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ERIC Number: EJ941660
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Sep
Pages: 2
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 9
ISSN: ISSN-0013-1377
Research Focus: What Does Research Say about the Nature and Purpose of Practical Work?
Abrahams, Ian
Education in Science, n244 p28-29 Sep 2011
In the UK, practical work is often seen by teachers as central to both the appeal and effectiveness of science education. Practical work is frequently used in the teaching of science in English secondary schools. One of the reasons for this is that many science teachers see practical work as an essential part of what it "means" to be "a science teacher". It is not just teachers who hold practical work in high esteem--students also see practical work as useful and enjoyable--at least, compared to other methods of teaching and learning science. In survey responses from over 1400 students of a range of ages, 71% chose "doing an experiment in class" as one of the three methods of teaching and learning science they found "most enjoyable". A smaller proportion (38%) selected it as one of the three methods of teaching and learning science that they found "most useful and effective". Despite the widespread belief amongst teachers that practical work can be an effective means of developing conceptual understanding, the research evidence to support this is, at best, ambiguous. In fact, at least when the outcomes are measured using pen and paper tests, research suggests that there is no significant advantage to using practical work as a method of teaching. When the use of practical work in primary and secondary schools was compared, it was found to be more effective in the former than the latter. One possible explanation as to why practical work was found to be more effective in primary than in secondary schools was that the primary teachers, most of whom were not science subject specialists, empathised, possibly as a consequence of their own difficulty with some aspects of science, to a greater extent with the problems their pupils faced when learning about new scientific ideas and the meaning of new scientific terms than did their secondary colleagues. As a consequence, they appeared better able to anticipate--and as such prepare for--the problems that their pupils faced than many secondary subject specialists.
Association for Science Education. College Lane Hatfield, Herts, AL10 9AA, UK. Tel: +44-1707-283000; Fax: +44-1707-266532; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom