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Towards Evidence-Based Practice in Science Education

Grant reference: L139251003

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Book chapter details

TLRP: Contested territory: The actual and potential impact of research on teaching and learning science on students' learning
The actual and potential impact of research on the practice of teaching science has been discussed within both academic and policy communities. Radically different conclusions have been advanced. This paper presents evidence from one study to demonstrate the potential positive impact of research on teaching and learning science on students' understanding of science. Three short teaching sequences (around 6 hours) were designed by a group of researchers working with a group of teachers, drawing explicitly upon insights from research. Tests of the students' conceptual understanding were applied both before and after teaching. Furthermore, identical test data were collected from classes of similar students in the same schools, who were following the schools' usual approach to teaching. In cases where students who followed the designed teaching sequences achieved measurable better results than their peers following the school's usual approach to teaching, other teachers in different schools (who had not been involved in the design of the teaching sequence) implemented the teaching sequences with their students. Students following the designed teaching achieved significantly better scores on tests of conceptual understanding after teaching than their peers who followed their school's usual approach, irrespective of whether their teacher was involved in the design of the teaching or not. The terms research 'evidence-informed' and 'research evidence-based' practices are introduced (Millar et al., 2006), and used to discuss the implications of findings from research such as that reported in this paper for practice. Discussion: The group responsible for designing the teaching sequences presented in this paper was mindful of the need to develop an approach that would be motivating to students and teachers. This aspect of the design, however, was informed by professional judgement rather than research evidence. Our intention was to motivate students through the satisfaction of developing conceptual understanding. Although our study was not designed to look at the influence of the designed teaching on students' (or teachers') motivation, some insights came to light through the interviews that we conducted with teachers in the Development and Transfer phases of the project after they had implemented the teaching. Without exception, the biology and physics teachers in the Development and Transfer phases said that the designed teaching sequences were well-received by their students, and several said that they had noted a significant improvement in their students' motivation. Furthermore, several of the Development phase teachers made positive comments about the process of designing research evidence-based teaching: "To me it seemed a much better way of going about it and I felt quite excited about the approach. (.) It's not the only way but it's better that what I do now (.) and I just sort of got excited about it." "I don't think in any other lesson that I've done, have I ever gone into using the analogy in that much depth. I might have mentioned it in passing, but not really probed the children for their understanding of the analogy. That's the big difference here and I think it's really valuable." The quotations hardly form an appropriate body of evidence to use in making judgements about the effect of the teaching sequences upon students' (and teachers') motivation. However, I think that it lends support to the idea that motiv...
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Author J Leach

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