Teacher support networks: more than just free biscuits!

Many of you will be the lone psychology teacher in your own institution and a number of you will also not have a psychology degree but a degree in a related subject. It can be tough to develop and teach a subject, not being certain whether you are using the best resources for your students. I know there are online resource repositories like Resourcd, but there are also lots of other good resources out there.

Back in 1996 I was working at Staffordshire University and was also a team leader for AQA Psychology. Helene Ansell got in touch to say that she was running a Psychology Teacher Support Network (PTSN) for teachers in Staffordshire and asked if I would like to attend one of their meetings. I attended and discovered a group of teachers talking about the A Level and sharing resources and good practice. With so many commonalities across the examination boards there was much that was of value to all. When necessary, groups broke into smaller units to discuss things relevant to their particular board.

Forging links between schools and universities

Meetings happened each term and were always attended by ten or more people (not always the same ten). It was easy to tell that the teachers, who were often the only psychology teacher in their school/college, benefited greatly from their involvement. I, too, benefited enormously from the insight I got into the teaching of psychology from the ground, as it were. As a university lecturer it was plain to see that there were valuable links that could be forged and over the next few years I was able to put on a number of events at the university for A Level students – the beginnings of what we would now call outreach.

From taster sessions to a teacher support network

On moving to the University of Derby in 2005 I continued my links with the Staffordshire PTSN and also continued to run sessions at the university for A Level students. Through links I was starting to make with teachers in Derbyshire, I put on taster sessions and this grew to a A Level student conference with 200 attendees. I was also able to arrange a staff development session around the new PSYA3 areas when the last specification change came in. We held a session at one college centre and the staff attendees went there. This way we were able to keep costs to a minimum. From these beginnings, I decided to set up a Derbyshire PTSN and this first got going in 2013. The group meet each term and there have been some excellent discussions, especially recently around the new specifications. The group is now run by Helen Smith, a teacher at a school in Derby, and is a small but thriving group.

How to get networking

Setting up a PTSN is really easy (though a little time consuming at first). Simply get the email addresses of psychology teachers in your area and drop them a line asking whether they want to be part of a PTSN. You will be surprised how much interest there will be. Then it is a case of setting up some meetings (we tend to move around the county so that everyone has a chance of attending something). The meetings we hold are 4pm to 6pm as this avoids having to ask for lesson time out of school. Minutes of the meetings are optional, of course. Oh, and don’t forget to invite a representative from each of your local universities, as these links can be of great value to your students if they lead to visits (in both directions).

If you would like more information then please contact me at k.silber@derby.ac.uk. I am in the process of setting up a PTSN website where all activities across the country can be shared but please note that the site is in its infancy.

Kevin Silber is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby,  an ATP Committee Member and an A Level examiner.

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