The Science Network has met six times over the course of the year. The focus has been on rolling out the improvements to science enquiry (‘working scientifically’ in the National Curriculum) that were planned, piloted and evaluated by participating schools last year.
The format of meetings changed to reflect the network’s new focus. The first part of the meeting comprised a ‘science walk’ around the host school followed by reflection and feedback. The second part of the meeting was focused on professional development needs identified by network schools – including sessions on change management to embed the improvements; science enquiry topics (for example on generating questions and on research as an enquiry type); delivering effective science CPD; sharing best practice between schools; and moderation.
Progress has been made in improving a number of areas:
- Building the skills and independence of children. Children now show much greater awareness of the five types of science enquiry, as well as displaying greater confidence and ownership. This is being achieved by children being encouraged to explore engaging stimuli and then generate their own questions for investigation. Science enquiry superhero characters have been introduced to help children to plan which type of enquiry investigation will help them to answer their question. Following the enquiry, children ask follow-up questions for further investigation.
- Effective recording. Children are using a wider variety of ways in which to record their work, deciding the best way in which to do so (rather than being told by the teacher).
- Discussion in science. Children’s questioning and scientific vocabulary have improved significantly, as well as their ability to explain and ‘argue’ amongst each other about the investigations, leading to children being able to justify their answers effectively.
- Increased teacher confidence. CPD carried out by network members within their schools (including Inset, team teaching and peer learning walks) has had a significant impact on teacher confidence, reflected in teacher questionnaires. They understand and are more confident in the different types of science enquiry and in taking risks to enable children to have the independence to ask, plan, investigate and record their own questions.
Participating schools have also introduced – and shared – improvements to their assessment systems, science learning environments, parental involvement in science and science weeks/fairs.
In addition, network members have run sessions on the work of the network at the Barking and Dagenham Science Conference and at the borough’s science co-ordinator meeting. The network leader has also written a short guide for science subject leaders on how to run an action research network for the Association for Science Education.