Science Education Special Interest Group

Importantly, research suggests that teacher education needs to take an explicit and reflective approach to teaching teachers about the nature of science and its methods. It should not be assumed that teachers will have learned about the nature of science simply as a consequence of having taken part in science-related activities. Enquiry-based teaching involves pupils acquiring substantive and/or disciplinary knowledge through exploration. This involves simulating the scientific enquiry process so that pupils develop their understanding of concepts using methods similar to professional scientists. These enquiry methods are commonly assumed to be ‘best practice’ in

Top-achieving countries in TIMSS use the principle of ‘curriculum coherence’ to organise their national science curriculums. This involves teaching topics – and the substantive content within them – in a particular sequence that reflects the hierarchical structure of the scientific disciplines. Research from the United States suggests that this curriculum journey needs to start in the early years when pupils are introduced to a wide range of vocabulary and phenomena. This is because there is a clear relationship between young children’s general science knowledge and their later science achievement. If gaps in pupils’ knowledge are not addressed early on, evidence suggests that these will continue into secondary school and beyond. At primary school, the national curriculum outlines what content pupils learn.

This covers the diverse methods that scientists use to generate knowledge, not just fair testing, which is often over emphasised in science classrooms and curriculums. Despite these differences, each discipline draws extensively on common concepts too, such as energy and the particle model. This means that there should be a clear rationale for when and where these inter-disciplinary concepts are first introduced in the curriculum and how they develop over time. Pupils will also need to learn that important scientific discoveries, such as the structure of DNA, are often made by scientists from different disciplines working together. As outlined above, at the core of scientific expertise lies extensive, connected knowledge.

Love Food Love Science gives secondary school teachers access to credible food science and technology teaching resources and mentoring support. It is provided free by the Institute of Food Science and Technology , a professional body for those involved in all aspects of food science and technology. IFST is an independent membership body, supporting food professionals through knowledge sharing and professional recognition. It reflects the important status of scientific concepts, and the relationships between them, as building blocks of scientific knowledge. A high-quality science curriculum prioritises pupils building knowledge of key concepts in a meaningful way that reflects how knowledge is organised in the scientific disciplines. Importantly, this assumes there is enough curriculum time to teach science.

Expecting teachers to pick up subject knowledge through time spent teaching is misguided. It is therefore important that teachers have access to high-quality subject-specific CPD. This needs to be focused on the content and how to teach it, as opposed to generic pedagogies and so should be aligned with the curriculum that teachers teach. CPD should also aim to improve science teachers’ disciplinary knowledge in relation to the nature of science and its methods, as well as how to carry out practical work.

This covers how to carry out specific procedures and protocols safely and with proficiency in the laboratory and field. This is a particularly important area for enabling progression on to science courses beyond GCSE and at university. Pupils learn that all measurement involves some error and scientists put steps in place to reduce this. Each scientific discipline gives pupils a unique perspective to explain the world around them.

The first is ‘substantive’ knowledge, which is knowledge of the products of science, such as models, laws and theories. The second category is ‘disciplinary knowledge’, which is knowledge of the practices of science. This teaches pupils how scientific knowledge becomes established and gets revised. Importantly, this involves pupils learning about the many different types of scientific enquiry. In high-quality science curriculums, knowledge is carefully sequenced to reveal the interplay between substantive and disciplinary knowledge.