03 November 2015
National Life Stories interviews used in new science teaching resources
I have no memory of any teacher of science at my primary, middle or secondary school telling the class about a particular scientist. Or even about the work of science - the extent to which it was a field of day-to-day effort - an occupation, a job. Science consisted of special names for things and observable/measureable phenomena (habitat, electrical resistance, malleable, etc.). It was a method (control all variables but one) and a more or less interesting body of knowledge and understanding that just existed. That people worked for and on it was not pointed out.
Contrast this with a new set of resources for teachers on the National STEM Centre website that have been developed from oral history life story interviews (long audio and short video) with ten British scientists from ethnic minority backgrounds, recorded by National Life Stories at the British Library in partnership with The Royal Society. In these new resources, particular scientific questions - how do you get a satellite into orbit?, how does the human body's immune system work?, what kinds of energy should society develop? - are taught through the life stories (summarised in profiles, timelines and the videos) of people who faced these questions in their own jobs or postgraduate studies - interviewees Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Professor Saiful Islam, Dr Jassel Majevadia, Dr Jo Shien Ng, Dr Donald Palmer. Additional resources based on the other five life story interviews - with Professor Sir Harry Bhadeshia, Professor Sanjeev Gupta, Dr Mah Hussain-Gambles, Dr Mark Richards and Dr Charlotte Armah - will appear in December.
For the full audio interviews on which the educational resources are based, visit the British Library's Sounds website.
Dr Paul Merchant