Teacher professional development in action research in the secondary physics classroom: evaluation and impact

Willeke Rietdijk, Caro Garrett, Marcus Grace

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaperAcademic


The widespread concern among industrialised countries about the scarcity of physicists is linked to shortages in predicted workforce requirements and strategic global positioning of national economies. Reports from around the world describe a similar story about the declining interest in physics. The pressing need to increase young people’s engagement with physics and encourage them to pursue the subject beyond compulsory schooling, led the UK national Network of Science Learning Centres to develop and implement the Action Research for Physics (ARP) programme for physics teachers across England. The programme consisted of three face-to-face professional development training days for teachers, interspersed with two rounds of action research carried out by teachers at their own schools. This paper focuses on how the ARP programme impacted on the participating teachers. Sixty seven secondary physics teachers across the ten Science Learning Centres completed a pre- and post-programme questionnaire and took part in focus group meetings at each centre. Thirty eight senior managers who had authorised the teachers’ participation in the professional development also completed a post-programme questionnaire. The vast majority of teachers and senior managers viewed the ARP programme as a resounding success for the teachers themselves, their students, their departments and their schools, and they intended to continue with this action research approach to physics teaching as a means of improving classroom practice. Teachers included more discussion and thinking time in their lessons and increased their use of specific effective physics teaching strategies. The ARP approach of providing physics teachers with research-informed guidance, while allowing them to develop their own action research intervention within their own school context over a period of time, thus demonstrated increased confidence, motivation and enthusiasm towards teaching physics and making physics relevant to students’ everyday lives
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2013


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