National Teaching Fellow 2015
Dr David Sands is a passionate advocate of evidence-informed approaches in physics education and pedagogies which foster deep learning in his students. As Chair of the Institute of Physics (IOP) Higher Education Group, Chair of the Physics Education Division of the European Physical Society and Chair of the IOP Degree Accreditation Committee he is committed to using his passion, research and experience to shape policy and practice in physics education nationally and internationally.
David's approach to physics education has been systematically influenced by pedagogic research. His innovative work on modelling developed from research evidence and his own startling realisation that physics graduates can display a lack of conceptual understanding, despite being familiar with complex theories or skilled in mathematics. Starting from the disciplinary premise that building models, or mathematical representations of the physical world, is what physicists do, and realising that it is rarely explicitly taught, led David to develop modelling approaches to teaching concepts.
Conceptual understanding is difficult to foster and even more difficult to measure, but constructing models is one of the best ways to apply knowledge and build understanding. David has developed a unique protocol for teaching and assessing modelling and as Director of Learning and Teaching, he is currently working to embed modelling activities throughout the degree. As Chair of the IOP Degree Accreditation Committee he is currently overseeing a reform of the accreditation process that will emphasise pedagogy and the opportunities for skills development within physics degree programmes nationally.
David has published widely in the field of physics education and has inaugurated the UK Physics Education Research Network both to facilitate the development of large scale physics education research projects and to mentor and support staff new to physics education research. His work is used in the UK and beyond to inform discipline practice. Although David values the metrics associated with evidencing teaching impact, a poem entitled In praise of Dr Sands , composed by an undergraduate physics student, remains his favourite piece of student feedback.