Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (Effectiveness Trial)

Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (TDTS) is a programme that aims to make science lessons in primary schools more practical, creative and challenging. Teachers are trained in a repertoire of strategies that aim to encourage pupils to use higher order thinking skills. For example, pupils are posed ‘Big Questions’, such as ‘How do you know that the earth is a sphere?’ that are used to stimulate discussion about scientific topics and the principles of scientific enquiry.

Two teachers from each participating school receive four days of professional development training and simple equipment to allow them to do practical work with their pupils. The training does not aim to provide participating teachers with a set of ‘off-the-shelf’ lesson plans to be delivered in schools; rather, it seeks to support teachers to be more creative and thoughtful in planning their science lessons. Teachers are also encouraged to link pupils’ learning in science, with their learning in numeracy and literacy.

Why are we funding it?

The TDTS approach was first tested as a quasi-experiment funded by the Astra Zeneca Science Teaching Trust. The study, which included a matched control showed improvements in Key Stage 2 science results, with the proportion of pupils achieving level 5 in science increasing by 10 percentage points more in treatment schools than in control schools.

The EEF funded a randomised control trial of the programme in 2012, which showed that TDTS had a positive impact on the attainment of pupils, with those receiving the approach making an additional three months’ progress. The approach had even higher impacts on girls and those with lower prior attainment. There was also evidence that the impact was particularly beneficial for pupils eligible for free school meals, with these pupils making on average an additional five months’ additional progress, however due to the smaller number of these pupils this result has less security.

This project will test a more scalable model of the approach, with the teacher training being delivered by training partners rather than the developer team from Science Oxford and Oxford Brookes University. Another change from the previous project is that schools will not be provided with a bursary to allow teachers to plan and review lessons taught as part of the project, instead schools will be expected to cover the costs themselves.

How are we evaluating it?

The American Institutes for Research has been appointed as the evaluation team. It will be an effectiveness study. Effectiveness trials aim to test whether an intervention can work at scale in a large number of schools.

The proposal is to recruit around 180 primary schools and to randomly allocate 90 to TDTS, with the other 90 continuing with their normal science teaching and acting as a control group. These schools will receive the intervention a year later. The project will look at the impact of the programme on a science test delivered at the end of Year 5 and on pupils’ attitudes towards science.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2018.