Doing with ideas: The role of talk in effective practical work in science

Nikolaos Fotou, Ian Abrahams

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In both primary and secondary schools the widespread use of highly structured ‘recipe’ style tasks means that practical work is generally effective in enabling students to do and see what the teacher wants (the domain of objects and observables). While primary teachers have been found to allocate a similar proportion of their lesson time to procedural instructions as their secondary colleagues, their practical tasks tend, on average, to be shorter than those used by secondary teachers. The use of shorter tasks means that primary teachers have more non-practical whole-class time to talk to students about the meaning of new scientific words and, when necessary, scaffold new scientific ideas (the domain of ideas), both of which are necessary if teaching is to be effective in developing conceptual understanding. In this respect secondary teachers, like their primary colleagues, need to be more aware of the role of talk within practical work as an effective means of developing secondary school students’ conceptual understanding of scientific words and ideas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-60
JournalSchool Science Review
Issue number359
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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