Portraying Picasso in Primary Science

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Whether your lesson is creative in its exposition or engenders creativity is a fascinating but subtle distinction and yet carries significant implications for cognition.
1. Creativity in Primary Science:
Illustrations from the classroom
Oxford Brookes University:
Primary Science Teaching Trust Academic Collaborators
January 2017
2. Professor Deb McGregor
Helen Wilson
James Bird
Sarah Frodsham
a. The bright ideas time 4
b. Practical prompts for thinking 8
c. Practical science and focused recording 9
a. Strategies to support conceptual development 11
b. Strategies to support enquiry 13
c. Strategies to engage with historical stories about scientists 14
a. Examining the use of tablets in enquiry contexts 15
b. Exploring the impact of storytelling 16
c. Defining creativity in practice 17
d. Reflecting on assessment of creativity 18
It is with great pleasure that I present a foreword for the work carried out by
Oxford Brookes University under the auspices of PSTT. We have enjoyed a long
association with this group and the work carried out has been excellent.
The Thinking, Talking, Doing project is a real jewel in the crown for PSTT, having
been funded by an AZSTT (now PSTT of course) grant in 2002 and over the last
14 years has been shown to have significant impact in the classroom. The work
is shown to improve SATs scores but of far more importance is the philosophy
it engenders in both the young learners and their teachers. This project and
its training is now being rolled out across the UK by Oxford Brookes University
and will form part of the portfolio of training for the PSTT Cluster Programme.
Whether your lesson is creative in its exposition or engenders creativity is a
fascinating but subtle distinction and yet carries significant implications
“The work for cognition. Sarah Frodsham’s doctoral thesis challenges these ideas and
preliminary data look set to shift our thinking in a positive way.
described here
Drama has been shown to be extremely effective with a wide range of learners
is not only highly by a number of researchers, but the work described here is not only highly
accessible, it also develops a wide range of important key skills.
accessible, it also
We hope that you will enjoy the taster that this booklet provides and will want
develops a wide to find out more about the work described.
range of important
key skills.”
Professor Dudley E. Shallcross
CEO, Primary Science Teaching Trust
Our projects are Oxford Brookes University is delighted to be one of the teams
of Academic Collaborators working with the Primary Science
designed to explore Teaching Trust.
and evaluate There are two key themes of activity and enquiry that contribute to our
creative practice(s) unique identity at Oxford Brookes University and which are the focus of
our work as Academic Collaborators:
in primary schools. n Creativity
a. Defining it and promoting it.
b. Exploring how it appears in learning.
c. Developing, defining and sharing practice that supports it.
n High quality thinking
a. Exploring how and when it supports learning.
b. Developing and relating practice that supports it through
Our aim at Oxford Brookes University is to be a centre focused on the
research and development of creativity in science education. We have
generated a variety of approaches to support innovation and high
quality thinking in the primary classroom. Our projects are designed
to explore and evaluate creative practice(s) in primary schools, in
Oxfordshire and beyond. We work alongside teachers supporting and
enabling imaginative approaches to teaching and learning in science
that are shown to inform professional development and have an
impact on pupil engagement and attainment. Our work is research-
focused and evidence-based so that teachers have confidence that
the strategies we promote are tried and tested.
This booklet provides some insights into our work with illustrative
examples that we hope teachers will find useful in their practice.
Creativity in Primary Science 3
The AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust (now the PSTT) In 2012 – 15, the Education Endowment Foundation
funded a two year project (2002 – 4) at Oxford Brookes funded Oxford Brookes, together with Science Oxford, to
University involving 16 Oxfordshire primary schools. develop this work further in the Thinking, Doing, Talking
Outcomes of this Conceptual Challenge in Primary Science project. The research design was a randomised
Science project resulted in 32 teachers adapting their controlled trial (RCT), with 42 participating schools and
science lessons in the following ways: 1200 pupils Year 5 pupils (aged 9-10) involved. The RCT
indicated there was a statistically significant impact on
n More emphasis on pupils’ independent pupils’ attainment, with a gain in their learning that was
scientific thinking equivalent to three months of additional progress. In
n Increased time within lessons spent in addition, the project pupils showed improved attitudes
discussion of scientific ideas to science as a subject.
