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The effect of increasing conceptual challenge in primary science lessons on pupils' achievement and engagement

[journal article]

Mant, Jenny; Wilson, Helen; Coates, David

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Please use the following Persistent Identifier (PID) to cite this document:http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-132483

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Abstract This paper reports research into the effect on 11 year old pupils of introducing more cognitively challenging, practical, and interactive science lessons. Our hypothesis was that such lessons would increase the children’s enthusiasm for science and their engagement with the scientific process, thereby improving educational performance. Schools in England are under pressure to raise achievement, as measured by the results of national tests. This has an impact on teaching, where revision of subject knowledge often dominates and can be particularly detrimental to more able pupils. The research was a controlled trial which took place in 32 English primary schools as part of a project 'Conceptual Challenge in Primary Science'. Teachers from 16 intervention schools participated in continuing professional development (CPD) and developed science lessons that had more practical work, more discussion, more thinking and less (but more focused) writing. The proportion of pupils achieving the highest level (level 5) in the national science tests at age 11 was compared in the matched-school pairs before and after the intervention. Focus group interviews were also held with a group of pupils in each intervention school. There was a 10% (95% Confidence Interval 2-17%) increase in the proportion of children achieving the top score in the intervention schools. The pupils and teachers reported greater engagement and motivation. These findings suggest that moving from rote revision to cognitively challenging, interactive science could help improve science education. They merit replication in other international settings to test their generalisability.
Keywords curriculum; motivation
Classification Primary Education Sector; Curriculum, Teaching, Didactics
Free Keywords science education; conceptual change; primary school; conceptual challenge; achievement
Document language English
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 1707-1719
Journal International Journal of Science Education, 29 (2008) 14
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690701537973
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)