Impact on Continuing Professional Development for Science Educators
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Leicester
Unit of AssessmentEducation
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Summary of the impact
The need to produce more science graduates to meet the ambitions of a
knowledge-based economy has been recognised in several UK Government
initiatives, yet despite the growth in University admissions since 1986
the percentage of students studying science has fallen. Research led by
Tina Jarvis has had significant impact on the development of effective
science CPD, designed to address the problem that many primary school
teachers lack competence and confidence in science teaching. This research
has underpinned the establishment of two CPD Centres, which have provided
CPD for over 7,300 teachers, technicians and teaching assistants in the UK
during the assessment period and a range of projects which have achieved
sustained impact on teachers' practice and pupils' learning and
engagement, regionally, nationally and across Europe, involving over 30
partners across 23 countries.
Science education in the UK and Europe has been the focus of considerable
attention because of the declining numbers of young people choosing to
study or pursue careers in science. This poses a threat to the Lisbon
agenda which seeks to place the EU at the forefront of the knowledge
economy of the future. All students, including future scientists, need to
be educated to be critical consumers of scientific knowledge, improving
the public's ability to engage with socio-scientific issues such as
climate change. The UK government's economic strategy sets out to increase
the number of science graduates and to promote public understanding of
A programme of research at Leicester over more than 10 years has explored
the design of science CPD, using an inquiry-based approach, informed by
the development of instruments to measure improvement in teachers'
competence and attitudes towards science, and the impact this can have on
pupils' attitudes and learning. Choices about future study and careers are
strongly influenced by children's attitudes towards curriculum subjects
which start in the primary school, where the need to support teachers'
expertise is most acute.
In the 1990s Tina Jarvis, who was appointed as a lecturer in the School
of Education in 1989 and was promoted to Professor before her retirement
in 2013, began to research the relationships between teachers' and pupils'
attitudes towards, and understanding of, science. Funding from the
AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust (1998-2000) supported a project
involving 70 teachers and 2,000 pupils in 31 primary schools. Supported by
colleagues at Leicester (Frankie McKeon (Lecturer, 1996 onwards), Dr Tony
Pell (Research Assistant 1996-2009)), Jarvis developed four instruments to
measure changes in pupils' and teachers' attitudes and understanding which
were used to monitor the effectiveness of the CPD programme (1, 2).
In addition to the positive impact of the inquiry-based approach on
teachers' understanding and pupils' learning, relationships were found
between science understanding and attitudes towards science in both
teachers and pupils (3,4,5). These results informed further
development of the design of science CPD, and formed the basis for further
An extension of the research was through projects undertaken in
collaboration with the National Space Centre (6). In 2000, Jarvis
and Pell surveyed 650 children who visited the NSC, using the instruments
developed in the AstraZeneca project, to monitor changes in their
attitudes before and after the visit, and explore the particular features
of the experience at NSC which had contributed to this. Findings
highlighted the key role of teachers in preparing children for the visits
and providing follow-up work to sustain gains in children's attitudes to
A final significant study conducted by Jarvis, Pell and Hingley (Research
Assistant) drew on data from the studies described above, plus the
evaluation of the EU Pollen Project (described in section 4) to develop a
model of science teachers' CPD needs which has informed the design of
subsequent provision (6).
References to the research
1. Pell A. & Jarvis T. (2001) Developing attitude to science scales
for use with children of ages from five to eleven years International
Journal in Science Education, 23(8) pp 847-862.
2. Pell A. & Jarvis T. (2003) Developing attitude to science scales
for use with primary teachers International Journal of Science
Education, 25(10), pp 1273-1295.
3. Jarvis T., Pell A., McKeon F. (2003) Changes in primary teachers'
science knowledge and understanding during a two year in-service programme
Research in Science & Technological Education, 21(1) pp 17-42.
4. Jarvis T. and Pell A. (2005) The Relationships between Primary
Teachers' Attitudes and Cognition during a Two Year Science In-service
Programme, in K.Boersma, M. Goedhart, O. de Jong and H. Eijkelhof (eds) Research
and The Quality of Science Education. Springer (pp 157-168).
5. Jarvis T. and Pell A. (2005) Factors influencing elementary school
children's attitudes to science before, during and following a visit to
the UK National Space Centre Journal of Research in Science Teaching,
42(1) pp 53-83.
6. Jarvis, T., Pell, A. and Hingley, P. (2011) Variations in primary
teachers' responses during three major science in- service programmes. Center
for Education Policy Studies Journal; 1,(1),67-92
Pollen Seed Cities for Europe: A Community Approach for Sustainable
Growth of Science Education in Europe (2006-09) EU Framework 6 (budget
to Leicester €159,705)
Fibonacci: Disseminating Inquiry-Based Science & Mathematics
Education in Europe (2010-2013) EU Framework 7 (budget to Leicester €356,952)
Details of the impact
Impact within the assessment period builds on a longer history of
engagement with science teachers, which began with the establishment of
the SCIcentre, funded by the Society for Chemical Industries, in 1996. The
Centre produced a range of print and video materials, underpinned by
research findings, which focussed on improving subject knowledge and
teaching practice, promoting positive images of scientists and their work
in industry, and supporting the use of IT in science teaching. Materials
were distributed to UK ITE providers, and were available for sale
nationally and internationally, the most substantial numbers being bought
in USA, Australia, New Zealand, Malta and Ireland. Video materials were
made available on YouTube in 2010 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kz2c5OJ5Yx0).
