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Creativity and Excitement in Primary Science. Helen Wilson, Jo Thompson Oxford Brookes University The tension in the current English education system?. My test results must improve. Creativity. Process driven. Content driven.

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Creativity and Excitement in Primary Science

Helen Wilson, Jo Thompson

Oxford Brookes University


The tension in the current English education system?

My test results must improve


Process driven

Content driven


‘The stress on results means that there is a tendency towards extreme instrumentalism in learning: if it is not assessed then it is not important.’

Wilde et al (2006) Nuffield Review Higher Education Focus Groups Preliminary Report The Nuffield Review of 14 – 19 Education and Training


Lessons from Gifted & Talented

My test results must improve


Process driven

Content driven



My test results will improve

Process driven

Content driven


If you are willing to deal effectively with the needs of able pupils you will raise the achievement of all pupils.


structure of the project originally funded by the astrazeneca science teaching trust
Structure of the ProjectOriginally funded by: the AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust

16 Oxfordshire

primary schools


AZ Project

2002 - 2004

Year 6 teacher

Science co-ordinator

CPD: 8 days INSET





Key Outcomes of Projects

  • More emphasis on pupils’ independent scientific thinking
  • Increased time within lessons spent in discussion of scientific ideas
  • More focused recording by the pupils, less time spent writing
  • More time for hands on, practical investigations

Or, more simply:

  • More practical activity
  • Deeper thinking
  • More discussion
  • Less writing
  • More questioning



The Bright Ideas Time





Practical science



Bright ideas time

Focused recording


Pupils as researchers

Infusion: Higher order thinking




Problem solving

Coates, D. & Wilson, H. (2003). Challenges in Primary Science. London: Fulton

bloom s taxonomy
Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • High:
      • synthesis - hypothesising, showing originality by
      • creating, inventing and composing
      • evaluation - judging, rating and giving opinions
      • analysis - categorising and comparing; distinguishing
      • between fact and opinion or relevant and irrelevant
      • information
  • Middle:
      • application/use - transferring knowledge from one
      • situation to another similar one
  • Low:
      • comprehension - summarising and putting ideas or
      • information into other words
      • knowledge - remembering, reciting or listing facts
another definition of higher order thinking

Relates, rearranges


Possible answers

Another definition of Higher Order Thinking:

‘Higher order thinking occurs when a person takes new information and information stored in memory and interrelates and/or rearranges and extends this information to achieve a purpose or find possible answers in perplexing situations.’

Lewis and Smith (1993, p.136)






Content of the Curriculum

bright ideas time
Bright Ideas Time

The Bright Ideas slot has taken off throughout the school. It really encourages the pupils to think & it is rather like a science mental starter

All the project schools developed this discussion slot


Thinking time

Think Pair Share

the bright ideas time
The Bright Ideas Time
  • Game shows: Odd One Out
  • PMI
  • A big question
  • Concept cartoons

Discussing big ideas is more important than finding the right answer


Which is the odd one out & why?

  • Chocolate, paper, water

Video clip: Odd One Out


The Bright Ideas Time

Sheets of examples ofthe Bright Ideas Time



Chocolate door handles


Positive Statements:

  • You won`t waste so much energy
  • Instead of electrical toys you would have wind up radios –
  • that would be fun!!
  • The world would be equal

Minus Statements:

  • It would be very scary walking home at night.
  • There wouldn't`t be a London underground.
  • You wouldn't`t be able to watch T.V!

Interesting Statements:

  • You would have to be inventive in your spare time.
  • Torches might become really fashionable.
  • People might be fitter – less T.V = more exercise.

The chocolate teapot

Living on the Moon

An eye in the middle of your hand

A world without friction

A flexible skeleton


The Bright Ideas have been an excellent way of stimulating discussion and questioning. They have also come up with some far more interesting ideas than I have thought of. I have noticed that the more we do, the more scientific their ideas have become. 

There is more of a buzz and children are a lot more confident when sharing their ideas - risk-taking has increased/improved greatly and this has a positive knock-on effect

Incorporating Bright Ideas time into every session


Practical Investigations:

Do people with the strongest legs jump the furthest?