n More focused recording by the pupils so less
The full report can be found at:
but better writing
n More time for hands-on, practical
At that time, the Key Stage 2 science SATs were This is exciting and important, not only for primary
operational and this approach to teaching science practitioners, but also for policy-makers and head
resulted in a statistically significant difference to the teachers. We are accumulating a body of evidence to
pupils’ results – they did better in the SATs. illustrate how primary science teachers can develop
So, in summary, a creative approach to primary science creativity and enable pupils to enjoy learning science as
with an increased focus on thinking, doing and talking well as improve their attainment. What follows includes
improved pupils’ attainment (Mant, Wilson & Coates a taster of the strategies that we developed together
(2007). with the project teachers.
a. The bright ideas time The
The Bright Ideas Time is a key strategy to encourage Teachers have found that pupils find
pupils to develop their thinking through talking. It is a this strategy is invaluable science a lot more fun,
dedicated discussion slot –time set aside to talk about to elicit what pupils it’s far more interactive,
science in each primary science lesson. It does not need know and understand and conversational.
to take more than 10 minutes and can take place at any consequently highlight their
point in the lesson. (alternate) or (mis)conceptions. It
has also been used as an assessment tool.
It is a strategy that has been received enthusiastically by
teachers in our various projects and they have given very The Bright Ideas Time is a module on the PSTT website
positive feedback on its value in developing children’s and this gives full details, including video clips of
thinking and understanding. It is suitable for children of teachers using the different strategies and the teachers’
all ages and abilities. and pupils’ views about how it works.
4 Thinking, Talking, Doing Science
7. This is found at www.pstt.org.uk/resources/cpd-units/
bright-ideas-in-primary-science The
children have a
Various prompts have been developed for the Bright ‘buzz’ about science - very
Ideas approach and three of these are given in this confident to express opinions,
booklet. A sheet of further examples of each of these speculate and give justifications
prompts, grouped according to age and topic, can be as to why they think as
downloaded from the Bright Ideas module at the link they do.
Our colleague, Mike Dennis, developed the use of the There is no right or wrong answer and the children can
Odd One Out whilst he was working with Science
1 be as creative as they wish (as long as they provide an
Oxford, to encourage pupils’ thinking in science. This is appropriate reason). From these responses we can
the prompt that we recommend as a starter if people identify a common mis-understanding – the idea that a
have not used the Bright Ideas Time previously. It is the human is not an animal.
easiest for the children to access at first. Also there is a good grasp of science illustrated by
the child knowing that a bird is not a mammal. The ‘9
The pupils are shown three or four different pictures,
lives’ may show a good sense of humour or another
or better if possible the actual objects, and are asked
to say which one is the odd one out and why. The ‘why’
The particular prompt chosen can be tailored to suit
is key – the pupils justify their reasoning and so reveal
the lesson following and so this one could be used at
their thinking.
the beginning of a lesson on animals. It is possible to
The example below is from one of the project schools, pick up later on points made, such as ‘Jamie said that
Freeland Primary School, and includes a sample of the the blackbird is not a mammal, do you agree?’ ‘What is a
pupils’ responses. mammal?’ ‘Why is a bird not a mammal?’
because it lives in The
water. bird is
the only one
that is not a
is the only
one not an
animal. Cat
because it
is the only one
that has 9
Creativity in Primary Science 5
De Bono1 (1973) and Fisher (2000) are amongst the
many who have developed methods to encourage
pupils’ thinking. The PMI is one of these. The pupils are
given a scenario – a statement – and then consider, in
turn with a few minutes on each:
P: the Positives
M: the Minuses
I: the Interesting associated ideas
An example from another of the project schools, St Andrew’s Primary, with some pupil
Minus: You might not be able to lie still to sunbathe –
you’d get a sugar rush and have to run around!
Positive: Poor people wouldn’t starve.
Interesting: Would diabetes be a problem or not?
Interesting: Would you not need sleep?
These are obviously interesting and thoughtful
responses, which show the pupils’ existing understanding
and also their ability to apply their understanding in a
way that provokes further discussion. The teacher can
decide whether these questions are pursued in this
lesson or should be left for personal research.
