The impact of the ‘Getting Practical: Improving Practical Work in Science’ continuing professional development programme on teachers’ ideas and practice in science practical work

Ian Abrahams, Michael J. Reiss, Rachael Sharpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite the widespread use of practical work in school it has been recognised that more needs to be done to improve its effectiveness in developing conceptual understanding. The ‘Getting Practical’ CPD (Continuing Professional Development) programme was designed to contribute towards an improvement in the effectiveness of practical work through initiating changes in teachers’ predominantly ‘hands-on’ approach to practical work to one which manifests a more equitable balance between ‘hands-on’ and ‘minds-on’.
Purpose: To evaluate the impact of the Getting Practical: Improving Practical Work in Science CPD programme on teachers’ ideas and practice in science practical work in primary and secondary schools in England. Programme description: The CPD programme was designed to improve the effectiveness of science practical work in developing conceptual understanding in primary and secondary schools in England.
Sample: Ten teachers of primary science and 20 secondary science teachers. Design and methods: The study employed a condensed fieldwork strategy with data collected using interviews, observational field notes and pre- and post-CPD training observations in practical lessons within 30 schools.
Results: Whilst the CPD programme was effective in getting teachers to reflect on the ideas associated with the Getting Practical programme, it was much less effective in bringing about changes in actual teaching practice.
Conclusion: The findings suggest that if change, rather than only an enhanced awareness of the issues, is to be brought about in established teaching practice then there is a need for ongoing support over an extended period of time. Furthermore, the impact of such CPD is more likely to be effective if it is undertaken by a senior member of a department or school with the full support of the SMT.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-280
JournalResearch in Science & Technological Education
Issue number3
Early online date11 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Continuing Professional Development
  • practical work
  • "hands-on'
  • "minds-on'

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