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Science Education Research and Practice

For discussion of research in science eduction, and how it informs teaching practice.

(A place to discuss some of my writing and to invite an opportunity for feedback.)

The motivation of this post was two-fold:

Firstly, I have blogged occasionally, mostly on the themes of science and/or education and/or research (Science – Education – Research) but the format and application used does not give an opportunity for anyone to respond. The facility here allows comments by readers (if I attract any).

I have also been involved in ongoing discussion about the extent to which published research and scholarship in science education is accessed by teachers and informs their work. There are barriers to teachers accessing much of this work, but some (even in the good journals) is published without cost to readers. I am coming to end of a period of editorship at a free access journal (Chemistry Education Research and Practice) published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

All material on the journal is currently free access. It has been suggested to me that because the journal publishes peer-reviewer research, and therefore articles are written to a high technical standard, the material may not be directly informing the work of classroom chemistry teachers, and is largely of interest to others undertaking research in chemistry education. We know some teachers (in university departments, but also in schools) do read the articles – but it is difficult to gauge the level of this. Some articles are mostly pushing forward research programmes that are still some way from being applicable in classrooms (research can take time, and there may be ‘false starts’), and these are largely of interest to researchers, but many articles do present results with implications for classroom practice.

Research articles do have to be written in a formal way, citing other research, carefully detailing methods used, offering results in full, etc., but as a former school teacher myself, I think that teachers are perfectly capable of accessing and being informed by many research journal articles. Often these days teachers are introduced to educational enquiry in their preparation for professional practice, but even if not it is easy to find support in understanding educational research methods on the web.

I feel that a research journal could well be supported by an accessible blog, perhaps with a posting for each new article published that briefly introduces the paper, and invites readers to comment and perhaps discuss. Researchers might raise issues relating to their particular concerns; and teachers could focus on the value of the ideas in the classroom – how might the article inform their work and how did they get on if they tried to adopt any of the suggestions or perspectives in their own classroom.

Anyway, my second motivation was to look for a ‘proof of concept’. This blog does not belong to a particular journal, but I thought I would try the idea out with some of my own writing, and see if such post would attract any attention, and generate any dialogue. As an academic it is fairly easy to know if you are reaching other academics (e.g., there are tools such as Google Scholar¬†that notify citations to authors), but in an area of scholarship such as Education researchers should also be looking to inform teachers. It is possible to write accounts of work for periodicals aimed at teachers (e.g. School Science Review, Education in Chemistry), as well as in journals, but even then there may be very limited feedback on what teachers make of the work.

So this is my proof (or not) of concept. If, after a while, I  find there are no pertinent comments/responses to my posts, I will have my answer.

Keith S. Taber

(Professor of Science Education, University of Cambridge)

With every mistake we must surely be learning – (George Harrison)

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