Thinking, Doing, Talking Science
This page covers the first (efficacy) trial of Thinking, Doing, Talking Science, which tested whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions. To read about the second (effectiveness) trial - testing a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools - click here.
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 strategies that aim to encourage pupils to use higher order thinking skills.
Making science lessons in primary schools more practical, creative and challenging.
The Institute for Effective Education
Developing effective learners
Staff deployment & development
In 2012, the EEF funded a trial of TDTS in 40 schools. Year 5 pupils whose teachers received five days of TDTS training over the course of a year were compared with Year 5 pupils whose teachers did not.
The TDTS pupils made three additional months’ progress, on average, in science, with a particularly positive effect for girls and pupils with low prior attainment. The programme appeared to have a positive impact on attitudes to science and there were also some indications that the approach was particularly beneficial for pupils eligible for free school meals.
Following these results, the EEF funded a larger evaluation of a new scalable version of TDTS. This second trial took place in 205 schools, with Year 5 teachers receiving the TDTS training over four days rather than five. It found no evidence of an impact on pupils’ science attainment, on average. However, among children eligible for free school meals, those in the TDTS schools made a small amount of additional progress in science. The trial also found evidence that pupil interest in, and self-efficacy towards, science increased.
There were some important differences between the two models of TDTS - introduced to ensure the programme could be scalable - which might explain the different results. The second, larger trial used a different delivery model for the teacher training. Rather than doing the training directly, the programme developer recruited new trainers, who were trained to deliver the TDTS programme to teachers. The team delivering the teacher training were therefore doing so for the first time, unlike in the original, smaller trial. Teachers in the second trial also received four days of training rather than five, and funding for two additional days of preparation per teacher (in the form of cover costs) was cut.
Given the positive attainment results from the first trial, and the promising outcomes for pupils eligible for free school meals in the second trial, alongside the positive impacts on attitudes, TDTS will remain on the EEF promising project list. The EEF will explore options for a scalable model that maintains the impact seen in the first trial.
Thinking, Doing, Talking Science appeared to have a positive impact on the attainment of pupils in science. Overall, Year 5 pupils in schools using the approach made approximately three additional months’ progress.
There are some indications that the approach had a particularly positive effect on pupils eligible for free school meals, but further research is needed to explore this.
The programme had a particularly positive effect on girls and on pupils with low prior attainment.
The approach had a positive impact on pupils’ attitudes to science, science lessons, and practical work in particular.
National test data will be used to assess the English and mathematics outcomes of participating pupils and to measure the long-term impact of the approach. In addition, further research could be conducted to investigate whether this result can be replicated in a larger number of schools.
Full project description
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 received five days of professional development training delivered by a team from Science Oxford and Oxford Brookes University. The training did not aim to provide participating teachers with a set of ‘off-the-shelf’ lesson plans to be delivered in schools; rather, it sought to support teachers to be more creative and thoughtful in planning their science lessons. In addition, teachers had dedicated time to work with colleagues to plan and review lessons taught as part of the project. Teachers were also encouraged to link pupils’ learning in science, with their learning in numeracy and literacy.
This project sought to assess the impact of the programme on the academic outcomes and attitudes towards science of Year 5 pupils. 655 pupils from 21 schools across England completed the project. Participating schools followed the programme for the entirety of the 2013/14 academic year. A further 20 schools formed a randomised comparison group and did not receive training in the approach until the following year.