In the first instalment of its research review series, Ofsted has determined what it believes to be the key principles of good science teaching. Through their inspections they are planning to closely examine how science is being taught in schools. Thorough subject investigation will be used to gather evidence concerning the quality of education in order to publish a new report in 2022.
These are the key principles Ofsted identifies as high quality science teaching:
1. Avoid Overuse of Assessment Items
Overuse of GCSE or A-level questions should be avoided as it supposedly “narrows the curriculum and leads to superficial progress that does not prepare pupils for study.” Alternatively, students should obtain knowledge from memory in order “to help them remember and organise their knowledge” and should be accompanied by teacher feedback.
2. Primary Schools Should Have at Least One Specialist Teacher
At least one specialist teacher is required in each primary school that specialises in science. There are concerns that science is being pushed out of the curriculum. Therefore, in order to reflect its status as a core subject, there should be stronger requirements to ensure there is sufficient teaching time dedicated to science.
3. More Time Should Be Given for Students to Consolidate Knowledge
To ensure high quality science education, sufficient time allocation should be given for students to embed knowledge into their long term memory. This can be achieved through substantial practise before moving onto a new topic. Students should also be required to differentiate between misconceptions and scientific ideas.
4. Avoid Separating Disciplinary and Substantive Knowledge
Ofsted warns that there is a “risk that by categorising knowledge as either disciplinary or substantive in the curriculum, it is taught separately”. Instead, students should be taught both and not just expected to acquire disciplinary knowledge by taking part in science practicals. Observation, classification and identifying variables should also be taught in relation to “specific substantive knowledge”.
5. Progression Includes Other Subjects
Schools should be consciously aware of the unity between scientific disciplines and other subjects, such as maths and science (especially maths in physics).
6. Online Learning Resources Should Match the Curriculum
Schools should ensure that the online learning resources they use appropriately match what the curriculum requires students to actually learn. Additionally, if science kits are used as a resource they also must “help achieve the curriculum intent”.
7. Students’ Limited Working Memory Capacity is Considered
High quality teaching should take account of the “limited working memory capacity” of pupils when planning lessons. Furthermore, pupils should not be expected to arrive at scientific explanations by themselves without sufficient prior knowledge.