#SciTeachJC: Discrete KS3 HSW

Summary of #SciTeachJC discussion 7th May


  1. 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.

  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. LSS = Learning Skills for Science, more information at the eLibrary.
  8. 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.