Dr Peter Sneddon (co-chair)

In 2005 I was appointed as the first University Teacher in the School of Physics & Astronomy, a new type of academic appointment designed to have a focus specifically on the educational side of physics; I must have done something right, as it wasn’t long before there were many of us working in this fascinating area. 

 In my time I have taught students at all levels of their undergraduate degrees.  Many of these have been “traditional” physics courses, such as Thermal Physics or Newtonian Dynamics.  But I also introduced education-focussed courses, designed to allow students to directly explore this side of our subject.  Whether helping to teach undergraduates (Peer to Peer Teaching & Learning in Physics), teach school pupils (Physics Education & Communication) or learn how to carry out their own physics education research (through Group and Honours Projects), these additions to our catalogue of courses have, in my view, only improved the opportunities we provide to grow the skills base of our students. 

If there is one common thread to my work, it is this focus on skills.  When I initially began carrying out my own physics scholarship/education research, I explored the factors that affected students’ attitudes towards, and experiences of, laboratory learning in Physics.  This quickly led me to realise the importance of the skills our students learned there, and soon I began to focus on how we could best develop and broaden the skills-base of our students.  As well as the education-specific courses I’ve already mentioned, my work led to modules and courses looking at scientific skills.  The key there was to teach the students that would make them better physicists/scientists, rather than on traditional theoretical content.  This culminated in the development of a level 1 course for Science students (Science Skills), created as part of a staff-student co-curricular development project.   

I am actively involved in physics outreach.  Along with Dr Sarah Croke, I organise the annual Quantum Technology School.  This events sees school pupils in 5th and 6th year from across Scotland coming to the University for two days to experience presentations and workshops highlighting aspects of what Quantum Technology has to offer, whilst at the same time providing them a chance to experience university life through exposure to the campus, and meeting current undergraduates.   The QTS is part of the School’s ongoing efforts to address the under-representation of certain groups, for example girls, in physics in higher education.  Tying into this work, I also take part in the IOP Girls in Physics events, running workshops around Scotland.

I was involved in the organisation of the IOP Stirling Physics Teachers Meeting for 11 years, chairing the planning group for the 2015- 2018 meetings.  This is the largest gathering of physics high school pupils in the country. 

I am a Senior Fellow of the University of Glasgow’s Recognising Excellence in Teaching scheme, and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  As well as my PhD and MSci in “proper” physics, I also hold an MEd in Academic Practice.