Primary Science: Teaching Theory and Practice, 4th Edition

Series Achieving QTS: Meeting the Professional Standards Framework
Author(s) John Sharp, Graham Peacock, Rob Johnsey, Shirley Simon, Robin Smith, Alan Cross, Diane Harris
Publisher Learning Matters
Published 2009
Pages 138
ISBN 9781844452798
Reviewed by Mrs Tracy Wallis
University of Wolverhampton
Review published 9 November 2009

This book follows the familiar structure of the “Achieving QTS” series with each chapter beginning with an overview of the relevant Qualified Teacher Status standards, case studies, research summaries and practical tasks for readers to engage in and further their knowledge. At the end of each chapter there is also a summary of key points, a further reading and reference list as well as a short paragraph entitled “Moving on” where the authors recommend further engagement with the subject of the chapter through practical ideas or research for Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) to carry out during their first year of teaching.

After the first chapter has outlined the proposed audience Primary Science in the National Curriculum and Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) units, the second chapter looks at the nature of scientific understanding. Here, the reader is asked to consider what science is actually about and puts it into a global context. Whilst reading this book I found that it underpinned the work I was doing with first year undergraduates in primary science where we begin by looking at what science is and how it is very much the “3rd subject” in school. This chapter really helped me to focus on this more sharply.

Attainment target 1 (AT 1) in science is something I endeavour to focus on in each session and again chapter three enabled me to look at the differences between practical work and investigations with my trainees. The authors look at the characteristics of investigations and how children can be supported to develop their skills. I used one of the practical tasks with the same students with great success – they were able to think about how they would use AT1 to develop specific skills and cater for different learners.

Chapter four looks at children’s misconceptions in science based on the CLISP research and is again something I look at with my trainees as part of the assessed component of the module. This is clearly presented and related to the constructivist view of learning. It not only looks at why children might hold these misconceptions but also how these might be addressed through initial assessment of children’s ideas.

Chapter five gives an extensive overview of Early Years education and how a child’s learning in science in the Early Years may be referred to more holistically. The authors also make explicit links between the Early Learning Goals and the use of exploration and investigation – perhaps pointing to something the primary curriculum could learn from!

The next three chapters look at teaching strategies, planning and classroom organisation, generically and with particular reference to teaching science. I felt that this chapter would be useful to perhaps second or third year undergraduates who perhaps teach more science on their placements. These chapters brought out some very important points such as differentiation in science and how all too often this is linked to attainment in maths and English. In particular the case studies on organising a classroom for science teaching were particularly useful. The outdoors as a resource was referred to here but not as fully explored as I would have expected. However given the wealth of recent research and literature on the use of the outdoors this was not too much of a problem.

Chapters nine and eleven looked at assessment, recording and reporting; and health and safety respectively. With chapter eleven I would strongly advise trainees and, more likely, new teachers to read this in conjunction with relevant school policy. Similarly, the chapter on assessment gave a useful practical task on reporting to parents - maybe of use to NQTs rather than trainee teachers. However it did look at examples of formative assessment strategies such as diagrams, cartoons and concept maps as well as how these could be built into planning to make them not only meaningful and enjoyable for the children but also informative for the teacher.

Chapter ten gave a useful overview of how the main aspects of ICT can be supportive of and supported by primary science. However some of the research summaries here were based on secondary schools and the authors make the assumption that all teachers would be adept at using some of the hardware such as dataloggers. However I believe that there is something in this chapter for everyone and that even for those of us who find Excel a challenge, we can learn to use one part of ICT in science well before moving on to more adventurous ideas.

Overall I found this book extremely worthwhile and I have used many of the ideas with my first year trainees to great effect. In particular when looking at children’s ideas and how the ambiguous use of language may inform their misconceptions is key to the work that we do. There are aspects of the book, however, that I feel may be more relevant to more experienced trainees or even NQTs. It allows for reflection in terms of organising science work inside and outside of the classroom; how children’s existing ideas will have an impact on how science is actually taught; and how assessment of children’s work in science, in its many forms, plays such a key role in thinking about planning for teaching and learning. To that end I would recommend this as a core text for some trainees whose knowledge is consolidated and who need to think outside of the box a little more when planning for science. I would recommend it as a supplementary text for those who need to focus more on their own knowledge skills and understanding in primary science at the beginning of their course. For me as a teacher educator, this book has been and will be well used!