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ERIC Number: EJ815821
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Nov
Pages: 25
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 49
ISSN: ISSN-0950-0693
Does Practical Work Really Work? A Study of the Effectiveness of Practical Work as a Teaching and Learning Method in School Science
Abrahams, Ian; Millar, Robin
International Journal of Science Education, v30 n14 p1945-1969 Nov 2008
Many within the science education community and beyond see practical work carried out by students as an essential feature of science education. Questions have, however, been raised by some science educators about its effectiveness as a teaching and learning strategy. This study explored the effectiveness of practical work by analysing a sample of 25 "typical" science lessons involving practical work in English secondary schools. Data took the form of observational field notes and tape-recorded interviews with teachers and students. The analysis used a model of effectiveness based on the work of Millar et al. and Tiberghien. The teachers' focus in these lessons was predominantly on developing students' substantive scientific knowledge, rather than on developing understanding of scientific enquiry procedures. Practical work was generally effective in getting students to do what is intended with physical objects, but much less effective in getting them to use the intended scientific ideas to guide their actions and reflect upon the data they collect. There was little evidence that the cognitive challenge of linking observables to ideas is recognized by those who design practical activities for science lessons. Tasks rarely incorporated explicit strategies to help students to make such links, or were presented in class in ways that reflected the size of the learning demand. The analytical framework used in this study offers a means of assessing the learning demand of practical tasks, and identifying those that require specific support for students' thinking and learning in order to be effective. (Contains 2 figures and 7 tables.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom