Skip to main content

Unit information: Improving Learning in Science Education in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Improving Learning in Science Education
Unit code EDUCM0045
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Wishart
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will provide an introduction to key theories, methodologies and current issues relevant to teaching, learning and assessment in science. The emphasis will be on improving learning through linking theory and practice through engagement with, and critical analysis of, a range of research-informed learning and teaching practices. The notions of the reflective practitioner and teacher-as-researcher will inform the critical frameworks offered throughout the unit. The overarching aim is to invite consideration of the implications of the ideas studied for future practice and/or personal research.

The unit aims:

• To begin student exploration of the nature of science and its influence on teaching and learning in the school context;

• To introduce students to the key theories of science education relevant to understanding learning and raising attainment in science;

• To discuss and critically evaluate research studies relevant to the development of children’s understanding and learning in science;

• To review and evaluate a range of science teaching and learning strategies in different educational contexts including the school science laboratory;

• To review the opportunities for learning outside the science classroom and evaluate their effectiveness;

• To consider the importance of representation in science: using language, symbol, static and moving image;

• To examine how learning in science can be evidenced through formative and summative assessment and the implications for teaching of data gathered.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate understanding of key theories of learning and development in the context of science education (for example, constructivism);
  • Demonstrate knowledge of how key theoretical frameworks can be used to design effective teaching interventions;
  • Apply knowledge of how different national and international research-based initiatives and individual studies can be used to develop our understanding of how children learn in science education in formal and informal contexts;
  • Critique curriculum innovations and research studies relevant to science education in the light of theories of learning.

Teaching Information

The teaching strategy will employ three broad approaches, where appropriate, with the aims of contextualising as well as theorising issues of central importance, the development of student autonomy, and the individualisation of study and support. These are:

Face-to-Face Teaching

Examples here include large and small group teaching methods, including presentations from staff and experienced professionals, debates, case study analyses, student presentations and practical workshops.


E-Learning approaches will be used to facilitate individualised study and support within the broad parameters of the units and programme. These will include: synchronous and asynchronous on-line discussion (with individuals and groups), online supervision and peer mentoring, guidance and feedback. Critical use of Web resources will be encouraged.

Individual Research.

Where appropriate, the use of action research, small-scale empirical studies and observations of professional practice will be encouraged and facilitated to help students contextualise their theoretical study.

Contact hours

20 hours

Assessment Information

Formative assessment:

Assessment is designed to help students develop their writing while critically engaging with literature yet being flexible according to student circumstance and inclination. It will comprise a series of up to three written assignments, each of around 1,000 words, developed alongside the taught sessions with their associated readings that will allow for formative feedback from the unit tutor.

Summative assessment:

The formative written assignments are then synthesised into a coherent, critical and reflective account equivalent to 4,000 words that will enable students to evidence the unit’s intended learning outcomes within the context of their chosen topic area. The latter will therefore show evidence of theorising, relevant reading, links to practice, critical reflection and include a bibliography.

Reading and References

  1. Fensham, P.J. (2003). The Evolution of Science Education as a Field of Research Defining an Identity. Dordrecht, NL: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  2. Millar, R, Leach, J. and Osborne, J. (2000). Improving science education: the contribution of research. Buckingham: Open University Press.
  3. Mortimer, E., & Scott, P. (2003). Meaning Making in Secondary Science Classrooms. Buckingham: Open University Press.
  4. Osborne, J, & Dillon, J. (Eds.). (2010). Good Practice in Science Teaching: What research has to say. McGraw-Hill International.
  5. Oversby, J. (ed) (2012). ASE Guide to Research in Science Education. Hatfield: ASE.
  6. Wellington, J.J. and Ireson, G. (2012). Science Learning, Science Teaching (3rd edition).