Science is a creative subject and giving the pupils time
to consider different aspects of a scenario, including
the ‘Interesting’ ideas brings this to the fore – it allows
their imagination to play a full part in science lessons.
A lateral thinking technique originally suggested by deBono in 1973.
6 Thinking, Talking, Doing Science
In our opinion, the big questions ‘lurk’ in the curriculum, prior attainment was greater than for the project pupils
just waiting to be asked. If they are not asked, we miss overall.
an amazing opportunity to find out the depth of our More examples of big questions can be downloaded
pupils’ thinking. Many teachers have said that they from the PSTT website and these are accompanied by
have been amazed at some pupils’ understanding. some background subject knowledge so that no one
This is often true of those otherwise labelled as ‘low need be afraid of asking such questions:
ability’ – giving them an opportunity to express their
understanding verbally is vital. It was revealing that the www.pstt-cpd.org.uk/ext/cpd/bright-ideas/the-big-
gain in conceptual understanding of the pupils of lower question.html
An example from one of the project schools, Rush Common Primary School: ‘Over time a
seedling grows into a large tree.’
Some pupil responses: This sample of responses shows a wide range of
understanding and illustrates how the technique is
‘The roots drink the water and eats the nutrients to keep an excellent elicitation or assessment tool. It is also
it alive and helps it grow’ important though to use this strategy to help the pupils
‘The tree weighs more because of the food and water see that science is all about being curious. Einstein
it has eaten in the past years. The tree doesn’t have a spoke of his own education and it could be argued that
mouth so the grass collects all of the food and water his comments are as pertinent for us today as they were
then it goes down to the roots also the tree likes rain then:
better than house pipe water’ ‘It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern
‘The leaves suck in sunlight and convert into energy, methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled
using the chemical, chlorophyll. This process is called the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little
‘photosynthesis’ plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of
‘It has come from the branches’ freedom. Without this it goes to wrack and ruin without
Creativity in Primary Science 7
10. b) The Practical Prompt for Thinking
The Practical Prompt for Thinking is a short teacher demonstration that tantalises the pupils and encourages them
to think about the science behind what they have seen. They tend to be rather dramatic so that they attract attention
and fire imaginations. Bridget Holligan and others at Science Oxford were key instigators in the development of a
range of these prompts.
Example One: Balloon
Resources: a lighter, one normally inflated balloon, a second
identical balloon with some water in its base and then inflated
(take care when adding the water to the balloon that you can
find a tap with a spout that fits the balloon quite well! Remove
the balloon from the tap when there is a couple of centimetres
of water in it and then blow it up as normal).
Ask someone (the head teacher?!) to sit on a chair in front of
the class. Hold the normally inflated balloon over their head
and touch the balloon with the lighter flame - it bursts. Hold the
second balloon with the water in its base over the person’s head and bring the flame up close. What will happen when
the flame comes into contact with the balloon? Nothing happens – much to the relief of the head teacher, it does not
burst. Why not?
In fact, the water conducts heat so well that it conducts the heat away from the rubber of the balloon and so it does
not burst.
Example Two: The Seagull’s Egg
Resources: 1 fresh egg, a straight, thin glass of tap water, a
plastic tray, a jug of saturated salt solution (a saturated salt
solution is one that has as much salt as possible dissolved in
it. This needs to be prepared in advance and is achieved by
having quite hot water and then adding spoonfuls of salt and
stirring until no more will dissolve. Then allow it to cool and
pour it through filter paper so that it is quite clear).
Have the glass of water clearly visible for the class – perhaps raised on a small box. Tell the pupils that you are going
to put the egg into the glass of water and ask them what they think will happen next. In fact, it sinks.
The shape of the glass means that the egg cannot be removed without also pouring the water out, so pour the water
into the tray. This allows you to fill the glass again with the salty water from the jug, without the audience suspecting
Now say that we want to turn the Hen’s egg into a Seagull’s egg. Obviously, a Seagull’s egg needs to float - tongue
firmly in cheek here of course! So how can we change a Hen’s egg into a Seagull’s egg? Well, obviously we have to
flap. Ask the class to stand up and together do Seagull flapping motions, squawking etc.
Now place the egg into the glass and it floats. A round of applause is in order but how did that happen? Allow them
time to think about this. A short time to ‘think, pair, share’ is very appropriate.
Once the answer has been arrived at, this could lead on to a lesson about dissolving or floating and sinking.
8 Thinking, Talking, Doing Science
11. c) Practical Science and Focused Recording
The project also had an emphasis on ‘doing’ science, So, for example, if the pupils were finding out which is the
with pupils undertaking a wide range of different types strongest magnet, the learning objective might be ‘to
of science practicals, including problem solving and fair present the results in an appropriate manner’, ‘to plan a
testing. Science is inherently a practical subject so the fair test’ or ‘to make a prediction with a scientific reason’
pupils really should be doing science in each lesson. and so whilst the pupils will do the whole practical, they
An important feature was that the pupils focused their only record what is necessary to demonstrate their
recording on the learning objectives, trimming the time progress towards that particular objective.
spent writing and releasing the time for thinking, talking
and doing. However, the recording was sharp and It is possible for the recording method to be very
focused and so it was a very effective assessment tool. creative, whilst at the same time highly appropriate.
Example from Stanton Harcourt Primary School who tablet and measuring the time taken for it to launch after
did this investigation with their Year 5 pupils, some of turning the canister upside down. They could change
whose responses are included below. the size of the tablet (a whole one, half, quarter etc.),
Begin with a teacher demonstration of a film canister keep the amount of water the same and measure the
rocket – this can be with an Alka-Seltzer tablet (half a height the rocket reaches. The height measurement
tablet is cheaper and works well) and water. Whilst most will need some discussion as the pupils must not be
of us no longer use film cameras, it is possible to buy close to the rocket once the canister has been turned
film canisters cheaply on line. Add about 1 cm of water upside down, so it is likely just to be roughly how high up
to a canister and then add the tablet. Turn it upside it goes, judged from a safe distance. Alternatively they
down with the lid on the ground and retreat! This is best could video the launches.
done outside.
Then divide the pupils into groups and ask each group to
It is possible to use fizzy Vitamin C tablets and water
make a prediction/hypothesis, examples from Stanton
as an alternative. There are obvious health and safety
Harcourt Primary School were:
considerations – such as warning them not to even think n The more tablet you use, the higher it will go.
about eating the tablets, taking care to wash hands at n The more water there is, the quicker it launches.
the end of the investigation and moving away once the
rocket is primed – they will fly high into the air. Careful They must record their prediction but there is no need
supervision of each group is required throughout. for them to write out in great detail what they then do
There are many ways of developing this as a fair test because that is not the focus of the learning objective.
and below is just one example. The learning objectives Discuss with them all how they can carry out their
in this case are: investigations safely and how they will record their
n To make a prediction and to reflect on that in light results. They may need help thinking about what they
of the results. will record and how – it would be good to help them
draw up a sensible table. Again this is not the focus of
As a class discussion, ask them to think about what can the learning objective so they do not need to agonise
be changed, what can be measured and what needs to over this and giving guidance is very appropriate. After
be kept the same. There are various possibilities, such as the investigation, ask them to reflect on the results and
changing the amount of water, keeping the same sized to compare them to their prediction.
Creativity in Primary Science 9
12. One group of pupils at Stanton Harcourt was able to rate. The teacher noted that this was such productive
disprove their hypothesis that using more water would learning.
make the launch happen faster. The assessment is obviously not about whether or not
They thought about this and learned that it was their prediction was right, but on their reflection upon
important to have plenty of space for the gas to expand the results in light of their prediction, so that is what will
so adding too much water did not improve the launch need to be recorded.
Problem solving is open ended and is often best related challenging. The first one can be done successfully with
to a real life situation, requiring the pupils to draw on quite young pupils. The pupils will need the electricity
their existing scientific knowledge and to use their equipment and junk modelling materials, such as
imagination. boxes, tubes, kitchen foil, card etc. The following are
Below is a set of problem solving challenges linked also useful: Aluminium foil (cooking foil), bare copper
to the electricity section of the curriculum that wire and insulated wire that can be stripped to make
are differentiated and become progressively more connections.
