New EEF guidance report published: Improving Secondary Science
Seven practical recommendations focused on improving science teaching, particularly for disadvantaged pupils
Almost all pupils develop their own explanations for science concepts before they learn about them in lessons.
But their ideas about things like ‘how plants grow’ or ‘how we see things’ don’t always align with scientific understanding, according to new guidance for improving science teaching published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).
However, the report suggests that teachers can harness these common misconceptions to improve pupils’ learning.
EEF Blog: Supporting curriculum planning in scienceDownload PDF get_app
Funding research to improve science education - what have we learntDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Making use of the evidence on educational programmesDownload PDF get_app
Review of evidence on science teaching for primary phase education: call for proposalsDownload PDF get_app
Privacy notice for those responding to EEF surveysDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Metacognition in modern foreign language teaching - A perspective from secondary schoolDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Integrating evidence into mathematics teaching – Minimising MisconceptionsDownload PDF get_app
Application Round: The Research Schools Network in Cumbria
Information on becoming a Research School in CumbriaDownload PDF get_app
EEF blog: Early Career Framework – three key insights for school leaders to help support their newest teachersDownload PDF get_app
EEF to support creation of new charity to compete for tutoring contractDownload PDF get_app
New EEF podcast: ‘Setting pupils up for success in maths’Download PDF get_app
EEF responds to the NAHT survey on pupil premium fundingDownload PDF get_app
Statement on statistical significance and uncertainty of impact estimates for EEF evaluations
Statement on statistical significance and uncertainty of impact estimates for EEF evaluationsDownload PDF get_app
Review of evidence on implementation in education: call for proposalsDownload PDF get_app
EEF publishes emerging findings from ‘Big Lockdown-Learning Parent Survey’Download PDF get_app
EEF Blog: The EEF’s approach to Covid-19 impacted evaluationsDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Integrating evidence into mathematics teaching - Addressing AssessmentDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Learning recovery and the role of diagnostic assessmentDownload PDF get_app
EEF publishes in-depth analysis of primary pupils’ performance in maths and reading assessmentsDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Summer schools – what the evidence tells us and what it doesn’tDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: How can we help parents support their children to learn from home?Download PDF get_app
EEF and Sutton Trust respond to Government’s new Covid-19 education recovery packageDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Addressing the challenge of delivering new maths content remotelyDownload PDF get_app
Privacy notice for schools involved in the NELI scale up evaluationDownload PDF get_app
EEF publishes findings from independent evaluation of National Online Tutoring pilotDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Meeting the Challenge – new EEF case studiesDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Learning secondary maths in lockdown - how to help your students ‘have a go’Download PDF get_app
EEF publishes new analysis on impact of Covid-19 on attainment gapDownload PDF get_app
‘Evidence into Action’ - EEF podcast returns with new episode on ‘Managing behaviour and building habits’Download PDF get_app
EEF Blog: New ‘Voices from the Classroom’ – Lessons from remote learningDownload PDF get_app
Best evidence on supporting students to learn remotelyDownload PDF get_app
PDF: Rapid evidence assessment - Distance learningDownload PDF get_app
The impact of Feedback Approaches on educational attainment in children and young peopleDownload PDF get_app
Chief Executive’s Letter: How evidence can help with learning through the latest lockdownDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: New year, new lockdown - a renewed challengeDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Live teaching and pre-recorded video lessons – how can we best navigate the evidence?Download PDF get_app
Home learning support resources for schools and parentsDownload PDF get_app
EEF responds to the latest school closures announcementDownload PDF get_app
New resources published to support schools in putting evidence into practiceDownload PDF get_app
Chief Executive’s Letter: 10 ways the EEF supported teachers and disadvantaged pupils in 2020Download PDF get_app
6,500 primary schools register to deliver EEF Promising Project backed by Government Covid ‘catch-up’ fundingDownload PDF get_app
Learning from 2020: 3 ways in which primary school teachers have used literacy to support learning this termDownload PDF get_app
Education Data Service Pilot
Final report for the Education Data Service PilotDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: New ‘Voices from the classroom’ videos to bring evidence-informed practice to lifeDownload PDF get_app
PDF: Covid-19 Communicating Effectively with FamiliesDownload PDF get_app
Learning from 2020: Four Covid-safe innovations maths teachers have devised to put evidence-based strategies into effectDownload PDF get_app
PDF: RADAAR Planning Logic diagram
RADAAR Planning Logic diagramDownload PDF get_app
‘Evidence into Action’ - new EEF podcast focuses on ‘Making the Difference for Disadvantaged Pupils’Download PDF get_app
EEF announces new addition to the Research Schools NetworkDownload PDF get_app
EEF in the News: “The fund has been a lifeline and still is to this day” - Sunday Times reports back on our £1.3 million Christmas appealDownload PDF get_app
New: EEF publishes Evidence Review on Mathematical Teaching in the Early Years and Key Stage 1Download PDF get_app
EEF Blog: How to foster independent study in Key Stage 3Download PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Pop Quiz - What’s the best way to start a lesson?Download PDF get_app
Guest Blog: Practical strategies for embedding high-quality Social and Emotional Learning skillsDownload PDF get_app
EEF in Tes: ‘Coping with Covid: 5 tips for improving pupil behaviour’Download PDF get_app
Guest Blog: 6 approaches schools can use to provide practical science opportunities in this ‘new normal’Download PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Teacher Choices Trials - our new approach to researching questions teachers want answers toDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: New resources for tackling scientific misconceptionsDownload PDF get_app
Early Years and Key Stage 1 Mathematics TeachingDownload PDF get_app
