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Practical work: the essence of school science John Holman National Science Learning Centre.

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Presentation on theme: "Practical work: the essence of school science John Holman National Science Learning Centre."— Presentation transcript:

1 Practical work: the essence of school science John Holman National Science Learning Centre

2 Improving Practical Work in Science

3 Sputnik 1, Launched by USSR, October 1957

4 Practical work survey Carried out by the Science Learning Centres as part of the ‘Getting Practical’ project with the Association for Science Education Published March 2010 1339 responses from science teachers and technicians Analysis and report by Kirstie Hampson

5 Top reasons for doing practical work Helping learners to understand scientific concepts (88%) Making phenomena more real i.e. linking theory to practice (84%) Helping learners to develop skills e.g. observation, using equipment (82%) Motivating learners (81%) Helping learners to develop understanding of scientific enquiry (80%)


7 Percentage of teachers undertaking practical work for more than 40% of teaching time Key Stage 363% Key Stage 443% Post 1628%

8 What factors hinder you from undertaking practical work? Curriculum pressure i.e. curriculum too full (69%) Curriculum pressure i.e. assessment demands too frequent (41%) Poor learner behaviour (29%) Lack of funding for or availability of suitable equipment (25% and 20% respectively) Lack of time to research suitable ideas for practical work (21%) Health and safety (<10%)

9 ‘Pressure from timetabling and results precludes practicals unless they are directly related to coursework’

10 Factors contributing to effective practical work The availability of quality equipment and good laboratory layout (33%) Learner engagement and good behaviour (23%) Time to plan and prepare beforehand and time to carry out the work (21%) Support from technicians and teaching assistants (20%) Clear purpose for the practical, strong links to theory and relevance to the topic or curriculum (20%)


12 What additional support would make your practical work more effective? Smaller class sizes (67%) More time for planning (57%) A less content-heavy curriculum (43%) Easy access to new ideas (43%) More technicians and teaching assistants (19%)

13 ‘Can I make a plea for better pay and conditions for technicians so we can keep them? Teacher Respondent

14 Professional development in practical work 45% of respondents wanted more CPD 30% specify CPD relating to subject knowledge 15 % specify CPD relating to classroom management

15 For a good overview of the purposes of practical work in school science Robin Millar, for the US National Academy of Science: Millar, R. (2004). The role of practical work in the teaching and learning of science Available at: aper_Jun_04.pdf aper_Jun_04.pdf

16 Science without practical work is like literature without books


18 Science Learning Centres survey on dissection Published Summer 2009 Responses from 242 institutions



21 Science Learning Centres survey on dissection 95% of institutions do some form of dissection - KS379% - KS494% - Post 1691% Only 19% of institutions do whole animal dissection Two thirds of respondents feel they do not do enough dissection

22 How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top McKinsey, September 2007 ‘Above all, the top performing systems demonstrate that the quality of an education system depends ultimately on the quality of its teachers’

23 Future challenges Trend to shorter lessons and compartmentalised curricula - militates against longer learning experiences Keeping up with developments in modern biology Pressures from exams and ‘rarely cover’ on field work and CPD Economic pressures, leading to reductions in technicians, staffing and equipment budgets and increase in class sizes.

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