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#ASEchat with Alom Shaha investigates the challenges of practical work

12 July 2013

#ASEchat with Alom Shaha investigates the challenges of practical work

This complex topic raised much passionate debate on ASE's twitter community #ASEchat. Hosted by physics teachers, science communicator and film-maker, Alom Shaha this #ASEchat raised lots of interesting opinions and linked to some fantastic resources for science teachers, attracting over 500 tweets in a single hour. The chat covered a whole host of issues including fulfilling pupil and parent expectations on what science is about, providing motivation and engagement in learning and showing young people what it means to be a scientist. As a forum for debate, #ASEchat also raised counter points highlighting the difficulty in finding evidence that practical work contributes to learning in science. There emerged a clear sense from this #ASEchat that practical work needs to be defended against pressures from outside the science teaching community. 

( #ASEchat hosted on Monday 8th July, 8-9pm with Alom Shaha @alomshaha, excerpt from summary by Richard Needham @viciascience, full summary)

Interesting opinions and suggestions from this week’s #ASEchat 

The challenges facing practical work

  • Much is a waste of time as it is not helping learning (Bio Joe 19.02)
  • Difficult to elicit learning (Mr D Cheng 19.07)
  • It reinforces the misconception of the ‘scientific method’ (Peter Slade 19.44)
  • Poorly defined by teachers with unclear justifications (Vicia Science 19.05)
  • Costs are not understood by non scientists, under funded (Ian McDaid 19.02)
  • It is not a cost effective use of time, with much content to be covered (Gill Physics 19.43)
  • How to share expertise with trainee teachers (ljrn42 19.09) 

The benefits of practical work

  • Link theory to real life (cleverfiend 19.09)
  • Develop skills in practical scientists of the future (ljrn42 19.07)
  • Practical skills vital for university (alex brovvn 19.18)
  • Cognitive conflict can lead to greater understanding (Anthard 19.22)
  • Unexpected results lead to deeper thinking (Bio Joe 19.26)
  • Measurement and analysis (headguruteacher 19.28)
  • Making observations to test ideas about the natural world (Tom Hartley 19.30)
  • Motivating (Doctor A Cook 19.23) 

Links to sources

Topics for further debate

  • Learning to be a scientist
  • A STEM curriculum
  • Practical assessment
  • Different types of practical work
  • How practical work is used in other countries including the baccalaureate  (alex brovvn 19.34)
  • Computer modeling and its importance in science (mwnm 19.42) 

About #ASEchat

Join us every Monday between 8-9pm on twitter using #ASEchat, where we will be debating some of these topics in future. #ASEchat often invites special guest hosts and tries to provide a platform to voice ideas for science teachers. Find out more.

About Alom 

Alom ShahaAlom Shaha is a Physics teacher at a comprehensive school in London. He is also a film-maker, writer and science communicator. He has written, produced and directed a number of TV programmes about science, ranging in subject matter from particle physics to mathematics, and worked in various other roles on TV series ranging from Horizon to What the Victorians Did for Us to Science Shack. He has done some TV presenting, performed live science shows and regularly speak at public events.