Cukurova, Mutlu, Hanley, Pam and Lewis, Alexandra (2017) Rapid evidence review of good practical science. Technical Report. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, London.
Abstract

There is a clear need for more high-quality studies of practical work that have a tightly-defined focus and a rigorous methodological approach. We are confident that this finding would persist in a more extended review than a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA), which is necessarily limited in scope. We would not recommend conducting a more in-depth, more traditional systematic review at this stage. There is a wealth of commentary on the purpose and usefulness of practical science, but very few robust studies. A more extensive search encompassing the grey literature would undoubtedly identify more studies, but they are unlikely to add significantly to the current knowledge base. This REA has highlighted the need for more evaluations of practical science in its various guises. There is a requirement for research that is clear in its aims, focus and definitions; has a sound methodology with adequate sample sizes and appropriate outcome measures; and is designed to shed light on the usefulness of practical science work across different contexts and for different purposes. Drawing from the literature, the report identifies five main purposes of practical science.These are to enhance student performance in conceptual understanding; practical skills; non-subject specific intellectual and personal attributes; attitudes towards science; and understanding of how science and scientists work. There is currently a much greater evidence base around practical work improving physical skills and dexterity compared with the other four purposes of practical work defined in this report.

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