Improving Practical Work in Science
Evaluation of the 'Improving Practical Work in Science' (IPWiS) Project
As part of a consortium led by the Association for Science Education, work was undertaken on an independent evaluation as part of the Improving Practical Work in Science programme funded by the DCSF. The evaluation fed into the fundamental aim of the programme of improving practical science in primary and secondary schools.
The key evidence related to looking for changes in teachers' pedagogy and seeing whether any changes were embedded into the practice of schools. In particular, we looked for indicators of change in the way in which practical work is used, such as:
• Is there a change in the type of discussion that takes place around practical work?
• To what extent is practical work is put into context and related to children's experiences?
• How is practical work related to the underlying scientific concepts being addressed in the lesson?
Multi-site case studies that employed a condensed fieldwork strategy were undertaken. Data were collected, using tape-recorded interviews and observational field notes, in a sample of practical lessons undertaken in English primary and secondary schools. A total of 50 classroom visits were undertaken in a before-and-after research design. The data were analysed using Guskey's five levels for the evaluation of professional development.
1. The Improving Practical Work in Science (IPWiS) project can, and did, bring about substantial change in both the use and effectiveness of practical work.
2. The extent of this change and improved effectiveness was seen to depend on who undertook the training, e.g. whether they were a head of department or an NQT, and the extent to which the school's senior management team was supportive and keen to implement the ideas.
3. The impact of the IPWiS project amongst primary teachers was, compared to their secondary colleagues, less noticeable. This was not because of any failure on the part of primary teachers to engage with the IPWiS project but because, in almost every case that was observed, much of their pre-training practice already embodied many of the good characteristics that the IPWiS project was designed to inculcate.
• Abrahams, I. & Reiss, M. (2010) Effective practical work in primary science: the role of empathy. Primary Science, 113, 26-27.
• Submission to Science and Technology Committee Select Committee Inquiry: Practical experiments in school science lessons and science field trips.
'Getting Practical' – the official website of the 'Improving Practical Work in Science' Project: http://www.gettingpractical.org.uk/