Pupils' perceptions of practical science in primary and secondary school: implications for improving progression and continuity of learning

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Columbus State University]On: 15 October 2014, At: 14:15Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Educational ResearchPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rere20</p><p>Pupils' perceptions of practical sciencein primary and secondary school:implications for improving progressionand continuity of learningMartin Braund &amp; Mike Drivera University of York , York, UKb Department of Educational Studies , University of York , York,YO10 5DD, UK E-mail:Published online: 17 Feb 2007.</p><p>To cite this article: Martin Braund &amp; Mike Driver (2005) Pupils' perceptions of practical science inprimary and secondary school: implications for improving progression and continuity of learning,Educational Research, 47:1, 77-91, DOI: 10.1080/0013188042000337578</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0013188042000337578</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rere20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/0013188042000337578http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0013188042000337578http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>Pupils perceptions of practical science in</p><p>primary and secondary school: implications</p><p>for improving progression and continuity of</p><p>learning</p><p>Martin Braund* and Mike DriverUniversity of York, York, UK</p><p>In spite of the introduction of a National Curriculum in UK schools and the improved progression</p><p>and continuity that it promised, pupils still have problems with learning when they transfer from</p><p>primary to secondary school. These problems are particularly acute in science. One approach is to</p><p>provide a programme of bridging work, focused on practical science, that is started in the primary</p><p>school and continued in the secondary school. The research reported here explored pupils</p><p>perceptions and experiences of science practical work before and after transfer to secondary school.</p><p>The implications of the findings for the design of bridging work in science are discussed.</p><p>Keywords: Continuity; Practical work; Progression; Science; Transfer</p><p>Introduction</p><p>Continuity and progression are buzz-words in education, essential tenets of the</p><p>school curriculum. Progression describes pupils personal journeys through educa-</p><p>tion and the various ways in which they acquire, hone, apply and develop their skills,</p><p>knowledge and understanding in increasingly challenging situations. Continuity is</p><p>concerned with the ways in which the educational system facilitates and structures</p><p>experience to provide sufficient challenge and progress for pupils in a recognizable</p><p>curricular landscape. The introduction of a National Curriculum in the UK, in 1989,</p><p>was an opportunity to provide such a landscape, with its spiral structure of age-related</p><p>programmes of study, each providing continuity and progression in demand through</p><p>consistent and recognizable areas of experience (initially called attainment targets).</p><p>Unfortunately, pupils personal journeys through education are often more disjointed</p><p>and discontinuous than this curriculum model assumes or can assure. There are</p><p>major points of disjunction when pupils transfer from one programme of instruction</p><p>to another, and particularly when this transfer involves a change of school. The</p><p>*Corresponding author. Department of Educational Studies, University of York, York YO10 5DD,UK. Email: mb40@york.ac.uk</p><p>Educational Research, Vol. 47, No. 1, March 2005, pp. 77 91</p><p>ISSN 0013-1881 (print)/ISSN 1469-5847 (online)/05/010077-15</p><p># 2005 NFERDOI: 10.1080/0013188042000337578</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Col</p><p>umbu</p><p>s St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 1</p><p>4:15</p><p> 15 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>problems are particularly acute following the transfer from primary to secondary</p><p>school, often resulting in significant and sustained regression in learning (Lee et al.,</p><p>1995; Galton et al., 1999; Nicholls &amp; Gardner, 1999). The findings reported here on</p><p>pupils perspectives of practical science in primary and secondary school are derived</p><p>from the first year of a three-year research and curriculum development project that</p><p>addressed such transition issues through setting up and evaluating bridging work in</p><p>science. (A description of the project, which took place in one LEA in the north of</p><p>England, and summaries of some of its outcomes, can be found on the website: http://</p><p>www.york.ac.uk/depts/educ/projs/STAY/STAYNov2004.) The literature on primary/</p><p>secondary transition suggests four main factors accounting for post-transfer</p><p>regression:</p><p>1. Pupils repeat work done at primary school, often without sufficient advance in</p><p>challenge and sometimes in the same context, using identical procedures (SSCR,</p><p>1987; House of Commons Education Committee, 1995; Galton et al., 1999).