SEP: How Science Works

How Science Works is one of the publication themes of the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme. For other publication themes, visit the SEP homepage. Recent changes in the curriculum have emphasised the importance of developing in students an understanding of what scientists do, the nature of science, and the way that science relates to the broader society. SEP has developed publications that look at the range of different kinds of scientific investigations, some tools for undertaking investigations, and at teaching about ‘ideas and evidence’ and contemporary scientific issues.

Scientists undertake a wide variety of different kinds of investigations, though in the past, investigations carried out in school have been more limited, with an emphasis on fair testing. 

Beyond Fair Testing: Teaching Different Types of Scientific Enquiry helps students to carry out a wide range of investigations involving pattern-seeking, identification, designing systems and testing models.

ICT in Practical Science: New Approaches to Data Collection and Analysis looks at the plethora of ways in which ICT applications can be used to support practical science. It outlines ways in which sensors and datalogging equipment can be used to collect and analyse first-hand data using available (often free) software.

Small Beginnings: Introducing Digital Microscopes in Physical Science looks at how low-cost microscopes could be used in the early secondary school. 

Modelling Climate Change examines how computer models can be used and looks at the science behind the models. It considers the simplifications that are made when complex situations are modelled, and some of the characteristics of systems behaviour such as negative and positive feedback. SEP collaborated with the Key Stage 3 Science Strategy to produce 

Teaching Ideas and Evidence, which includes a variety of lessons in this area.

This project led to two further resources:

Contemporary Science Issues: Lessons for Key Stage 4 with a set of 18 lessons in biology, chemistry and physics, and Enriching School Science for the Gifted Learner with classroom activities for gifted and talented students aged 14-16. Focusing on what scientists do, the booklet 

Using Catalyst Magazine: How Scientists Work shows ways in which articles from the Catalyst magazine archive can be used to teach about ‘How Science Works’ (HSW). It takes six exemplar articles and, through student activities and supporting notes, it shows how different aspects of HSW can be explored.


ICT in Practical Science: New Approaches to Data Collection and Analysis

These resources were developed by the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme and the Centre for Science Education at Sheffield Hallam University in order to demonstrate new ways that ICT can be used to enhance practical work in science. Research scientists use computer technology in both the collection and the...

Small Beginnings: Introducing Digital Microscopes in Physical Science

This booklet is part of the ‘Innovations in Practical Work’ series published by the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme (SEP). Using digital microscopes gives students the opportunity to practise and extend their ICT skills, and offers important benefits in learning...

Using Catalyst Magazine: Scientists and How They Work

This booklet, with editable student worksheets and teacher's notes, gives six examples of how articles published in Catalyst could be used to help students develop their understanding of how scientists work.  It also suggests how similar activities can be developed...

Beyond Fair Testing: Teaching Different Types of Scientific Enquiry

The materials provide teachers with examples of different enquiry types, e.g. classifying and identifying, developing systems, and pattern seeking.  The booklet provides an overview of the enquiries and the particular approaches used. Scientists use many different ways to collect evidence, but a survey undertaken...