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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Last week we explored different models of curriculum and what a scheme of learning looks like for you. This week is all about managing progression. Progression is not just about the stuff and knowledge of science, but also the depth of learning and, very importantly, its application in a wider context. Progression is not just building up a series of known facts, but how they interlink with each other. Curriculum and their associated schemes of learning, should enable progression to be planned for students, so they continue to develop their understanding. However, planning progression in subject knowledge is not always as straightforward as it might seem, so we are going to explore some simple tools that can help us with planning.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds We also need to consider progression in other skills, notably how practical techniques are developed and how an outstanding curriculum enables teachers to plan and assess this. We start off this week with some point to discuss. How important is practical work in science? In the modern era, how much of the “traditional skills” in science should be embedded in our curriculum, and why? How much time should be given over to practical work? Is science really a hands-on subject? Share your opinions an experience of teaching practical work in the secondary science curriculum throughout this week.

Is science a practical subject?

In this video, Mark explains that a scheme of learning should enable progression in subject knowledge, including depth of knowledge and application in a wider context.

This is not as straight forward as it sounds! We also need to consider how students understanding of practical techniques is developed. What opportunities do we provide for students to practice and refine their practical skills, and how do we assess those skills?

This week we will look at managing progression to maximise learning, and some useful tools and resources to support this.

But first we start with a question: Is science a practical subject?

Consider the two quotes below:

Quote 1

“Much practical work is ineffective, unscientific and a positive deterrent for many students to continue with their science. It is ineffective in helping students to understand the concepts and theories of science. It is unscientific in that it is quite unlike real scientific activity. And it is boring and time-wasting for many students who find it unnecessary and unstimulating.”

(B. Woolnough, 1995)

Quote 2

“It’s what science is all about really … getting on with some experiments. Science is a practical subject …. You know, end of story, I think.”

(Teacher quoted in research by J Donnelly, 1995)


Which of the quotes do you agree with, or does your opinion lie somewhere between the two?

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Curriculum Design for Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre

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