07 SEPTEMBER 2014
Could you tell us a little about your background?
I taught Science (mostly Physics) for 13 years, in a secondary school, a sixth form college and a polytechnic. I gradually moved into writing through projects run by the Nuffield Foundation, the Association for Science Education and the Institute of Physics. In the last 20 years I have contributed to over 100 textbooks and guides for teachers, including Checkpoint Science, IGCSE Physics, O level Physics and International AS and A level Physics. Science textbooks are very complicated to produce because of all the diagrams, symbols, equations and so on, so a lot of people are involved in making sure that we get everything right.
What first interested you in Physics?
I grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. We had a great Physics teacher when I started in secondary school, and that turned me on to the subject (Many people attribute their love of a subject to a good teacher). After my first degree I went to Leeds University where I worked in research until I was 30. I have found my research background very useful ever since.
What's your favourite area of research?
I like to learn about how Physics is applied in other areas – astronomy, archaeology, medicine, sport, music, materials science and so on. I am Physics editor of 'Catalyst', a science magazine for secondary students, which means that I can ask all sorts of interesting people to write articles about their physics-related work. I also help to organize my local Café Scientifique, so I can invite speakers on topics that I find interesting.
Do you have any tips for teaching Cambridge IGCSE Physics and Cambridge International AS and A Level Physics?
Everyone thinks that it is important that students carry out practical work, and I agree. However, I think it is also important that teachers perform demonstrations in front of the class. A good demonstration can teach a lot in a short time. By involving students in demonstrations, you will quickly come to understand where their misunderstandings lie. So it’s always worth thinking about a practical activity – would it be better as a class experiment or as a demo?
How do Cambridge IGCSE Physics and Cambridge International AS and A Level Physics help learners?
I know from comments by teachers that the books explain concepts clearly. They build up the ideas in a logical way, and provide interesting contexts to help motivate readers. They include straightforward questions to support learning, together with harder questions at the end of each chapter.
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