I think…




Do people with the strongest legs jump the furthest?

Responses from Year 2 pupils


Rate these responses, according to the depth of thinking involved:

  • Most of the time people jump further when they are stronger
  • Muscles has got nothing to do with how far because muscles are if you carry heavy things not how far you go
  • I think the people with the lightest legs will jump the highest because they don’t have to lift as much
  • There is no reason
  • The people with the stronger legs are strong so they can jump higher
  • I think the strongest legs will push the most and go the furthest.
  • The people with the strongest legs will jump the furthest because they have the strongest legs.
year 2 patterns in data evaluations
Year 2 Patterns in Data & Evaluations
  • Lillie had the biggest bit round the thigh but she did not jump the furthest
  • I think its about how high you go because it takes longer to land

How to focus the LO in Sc1

  • Concentrate on one particular aspect of an investigation, e.g.
  • prediction
  • planning
  • results
  • conclusion.

Focus Recording

– on the learning objectives


‘But then when you do an investigation, you understand what you are actually writing about and you can write a lot clearer.’

  ‘If you’re just told to write something, but if you find out something first and then report it, then you learn.’


‘If it’s flat, when you make the foundations for a temple why doesn’t it go through?’

‘Why doesn’t water fall off the edge if the Earth is flat?’


‘Because gravity comes from the centre of the earth, because a sphere is the smallest shape you can make from the centre, it would most likely be pulled up into a sphere.’


“But if everything is moving all the time, like all the trees and houses, then you don’t feel any different from anything else.”


Label the parts of the flower

Which is a stamen?

Where is pollen found?


Cut up a flower & see if you can find the parts below.

Do some research and find out what is the yellow stuff on the anthers.


What do you think the bee is covered in?

What will happen when the bee visits another flower?

Which came first, bees or flowers?

questioning contd
Questioning contd.
  • In pairs:
  • Look at the picture on the screen.
  • What does it make you think about?
  • What do you think it is?
  • What would you like to know about this picture?

Which frog has a bigger mouth?

  • Are you sure?  Measure to find out.

Man Playing Horn... Or Woman Silhouette?

  • Rabbit or duck?
  • A Face Of A Native American... Or An Eskimo?

When questions arise in the classroom that no-one can answer, put them in the poster of the light bulb


Challenge: who can find the answer?


The Light Bulb Award

I asked the best question this week

My question was …


Recurring themes frompupil interviews:

  • Thinking about ideas
  • Talking, discussing ideas with each other
  • More doing for themselves (hands on) – investigations, experiments
  • Less writing 
  • Fun, enjoyment, interesting
  • Deciding for themselves what to do
  • Understand and remember more by doing

‘I really like the Bright Ideas bit, especially the PMI, because it gets you thinking. … they are fun and get you thinking, which is what scientists have to do.’

‘We used to have to write more in science, but this year I have had to do a lot more thinking and talking’

sports model freeman
Sports Model (Freeman)



Pell and Jarvis (2001) in UK and Piburn and Baker (1993) have found that children’s enthusiasm for science decreases with age in primary schools.


AZ Project

I have enjoyed science more & think this has rubbed off on the class

They love science! They are very enthusiastic & feel that they are learning in a more interesting way

They are far more interested in science & always want to do more

That was good, you had to think a lot more…it makes science much more fun


London G&T Project

I have give my children more opportunities to discuss their ideas about science topics and have found that they are more willing to share their ideas with me and others.

It has been a great opportunity and the ideas learnt will definitely continue to be used and developed..

They have become more abstract in their thinking and have found activities more fun


% of pupils in project attaining level 5 = 53%

% of pupils nationally attaining level 5 = 41%

Number of pupils in project = 412

A significantly higher proportion of children achieved the highest level in the project schools than was the case nationally.



The findings of this project suggest that the making of time for thinking through discussion and practical science is a priority in the primary classroom which should not be squeezed out by a content driven approach.