Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 130 - 139)




  Welcome. The questioning this time will be by Brian Iddon.

Dr Iddon

  130. I have got all your names here so I will not ask you to introduce yourselves to save time. Can you tell me, first of all, what you found out in the survey about practical work in schools?
  (Charlotte Whitaker) We definitely found out that students wanted more practical work because they find it increases their knowledge and understanding of topics if you do a practical, because you are able to link the practical that you have done with your theoretical knowledge and it helps so much to be able to do that link.

  131. Would your colleagues like to add anything to that?
  (Fern Curtis) We found 80 per cent of people said that practical experiments helped them to understand. From that we concluded that if they understand it then it goes into their long-term memory and they can remember it and use it in the future rather than cramming before an exam, using it and writing it all down on paper.
  (Anika Lewis) I think it is important. However, in my physics lessons a lot of the practicals we did never worked so it did not help us, it did not show the theory in practice as it should have done. I think we need to look at what practicals should do to make sure that they are ones which are relevant and show what they are meant to show.

  132. If they did not work do you think that was the operator or the apparatus?
  (Anika Lewis) When the teachers did them they never really worked either so they said, "If you turn to such-and-such a page in the book you will see what is meant to happen."

  133. We have all had that problem; some of us still meet it! Can I ask each of you about your primary school experiences? We will go down the table. Can I ask you whether you did any primary school science and, if so, what was the most exciting experiment you did in primary school?
  (Fern Curtis) I remember one thing, and that was a ball floating on water. That is all I remember. Honestly, I cannot remember anything else about science in primary school.

  134. It is too distant, but you did quite a lot of primary school science?
  (Fern Curtis) No, we did not do anything in primary school. It is ridiculous. It was an insult to our intelligence.
  (Charlotte Whitaker) I cannot remember doing anything either. The only experiment that sticks in my mind was filling up a beaker of water to see volume and pouring a beaker of water into another beaker of water to see that the volume in one beaker was different to the other beaker, but apart from that—

  Dr Iddon: Nothing very exciting.


  135. It teaches you how to pour a pint!
  (Anika Lewis) I can remember something about floating things on water or seeing if objects floated or sank. I also remember something came to our school twice which was called Star Lab or Space Lab. It was set up in our school hall and it was a massive dome into which classes went one at a time and all round the inside were all the stars and there was a person in there with us explaining which stars were the different stars.

Dr Iddon

  136. You have seen a visiting planetarium?
  (Anika Lewis) Yes.

  Dr Iddon: That is quite exciting.

Mr McWalter

  137. Did you like it?
  (Anika Lewis) It was really, really interesting.

Dr Iddon

  138. Let us repeat the same exercise in secondary school now. Obviously you have done some practical science in secondary school. What has been the most exciting experiment you ever did?
  (Fern Curtis) It is probably going to be dissection of the heart, that was pretty good.

  139. You remember that one.
  (Charlotte Whitaker) I did not particularly enjoy any of the experiments because I did not enjoy science as a whole but probably the dissection of the heart was the one.
  (Anika Lewis) I agree on dissection. And some of the chemistry ones were okay, but the really exciting ones were the ones the teachers showed us, the big explosions which we could not do ourselves.
  (Charlotte Whitaker) Burning the magnesium and seeing the colours.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 14 May 2002