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Planning for context

How can we plan for context based science lessons and how can we show evidence of any impact?

One way to bring in context is to use stories from the news. In Context-based science education by newspaper story problems: A study on motivation and learning effects, Kuhn and Müller (2014) use context through newspaper articles to analyse motivation and achievement in a comparison of 6 physics classes at secondary level. Groups that used the newspaper articles were shown to have increased motivation and achievement compared to the control groups.

Recent work around ‘science capital’ has shown that context is best used when it means something to the students personally. In his paper, Real World Contexts in PISA Science: Implications for Context-Based Science Education, Fensham (2009) refers to a review of work within the development of the Salters’ curricula “a science concept should not be introduced until it is important for understanding some familiar context in the lives of their students outside school…Teachers’ own affective engagement with these science and technology contexts is important if they are to engage their students.”


In this task, you are to talk through with a colleague how you might bring in context into your lesson planning. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss your understanding of the course so far. Use the prompt questions below and discuss with your colleague a lesson plan or series of lessons that use context to support learning and how you will evidence the impact.

You could use this as an opportunity to plan to use context in a lesson this week or next.

  • How will you ensure that you can incorporate context in to your lesson planning and schemes of work?
  • Which sources of inspiration or resources will you call upon to help you bring context in to practical work?
  • What teaching activity will you develop to bring in further context?
  • Will you try to show how bringing in further context has an impact on your students? If so, how?

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Practical Science: Physics

National STEM Learning Centre