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Using twitter to gauge people's views

1 February 2012

There was much fun on Twitter last week (as there often is). This was not the boycott, organised to protest against possible censorship, but a little closer to home. The Education Select Committee put out a call for questions, which they could then put to the Secretary of State in their session with him on 31st January. The call went out for questions, to be received via Twitter by 11 am on Friday 27th, and the Education Committee would then use these to make sure their questions reflected the concerns of the profession. The subject associations were especially excited about this opportunity and much tweeting occurred. At the time, I was completing a follow up letter to Michael Gove about the panel discussion on outdoor science education that we held at the recent ASE Annual Conference. When I heard about this I sent a quick tweet asking: Please will you expand on Government response to S and T Committee report on practical science? In all, DfE reported over 5,000 responses – reflecting all of our interest.

It occurred to me that this was an excellent and immediate way to find out what is troubling those concerned with education in England currently. Incidentally, the National Curriculum consultation attracted a similar number of responses, laboured over for many weeks.

So, this led me to think some more about consultations, taking the temperature off the community and making sure that a message is heard. I’ve blogged before about capturing the authentic voice, but this is more about the mechanics of consultation.  Our Twitter group is great at putting its collective mind to a subject during #ASEchat on Monday evenings and it is relatively easy to summarise these to garner some views, but what about more traditional consultations? Currently, OFSTED is consulting about the inspection of ITE institutions. ASE has a lot to say about initial teacher education but how can we construct our message so that it makes a difference? Members of ASE, particularly ATSE members who are currently engaged in educating science teachers, will have to nuance their response so that it answers the questions while highlighting the issues that are currently of concern.

And then there are our internal consultations – currently about ASE committees and the regional structure. Far from limiting responses to 140 characters, these have been quite open ended and free form. The committee consultation has moved to a new phase now, where we’re looking at outputs from the committees, but the regions consultation is ongoing and has been quite widely expressed and some have commented that this makes it difficult to respond. One or two pointers from my experience of responding to consultations would include: be succinct and clear about what you want to say; be sure to include any warnings about unintended consequences that may only be visible from your perspective and don’t be too cynical – your views will be valued by the recipients!

Comments

Anthony Hardwicke

Fri. 10/02/12

Tweeting is an easy and accessible way for people to express their views. The trouble is that tweets disappear into the ether after a few weeks. I think the ASE's role should be to capture the (otherwise transient) views of science teachers and summarise their views.

#ASEChat already does this very effectively. If you contribute a sparky idea, new resource or interesting website on a Monday evening, you know that it is highly likely to be documented in the #ASEChat summary. This is an incentive for teachers to take part - it makes Tweeting even more worthwhile.

It has been a decade since the ASE has updated its general policies on class sizes, workload, technician roles, etc. Why not schedule some #ASEChat-style Twitter discussions on science education policy? Summaries of these discussions could be ratified by the new Assembly and go forward to make up a revised document of ASE policies.

The ASE's function is to listen to and inform science teachers. Twitter is an immensely valuable tool to help us to do that.

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