Education Endowment Foundation:British Science Association: CREST Silver Award – enquiry based learning in science

British Science Association: CREST Silver Award – enquiry based learning in science

British Science Association
Implementation cost
Evidence strength
Impact (months)
0
months
Independent Evaluator
NatCen
NatCen logo
Testing a science enrichment activity that promotes hands-on project work.
Pupils: 2810 Schools: 180 Grant: £283,536
Key Stage: 1 Duration: 3 year(s) 1 month(s) Type of Trial: Efficacy Trial
Completed Dec 2019

The British Science Association’s CREST Award programme aims to help students build their science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) skills and interest. Students develop their own project ideas and conduct desk-based and practical research with support from an educator (for example, a teacher, club leader, or supervisor). The CREST Discovery, Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards differentiate by number of required hours and age of participating students, with the Silver Award requiring 30+ hours of project work in total.

A key challenge for secondary schools is encouraging students to take an interest in STEM subjects and to pursue courses and future careers in the sciences. The CREST programme promotes engagement by allowing students to investigate a research question, engaging in inquiry-led STEM learning. This independent evaluation, involving 2,810 pupils from 180 schools, builds on the previous evaluations of CREST by undertaking the first randomised controlled trial of the programme

The study found no evidence that year 9 pupils offered participation in the CREST Silver Award made any additional progress in science attainment, compared to similar pupils that were not offered the programme. This finding has moderate to low security due to the high number of students that dropped out of the trial, and the risk that remaining students may not be representative of the overall student population

There was no evidence to suggest that the CREST Silver Award improved self-efficacy in science or increased the proportion of students aspiring to a STEM career; however, small positive impacts were found for pupil confidence and attitudes to school. There is some indication that the delivery model of CREST might influence the programme’s impact on science attainment. Despite the overall average being zero, exploratory analysis found that pupils participating in CREST outside of class time made two months’ additional progress while those that participated during class time made three months less progress than similar pupils in control schools. These results should be treated with caution as the trial was not designed to measure the difference between these groups

It is important to note that this result does not disprove a link between inquiry-led STEM learning and academic attainment. A small proportion (22 – 29%) of students successfully submitted their final projects to the British Science Association. The process evaluation indicates that both CREST educators and students found that they had little time to work on CREST alongside other commitments such as preparing for GCSEs. This may be one possible explanation for a lower than expected proportion of final submitted student projects

The EEF has no plans for a further trial of CREST Silver Award.

  1. Pupils that were offered participation in the CREST Silver Award made, on average, no additional progress in science attainment in comparison to those in the control group, equivalent to zero months of additional progress. This is our best estimate, which has a moderate to low security rating.
  2. There is no evidence to suggest that the CREST Silver Award improved self-efficacy in science or increased the proportion of students aspiring to a STEM career. Small positive impacts were found for pupil confidence and attitudes to school. This is our best estimate.
  3. There is no evidence that participation in CREST Silver impacts science attainment differently for girls and boys.
  4. There is some indication that the delivery model of CREST might influence the programme’s impact on science attainment. Exploratory analysis found that pupils participating in CREST outside of class time made two months’ additional progress while those that participated during class time made three months less progress than similar pupils in control schools. These results should be treated with caution as the trial was not designed to measure the difference between the groups and the statistical uncertainty around the results is consistent with larger or null impacts in both cases.
  5. The process evaluation indicates that both CREST educators and students found that they had little time to work on CREST alongside other commitments such as preparing for GCSEs. This may be one possible explanation for a low proportion of final submitted student projects.
Outcome/​Group
ImpactThe size of the difference between pupils in this trial and other pupils
SecurityHow confident are we in this result?
Progress in Science
0
Months' progress
Progress in Science (FSM students)
0
Months' progress
N/A