physics teacher in one of our IOE partnership schools in Greater London for 10 years.

What do you most enjoy about your job and why?
I enjoy seeing a new group of science teachers develop their skills to become confident practitioners in London schools every year. It’s great to see how their ideas of what teaching is about change as they progress through the year and how the initial nerves about teaching science to young people subsides and is replaced by a self-assuredness in how to help young people develop their knowledge and understanding of the world.

Working at the IOE has meant that I am involved in a committed community of science educators who are keen to support the lives of London’s school children."


What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Developing a new undergraduate module for third year Physics BSc students at UCL that lets them explore issues in Physics education and be involved in some curriculum development for KS3 science. It provides a solid foundation for students who might be interested in going on to our PGCE course.

How has being in London or at UCL in particular benefited you?
London feels like a unique place in the world where diversity is celebrated - to be able to experience the world cultures and communities without leaving London is quite special. 
Working at the IOE has meant that I am involved in a committed community of science educators who are keen to support the lives of London’s school children by helping new and existing teachers to develop their skills in teaching science. 

What is the focus of your research and what benefits do you hope your discoveries or insights will bring?
It is fair to say that most school students have quite a negative perception of Physics for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is that school students consider Physics to be a difficult subject and don’t choose it for post-compulsory study despite many attaining high examination results in GCSE Physics. 

I am studying for a PhD at the moment - my main research focus is investigating students’ self-efficacy beliefs in Physics to see if it is possible to change some students’ perceptions about Physics to see if it can actually fit in with their own identity.
 

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