</p><p>2. Teaching environments and styles and teachers language are very different in</p><p>secondary schools compared with primary schools. They represent a change in</p><p>learning culture that pupils find hard to adjust to (Pointon, 2000; Hargreaves &amp;</p><p>Galton, 2002).</p><p>3. Teachers in secondary schools fail to make use of, or refer to, pupils previous</p><p>learning experiences. Transferred information on pupils previous attainments is</p><p>rarely used effectively to plan curriculum experiences (Doyle &amp; Hetherington,</p><p>1998; Nicholls &amp; Gardner, 1999; Schagen &amp; Kerr, 1999).</p><p>4. Teachers in secondary schools distrust the levels that pupils in primary schools</p><p>have been assessed at, claiming, for example, that these levels have been</p><p>artificially inflated by intensive revision for statutory assessment at the end of the</p><p>primary phase (Bunyan, 1998; Schagen &amp; Kerr, 1999). This may be used by</p><p>teachers as justification for starting from scratch when planning new learning</p><p>(Nott &amp; Wellington, 1999).</p><p>These factors are not unique to the UK. Studies elsewhere have identified similar</p><p>problemse.g. in the USA (Anderson et al., 2000), Australia (Scharf &amp; Schibeci,</p><p>1990) and Finland (Pietarinen, 2000).</p><p>In the UK, post-transfer regression seems to be worst in science. There is evidence</p><p>that two-fifths of pupils fail to make the expected grade in tests at the end of key stage</p><p>3 (age 14) that performance at the end of key stage 2 (age 11) predicted. This is worse</p><p>than the situation in either English or mathematics (Galton et al., 1999). Recent</p><p>research by Galton in secondary classrooms suggests that pupils concentration</p><p>declines more in science than it does in either English or mathematics (Hargreaves &amp;</p><p>Galton, 2002). There is research suggesting that teachers of secondary science use</p><p>terminology in classrooms without being aware that pupils have already encountered,</p><p>and are conversant with, many of the terms used (Peacock, 1999). Coupled with</p><p>these findings is a view that primary science has been one of the successes of recent</p><p>curriculum change, while the quality of secondary science teaching remains in</p><p>question (Ofsted, 1999).</p><p>78 M. Braund and M. Driver</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Col</p><p>umbu</p><p>s St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 1</p><p>4:15</p><p> 15 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>Part of the UK governments response to these issues and to the lack of progress</p><p>through early secondary schooling has been to introduce a National Strategy to</p><p>improve teaching in key stage 3 (DfES, 2002). The science strand of this strategy pays</p><p>great heed to improving progression and continuity and was piloted in 17 local</p><p>education authorities (LEAs) in England and Wales during 2001/02, before being</p><p>implemented in all secondary schools in September 2002. The research reported here</p><p>was carried out in one pilot LEA in the north of England to inform the development</p><p>of teaching approaches aimed at improving transfer for pupils in science. Reviews of</p><p>previous attempts by schools to improve primary/secondary transfer (Galton &amp;</p><p>Willcocks, 1983; Galton et al., 1999; Schagen &amp; Kerr, 1999) show that most effort</p><p>has been made on administrative and bureaucratic liaison, tackling mainly pastoral</p><p>aspects of transfer. Much less has been done, however, to address curriculum</p><p>continuity and progression between the two phases or to explore the varying</p><p>pedagogy of primary and secondary teachers and how this impacts on pupils</p><p>learning. If we are serious about improving the post-transfer experience of learning</p><p>for pupils in secondary schools, these are areas that, as Galton agrees, require most</p><p>attention (Galton, 2002).</p><p>One way of reinforcing continuity and harmonizing pedagogy is to provide</p><p>curriculum experiences that begin in the primary classroom and are continued,</p><p>extended and progressed after pupils transfer to their secondary schools. We refer to</p><p>this work as bridging. It has been established in English and mathematics as part of</p><p>the key stage 3 strategy and has gained popularity in these subjects with schools and</p><p>LEAs, but has been slower to emerge in science. One of the challenges in designing</p><p>effective bridging work in science is to find topic areas that primary and secondary</p><p>schools agree to teach containing tasks that do not repeat content or processes</p><p>resulting in under-challenging experiences for pupils following transfer. Since the</p><p>scientific enquiry (or practical work) strand of