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Unit information: Developing Research - Engaged Practice in Science Education in 2015/16

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Unit name Developing Research - Engaged Practice in Science Education
Unit code EDUCM0051
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 aims to develop science education professionals’ knowledge and understanding of the value of research in informing practice. The initial emphasis will be on improving participants’ awareness of trends in science education research such as the importance of student misconceptions, the increasing range of technology enhanced learning opportunities and the significance of assessment for learning techniques and how to interpret and evaluate this work. Students will go on to develop their own action research projects with tutor support. Thus the unit aims to underpin the students’ own research and to ensure that the participants engage critically with published research data.

Specific aims are:

  • To introduce the development, implementation and outcomes of leading science education research programmes that have impacted on pedagogy;
  • To consider the interface between research in science education and science curriculum development;
  • To develop skills in the interpretation and evaluation of research work, as well as experiencing the variety of methods and approaches available as research tools;
  • To facilitate students’ understanding of the process of research design;
  • To introduce action research as a way of improving practice in science education and allied contexts and,
  • To enable students to appreciate the benefits of and understand the issues associated with conducting a small-scale action research project in their own professional context.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate understanding of the nature and context of research in teaching and communicating science and its potential to develop pedagogical practice;
  • Understand the relationship between research and practice in science education contexts;
  • Critically evaluate the research basis underpinning contemporary science education initiatives;
  • Know how to conduct a small-scale research project to inform professional practice in science education.

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

Assessment is designed to enable both locally-based and international students to engage critically with literature whilst being flexible according to student circumstance and interest. It will comprise of the following:

Formative assessment:

A presentation of the student’s own design for a small-scale action research project to the group,

Summative assessment:

A 4,000 word (or equivalent) assignment introducing the underpinning theoretical framing and reporting on the project’s development and proposed implementation. This latter will include evaluating how the results will inform practice.

Reading and References

  • Wilson, E. (2013). School-based Research: A Guide for Education Students. London, Sage Publications.
  • Watts, M. (ed) (2014). Debates in Science Education. London: Routledge.
  • Fensham, P.J. (2003). The Evolution of Science Education as a Field of Research Defining an Identity. Springer.
  • Somekh, B. and Lewin, C. (2004). Research Methods in the Social Sciences. London: Sage.
  • McNiff, J. (2002). Action Research: principles and practice. London: Routledge Falmer.
  • Hopkins, D. (2002). A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Research (3rd edn). Maidenhead: Open University Press.