Tips for successful practical work

What are we aiming for?

It is easy to slip into doing the same old stuff without really thinking about whether students will really benefit from it. In fact, we sometimes do ‘practicals’ without a clear goal.

Jerry Wellington points out that ‘practical work’  could involve:

teacher demonstrations;
class practicals, with all learners on similar tasks, working in small groups;
a circus of ‘experiments’ with small groups engaged in different activities, rotating in a carousel;
investigations, organized in one of the above two ways;
problem-solving activities.

In 2008 the UK Science-teaching community commissioned a focused review of research regarding practical work in school science in the UK. This found that there was a wide range of views regarding the nature of ‘practical work’ and ‘investigation’. Certainly within New Zealand there are numerous approaches to ‘inquiry’, ‘investigation’ and the development of ‘enquiry skills’.

Whilst there is rich and wonderful learning to be done using videos, interactive simulations, books and everything that the Internet has to offer, The NZ Physics Teachers’ Resource Bank believes very firmly that physics teaching should involve real-world, real-life, live, physical action. ‘Investigations’ should, wherever possible, involve the careful observation of events which happen right there in front of the students, and they should often involve measurements and data analysis. Careful observation of the world around us to find patterns is truley the nature of Science.

Simon Taylor has is producing some interesting videos to help teachers.