Educational Reform: Enquiry Based Learning Essay

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Within the current climate of educational reform, where changes to the national curriculum are accused of being focused on acquiring knowledge (Coughlan, 2013), much debate has arisen regarding the importance of practical scientific enquiry as a tool for promoting scholarship (Wellcome Trust, 2013: ASDC, 2013). Through the course of school inspections, carried out in both primary and secondary schools between 2007 and 2010, OfSTED (2011:1) found that the ‘development of the skills of scientific enquiry were key factors in promoting pupils’ engagement, learning and progress.’ Therefore, in accordance with new curriculum guidance (Department for Education, 2013:144), the teaching of science through a combination of acquisition of new knowledge and application of this knowledge in the context of enquiry based learning will support learning and progress while addressing the concerns of critics.
Scientific enquiry involves the development of pattern seeking skills, the ability to test and explain ideas, identifying and classifying properties of elements, the use of technology and fair testing (Howe, et al, 2013:xi). It is the teaching of fair testing, where just one variable (independent) is allowed to affect another (dependent) (Williams, 2011), that often forms the basis for much practical work in primary schools (Goldsworthy, et al, 2000). One of the process skills for developing investigative enquiry (Murphy, 2003:11), fair testing enables pupils to understand the need to test scientific phenomena or questions in a reliable way that will result in scientifically valid data (McMacIntyre & Lewthwaite, 2005). As a result of this need for accuracy, teaching the concept of fair testing can prove to be challenging for both teachers and...

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...the place of ICT in developing good practice in primary science’, In: Teaching and Learning Primary Science with ICT. Warwick, P., Wilson, E. & Winterbottom, M. (eds.), Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Wellcome Trust, (2013). Department for Education: Reform of the National Curriculum in England,
Response by the Wellcome Trust, [Online], Available at: corporatesite/@policy_communications/documents/web_document/wtp052330.pdf, Accessed: 17/10/2013.

Williams, D. (2011). How Science Works: Teaching and Learning in the Science Classroom, US: Continuum Publishing Corporation.
Williams, J. & Easingwood, N. (2003). ICT and Primary Science: A Teacher's Guide, London: Taylor & Francis Ltd.
Woodley, E. (2009). ‘Practical work in school science – why is it important?’, In: School Science Review, Association for Science Education.

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