Examination of Witnesses (Questions 130
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002
Welcome. The questioning this time will be by
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
(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.
136. You have seen a visiting planetarium?
(Anika Lewis) Yes.
Dr Iddon: That is quite exciting.
137. Did you like it?
(Anika Lewis) It was really, really interesting.
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
(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