No hamster needs harming in this process! The pupils learn that a
hamster has learnt how to escape his cage and they need to use their
electrical skills to help keep him safe. They use junk modelling materials
to simulate a door – it’s more challenging to design a system so an alarm
comes on when a door is opened, rather than closed.
Tell them a story about a prince who inherits a precious jewel but it is so
valuable that his insurance company tell him that it must be kept locked
in the deepest vault, guarded by his best soldiers. The prince really wants
his subjects to be able to see the jewel and enjoy its beauty so he calls
on his scientific advisors to design a system by which it can be displayed
safely – so, for example, an alarm might go off if it is moved.
The sheep roam the hills and are in very isolated spots so it will really help
the farmer if he can be alerted to the fact that the food trough has been
emptied and needs refilling.
The culmination of each challenge can be a persuasive imaginative work here and the pupils’ recording can be
argument by each group of pupils as to why their product via a set of photographs, video clips, PowerPoint slides
is the best – i.e. a sales pitch. There is much scope for etc.
10 Thinking, Talking, Doing Science
There are a wide variety of ways that dramatic strategies drama ages 5-11 by McGregor and Precious (2014).
can be used to support learning in science. The module,
The suggestions offered in this booklet include a few
Dramatic Science can be accessed on the Primary
examples and can be classified as pedagogies that:
Science Teaching Trust website: pstt.org.uk/resources/
cpd-units/dramatic-science a. Support conceptual development
b. Support enquiry skill development
Some of the photographs (reproduced here with the
publisher’s permission) come from the book: Dramatic c. Engage children in thinking about scientists from
Science: Inspired ideas for teaching science using history
a. Supporting conceptual development
To support children understanding concepts in science, is built up by first inviting the constituents of the ‘trunk’
they can be directed to enact different stages of a of a tree, the ‘heartwood’ as it is often called. A circle
science process (like how electrical circuits work or of people can hold hands and chant the importance of
how properties of materials affect their behaviour or the heartwood, “I support; I support; I support”. Asking
what happens in germination). This is one of the most next, “How do trees obtain water?” can prompt a variety
straight-forward and frequently used approaches. It of responses, but hopefully someone will suggest
is usually teacher directed although children can be ‘roots’. A circle of people can then sit with their backs
invited to mime or model how they think something to the heartwood and have their legs out-stretched to
works and then the teacher (or others can suggest represent ‘roots’. The role of the roots is to absorb the
modifications or developments). water (through various processes including osmosis).
The children can be invited to chant their role as roots,
“I absorb water; I absorb water; I absorb water”. The next
part of the human model would involve the branches
and leaves. These people could stand on chairs to
connect one arm with the top of the trunk and the
other outstretched (with the hand also outstretched)
Figure 1: Teachers engaging in recreating a living model of a tree.
The children can be instructed how to move and speak
to represent something in science. In Figure 1, teachers
are practising how to build up and illustrate the way a Figure 2: Children engaged in modelling the parts of a tree (in this
tree is shaped and might grow. The 3D model of the tree case a fir tree).
Creativity in Primary Science 11
14. to represent leaves at the end of the branches. The
chant that these parts of the model contribute, could
talk about what they do as leaves and say, “I make food; I
make food; I make food”.
Another approach to help children understand scientific
ideas is to represent them with a still model.
Figure 2 illustrates a group creating a representation of
a fir tree (other groups could create shapes of different
trees, such as willow, oak, chestnut and sycamore). Figure
3 shows children acting out (under teacher directions
and without knowing) what happens in a wood when
there is limit of nutrients, water or light for tree growth.
After they have performed the sequence of events as Figure 3: An example of reverse modelling. The children are enacting
instructed by the teacher, they had to suggest what it what happens when trees do not receive enough nutrients, water or
was they have acted out and explain their reasoning.
