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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Teaching Practical Science: Biology. Join the course to learn more.

Example from a teacher

In the last step you identified three possible learning objectives for the same practical activity.

In this video, Emma explains how she sets up an experiment so that students gather just one piece of data in each group. They then combine their results so that more time can be spent on the key learning objective – graph drawing.

Emma ensures that all students are able to achieve the success criteria by providing differentiated support, such as pre-drawn axis for some students. Whilst we are not looking at this specific teaching approach here, you can find out more in the Differentiating for Learning in STEM Teaching course.

Millar (2009) makes the point that “the way a practical activity is designed and presented may have a significant influence on the extent to which its learning objective(s) is/are attained.”

For example, if the learning objective is to make a drawing of a specimen under a microscope, if students spend most of the lesson setting up the equipment, preparing a slide and staining a specimen, they may have too little time left to finish their drawing. By having the microscopes set up around the room with the slides pre-prepared and ready, with nothing but an adjustment of the fine focus needed, students can then start drawing straight away. It isn’t always necessary to have students carry out every aspect of a practical activity.


Picking up on the ideas that Emma shared, one of our previous participants on the course suggested that ‘graph drawing’ on its own may be quite a broad learning outcome.

Could you break down ‘graph drawing’ further, thinking more specifically about what you want students to achieve? Post your suggestions below.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Practical Science: Biology

National STEM Learning Centre