17 Oct 2017

New EEF report: Good literacy skills crucial to closing attainment gap in Science

New EEF report: Good literacy skills crucial to closing attainment gap in Science

There is clear evidence of an attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers in science.

A review of evidence by researchers at the Department for Education, University of Oxford has been conducted for the EEF and The Royal Society with the core aim of ‘identifying the interventions and approaches for which there is evidence of a positive impact on young people’s learning outcomes, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds’.

The key findings indicate that there is significant evidence to back up several strategies. These show a lot of promise and would be worth looking at in detail for all key stages:

Literacy level: The strongest evidence for success in science is literacy level. Students need to understand written text and scientific vocabulary to understand concepts and make progress. They also need to be able to write up reports and findings.

Ability to reason scientifically: Students who can test hypotheses through appropriate experiments and develop this skill so that they can do this independently secure better outcomes. This includes a detailed understanding of ‘fair testing’ and an ability to draw well evidence conclusions. Teachers should guide their pupils’ scientific reasoning by setting questions that can be investigated fully using scientific method and processing.

Opportunities to learn: This covers a wide area, including museum trips, laboratory experience and science speakers. There is evidence to suggest that engagement with these activities has a positive impact on science attainment. However, the experiences must be carefully structured and have clear aims.

Questions worth asking as a result of this evidence review:

Do we pay enough attention to literacy in the science classroom? Could we introduce more science based texts in literacy lessons? Is there a need to introduce more explicit vocabulary strategies in science, including quizzing and glossaries?

A great place to start would be a conversation with your school’s Literacy Coordinator, there are also a lot of tools which can be viewed on the Sandagogy website here.

Do our teachers understand the concept of the ‘ability to think scientifically’ in depth? Is there enough curriculum time spent on this to help students to develop these skills? Can we teach these skills more regularly alongside the teaching of content/concepts?

Are we exploring opportunities to learn beyond the classroom which could engage and inspire students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds? There are many opportunities out there worth pursuing – this is a good place to start.

To read the full report, click here.

We look forward to the EEF Guidance Report which is due for publication in the New Year and will offer specific, evidence-based practical strategies to improve science attainment across the key stages.