The Knowledge

What makes for great primary science teaching?

A new EEF review signposts key considerations for teachers and school leaders

A new EEF review signposts key considerations for teachers and school leaders

28 Nov 2023, 5:01

As a core subject in the national curriculum, science is hugely important in helping children begin to understand and reason about themselves and the world they live in. The content covered aims to support development in myriad ways, such as helping children to live healthy lives, make informed choices about how to positively impact their environment, as well as laying the foundations for science study in later years.

Despite its acknowledged importance, there is still uncertainty about what makes for effective teaching of primary science.

Keen to remedy this, a team of researchers, of which I was a member, undertook a systematic review that was led by Judith Bennett and Lynda Dunlop at the University of York, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

This involved searching a wide range of research databases and beyond, looking for studies reporting on the effects of different approaches to primary science curricula, teaching and assessment. A total of 15,476 studies were identified and filtered down to 90 of the most relevant and rigorous.

So, what did we find?

Study findings highlighted the importance of increased talk as a means to help pupils identify prior knowledge and evidence to support their thinking, as well as integrate new ideas, practise articulating these and receive feedback from peers and teachers.

A number of studies that looked at the use of cooperation and collaboration approaches – such as collaborative writing, discussion and online collaboration – reported positive effects on pupil attainment and attitudes.

Study findings highlighted the importance of increased talk

Formative assessment approaches – such as individualised feedback to pupils and peer assessment – also showed a positive impact. Such practices create opportunities for meaningful classroom interactions focused on the learning goals, and time for thinking and talking.

Finally, several studies pointed to the potential positive effects of giving children opportunities to learn outside the classroom, whether in school grounds and local habitats or field visits to such places as science centres, planetaria and nature parks.

All of our findings have been used to inform a new guidance report from the EEF, offering actionable, evidence-informed recommendations for teachers and science leads to implement in their settings.

Improving Primary Science offers six recommendations based jointly on the systematic review and on the views of an expert guidance panel of teachers:

  1. Develop pupils’ scientific vocabulary
  2. Encourage pupils to explain their thinking, whether verbally or in written form
  3. Guide pupils to work scientifically
  4. Relate new learning to relevant, real-world contexts
  5. Use assessment to support learning and responsive teaching
  6. Strengthen science teaching through effective professional development as part of an implementation process.

Taken together, these recommendations should do much to demystify what great primary science teaching looks like in practice.

Latest education roles from

Work Placement Officer

Work Placement Officer

Barnsley College

Speech & Language Therapist

Speech & Language Therapist

Carshalton College

Physics GCSE Tutor (Variable Hours)

Physics GCSE Tutor (Variable Hours)

Richmond and Hillcroft Adult & Community College

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

Haberdashers’ Academies Trust South

Chief Executive Officer Cornwall Education Learning Trust (CELT)

Chief Executive Officer Cornwall Education Learning Trust (CELT)

Satis Education

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Ark Greenwich Free School

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspire creativity in your classroom. Sky Arts’ Access All Arts week is back!

Now in its third year, Access All Arts week is a nationwide celebration of creativity for primary schools (17-21...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Unleash the Power of Sport in your setting this summer! National School Sports Week is back!

Unleash the Power of Sport this summer with National School Sports Week powered by Monster Kickabout! From 17-23 June,...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

The Knowledge

Covid delays release of long-awaited phonics study

Important £1m trial study now due in 2023

John Dickens

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *