The Laboratory In Science Education

And although pupils enjoy practical work, research suggests that this does not, by itself, foster long-term personal interests in the subject. Indeed, teachers can often prioritise ‘wow’ moments without clear reference to any curricular goal. Practical work therefore forms a fundamental part of learning science because it connects scientific concepts and procedures to the phenomena and methods being studied.

Practical procedures, such as using microscopes or heating apparatus, should also be practised regularly so that pupils do not forget what they have learned. This covers how to process and present scientific data in a variety of ways to explore relationships and communicate results to others. Pupils learn about different types of tables and graphs and how to identify correlations. An introduction to building students’ understanding of energy using the stores and pathways approach.

It has drawn on research from many different countries and organisations. Teacher explanations and worked examples should make connections between knowledge explicit to pupils. This may include using carefully selected analogies and models to help pupils link changes at the macroscopic and tangible levels to microscopic and submicroscopic levels. For example, teaching pupils about the nature of chemical knowledge helps them to connect what happens at the macroscopic level to the submicroscopic level involving particles. This prevents pupils from confusing macroscopic changes with submicroscopic changes – say, thinking a decrease in the size of a piece of metal is due to the ‘shrinking’ of particles.

This is made up of formal learning and teaching events such as lectures, seminars, tutorials, as well as independent study. Support our mission to promote excellence in science teaching and learning by becoming a member. SEFARI is committed to the use of research and knowledge to help us better understand the world around us, and to make better decisions.

A high-quality science education depends on effective subject and school leadership. This starts with allocating sufficient curriculum time to teach the science curriculum. However, research shows this does not always happen, particularly in primary schools.

For example, there are concerns in biological education that there is a zoo-centric focus and that pupils do not encounter the full range of living organisms in the classroom . Similar findings about the importance of teachers’ questioning and quality talk, during or after practical work, have been reported elsewhere. These further support Millar’s view that effective practical work must form part of a wider instructional strategy. Millar outlines 5 related, but distinct, purposes of practical work in helping pupils learn substantive knowledge.

There is concern, from organisations such as the Wellcome Trust as well as Ofsted, that removing external science assessments in 2009 made schools narrow their curriculum to focus on mathematics and English. Formative assessment can also be used to find out whether pupils retain and use specific misconceptions. Distractor-driven assessment tools can be especially helpful, such as multiple-choice questions that present pupils with both the scientific conception and misconception.

Despite the increase in the number of pupils wanting to study the sciences beyond age 16, it is important to remember that these pupils are the exception. Indeed, research shows that many pupils leave school without a basic knowledge or appreciation of science and that their interest declines with time spent at school. Often, this decrease in interest and motivation occurs when pupils have to make so-called ‘choices’ about science pathways. For example, many pupils wrongly assume that science is not for them when they are prevented from choosing triple science at GCSE.

It is also important that teachers do not assume that pupils can easily transfer their learning from mathematics to the science classroom. Like substantive knowledge, evidence suggests that disciplinary knowledge should be articulated and sequenced in the curriculum. This supports progression of important disciplinary concepts and procedures. This covers how evidence is used, alongside substantive knowledge, to draw tentative but valid conclusions. It includes the distinction between correlation and causation and knowing that explanation is distinct from data and does not simply emerge from it.