Towards a Science of Science Teaching

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Towards a Science of Science Teaching was first published in 1981. It described the findings of the Concepts in Secondary Mathematics and Science Project and explained the methods and results of that research programme. It gave an account of testing instruments (Science Reasoning Tasks) which teachers could use to assess the cognitive levels of their students and gave details of a curriculum analysis taxonomy for analysing the level of difficulty of any science activity.

Unreasonable demands
The book related the findings of the research project to the cognitive demands of the curricula then being taught and showed that there were significant areas of mismatch. The authors pointed out that the daily experience of many science teachers was that the demands being made on young learners were unreasonable because of the chasm between the expectations expressed in curriculum objectives and the cognitive skills of many students. The book was written at a time when this problem seemed to have been accentuated by the trend towards establishing science as an essential part of the educational experience of all students.

Responding to the challenge
This was the book that first published to a wider audience the rationale for the very influential CASE project (1984-1987). During its development phase, the CASE project tested out an approach to cognitive acceleration by comparing experimental and control classes. The experimental group showed a ‘significantly greater gain in measures of formal operational thinking, compared with the matched control group and … were found to perform significantly better in GCSE Science, Mathematics and English’. Subsequent evaluation following publication of the materials replicated the originally reported effects.

Cognitive acceleration now
Work on cognitive acceleration has extended beyond science and mathematics. A range of resources is available.

Part 1
1. Looking for a model
2. Applying the model

Part 2
3. Concrete and formal operations
4. Class tasks
5. Using Science Reasoning Tasks
6. Selecting attainable objectives
7. The unity of formal operations

Part 3
8. A curriculum analysis taxonomy (CAT)
9. Objectives in the sciences
10. Testing of the CAT

Part 4
11. The match
12. Strategies for improving the match
13. The New Science Curriculum

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