Primary science

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Effective programmes for primary science

This review summarises evidence on three types of programmes designed to improve the science achievement of primary school pupils.

We conducted a literature search of articles written between 1980 and 2011, and applied consistent inclusion standards to focus on studies that met high methodological standards. After examining 327 published and unpublished articles, only 17 studies met the inclusion criteria. In light of the small number of qualifying studies, it must be acknowledged that any conclusions about the findings of these studies can only be tentative.

The three types of science programmes reviewed were:

  • Inquiry-orientated programmes without science kits, such as Increasing Conceptual ChallengeScience IDEAS, and Collaborative Concept Mapping. These programmes help teachers learn and use generic processes, such as cooperative learning, concept development, and science-reading integration, in their daily science teaching.
  • Inquiry-orientated programmes with science kits, such as InsightsFOSSSTCSCALE, and Teaching SMART. The theory of action in science kit programmes is that implementing hands-on activities helps to build deep learning about the scientific process and core concepts of primary science.
  • Technology programmes, such as BrainPOPThe Voyage of the Mimi, and web-based labs. Technologies utilised in these approaches include computer-assisted instruction and class-focused technology (such as video and interactive whiteboard technologies).