Research School Network: From primary classroom to laboratory Reflections on the seven step model as a tool to develop working scientifically in a secondary setting

From primary classroom to laboratory

Reflections on the seven step model as a tool to develop working scientifically in a secondary setting

by Great Heights Research School: West Yorkshire
on the

The new primary science guidance report highlights the importance of guiding pupils to work scientifically, drawing significant parallels to the secondary guidance on on using practical work purposefully. In my own experiences working scientifically is not always given the same detailed thought as substantive knowledge we teach students, in particular when reaching key stage 4 with the congested curriculum. The recent Ofsted subject report highlighted that the curriculum should identify and sequence disciplinary knowledge and include opportunities to take part in high-quality practical work (Finding the optimum: the science subject report – GOV.UK (

The seven-step model demonstrated in the Primary Science Guidance Report offers a valuable tool beyond Key Stage 2, for instance when developing working scientifically skills across the curriculum.

The seven-step model provides a useful framework to support pupils towards becoming independent scientists who can work scientifically by: explicitly teaching the knowledge, skills, and processes required to work scientifically, guiding pupils to apply this in practice; and incorporating opportunities for discussion and reflection.

Exemplification on developing knowledge of variables across a topic.

Activating prior knowledgeLast lesson we explored conduction in metals. Show students two different materials, for example wood and metal. Ask them how they compare in terms of their ability to conduct thermal energy and why they think this.
Explicit strategy instructionToday we will carry out an investigation to compare the thermal conductivity of 5 different metals and we will focus on identifying variables in an investigation. Variables are important because they enable us to ensure our investigation is valid. In the future we could also use variables to plan an investigation. Here some collaborative learning could take place through discussion, asking the students how they could answer the question which metal is a better conductor”. Listening in to conversation to ascertain students’ prior knowledge and understanding.
Modelling of learned strategyDemonstrate the investigation to be carried out and question students about what variable is changing, what is being measured to test their conductivity and what variables were kept the same. Link these to the terms dependent, independent and control.
Memorisation of strategyGive students another linked investigation and ask them to identify the dependent, independent and control variables. This could be in the form of a question or a short method. In a later lesson, students can also activate their prior knowledge by defining the different variables, and can be asked to link them to a new practical. A few lessons ago we looked at variables, can you match up the names of the variables with what we do with them in an investigation”.
Guided practiceStudents will carry out other investigations later in the sequence of lessons, for example investigation insulators. Demonstrate the practical or provide a written method and ask students to work together to identify the variables then discuss as a class. The demonstration in this case acts as a guide.
Independent practiceOver time students can be given the investigation title and will be able to determine the variables without the use of a demonstration first.
Structured reflectionSupport pupils to reflect on what they have learned over the previous lessons. Pupils summarise their learning verbally. This is also an opportunity for pupils to receive feedback. Does the conclusion make sense? Why? What improvements could you make?’

The seven-step tool could be applied across a series of lessons, or across an entire curriculum, developing skills over time. The key to remember is the model is not always sequential and is not all applicable in a single lesson or even topic. In practice there will be some integration and iteration: for example, you may need to check more frequently whether pupils have understood what you have taught them for particularly tricky topics, and opportunities for discussion and reflection could be integrated throughout.

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