Michael J. Reiss

Michael J. Reiss
University College London | UCL · Department of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment

MA, PhD, PGCE, MBA

About

395
Publications
305,742
Reads
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6,388
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Introduction
Michael J. Reiss is Professor of Science Education at UCL Institute of Education, University College London, a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and Visiting Professor at the Universities of York and the Royal Veterinary College. The former Director of Education at the Royal Society, he is a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and has written extensively about curricula, pedagogy and assessment in science education and has directed a very large number of research, evaluation and consultancy projects over the past twenty five years funded by UK Research Councils, Government Departments, charities and international agencies.
Additional affiliations
January 2009 - September 2014
University College London
Position
  • Pro-Director: Research and Development
January 2001 - present
University College London
Position
  • Professor of Science Education
January 2001 - December 2014
University College London
Position
  • Professor of Science Education

Publications

Publications (395)
Article
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Many science educators have argued in favour of including socioscientific issues (SSI) in general, and ethical issues in particular, in school science. However, there have been a number of objections to this proposal, and it is widely acknowledged that such teaching places additional demands on science teachers. This study examined the curricula, t...
Article
Many science educators have argued in favour of including socioscientific issues (SSI) in general, and ethical issues in particular, in school science. However, there have been a number of objections to this proposal, and it is widely acknowledged that such teaching places additional demands on science teachers. This study examined the curricula, t...
Chapter
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Controversial topics can be used in school science teaching to help students gain a better understanding of how scientific knowledge is built up, and of the contributions of other disciplines, such as ethics and economics, to real-world socio-scientific problems. A narrow definition states that a topic is only controversial if alternative positions...
Article
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The issue of trust in science has come to the fore in recent years. I focus on vaccines, first looking at what is known about trust in vaccines and then concentrating on whether what science education teaches about vaccines can be trusted. I present an argument to connect the phenomenon of vaccine hesitancy to the issue of trust and then argue for...
Article
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Genetics forms a major part of A-level biology specifications in the UK for 16-to 18-year-olds. Research has identified several reasons why learning genetics is hard. However, research has not investigated whether examiner reports are useful for identifying difficult genetics concepts for students. This research explored the extent to which examine...
Article
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Biology educators are well aware of the enormous and harmful impact that humanity is currently having on our planet. This manifests itself in a myriad of ways, including loss of biodiversity (with a terrifying increase over background rates of species extinctions) and substantial and rapid climate change. While, encouragingly, there are an increasi...
Article
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This study reports on the theoretical- and empirical-based design and evaluation of cell membrane biology learning activities within the Model of Educational Reconstruction and experiential realism. First, we designed analogy-based learning activities by considering students’ and scientists’ conceptions as described in the literature. Secondly, we...
Article
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The number of students opting for science subjects, particularly biology, beyond compulsory school level has been decreasing substantially in recent decades in Mauritius. This decline is of major concern in an era when scientific literacy and the need for science-based employment are considered fundamental to face both local and global challenges....
Chapter
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Environmental education has historically aimed to foster life-long interests and orientations towards supporting and protecting nature, although it remains less clear how these views might associate with different aspects of education and life, and hence how they might be supported and fostered. In order to gain new insights, 679 children in Englan...
Chapter
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There is a long history of attempts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases through the use of inoculations. Unfortunately, school students are rarely taught much of this history, too often being given the impression that nothing was known or done before the time of Jenner and his development of vaccination to tackle smallpox. A bigger problem...
Chapter
Questions of how humanity should undertake and regulate activities on the Moon have been considered for over half a century. In this chapter we outline the various philosophical approaches out of which an environmental ethos may emerge on Luna (the Earth’s Moon). We draw on existing thinking within environmental ethics, particularly in regards to w...
Chapter
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Questions of how humanity should undertake and regulate activities on the Moon have been considered for over half a century. In this chapter we outline the various philosophical approaches out of which an environmental ethos may emerges on Luna (the Earth’s Moon). We draw on existing thinking within environmental ethics, particularly in regards to...
Chapter
