Qualitative Evaluation of the National Science Learning Centre: Final Report

Marian Sainsbury, Matt Walker, Suzanne Straw, Clare Southcott, Nalia Thurgood

01 June 2013

This report presents the Qualitative Evaluation of the National Science Learning Centre undertaken for Myscience. The research explored the impact on pupils of continuing professional development (CPD) undertaken at the National Centre. Case-study visits were conducted between October 2011 and June 2012 across eleven secondary schools and included interviews with senior leaders, teachers and technicians, in addition to focus groups with pupils. Further follow-up interviews with teachers from seven of the eleven schools were conducted between November and December 2012.

Key Findings

  • Staff and pupils reported increased pupil enjoyment of, and engagement in, science, due to greater teacher enthusiasm and confidence in teaching science and delivering practicals. Increased pupil confidence and understanding and more secure subject knowledge were also highlighted. Interviewees anticipated that this increased enjoyment and interest would lead to greater uptake of science subjects and careers. Many schools had already experienced increases in uptake in science subjects at GCSE and post-16, due in part to National Centre CPD.
  • As a result of teachers introducing a wider range of teaching approaches and contexts, pupils had developed transferable and practical skills (e.g. discussion skills, working in pairs/groups, undertaking practical work), greater awareness of the importance of science to society, and increased knowledge of career opportunities.
  • Interviewees were cautious in reporting impacts on student attainment, although many felt that students’ increased enjoyment of, and engagement in, science would inevitably lead to improvements in progress and attainment. Some teachers (and students) reported actual improvements in grades. There was widespread enthusiasm for pursuing CPD at the National Science Learning Centre on an ongoing basis and the ENTHUSE bursary contributed to the accessibility of courses.
  • All of the impacts reported during the first phase of the research were evident during follow-up interviews, suggesting lasting benefits.
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