Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Testing primary school science

Two new reports published today by the Wellcome Trust highlight widespread concern about the "negative impact of national testing on young people's enjoyment and understanding of science".

The author of one report Professor Wynne Harlen (University of Bristol) stresses the importance of starting science learning at primary school. "There is a considerable body of research evidence that shows that, since children's own ideas are often in conflict with scientific ones, if taken into the secondary school, they can inhibit effective learning. The conflict leads many to find science too hard, too confusing and too remote from their real experience."

Although believing science should be a core subject, Professor Harlen considers the associated national testing has had "a detrimental effect on learning and teaching" and acknowledges that although it is necessary to know a child's level of achievement, the negative impact is derived from the "policy of using results to set targets and judge teachers and schools solely on the basis of test results."

The two reports form the first in a series called "Perspectives on Education" which aim to stimulate debate about the best way to teach science in schools.

Read the Wellcome Trust report in full

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