Purpose can be understood in various ways. For Aristotle, purpose is the ‘final cause’ of a phenomenon, its end. Does the Universe have a purpose? It certainly has a history and a direction, and Arthur Eddington coined the phrase ‘time’s arrow’ to indicate its direction. The fine-tuning that the Universe manifests has given rise to various interpre...
Chapter
The damaging consequences of solitary confinement in prison indicate the importance of relationships for human flourishing. Loneliness affects a high proportion of people, especially as they get older. The health consequences of loneliness can be severe. Our early relationships within our family and with others are crucial for our well-being. There...
Book
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Possibly since humans were first capable of asking the question, certainly since the dawn of history, humans have asked why we are here and of what should and does a good life consist. At different times, different answers have held sway. Nowadays, there are perhaps more answers proposed than ever. Much of humanity still finds the ultimate answers...
Article
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This article examines a set of sexuality education textbooks used in a selection of primary schools in Beijing. These textbooks, under the overall name of 珍爱生命 (Cherish Lives), embody a comprehensive sexuality education approach with content designed on the basis of the UNESCO International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education. Using feminist...
Chapter
Interest in human flourishing has been growing in recent years in academic, policy, and popular circles. What is it that makes a human life a flourishing life? Both scientific insight—including from such social sciences as psychology and sociology—and spiritual wisdom can help answer this question. The concept of human flourishing provides a valuab...
Article
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This study examines the effects of a place-based intervention program on the sense of place of Bedouin elementary school students. These students live on the banks of the polluted Hebron Stream in Israel, where a three-pronged restoration program has recently been established, including the stream’s rehabilitation, the establishment of local waste...
Article
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The gender gap in post-compulsory science education remains a key concern for educators in many countries. Over the last two decades significant effort has been placed in a number of initiatives aimed not only at raising the profile of science in schools, but also at widening female participation. Despite these initiatives, the rate of female parti...
Article
Full-text available
The gender gap in post-compulsory science education remains a key concern for educators in many countries. Over the last two decades significant effort has been placed in a number of initiatives aimed not only at raising the profile of science in schools, but also at widening female participation. Despite these initiatives, the rate of female parti...
Article
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Future human space missions to Mars and beyond may be realized for different research, economic, political or survival reasons. Since space remains a hazardous environment for humans, space exploration and exploitation requires the development and deployment of effective countermeasures. In this paper, we discuss prospects for human enhancement by...
Article
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Objectivity in the sciences is a much-touted yet problematic concept. It is sometimes held up as characterising scientific knowledge, yet operational definitions are diverse and call for such paradoxical genius as the ability to see without a perspective, to predict repeatability, to elicit nature’s own self-revelation, or to discern the structure...
Article
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Students’ argumentation skills are considered a central tool to contribute to scientific controversies in the science classroom. Scientific controversies of social relevance (socioscientific issues; SSI) are subject to multiple viewpoints that are often rooted in diverse disciplines. However, the relationship between issue familiarity and students’...
Chapter
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Reproduction is a crucial phase in the life cycle of any organism. It is the way in which individuals leave descendants and a species is perpetuated, given that individuals must eventually die. Most students will know that all living organisms grow and reproduce. However, they may have only limited understanding of reproductive processes, including...
Article
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Background: There is a growing view that ‘Big Ideas of science education’ are useful for teaching science but there is not much knowledge of how teachers work with them. Purpose: This study explores the conceptualisation and practice of the use of Big Ideas of science education by primary and secondary teachers in Chile. Sample: A total of 63 sci...
Article
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Biology education aims to inspire interest, curiosity, and understanding about the natural world, foster children’s interests and orientations towards supporting and protecting nature, and support children towards biology-related careers (including those involving nature and animals). However, it remains less clear how these views might associate w...
Article
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Culturally adapted tools for measuring connectedness to nature are important, since attitudes and perceptions toward nature cannot be universalized. They are influenced by a wide range of factors, like individuals’ experience in their home environment, safety concerns and a variety of other sociocultural factors. The purpose of this paper is to int...
Article
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There is a wide diversity of views on the potential for artificial intelligence (AI), ranging from overenthusiastic pronouncements about how it is imminently going to transform our lives to alarmist predictions about how it is going to cause everything from mass unemployment to the destruction of life as we know it. In this article, I look at the p...