Guest Blog: Why digging a little deeper into educational research mattersDownload PDF get_app
National Tutoring Programme launches in schoolsDownload PDF get_app
1,100+ schools and nurseries sought for EEF evaluations of eight projects aiming to close the disadvantage gapDownload PDF get_app
Building evidence infrastructure is a global goodDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: How to use reading as a starting point for learning this yearDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Reflections of a SENCo – the importance of a whole school approach to supporting pupils with SENDDownload PDF get_app
Online tutoring helps disadvantaged pupils during lockdown, study findsDownload PDF get_app
EEF email series - Metacognition and Self-Regulated LearningDownload PDF get_app
Guest Blog: Practical, evidence-based tips to embed metacognitive strategies into your classroom practiceDownload PDF get_app
Stop and Think: Learning Counterintuitive Concepts (regrant)Download PDF get_app
Improving Working Memory and Arithmetic (regrant)Download PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Classrooms look very different this year. Here are 5 research resources to support teachers in adapting your practicesDownload PDF get_app
Guest Blog: One-to-one support for pupils with SEND - a case study in how specialists and TAs can work togetherDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Getting to grips with reading comprehension strategiesDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Three crucial questions for schools wanting to support the impact of teaching assistantsDownload PDF get_app
Prof Becky Francis in Tes: ‘How to access subsidised tutoring for your school’Download PDF get_app
EEF in Tes: ‘Coping with Covid - Reading key to closing learning gap’Download PDF get_app
EEF commissions new research on the impact of Covid-19 school and nursery closuresDownload PDF get_app
Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2
Update to be published in Autumn 2020Download PDF get_app
Impact of Covid-19 school closures and subsequent support strategies on attainment and socioemotional wellbeing in Key Stage 1Download PDF get_app
Impact of Covid-19 disruptions in primary schools: attainment gaps and school responsesDownload PDF get_app
EEF Blog: What are effective Learning Behaviours - and how can we develop them in our pupils?Download PDF get_app
EEF Blog: Three practical approaches to help pupils learn from mathematical mistakesDownload PDF get_app
According to the 'Improving Secondary Science' report, put together by a panel of teachers and leading experts, teachers should have a clear understanding of the common misconceptions in the area they’re teaching so that they know the issues that are likely to be problematic for their pupils. Teachers should also work to uncover the specific misconceptions their pupils hold through class and group discussion, before moving on to challenge these.
While these preconceptions can be hard to shift, presenting pupils with compelling evidence that contradicts them can be a good way to move thinking on. For example, many pupils find it hard to understand that the space between gas particles is empty and will often say it is filled with ‘air’, ‘dust’, or ‘bacteria’. However, showing that it is possible to compress a gas, for example by pushing down a syringe, is a good way of opening a discussion about what this means about the spaces between gas particles.
Building on pupils’ preconceptions is one of seven recommendations in today’s report designed to support secondary schools to provide every pupil – but particularly those from disadvantaged homes - with a high-quality and well-rounded grounding in science and an interest that may lead them to further study. Improving Secondary Science reviews the best available research to offer science teachers practical classroom suggestions.
Previous research by the EEF and the Royal Society found that there is a gap in science outcomes between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates at every stage in the education system. The gap first becomes apparent at Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7) and only gets wider throughout primary and secondary school and on to A-level.
This earlier research found that it is not lack of motivation to learn science that is contributing to the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off classmates. Analysis of attainment data found that the biggest predictors of pupils’ attainment in science are their levels of literacy and their scientific reasoning ability.
A second recommendation in today’s report focuses on developing pupils’ scientific vocabulary to support them to read and write about science. According to the report, “learning science involves learning a whole new language and it is important that you develop pupils’ fluency in that language.”
While pupils need to learn scientific words like photosynthesis or carbon dioxide, they struggle most with familiar words that have a different meaning in science. The report recommends that pupils are explicitly taught words that have a different meaning in science - like valid, random or spontaneous – so that they can understand and interpret scientific texts.
The other five recommendations focus on:
- Using models to develop understanding
- Developing children’s abilities to self-regulate aspects of their learning.
- Supporting pupils’ memory skills, so that they can retain and retrieve knowledge.
- Using experiments purposefully.
- Using structured feedback to move on pupils’ thinking.
Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:
Many pupils come up with their own explanations for the science concepts they meet on a daily basis, before they learn about them school. While these misconceptions are often difficult to shift, teachers can use them to challenge their pupils. Giving them compelling evidence that contradicts their own ideas can be a great way of boosting learning.
This is one of seven practical recommendations in today’s report focused on improving science teaching, particularly for disadvantaged pupils. The attainment gap in science may not be as well-documented as the gap in English and maths, but our earlier research has shown that it’s just as pervasive
Notes to editors
- The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a grant-making charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust (now part of Impetus–The Private Equity Foundation), with a £125m founding grant from the Department for Education. The EEF is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £96 million to test the impact of 160 projects reaching over 10,000 schools, nurseries and colleges across England, and involving more than one million children and young people. The EEF and Sutton Trust are, together, the government-designated What Works Centre for Education.
- The full report will be available here, from 0001 on Friday 21 September 2018.