Reverse modelling is acting something out (following
instructions) and then trying to work out what was
Other examples of conceptual development might include:
Illustrating how germs Thinking about forces acting Chocolate before and after it has
can spread on toys melted on a sunny window sill
(in this case a Jack-in-the-Box)
Children developing their performance to show how
shadows are formed
12 Drama in primary science
15. b. Supporting enquiry skill development
There are several ways in which this can be developed. children listen to his story (or a teacher speaking as if
One way is to use a monologue (or a story) of a scientist’s him) highlights why and how the malleable clay came to
life and development of their work. This can work as a be invented. The children can then work as a scientist-
way of introducing a scientist to the children –possibly in-role as young Harbutts. They can be given water,
one of whom they have not have previously heard. flour, food colouring, oil and salt to create their own
‘recipe’ for modelling clay. Also, asking the children to
One example is William Harbutt, who invented plasticine ‘document’ their experimentation in exploring what
in 1897. As an art teacher he wanted his students to combination of the ingredients works best, as well as
be able to use a clay that didn’t set hard too quickly then reviewing each other’s, offers many opportunities
before they had developed their sculptures etc. Having for enquiry skill development.
Deliberating over how much Having decided the combination, Adding food colouring and making
flour, oil and water is needed mixing the ‘ingredients’ the ‘clay’
Let the testing begin! Beginning to review each Setting out the different clays
other’s clays
Through working in-role as a scientist the children say they:
n develop ideas; n consider their evidence and what it means;
n reflect on different proposals and suggestions; n solve practical problems;
n plan an experiment; n evaluate and communicate their inquiry to others;
n systematically test ideas; n act like a scientist;
n obtain and present evidence; n feel like a scientist.
Creativity in Primary Science 13
16. c. Strategies to engage with historical stories
about scientists
Various combinations of drama pedagogies can be used represent a scientist’s skills or even ‘sculpt’ a scientist
to introduce children to stories about scientists from the as a statue to be placed in a museum. One of the more
past. The children can be ‘hot seated’ as the scientist; unique ways we have developed is to use a monologue,
enact the role of a scientist in a mini-playlet; contribute that is a mini-speech given by teacher-in-role or a child-
to composing a ‘tableau’ or a series of still 3D poses that in-role (as if spoken by the scientist themselves).
Having been working-in-role as scientists, the children
can be asked by the others :
n What did you find out?
n How did you do that?
n Why did you do it that way?
n Are there other ways you could have done it?
Figure 4: Hot seating.
n What did you learn about being a scientist?
In Figure 5, the girl is acting as Mary Anning, trying to The teacher-in-role in Figure 7 is speaking as if Alhazan
sell her shells and fossils to a couple walking along the (who discovered light travels in straight lines whilst
Dorset-shire coastline. held in a prison). The children are listening intently
because there are
a variety of drama
and science
activities that will
develop from this
introduction to
a scientist from
Figure 5: Enacting a script.
CREATING A Figure 7: Monologue.
The group in Figure 6 were
working collaboratively to
create a composite picture
This is a strategy that
of the skills that William
can be carried out for
Harbutt (the inventor of
any scientist. It could be
plasticine) possessed.
for a museum. In Figure
They were depicting his
8, one of the boys is the
various skills, as a former
Figure 6: Creating a tableau. sculptor, the other is
teacher, sculptor, painter,
being ‘shaped’ as Issac
father and business man.
Newton. Figure 8: Sculpting Isaac Newton.
This approach can be used to create a tableau for any
scientist that the children are introduced to.
14 Drama in primary science
We are passionate about providing evidentially-based good practice and our research covers a number of key areas
(already outlined in the previous sections of this booklet) as well as the examples set out below.
a. Innovative technology in Primary Science
In recent years a considerable number of primary schools
have started using tablet computers, usually iPads, for
teaching and learning. Staff in the School of Education
have been researching and developing ways of using
tablets which allow children to capture and reflect on
scientific and mathematical investigations. A common
‘problem’ with primary based science investigations
is allowing children to capture information about
scientific processes. Often children are asked to write
recounts and reports after a science investigation –
this can prove difficult as at best scant notes have been
made and recalling with sufficient depth of detail relies
Figure 9: Annotating the photographs of the experiment on the ipad.
on memory.
