Posted on 26 July 2012
Researchers, led by Robert Slavin, a professor at the Institute for Effective Education at the University of York, and Director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University in the US, conducted a systematic review to summarise the evidence of three types of programmes designed to improve the science achievement of primary school pupils. These were inquiry-orientated programmes without science kits, inquiry-orientated programmes with science kits, and technology programmes.
The results of the review support the use of inquiry-orientated programmes without science kits, which help teachers to learn and use generic processes such as science-reading integration in their daily science teaching. Use of inquiry-orientated science kits, such as FOSS (Full Option Science System), did not show any benefits for science learning. Limited research on technology approaches such as BrainPop also showed positive impacts.
Professor Slavin said: “The limited achievement effects of inquiry-orientated programmes that used science kits is surprising since they are carefully designed to facilitate hands-on inquiry. One possible answer may lie in the nature of practical science teaching in primary schools. Time and resource limitations make it difficult to cover the entire science curriculum so spending a great deal of time on laboratory exercises may take time away from the rest of the science curriculum, especially objectives not covered by the kits.”
The limited achievement effects of inquiry-orientated programmes that used science kits is surprising since they are carefully designed to facilitate hands-on inquiry
Professor Robert Slavin
The review concludes that science teaching methods that are focused on improving classroom teaching have significant potential to improve science learning in primary schools.
“A teacher who learns to make effective, daily use of co-operative learning, or conceptually challenging content, or science-reading integration, can take advantage of these new skills every day, for every objective, and teach the entire range of science objectives more effectively,” Professor Slavin added.
A further finding of this review is that there are few rigorous experimental evaluations of primary science programmes. After examining 327 published and unpublished articles, only 17 studies met the review’s inclusion criteria – and only one of these took place in the UK. The report suggests that more research and development is needed to identify effective and replicable approaches to improving science achievement outcomes for primary schools.
The full report is available on the Best Evidence Encyclopaedia website at www.bestevidence.org.uk.