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Experimental skills and strategies

For students to be able to work scientifically it is important that effective practical work is at the heart of our teaching.

Incorporated into the programme of study for 14-16 year olds in England is a section on working scientifically. It states that students should be taught so that they develop understanding and first-hand experience.

Experimental skills and strategies

  • using scientific theories and explanations to develop hypotheses
  • planning experiments to make observations, test hypotheses or explore phenomena
  • applying a knowledge of a range of techniques, apparatus, and materials to select those appropriate both for fieldwork and for experiments
  • carrying out experiments appropriately, having due regard to the correct manipulation of apparatus, the accuracy of measurements and health and safety considerations
  • recognising when to apply a knowledge of sampling techniques to ensure any samples collected are representative
  • making and recording observations and measurements using a range of apparatus and methods
  • evaluating methods and suggesting possible improvements and further investigations.

Source: National curriculum in England: science programmes of study

The experimental skills required to meet the demands of the programme of study require practice. If students are not given the opportunities to develop the manual dexterity by handling apparatus or to develop the investigative skills described in the programme of study they cannot be expected to develop mastery.

It is important to ensure that the ground work for these skills are laid at age 11-14 by giving students frequent opportunities to develop and use their skills by gradually increasing the sophistication of the task.

Identify key experimental skills and strategies in your own curriculum. Feel free to share below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Practical Science: Biology

National STEM Learning Centre