Teaching quality most important factor for inspiring interest in science

May 21, 2013
Teaching quality most important factor for inspiring interest in science

(Phys.org) —Wellcome Trust Monitor, an independent nationwide survey, highlights the important role of science teachers in encouraging young people to learn science and as a source of careers advice.

The survey, commissioned by the Wellcome Trust and carried out by Ipsos MORI, asked 460 young people aged 14-18 (representative of the UK population) about their to better understand their interests, experience and needs. It is the second wave of a tracking survey originally undertaken in 2009.

Clare Matterson, Director of and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, says: "It is very encouraging to see that young people have such a positive view of their school lessons and enthusiasm for . We should be proud of our science teachers who are stimulating them to learn about science, and ensure that we give them the support they need to continue to inspire the of and science teachers."

The Monitor highlighted the important role of science teachers; six in ten young people (58 per cent) said that having a good teacher encouraged them to study science, and more than four in ten (43 per cent) said that having a bad teacher discouraged them.

It also found that young people rate their experience of science at school highly. More than eight in ten (82 per cent) think school science lessons are interesting, and nearly six out of ten (58 per cent) say they are more interesting than maths and English lessons. Their impression of secondary school science is particularly positive: 83 per cent said they have become more interested in the subject since primary school.

There is also a link between how young people see science at school and how they see science as a career: 47 per cent of those who say they find school science lessons interesting are also interested in a future career in science, compared with 11 per cent of young people who are not interested in school science.

Most young people report that they know little or nothing about scientific careers (63 per cent) or STEM (science, technology, engineering and ) careers (55 per cent), yet a large majority (82 per cent) of young people consider science to be a good area of employment to go into. When asked whether they would be personally interested in a scientific career, one in eight (14 per cent) young people say they are very interested, and a further 27 per cent are fairly interested.

The majority of young people obtain information about possible careers from their family (67 per cent), teachers (49 per cent) or career advisors at school (44 per cent). Thirty-nine per cent believe that family is the most useful source of careers information; this is followed by careers advisors (23 per cent) and teachers (18 per cent).

The Monitor highlights the importance of teaching quality in encouraging students to learn science. Unfortunately, many schools struggle to employ enough appropriately qualified . According to the Schools Workforce Census in 2012, only 55 per cent of physics teachers had a physics degree, 66 per cent of chemistry teachers had a chemistry degree and 79 per cent of biology teachers had a biology degree [1].

Teachers need continuing professional development (CPD) to help them keep up to date with the best ideas for inspiring to learn science; this is especially important for teachers starting out with weaker subject knowledge. The Wellcome Trust supports Project ENTHUSE, a £27 million partnership with Government and industry partners [2], which helps fund the costs of teachers and technicians attending CPD courses delivered by the National Science Learning Centre. Attendance on these courses is associated with improved teaching and learning, and higher take-up and achievement in science [3].

More students selected "having a good teacher" as a reason that had encouraged them to learn science in 2012 than in 2009 (58 per cent compared with 52 per cent); likewise, fewer selected "having a bad teacher" as a reason that had discouraged them from learning science (43 per cent compared with 47 per cent) [4]. We believe that the work of the National Science Learning Centre might have played a part in this change.

Having a good teacher is vital for primary science, as well as secondary science. The National Science Learning Centre and the Wellcome Trust have developed a Primary Science Specialist programme of professional development. This unique programme is being evaluated using a random control trial with results announced at the end of the two-year study in 2014. Science Community Representing Education (SCORE) recommends there should be a designated science curriculum leader in each school who has access to science-specific CPD and influence over the science curriculum budget [5].

Hilary Leevers, Head of Education and Learning at the Wellcome Trust, says: "If lack confidence in their own science knowledge, they not only have trouble teaching students about science but also risk reinforcing the perception that science is difficult. We need to strengthen the science expertise in both secondary and primary schools."

Explore further: No 'silver bullet' for science standards

More information: www.wellcome.ac.uk/About-us/Pu … gement/WTX058859.htm

Related Stories

No 'silver bullet' for science standards

April 18, 2013

America's K-12 teachers are not fully prepared to meet a new set of science standards, a Michigan State University education scholar argues in Science.

Science career 'not for me' say many 10 year olds

January 11, 2012

Children as young as ten already see a career in science as ‘not for me’. Despite the majority of children enjoying the subject at school and viewing scientists positively, fewer than 17 per cent are interested ...

Teach science through argument, professor says

April 10, 2013

(Phys.org) —Teaching students how to argue based on available evidence engages them in the scientific process and provides a better idea of how science actually works. The challenge is training teachers.

UK children's exposure to science and arts 'hijacked'

November 5, 2007

A ten year review of primary education has found that children are now taught an 'alarming' amount of maths and English at the expense of science, arts and the humanities compared to ten years ago.

Recommended for you

Clues to ancient past—baby mummy, dinosaur skulls scanned

September 22, 2017

The mummified remains of a 7-month-old baby boy and pieces of skull from two teenage Triceratops underwent computed tomography (CT) scans Saturday, Sept. 16, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, in hopes ...

Neanderthal boy's skull grew like a human child's: study

September 21, 2017

The first analysis of a Neanderthal boy's skull uncovered in Spain suggests that he grew much like a modern boy would, in another sign that our extinct ancestors were similar to us, researchers said Thursday.

Early trilobites had stomachs, new fossil study finds

September 21, 2017

Exceptionally preserved trilobite fossils from China, dating back to more than 500 million years ago, have revealed new insights into the extinct marine animal's digestive system. Published today in the journal PLOS ONE, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.