Talking Teaching

April 3, 2010

so much to read, so little time!

Filed under: science teaching, university — alison @ 11:00 pm

I was spurred to write that title after writing a post while wearing my ‘other’ hat, over on the Bioblog. I was writing about the evolution of angiosperm leaves, a topic that had bubbled around in my brain after reading a review article in Nature. Now, I’m not a botanist, although I studied botany at uni & did well enough to be invited into honours. (I was invited into honours in zoology as well, & ended up going the ‘animal’ route. Not because I didn’t like plants, but because I liked animals more.) But I do give some lectures on plants to our first-year bio students, & I thoroughly enjoy it, not least because it’s forced me to get back into reading about botany.

Anyway, I read that paper on  leaves, & it all slotted into my mental filing system alongside bits & pieces from a book by one of the paper’s authors. I’ll be giving the paper to my students to read, after Easter, & hopefully – for some of them anyway! – this will act as an entree to the book (The Emerald Planet, for those of you who might be interested).  And then, as I googled for images, what did I find but a post by another blogger based on an earlier paper about plant leaf vein evolution. At which point I thought – how can I ever hope to keep up? There is just so much material out there. You could spend all day, every day, reading in your own field (let alone any other area) & probably just keep your head above the sea of words.

I knew this already, but it’s still a sobering realisation. And at least those of us at university have the luxury of being able to spend time reading the latest work – we have to, so that our teaching & our research are firmly based on the current state of knowledge in our disciplines. But for school teachers… I remember, when I was teaching in secondary school, that I’d read a bit here & there & flatter myself that I was ‘keeping up’. But I know I wasn’t…



  1. So, what is the solution for school teachers then?

    Comment by kubke — April 6, 2010 @ 4:51 am

    • I think the task is even harder for school teachers as they have so many more demands on their time. (Yes, I know uni lecturers are under a lot of pressure as well, but they aren’t in the classroom 8.30-3.30 plus all the extra hours doing pastoral care, marking, writing reports, extra-curricular activities…. sorry, got a bit carried away there! And we are expected to keep up with ‘the literature’ as much as possible, so we do have the luxury of time to read stuff.) I know a lot of my ‘bioblog’ readers are secondary bio teachers, so maybe that’s one way to cope? One way that scientists can support teachers, by making new findings available in a brief, clear, easily-understood way. And putting it all in context too; it’s one thing simply to summarise a paper, & another to show how it’s relevant & where it fits in. Maybe we should get more involved in professional development activities for teachers, as well?

      Comment by alison — April 7, 2010 @ 11:07 am

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