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How the bicycle can help good science lessons

06.10.2004


University of York finds ’real life’ is key to learning



Secondary schoolchildren are far more positive about science if they are taught how it relates to real life, University of York researchers have discovered. For example, if they are learning about forces and motion, they might begin by looking at what happens when they ride a bicycle. Films and news stories about cloning might help them to explore ideas about genes and heredity.

A study of research literature by the Science Review Group at York found that both girls and boys in classes where science was set in an everyday context were much more positive about the subject than their peers who were taught more traditionally. The study looked in particular at the impact on girls and lower-ability pupils, two groups traditionally alienated by conventional science teaching.


The ’real-life’ approach also narrowed the gap between boys’ and girls’ opinions of science. They could see a close link between science, technology and society; they understood science better; and girls became much more positive about a career in the subject.

Lower ability pupils developed a better regard for science than their high-ability peers who had been taught traditionally, had a better understanding of science than lower-ability peers taught traditionally; and showed greater improvement in their understanding than their more able peers.

Researcher Dr Judith Bennett said: "There is a great deal of concern at the moment about the low uptake of science studies and careers by girls, and under-achievement in the subject by boys. "Courses which use real-life examples and promote links between science, technology and society have attracted national and international attention as they have an important role in developing pupils’ scientific literacy and in motivating them."

The review also set out to examine the implications for teacher training courses, and the York research group at York suggests that more teachers should use everyday interests as starting points, and a variety of activities.

Dr Judith Bennett | alfa
Further information:
http://www.york.ac.uk

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