A systematic review that adopts EPPI protocols and focuses on the critical analysis of 61 identified research reports, this review summarises the available research into the effects of context-based approaches which purport to promote links between science, technology and society (STS) in the teaching of secondary science. The particular focus of the review rests on two main groups of pupils i.e. boys and girls; and lower-ability pupils intending to inform the evidence base used to support training courses related to effective teaching approaches of these two groups of pupils.
The review provides useful insights for two main groups of readers. Firstly for practitioners designing schemes or units of work interested in developing pupils’ scientific literacy, including tutors responsible for science in programmes of initial teacher training and secondly, for researchers at all levels of higher education interested in the critical review of research findings and the design of valid and reliable research projects. The review highlights a number of issues related to completed research in this area, details the evidence available to support the two main areas of focus and provides a useful critique of the research design within the reviewed research and suggests pointers for improving the quality of future research in this area.
The review is reported in five main sections:
- methods used in the review
- how relevant research was identified
- results of the in-depth review
- findings and implications.
Following rigorous analysis, fourteen reports were included in the in-depth review. Findings suggested reasonable evidence that:
- girls and boys in classes using a context-based/STS approach held significantly more positive attitudes to science than peers in classes using a traditional approach
- a context-based/STS approach narrowed the gap between boys and girls in their attitude to science
- when there was a significant difference between boys and girls, boys enjoyed more practical materials in a scheme and girls the non-practical materials.
Because learners often think that the outcome of a lesson is about understanding the context rather than the underlying science concepts, however, it is suggested that lesson objectives are introduced after the introduction to the lesson rather than at the start of the lesson as currently emphasized in many teaching materials.
Exhaustive and fastidious in its approach, the limitations of the review were identified at a number of levels. Notably, that some quite sophisticated concepts, e.g. ‘context’ have been treated as fairly simple ideas within their review and would benefit from further explication. Also that the presented evidence relates to ‘what’ effects context based/STS approaches have rather than on ‘why’ these have occurred.
The review’s findings were also limited in relation to the specific focus, not only because of the significant dearth of research related to this particular aspect of science education, but also because the range of research types sometimes had limited relevance to the focus of the review. In particular, the reviewers highlighted the need for researchers to define the meaning of specific terms e.g. ‘low ability’ more precisely within their reports, as a failure to do so significantly limits the value of findings within a wider context.
Lubben, F., Bennett, J., Hogarth, S. & Robinson, A.
EPPI Centre, Institute of Education, University of London
Article Id : 12747
Date Posted: 4/10/2006