- A proper archive should appear shortly on the site, but for now here's a summary of the discussion at last night's Science Teaching Journal Club. The paper:
Grime, R (2012) A School’s Experience of the Discrete Teaching of Scientific Skills at Early Secondary Level, SSR 346 (.pdf)
Abstract: Students at age 11 or 12 took a course where scientific skills were taught discretely rather than in an integrated approach alongside scientific knowledge and understanding. There is evidence that this may be a more beneficial approach for developing scientific skills.
- 1 How would the experiences in this case study inform your personal classroom practice? Given the opportunity, would you recommend a similar approach in KS3 across your department?
- Some participants were much happier with the paper than others, it would be fair to say - perhaps showing the limitations of a single-site study with limited analysis? However, most agreed it would be worth investigating further, despite the time pressures of the current KS3 curriculum. The Getting Practical project and HSW resources available at the National STEM Centre eLibrary were mentioned.
- 2 With changes to controlled assessment at GCSE there is an assumption that many schools are teaching scientific skills in isolation, often with a strong emphasis on the context of the ISA/EMPA/etc. Does the paper support this approach? How could it best be managed for better learning as well as supporting students to achieve good results?
- As expected, the demands of controlled assessments at GCSE mean that many schools already teach scientific skills as a discrete unit. The issue here would be when it is best to teach this, before or after they focus on KS4 content. There seemed general agreement that by teaching skills separately, then practising with new material, students would understand better.
- 3 The paper shows how action research at a school level can provide evidence in support of changes. What lessons could you learn from this when considering policy changes in your department?4 With the recent attention paid to the use of RCTs to inform education policy, how could the results of trials such as this one be used to inform the design of larger-scale studies? Would it be possible to avoid the outcome measure being used to judge schools rather than interventions?
- LSS = Learning Skills for Science, more information at the eLibrary.
- Participants were enthusiastic about the idea of basing school policies on evidence, but slightly dubious about how well this would work at individual schols. At this level personal bias and enthusiasm could cause difficulties and of course it risks duplication of effort. We agreed that a wider study was needed to examine these particular ideas - and of course this is a good time in education to raise this possibility.