“Science is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural
and social world following a systematic methodology
based on evidence.”
Whether or not you agree wholeheartedly with this wording, the scientific methodology is both beautiful and practical: objective observation and measurement, evidence, formulation of a hypothesis, experimentation or observation, conclusion drawn from facts or examples, critical analysis and finally verification and critical scrutiny. If we are entering a “post-truth” world, our students need to be armed with all the tools they need to separate fact from fiction. Science is by no means the only subject in which Northampton High School girls are trained to do this, but the scientific method provides a concrete framework around which to build those crucial thinking skills.
Interestingly, the Science Council’s definition includes the “social world”. Schools are certainly a social world; so should scientific research methods be applied to education? The University of Cambridge think that not only is there is a place for Science in education but also for Neuroscience and in 2005 opened the Centre for Neuroscience in Education.
In addition, the Centre for Educational Neuroscience was established by University College London, Birkbeck University and the Institute of Education as a research centre with the aim of combining the expertise of researchers in child development, neuroscience, and education at the three world leading universities. The website states
“Education is about enhancing learning, and neuroscience is about understanding the mental processes involved in learning. This common ground suggests a future in which educational practice can be transformed by science, just as medical practice was transformed by science about a century ago.”
But how is the gap between university-based academic research and the day-to-day craft of teaching bridged? “We need better systems for disseminating the findings of research to teachers on the ground,” was Dr Ben Goldacre’s response when asked by the Department for Education how to improve the use of evidence in schools. A variety of bodies have taken up this challenge including the GDST who have set up a Research Learning Community project to give teachers the opportunity to become research engaged and establish effective evidence-informed interventions that can be employed to improve girls’ confidence.
The teacher in me and the scientist in me are thrilled by the potential huge benefits to the staff and students of Northampton High School and beyond.
Mrs Rachel Fenn, Subject Leader Chemistry