the National Curriculum for science</p><p>constitutes such a significant aspect of the curriculum experience at both key stages 2</p><p>and 3, it seems sensible to seat bridging work in this strand and to provide</p><p>experiences that better progress, challenge and develop pupils process skills of</p><p>scientific enquiry, as Harlen calls them (Harlen, 1996). If pupils are to use and apply</p><p>process skills effectively either side of transfer, it is important to know something</p><p>about their perceptions of practical work (scientific enquiry) in Year 6 (the last year in</p><p>primary school) and in Year 7 (the first year in secondary school), so that teaching can</p><p>improve both continuity and progression. This is the focus of the research reported.</p><p>The research study</p><p>At the start of the project, a group of 13 experienced teachers of science (eight from</p><p>primary schools and five from secondary schools) were assembled from a group of</p><p>volunteers by the authors and the key stage 3 consultant for science working for the</p><p>LEA. While the schools (and teachers) involved were volunteers chosen on the basis</p><p>of their interest in developing teaching to improve primary/secondary transfer in</p><p>science, rather than to represent types of schools in the LEA, it was recognized (by the</p><p>LEA consultant) that they were broadly representative of the types, sizes and intake</p><p>Practical science and primary/secondary transfer 79</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Col</p><p>umbu</p><p>s St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 1</p><p>4:15</p><p> 15 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>characteristics of schools in the LEA. In the early months of the project, these</p><p>teachers were invited to explore their pupils perceptions of practical work using</p><p>questionnaires designed by researchers based at the university where the project was</p><p>based. The involvement of these teachers in the collection of data contributed to their</p><p>professional development and was part of their training on transition and teaching</p><p>scientific enquiry. This training included activities designed to improve teachers</p><p>understanding of the types and purposes of practical work in science as this has been</p><p>found to be an area of difference and inconsistency between key stages 2 and 3 (Gott</p><p>&amp; Duggan, 1995).</p><p>A questionnaire was designed that included six open-response type questions. The</p><p>first three questions were designed to probe pupils opinions about the purposes of</p><p>practical work in school science and how this might/did compare with work carried</p><p>out in primary or secondary school. The wording of these questions was adjusted to</p><p>allow for prediction of what practical work might be like in secondary school for the</p><p>sample of pupils in primary schools and for reflection on what the differences were</p><p>now seen to be for pupils in the secondary sample. Otherwise, the questions used for</p><p>each age of pupils were identical. The last three questions probed pupils views on</p><p>what the purposes of practical science carried out by professionals as part of their job</p><p>might be and how these compare with the purposes of school practical work. This</p><p>paper addresses findings and implications associated with responses to the first three</p><p>questions.</p><p>The questionnaire was piloted by the authors with 16 pupils in a Year 6 class (aged</p><p>10 or 11) in a primary school in the LEA in which the study was based but that was</p><p>not included in the final research. The pilot in the secondary school was with 23 Year</p><p>7 pupils (aged 11 or 12) in a comprehensive school in a neighbouring LEA, also not</p><p>involved in the final study. Half of the pupils in each sample were given the</p><p>questionnaire, along with a set of black-and-white photographs showing pupils doing</p><p>practical work and people carrying out a variety of practical science activities as part of</p><p>their jobs, laboratory and computer work and field study. The photographs were</p><p>drawn from publications previously used to help primary school pupils discuss their</p><p>ideas about scientists and the jobs they do (Parvin, 1999; Jarvis &amp; Rennie, 2000). The</p><p>other half of the pilot sample was given the questionnaire to fill in without the aid of</p><p>these photographs. Responses from the pilot were analysed to see if the photographs</p><p>helped or hindered, and to test the questions for any ambiguities. Photographs were</p><p>found to have made little difference to most pupils responses but there was evidence</p><p>that they distracted some pupils, particularly those with language difficulties. There</p><p>was evidence that pupils tended to merely describe the apparatus and equipment used</p><p>by people in the pictures, rather than engaging in thinking about differences a...</p></li></ul>

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