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Developing Autonomy Through Effective Teaching and Learning in Secondary Science for Able Pupils.

By Hazel Healey


This research arose from a deep concern regarding the falling numbers of able pupils who choose to study the physical sciences beyond GCSE. The research investigates\ud the impact of the teaching and learning methodologies used in secondary school science on the attitudes and aspirations of able pupils towards the study of science and\ud whether enabling a more autonomous role in the classroom might be beneficial. The mixed-methods research design had two phases. The first phase surveyed year 9 pupils and their science teachers across three comprehensive schools in Staffordshire. The second phase was an action research study involving the researcher working with\ud the science department in a fourth Staffordshire comprehensive school over the following academic year.\ud The findings of the initial phase of the research indicated that able pupils were disaffected with the science education that they received in school. Evidence from this\ud phase of the research suggested that the didactic nature of teaching and learning in the science classroom was partly responsible for failing to inspire the ablest pupils to\ud further study of science. The action research classroom interventions offered more autonomous learning opportunities for able pupils within science lessons. The impact of the action research on the pupils was a reported preference for the ‘ownership of task’ afforded to them in the classroom and an increased uptake of the option to study\ud science at advanced level. The impact on the science teachers was a greater awareness of the importance of how they teach as distinct from what they teach. It supports a\ud constructivist approach to the learning and development of both pupils and teachers, showing that serious reform of teacher initial and continuing education is needed if\ud progress is to be widespread The implications of this research inform the ongoing debate regarding ‘best provision’ for able pupils in science; but a greater significance is that it also informs a model of\ud ‘best provision’ for the urgent continuing professional development of science teachers. This research is particularly relevant to recent government policy on both\ud science education and on the provision for gifted and talented pupils

Topics: LB1603
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