The research programme led by Jarvis established the reputation of
Leicester School of Education in the field of science education, and was a
significant factor in the award to the School of the competitive contract
to establish the Science Learning Centre East Midlands (SLCEM) in 2004. As
part of the Government-funded national network of 10 Science Learning
Centres, SLCEM is the major provider of science CPD in the region and has
a close relationship with the School of Education. This enables research
carried out in the School to inform the content and direction of the
science CPD SLCEM provides. In return, SLCEM provides a testing and
validation environment for the School's cutting-edge research. Impact and
evaluation studies from the SLCEM are shared with the national network of
Science Learning Centres in order to inform future development. Since
being awarded the initial contract in 2004 and the second in 2008 with
further extensions in 2011 and 2012, SLCEM has provided CPD for over
10,000 teachers (7300 teachers from 2008 to present, A),
technicians and teaching assistants and the impact during this period in
the region has been considerable. In the period since 2008:
- 75% of participants reported improvement in their knowledge and skills
- 81% reported changes in their practice
- 75% reported evidence of wider impact on the school
- 67% demonstrated impact on pupils in terms of learning, motivation and
- 71% of participants indicated that the greatest impact had been on the
sharing of knowledge with colleagues
- 79% of participants reported an impact on their skills in teaching in
terms of science knowledge and understanding.
Evaluation studies also indicate that 99% of teachers attending would
recommend SLCEM CPD courses to others and 97% rated these as being very
good or good (A).
In addition to this considerable influence within the UK context, the
impact of development of science CPD built on and informed by Jarvis'
research has spread in Europe through two major EU funded research and
professional development networks. Pollen Seed Cities for Europe (2006-09)
involved 12 countries, in each of which a `Seed City' was identified to
develop inquiry-based science in primary schools. The team at Leicester
worked with 95 teachers and 2500 pupils in 27 schools, and took the lead
in developing innovative cross-curricular approaches to science teaching
which were disseminated across the project. Additionally, at the
conclusion of the project, University of Leicester was commissioned to
evaluate the effects in all 12 countries, using the instruments developed
in the AstraZeneca project. Responses from 420 teachers indicated the
positive impact: `After two years, the confidence of teachers teaching
science had improved significantly and that attitudes to specific Pollen
objectives have shown significant improvements' (C).
The particular success of the Pollen project was identified in the EU
commissioned Rocard Report (B): The specificity of Pollen ...
[is to] promote a change in the pedagogical approach used to teach
science. Additionally these initiatives provide opportunities for the
establishment of a European network of science education teachers, which
appears to be a key factor in promoting excellence.
The success of Pollen's impact on teachers' confidence and competence in
teaching science formed the basis for the development of a larger
cross-European network, through the Fibonacci project (2010-2013; D),
which had the aim of disseminating Inquiry-Based Science & Mathematics
Education in Europe. The project involved over 30 partners across 23
countries involving at least 6000 teachers and 30000 pupils, and 500
teacher educators. Leicester was one of the major partners, considered to
have special expertise in science CPD, and also led a cross-curricular
thematic group, involving teams from seven countries.
The project evaluation (E) reported that: ` .. there has been a
clear impact on the schools, the teachers and the pupils as shown by the
analysis of the statistical data gathered. Teachers state that their
motivation and confidence in teaching IBSME has been greatly enhanced by
the CPD organized by Fibonacci. When analysing the difference between
the average confidence scores of all the teachers in the pre-and post-
questionnaires there is a significant positive difference on two thirds
of the items surveyed especially when aspects of inquiry-based teaching
Sources to corroborate the impact
A. SLCEM Evaluation data and Impact Reports (part of termly report to
funders) Summer '11, Autumn '11, Spring '12, Summer '12.
B. Rocard report `Science Education Now: A renewed pedagogy for the
future of Europe'. (http://ec.europa.eu/research/science-society/document_library/pdf_06/report-rocard-on-science-education_en.pdf)
C. Final Report Summary - POLLEN (Seed cities for science, a community
approach for a sustainable growth of science education in Europe) (http://cordis.europa.eu/search/index.cfm?fuseaction=result.document&RS_LANG=EN&RS_RCN=12906117&q=)
D. Fibonacci project website: Fifth Newsletter (http://www.fibonacci-project.eu/)
E. Fibonacci evaluation report (Edu.Consult) (2013)