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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.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds Have you ever had that situation where you set up a practical investigation for your students and it all went horribly wrong because your students didn’t have the skills needed to be able to successfully carry out the investigation? The main theme for this week is the development of practical skills and the planning required to ensure that your students are developing the skills they need. This will mean they can successfully carry out the practical activities and achieve the learning outcomes. The introduction of assessment of practical investigation through the written examination means that as teachers we have to ensure that our students have mastery of practical skills to enable them to apply their knowledge to the new situations required by the question.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds This begins by embedding skills development from the start of secondary education. Through the example of practical activities using a microscope we are going to look at how you can plan to develop skill progression from age 11 through to age 16 so that students have the skills when they need them at each stage. By the end of this week you should be able to consider your practicals and think about where in your five-year curriculum you will explicitly teach the necessary skills to ensure your students are successful.

Planning practical skills progression

This week we’ll be focusing on progression of learning in practical work. The main theme is the development of practical skills, and the planning required, to ensure that your students are developing the skills they need to successfully carry out practical activities and to achieve the learning outcomes.

The activities this week will support you to:

  • Develop microscopy skills
  • Describe the stages in the development of practical skills linked to microscopy
  • Construct a plan of opportunities to allow students to develop competency in practical skills


To start off this week, we’d like you to share what practical skills you expect 14-16 year old students of biology to have?

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Practical Science: Biology

National STEM Learning Centre