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Independent research

Is independent research a useful skill for students? In this article, secondary science teachers share their views.
Two students sat at a table looking over some images and notes
© Royal Museums Greenwich
One of the ways of helping students find the answers to their difficult questions is to guide them to do some independent research. But how useful and easy is that? We got some school teachers to share their views and here’s what they said:

Independent study is a vital part of student learning. However students need to be taught this as a skill. Without teaching students how to study, and in particular research, students will not be able to do this to the standard that develops their learning. Students often require a list of sources to use, websites to trust or places to find information. It is an assumption that students can research well and find information without guidance.Stewart Crowdell, science teacher at South Wigston High School, Leicester
We have a journal club where students read a paper each week and discuss it. We also have a subscription to biological sciences review and nature and set directed research for homework but other than that we don’t tend to cover much independent research outside the curriculum (unless a student is particularly interested) due to time constraints.Anonymous, science teacher
Independent study is absolutely useful, we use Seneca, GCSE Pod and Isaac Physics (this one we use just for A Level). I do not tend to have much independent research – I find that students do not have the skills, so any research is guided otherwise we would just have wikipedia copied and pasted.Amy, science teacher

Do you direct students to do independent research? What are the benefits and challenges of doing so?

© Royal Observatory Greenwich
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Physics, Astronomy, and Space: Teaching Secondary Science

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