Scientific literacy is essential for pupils to succeed in the 21st century, and is best developed through the means of inquiry-based lessons – in other words through experimental skills. The existing system is complex and impractical, resulting in unclear assessment data and poor engagement from pupils at Key Stage 3 level.
The knock on effect can be poor performance in GCSE controlled assessment tasks. To address this, a new set of guidelines was produced, setting out the success criteria for achieving a level 4-7 in 12 different scientific skills. This project examined the impact of this intervention on a middle ability class of year 8 pupils, with a particular focus on the development of evaluation skills. After four weeks using the intervention, pupil’s skill levels showed marked signs of improvement. Of the 23 pupils that filled in the questionnaire, 18 of them found it quite or very helpful during lessons. The main reason for this was the provision of structure and criteria for pupils.
As a result of the intervention, the quality of self and peer assessment also improved according to 77 % of pupils. I also noticed a considerable improvement in the quality of work and feedback in pupils’ books. According to a colleague, it has made the assessment procedure “quicker and easier” and more consistent. The intervention has also improved engagement with the written side of experimental lessons as pupils strive to improve. This is now due to be rolled out to all KS3 pupils and integrated into all new and existing KS3 schemes of work as of September 2015.
© Richard West, January 2016