Our approach has been to develop reflection about what was happening. This has led to
use of one particular iPad app, Explain better recounts, questioning and a greater depth of
Everything, to ‘record’ investigations and understanding.
science processes by capturing images Mobile technologies such as iPads can enable intuitive
and video. This app then allows children to annotate ways of capturing a range of modes of communicating.
their information with text, symbols, graphics and They also allow children to move around, plan how they
audio annotation. Explain Everything was originally want to capture information and then easily share with
designed as a presentational tool – however education their peers. We have worked with a number of schools
has embraced the intuitive interface for a range of to develop these approaches – with an increasing range
pedagogical applications in the classroom. of examples of impact on science investigations
During science investigations children are able to quickly
capture video, audio and images – then annotate with
text and audio (Figure 9). This allows children to capture
science processes such as boiling water, making
solutions or forces – and then reflect immediately
on what they have seen. Primary age children have
previously found textual recording of science processes
frustrating in that they have found it difficult to capture
detail and complexities. One benefit from this approach
has been that children have been able to look at
their records of investigations with sufficient time for Figure 10: Children capturing the movement of the shoe on the ipads.
Creativity in Primary Science 15
18. Our research study of this approach has begun to show Figure 11:
evidence of positive impacts on children’s thinking and
refining their
levels of understanding. Our study, still in a pilot phase, experimental
has audio and video recorded children’s’ activities whilst report
conducting science investigations with and without through
using Explain Everything on the iPad. Our main focus has
been on the nature of dialogue during these activities – their ideas on
some interesting comparisons can be made between the tablet.
iPad and non-iPad use.
b. Exploring the impact of storytelling
A very recent research development at Oxford Brookes like someone or something in the account or even
University involves looking at the creative ways projecting beyond the ending of the tale to suggest
storytelling can be used for teaching and learning. This what might happen if….) in a future narrative.
project has involved working with a professional story-
teller to evaluate and develop materials that could be Figure 12a illustrates the storyteller weaving a narrative
effectively used by teachers in primary science about Isaac Newton as a little boy. And Figure 12b
Storytelling can take a wide variety of forms, from just highlights how a Y2 child is trying out ideas and
‘reading’ or ‘relaying’ a story to having children interact suggestions related to the things that Newton might
in various ways (by ‘being’ a character or ‘acting’ have explored or done as a young boy.
Figure 12a: Storyteller. Figure 12b: Child ‘being’ a character.
16 Research in primary science education
19. c. Defining creativity in practice
One of the ways in which the Primary Science Teaching 1) ‘Expositional teaching’, otherwise known as direct
Trust supports educational research at Oxford Brookes teaching
University is by providing funding for Ph.D. students. The 2) ‘Teaching creatively’ which focuses on the teacher
University researchers then work with these students to and their ability to communicate science in as creative
consider different aspects of primary science teaching a way as possible
and learning in depth. 3) ‘Teaching for creativity’ where the focus is on the
Sarah Frodsham has purposively selected local and creativity of the learners and the teacher’s role is to
national primary schools to assist her with her Ph.D. teach in such a way as to enable the children to express
studies. Her research revolves around the development and develop their creativity.
of creativity through the teaching of primary science. The three approaches are currently being applied to
She has constructed an analytical framework (see explore the ways that creativity emerges in classrooms.
Figure 13) which captures the essential features of The analytical tool is being verified and triangulated
three teaching approaches, they are: with data collected from questionnaires and interviews.
Once finalised it should help primary teachers reflect
upon their approach to creativity in their science
Figure 13 : A framework to visually
represent creativity in teaching.
Creativity in Primary Science 17
20. d. Reflecting on assessment of creativity
Sarah’s research is also considering how current perspective there is a danger of learning becoming
assessment practices may or may not augment the prescriptive that only informs the teacher about the
creative process. Assessment can be either: children’s ‘stage’ or progress in their learning.
n summative - usually a formal assessment at the
To ensure assessment is mutually beneficial to both
end of a lesson, topic, term or school year to judge or
teachers and children it should be interactive in nature.
assess what has been learned;
Communications between learners and teachers
n formative - assessment that informs the learning
(through written exchanges, dialogue, collaborative
cycle and usually engages the learner in assessing their
performances, etc.) are ‘key’ for each to appreciate
own development (often referred to as Assessment for
progress and success. Different types of assessment
Learning or AfL).
