EEF puts focus on improving secondary science teaching


Secondary school science teaching needs to be improved for the benefit of disadvantaged pupils, according to a new report from the Education Endowment Foundation.

The study lists a number of recommendations on how classroom practices can be enhanced, and EEF chief executive Sir Kevan Collins said he hopes it will help to cut the attainment gap that exists in science.

Phil Naylor, assistant director of Blackpool Research School and a contributor to the report, added that science plays a key role in social mobility.

“Science qualifications are instrumental in helping people gain access to rewarding jobs and careers,” he said.

He added that the research aims to collate evidence of good science teaching and make it widely accessible to secondary school teachers. Several of the key points are presented below:

Tackling preconceptions and building on ideas

The report notes that many students bring their own ideas into the classroom as a result of having experienced science elsewhere.

Teachers, therefore, need to challenge preconceptions they may have and should provide evidence in lessons to help pupils change how they think about a topic.

Healthy classroom debate and discussion is therefore vital, as pupils should feel they can ask questions without fear.

The need for teaching models and explicit instruction

It is also noted that explicit instruction should be given to pupils to ensure they understand how to develop their own learning practices.

Models can also be used to support the development of ideas, although the research states that pupils must be made aware that such approaches do not copy reality.

The need for structure and learning sequences

Science teachers should avoid rote learning and should instead look to follow structured lesson plans that limit the intake of entirely new information.

By using a sequence to plan work, support can be given to pupils to ensure they understand each step of the process, and how it relates to previous steps.

This is especially the case with practical science, as the report reveals it is one of the most engaging ways of developing an understanding of key theories.

Teachers should explain what the goals are of any practical work and should also explain why it is necessary and how it relates to what else is being covered in class.

Focus on scientific vocabulary

Pupils should be comfortable with scientific terms and texts and should be encouraged to use them in answers as much as possible, according to the report.

It suggests that secondary school teachers should give thought to when certain terms are introduced, and to understand that some terms can mean a very different thing in science when compared to their everyday usage.