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The University of Southampton
Southampton Education School

Research project: Towards evidence-based practice in science education ESRC TLRP network - Dormant - Dormant

Currently Active: 

January 2000 - January 2002

Research Aims

The aim of the Evidence-based Practice in Science Education (EPSE) Research Network was to improve the interface between science education researchers and practitioners, particularly teachers, and to promote the use by practitioners of research evidence to inform their practice. The rationale for the Network’s research programme was that achieving this aim depends centrally on improving our understanding of the research-user interface in the context of the teaching of specific curriculum subjects (in this case, science).

The Network undertook four inter-related projects. Projects 1 and 2 (York & Leeds) focused on the development of conceptual understanding in science. These drew on the large body of research undertaken in the past three decades on learners’ understandings in different science topic areas, within a broadly ‘constructivist’ perspective on concept learning. These two projects also drew on previous work in didactics of science, to develop research-informed analyses of content to underpin their work.

Project 3 (Kings College & Southampton) focused on the teaching and learning of ‘ideas-about-science’, in other words, of ideas about the nature of scientific knowledge and the procedures of scientific enquiry. This is an aspect of science learning where there is a much smaller corpus of previous research, but a considerable and growing literature on ‘what ought to be taught’, informed by scholarly analyses of the knowledge domain, drawing on current views in philosophy and sociology of science.

Project 4 (all centres) looked directly at practitioners’ declared views of research and its influence on their practice, through interviews and focus group discussions. Its purpose within the Network programme was to collect systematically a range of views from those working within science education which might illuminate issues arising in the course of Projects 1-3 about how to devise, implement and evaluate examples of practice that are explicitly informed by research evidence.


The most important finding of the Network is that science education practice can be significantly modified, leading to improved learning outcomes, through the use of teaching materials that draw substantially and systematically on research findings and insights. All projects indicate that users consider adopting new approaches when these (or the materials supporting them) appear, in their professional judgment, to fit their working context, and solve a perceived problem or address an area of concern. This suggests that research findings are significantly more likely to impact on practice if ‘translated’ (or, perhaps more accurately, re-worked) into the form of teaching materials, which give them a concrete embodiment. This task benefits significantly from collaboration between researchers and practitioners.

Funding bodies: ESRC, TLRP.

Related research groups

Mathematics and Science Education (MaSE) Research Centre



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