strategies provide opportunities for the children to
Sarah’s research focuses on the latter and how it can express their own reviews of their thinking and learning,
augment the development of creativity in primary share peer-to-peer or even collaboratively agree what
school science lessons. To enable the successful,
is creative.
effective implementation and integration of formatively
assessing creativity, Sarah is currently considering how Sarah believes that there are differentiated steps
the three following consecutive steps of AfL can enable towards achieving effective AfL, which can include:
the development of each individual learner’s creativity. n step 1 (teacher prescription)
These involve children appreciating: n step 2 (child appreciation)
n what do I know? what can I do? n step 3 (shared teacher and learner understanding
n what can I learn about next? what can I learn to do about the child’s progression that is mutually
next? beneficial)
n what should I do next to progress my learning? Figure 14 is an abstract representation of these three
If AfL strategies are applied only from the teacher’s steps.
Figure 14 : A visual framework to suggest
what kind of assessment arises through
the three types of pedagogy suggested
in Figure 1.
18 Research in primary science education
21. 5. SUMMARY
This booklet provides a taste of some of the work we are 6. Using stories from historical scientists’ lives to
engaged in at Oxford Brookes University. encourage appreciation of their work and relevance
It has provided some practical suggestions about ways of their discoveries to the world around us.
to develop high quality, as well as creativity within 7. Additional research into the use of tablets in enquiry
primary science classrooms. The various activities contexts; the impact of storytelling; defining,
outlined include : enacting and assessing creativity.
1. Developing Bright Ideas, by asking children to offer The pedagogic strategies shared in this booklet have
scientific suggestions about things around them. arisen from evidence-based-practice, or have resulted
These can be prompted in a variety of ways, such from research-to-inform-practice. There will be more to
as inviting suggestions (and reasons) for the ‘odd share in the future as our research activities develop.
one out’ or offering positive (P), minus (M) and We are always interested in working with teachers and
interesting (I) perspectives on an aspect of science other researchers to develop and improve creativity-in-
or asking big or significant questions that can be practice and creative-learning so if anything related to
posed to engage them in thinking about something our work outlined in this booklet interests you, please
that might never have occurred to them before. do get in touch.
2. Presenting practical or visual stimuli to encourage
thinking can engage them in discussing ideas and
making predictions about what might happen next
or they can be shown something surprising and Deb McGregor and Helen Wilson
asked to explain why it might have happened.
3. Ways to help ‘focus’ children’s thinking and learning Contact details :
during practical science. Deb McGregor ([email protected])
4. Using drama to support conceptual understanding, Helen Wilson ([email protected])
often through ‘enacting’ scientific processes.
5. Engaging children in carrying out enquiries as a
scientist-in-role. www.education.brookes.ac.uk
de Bono, E. (1973) CoRT thinking. Blandford, UK : Direct Educational Services Limited
Fisher, R. (2000) Teaching Thinking. A Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom. Reprint. London : Continuum
Mant,J., Wilson, H. & Coates, D. (2007) The Effect of Increasing Conceptual Challenge in Primary Science Lessons on
Pupils’ Achievement and Engagement International Journal of Science Education 29 (14) 1707-1719
McGregor, D. and Precious, W. (2014) Dramatic Science. Inspiring ideas for learning 5 – 11. London : Routledge
Precious, W. and McGregor, D. (2014) Just Imagine. Primary Science 132 35 - 37
Photographs reproduced with permission.
Creativity in Primary Science 19
Developed as a result of funded research, the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) have a range of printed
materials available to purchase (all developed by teachers for teachers!).
The Primary Science Teaching Trust focuses on the sharing of best practice, development of new ideas,
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undertaking the Primary Science Quality Mark (PSQM).
Please see www.pstt.org.uk for further information. Alternatively, you can contact the PSTT on
[email protected] or call 0117 325 0499.
Resources available to buy at amazon.co.uk
Why & How? is the brand name of the Primary Science Teaching Trust
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grant from AstraZeneca PLC Primary Science Teaching Trust . 12 Whiteladies Road . Bristol . BS8 1PD