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Secondary teachers’ views about teaching and assessing the diversity of scientific methods in practical science

By Olga Ioannidou, Katy Finch, Sibel Erduran

Abstract

A significant issue in the teaching, learning and summative assessment of practical science is that the underpinning model of scientific methods is based on a fairly simplistic and linear account that does not represent how scientists actually do practical work. In this paper, we examine how science teachers in England and Wales view scientific methods included in teaching and summative assessment of practical science. Following on a survey of 51 secondary teachers’ views, we focus on the outcomes of a professional development programme where science teachers were introduced to a framework called Brandon’s Matrix that presents a diversity of scientific methods in the context of Project Calibrate. Through in-depth qualitative analysis, we investigated how three teachers engaged with this framework having taught it to their students.

The findings illustrate that teachers conceptualise practical science as a mainly hands-on activity, while they express the need for the inclusion of more minds-on skills in the high-stakes assessment of practical science. In addition, the findings show that teachers are quite receptive to adapting new frameworks, such as Brandon’s Matrix, for their teaching. Although the teachers did not see a significant departure of the assessment questions from the regular high-stakes tests taken at age 16, they did recognise that there was a valuable element of thinking skills embedded in them.

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