The pupil as scientist

Research scientists spend months or years developing ideas and methods and going up blind alleys. The results which actually achieve what they are after often come over the course of a few frenzied days. There is little time in school for this blind-alley, rather messy, pilot work. The more we leave pupils to devise and carry out their own investigations, the messier they get, so we resort to helping them by providing recipes of things that we know will work - and get GCSE marks. Partial investigations, through the ISAs, are therefore important as they allow pupils to plan (without having actually to do their experiments) and then to analyse (with 'clean' data provided by the teacher). This has been recognised as important and significant, not just to science education but to science as a whole, by the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) agenda (see Chapter 23). The agenda aims to:

■ raise pupil motivation and achievement in the STEM subjects

■ improve the teaching and learning of science and the other STEM subjects and their related skills, especially investigative and ICT skills

■ increase the interaction between schools and the science and engineering community.

To achieve these aims the STEM organisations have developed curriculum activities and materials for use specifically in How science works. These have been well received by teachers and pupils alike, and can be accessed through the STEMNET website (www.stemnet.org.uk). We return to this theme in Chapter 23, p. 223.

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