What we want to achieve
It would be difficult to find either a teacher of science or a scientist that does not agree that practical work is an integral part of science as a whole. It would also be difficult to find young people that do not consider the practical aspects of science to be more interesting, inspiring or engaging. The UK is one of the leading countries in Europe for including practical work in its science education curriculum, so why as a country are we struggling to find young people who wish to continue their study of science past GCSE level?
A report by SCORE found that although there are a number of good quality practical science resources available, some practical work in schools and colleges can have a limited effect on a young person’s engagement and learning.
Getting Practical is a programme of professional development designed to support teachers, technicians and high level teaching assistants at primary, secondary and post 16 levels consider the way in which they teach practical science with a view to improving the quality of their teaching. The programme aims to improve the:
- Clarity of the learning outcomes associated with practical work. By having a clearer idea of what a learner should achieve in a practical session, lessons can be planned more appropriately rather than just teaching a practical topic the way it has always been taught.
- Effectiveness and impact of the practical work. Many young people leave a practical science lesson with a limited understanding of what the aims of the session were and whether they have achieved that aim. They often consider the session to be more fun than a theoretical lesson but this does not indicate that their learning has been enhanced.
- Sustainability of this approach for ongoing improvements. The toolkit developed for this programme will become a readily available resource and teachers will be free to use it within their own personal development as well as using it to assist and train colleagues through professional development opportunities within their school or college and through local teacher networks.
Quality rather than quantity of practical work used. This programme is not aiming to increase the amount of practical work in the timetable in any way, unless a school or college feels that it is necessary, but rather increase the quality of the practical work taught.
Bringing together these aims will develop a teacher’s ability to assess the way they teach practical science at all levels and increase their confidence in producing good quality lessons for the benefit of the learner.