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Book Review: Vicki Cook reviews Enhancing Learning with Effective Practical Science 11-16

Edited by Ian Abrahams and Michael J. Reiss

What is the book about?

This book acts as a guide through biology, chemistry and physics practicals. It discusses the long-running debate over the effectiveness of science practicals in helping students to progress. It enforces that practicals can be valuable to learning, as long as the approach is “minds on” as well as “hands on”. The book goes on to share over 70 practicals that can be used in the classroom. Each practical includes learning objectives, a procedure, health and safety and equipment needed. In addition to this, an effectiveness matrix provides teachers with information on what students will be able to do and what they will learn as well. The book also includes ideas for discussion and things to keep in mind when carrying out the practicals. This is particularly useful in encouraging students to develop their understanding of concepts further.

Who is the book aimed or and who might find it useful?

This book is aimed at secondary school science teachers and I believe many science departments would benefit from having access to it. As well as this, science technicians and teaching assistants may find it beneficial to read about the reasons behind some practical work.

How did the book inform your practice?

When planning practical-based lessons I will take a different approach in the future. This book has highlighted to me that it is important to think about the reasons for practical work, and share these with my pupils, so that it is beneficial to their learning. Practicals can be extremely useful as long as there is thinking behind the doing!

Is there anything the book is missing?

Outside of the 3 conventional sciences, this book includes limited information on other branches of science, such as psychology and earth science. Whilst the majority of the national curriculum focuses on biology, chemistry and physics, ideas about other branches of science are introduced. Ideas for practicals within these areas may be beneficial in order to widen student’s perceptions of science.

In addition to this, the book focuses on experiments that students can undertake. It may be useful to have similar information for teacher-led demonstrations, as often the meaning behind these can be lost when carrying them out.

Would you recommend this book to your department or colleagues in the teaching school?

I would highly recommend this book as not only is it a valuable source of practicals, it also provides detailed information on how best to carry out these practicals and discussions around them, in order to make them as effective as possible.

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