GCSE Science: Supporting students with the required practicals
by James O'Brien
Last September, the Good Practical Science report was released. After surveying both international schools and almost 400 schools in England, the report concluded that “in the countries we visited, practical science is alive and flourishing” while in England “the intense pressure to perform in written exams” means “practical science is at risk” with many schools “making too little use of their often excellent practical science facilities.” The vast amount of content demanded by the new specifications also produces new challenges for some teachers who simply don’t have enough time in the academic year to cover everything in great detail.
Science practicals in school lend great value to a subject that is ultimately grounded in experimentation and research. Experiments give students the chance to figure out for themselves what does and doesn’t work, and why, while performing the experiment in class creates a memory much more powerful than that of reading about it in a textbook.
Yet, despite this, the report claims even the memory of a practical performed in class “soon fades after a day or two.” With students now expected to recall these experiments months later in end-of-course exams, it is no surprise that they are often unable to remember exactly which equipment was used or how different variables affected the results.
So how do we ensure students revise required practicals effectively?
2. Ensure students understand the how and the why: Our comprehensive practical quizzes are designed to ensure students not only recognise what they’re expected to know, but why it is so. Our Biology practical quiz on Food Tests, for example, requires students to not only realise there has been an error but also why that error has occurred. You can try out the quiz for yourself here!
Similarly, Q12 in our Specific Heat Capacity quiz describes a situation in which a students’ results differ from the data book. Students must then describe exactly why this has happened and, if they are not sure, a recap slide will explain it to them. See the full quiz here.
You'll also find a number of animations and interactives on Doddle, covering some of the core practicals. These will often include step-by-step walkthroughs, and will describe the apparatus used, the methodology, and some of the results.
4. Detailed yet clear explanations: When revisiting something studied months ago, it can be difficult to know where to start. “Was that the experiment with the Bunsen burner?”, “Was that the one where the results were slightly skewed?” That’s why all our practical quizzes include formative recap slides, designed to explain to students why they may have got a question wrong.
Looking to support teaching of the new specifications in your department?
Join us and other lead practitioners for a free science meeting to bring together best practice and discover practical ideas to support your department in tackling the new GCSEs.
Book your free place at our morning event in London on 21st June.
Formerly a science teacher in the UK and abroad, as an Education Adviser I now work with schools who use Doddle to improve the teaching and learning in their classrooms, as well as reducing teacher workload around homework, marking and data management. It’s a pleasure to interact with so many people who share a passion for improving pupils' experiences of education.
– James O'Brien
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