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How will I measure impact?

17 January 2011

This month I am mostly thinking about impact.

Impact is a buzz word for charities at present and at ASE we haven’t really taken advantage of a good look at the changes we have made over the years.  This came to mind when one of my co-authors on the “history of ASE”  book that is currently being written asked me if there was any documentation that would indicate which changes in science education over the past fifty years resulted from ASE activity alone.

The answer to the question is, of course, impossible to give.  ASE has worked in many partnerships over the years which have resulted in change and the development of future leaders of the profession – which is a significant role that we have played – is undocumented except by some of the snippets which those individuals have submitted and which appear on this website.

Our constitution as a charity means that there is a network of others with whom we have discussions about impact – this is very useful as we have many concerns in common alongside our considerable differences.  One of the features that we share with our fellows in the “Third Sector” is that we are all attempting to change society in one way or another.  Our colleagues may do that by helping homeless people or running projects abroad – we aim to do our bit by improving science education.  So that helps in articulating our response to the “impact” question, as we look at the changes to society for which ASE has been responsible.

So, how will I measure impact, and report back on achievements in 2011? Incidentally, I am looking forward already to another exciting Annual Conference in Liverpool in January 2012.  Reading 2011 will be tricky to top but I’m sure that my personal alma mater will rise to the challenge.

Obviously I will look at the number of members, and the subdivisions of these.  That’s relatively easy.  The deeply committed members who have chosen to become Chartered Science Teachers will also be part of the assessment.  But we touch science educators in many more ways than by membership, and as a charity we have to confer public benefit so we must attempt to have influence beyond our membership. That influence is via this and other websites that we are responsible for, so I’ll be counting visitors and page viewers.  I’ll also attempt to quantify our influence through responses to consultations, input to science education programmes and projects and so on.  It will be interesting to look at all of the meetings that I go to and explicitly ask the question “in which ways is my appearance here materially improving the teaching and learning of science”.  I might find that I let some of them go in future!

So, the question is – how would you measure ASE’s impact on science education?  I’ll be very interested to hear your views.  As we move into the new governance structure and in the current economic climate it is more important than ever that we make sure that our efforts are driven towards our vital purpose.


Rob Butler

Fri. 21/01/11

I'm in two minds about the ASE - and I'm a regional committee member!

I'm a huge believer in what the ASE stands for, and have experienced excellent CPD first hand (across two regions). I hope that there has been some impact there - as the ASE continues to shape the teaching of participants of CPD events in a positive way. I am concerned about the future of these events if there are any changes to the structure/deployment of field officers - these events are the primary reason I am a member.

Impact on teachers through other media - if it wasn't for a heavy PGCE presence and a discounted subscription for NQTs, most science teachers would say "ASE? Never heard of them". Whilst the ASE works hard at influencing government policy and the curriculum, there is little of relevance to the average teacher. Until this week I'd heard nothing of the ASE in the media (nice work on the BBC news story btw!) and the ASE is missing the chance to impact on the everyday science teacher (who actually provide much of the funding).

Amazon remains a substitute for the ASE bookshop for many, and the niche articles in SSR go unread by many (I flick through briefly and file my issue in a dark cupboard in my classroom). The magazine is more useful - combination of writing style & pitch, and I'm confident that it has had more impact on my teaching.

So how does the ASE increase the impact it has on science teaching? More prominence and relevance to the 'everyday science teacher' means more members, and more members means more credibility when talking to the press, more influence when lobbying government. The ASE has to change and be more than just a talking shop if it is to survive.

This thread on the TES forums sums up how many feel about the ASE - I haven't posted my response yet (I'm still trying to decide how I feel about the ASE!)

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Annette Smith

Mon. 24/01/11

Thanks for your useful comments, Rob. As you can tell there's a lot of thinking about ASE enhancing impact in the future and I'm glad that you point out the media impact we've been able to have as a result of the outdoor science work. The impact we have through regional activity is hugely important and we'd like to increase that in future in a sustainable manner. Much more discussion to be had about that.

However,my focus in this piece in how we report impact to our stakeholders, for example in an Annual Report, when in some ways it is really difficult to measure.

There's another issue which I think of when I look at the TES forum - that is to do with capturing the views of non-members in a useful way. I could do with a focus group of them to test new proposals and ideas!

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Linda Needham

Wed. 26/01/11

The strength of ASE is that it is the ONLY association representing science education in the UK. Whenever there is a call for evidence or consultations we can always trust ASE to give a rounded view of what's going on. We sometimes get biased views from other members of the science community that are feathering their own nests. If you talk to teachers of other subjects they don't have the support or a unified voice that ASE provides. Being a member ensures this organisation can continue to play a massively important role on our behalf in the wider world of science education. Its not just getting the next new resource or CPD opportunity, its much bigger than that.
We do need to be better at getting the message out there, I see my role as a chartered science teacher as being just one of the ways I can contribute at grass roots level. Promoting CSciTeach to expert colleagues and increasing the numbers would increase credibility and spread the word into more schools and departments.

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Tanya Dempster

Wed. 02/03/11

Yes we should be doing more to look at the impact of what we do.

First step to count the number of teachers who attend ASE events. We have figures for the Annual conference but do not tally up those atending regional meetings. Theses figures could easily be collected. I know that many peoiple also report back to colleages _ I am often asked to provide PPT used to use with other staff members. So many ideas recieve further dissemination.

We also need to collect evidence (yes it would be anecdotal- but better than nothing) from people about HOW it has impacted their teaching. With elecgtronic communication this is easy to do too.

As scienctists I do find it surprising we haven't looked for evidence of impact.

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