Spotlight on Ruth Amos
30 January 2019
Ruth tutors PGCE science student teachers at IOE. She is also a project manager on an EEF / Wellcome ‘Improving science education’ trial which matches UCL STEM undergraduate mentors with disadvantaged Year 11 students.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I work in the science education team at UCL Institute of Education. We are part of the Department of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment (CPA) led by Dr Clare Brooks. My main role is tutoring and teaching PGCE science students teachers during their initial training year. I also support a few MA and doctoral students. In addition I contribute to a range of research and knowledge exchange projects with colleagues as they come into the science education team. These have been in the fields of learning outside the classroom, digitally-supported learning in science, socio-scientific inquiry based learning (SSIBL, as part of the EU PARRISE project), and improving initial teacher education.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I've been at the IOE since January 2004. I first came to set up an outreach project called Planet Science (funded by NESTA) in which the PGCE science student teachers went into disadvantaged schools to run science enrichment activities. I undertook my MA in Science Education at IOE, followed by doctoral studies with Professor Michael Reiss, which I had to curtail partly due to ill health and family circumstances.
My previous role was science (and chemistry) teacher and head of science, in secondary schools in London between 1990-2004. I returned to the science classroom briefly a few years ago to do a small number of hours maternity cover. This really reinforced to me how challenging the lives of teachers currently are – something has to be changed.
In my twenties, I worked as an environmental chemistry researcher, analysing the breakdown of pesticides in crops and soil at the then ICI Plant Protection Division in Bracknell, Berkshire (now Syngenta). This role developed a strong sense of concern for the environment in me. I have been fortunate enough to be able to take this into my teaching roles in school and at UCL IOE, within projects such as PARRISE with Dr Ralph Levinson and through the Development Education Research Centre (DERC) with Professor Doug Bourne and colleagues.
My UG studies in chemistry were at the University of Bristol.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Over my career as a school teacher it was always the excitement and pride associated with supporting students when they achieved more than they thought they were capable of. Actually, that is still the case now, when student teachers are able to respond well to support and guidance during the PGCE year and 'make it' to QTS.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
I'm project managing an EEF / Wellcome funded project which started in Jan 2019, together with Professor Michael Reiss. We are part of a 5-university team led by colleagues Professor Ian Abrahams and Dr Rachael Sharpe at University of Lincoln. The project is matching STEM undergraduates from UCL with disadvantaged Year 11 students preparing for their GCSEs in summer 2020. The undergrads will support the students 1-2-1 over a period of 23 weeks. The project evaluation will explore evidence for the benefits of these kinds of mentoring partnerships. Top of my to-do-list at the moment is recruiting 7 schools and 77 science undergrads for the project!
And literally hot of the press: with colleagues Dr Marian Mulcahy and Sheila Curtis, I'm excited that we have successfully bid for a BIEA-funded project to work with Marian's colleague Mekbib Alemu in Ethiopia on a small project aimed at developing citizenship science pedagogies for our respective curricula, through collaborative work between our trainee teachers in London and Addis Ababa.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Album: White on Blonde by Texas (1997), which I listened to non-stop travelling around New Zealand in 2001.
Film: Bit naff I know, but at the moment it has to be Mamma Mia 2 - I love singing along and imagining I'm Lily James.
Novel: I've recently started reading my teenage daughter's books; I loved 'That's Not How It Happened' by Kody Keplinger – suspenseful, easy reading, which is just what I need to relax with.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
An English person, an Irish person and a Scottish person walked into a bar. The English person wanted to leave, so the others had to go as well.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Harry Kane, Ellen DeGeneres, Zoe Ball, and Sharleen Spiteri to serenade us.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It's ok to share feelings, feel like you don't quite fit in, and to ask for support when you need it; sometimes it actually helps.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I am lucky enough to have been involved in caring for and bringing up three lovely young people, without biologically giving birth to any one of them!
What is your favourite place?
The west coast of Wales. We lived there for a short time when I was a child, and I'm drawn back continually. We celebrated our wedding near Penbryn, Ceredigion last summer with family and close friends. A very special place for me.