Chapter
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Article
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It is widely agreed that Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) needs to take account of cultural and religious considerations and this principle is reflected in current government advice in England. At the same time, and for a number of reasons, many of those who teach RSE in schools find it difficult to take account of religious considerations, fo...
Chapter
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In this book, our aim is to help biology to be taught so that students at secondary school (we have in mind particularly the 11-16 age range) build an excellent understanding of the subject, enhance their interest in it and learn to connect ideas from disparate areas of biology. There are twelve chapters, this one and then eleven that look at parti...
Book
In this book, our aim is to help biology to be taught so that students at secondary school (we have in mind particularly the 11-16 age range) build an excellent understanding of the subject, enhance their interest in it and learn to connect ideas from disparate areas of biology. There are twelve chapters, this one and then eleven that look at parti...
Chapter
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Ever since the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, biologists have accepted that inherited variation plays a central role in the evolution of characteristics exhibited by organisms. This means that just about everything of interest about humans has an inherited component. This is true of such educationally significant factors as gener...
Article
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This study investigates the concept of “connectedness to nature” among students from an indigenous Bedouin community, whose relationship with nature is influenced by a variety of cultural, social and environmental factors, not least of which is the fact that the environment in which they live is highly contaminated. We asked 294 fifth- and sixth-gr...
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Although the theory of evolution lies at the heart of contemporary biology, its influence on the study of child psychology and psychiatry has been limited. In earlier work we have argued that evolutionary thinking has much of value for clinicians. Here, we explore the possible significance of evolutionary theory for understanding child abuse by mot...
Article
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In this article we examine the importance of religion for COVID-19 health promotion. We advance three main arguments. First, religion plays an important role in affecting how likely it is that people will become infected with COVID-19. Second, religion should not be seen as a ‘problem’ with regards to COVID-19 but as an important part of the worldv...
Technical Report
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Available at https://www.rsc.org/globalassets/22-new-perspectives/talent/is-chemistry-accessible-for-all/rsc-cfa-report.pdf.
Article
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School genetics is changing. Nowadays, students are more likely to be introduced to the idea that many characteristics of organisms, including those of humans, are not determined by the actions of just one or two genes but result from interactions between the products of many genes and the environments of each organism. This article asks whether th...
Chapter
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There is a widespread agreement on the aspects of the nature of science (NOS) that everyone should understand and belief that informal environments can play a role in that understanding. We first define and consider the nature and purpose of informal science education, particularly in relation to formal science education. We then discuss the potent...
Chapter
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In this chapter we examine the implications of a crewed mission to Mars, possible colonisation of the planet, and the wider implications this may have on genetic enhancement in both a terrestrial and space context. We consider the usage of both somatic and germ-line genetic engineering, and its potential impact on the evolution of Homo sapiens. We...
Article
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Studies which consider science teacher identity continue to be a focus for education researchers, particularly given the persistent challenges to retain specialist science teachers. The proliferation of research in this area, without a unifying theoretical framework, has meant the literature is diverse, methodologies are varied, and coverage is pat...
Chapter
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Practical research projects are a feature of school science provision in several countries, very often linked to a belief that studying science in the context of real-life questions has benefits for students in relation to both academic performance and motivation to study science. To assess the impact of practical research projects on students, a m...
Article
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In this position paper, I examine how the history, philosophy and sociology of science (HPS) can contribute to science education in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. I discuss shortcomings in the ways that history is often used in school science, and examine how knowledge of previous pandemics might help in teaching about COVID-19. I look at the po...
Article
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In this article we examine the changing relationship to risk as revealed by the COVID‐19 pandemic and the ways this has, and may in future, alter sacramental practice, considering the radical effects this could have on traditional Christian practice. We consider the cultural trends that may lie behind this developing approach to risk, examining thi...
Article
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In England, both Religious Education (RE) and science are mandatory parts of the school curriculum throughout the 5-16 age range. Nevertheless, there remain concerns that, as in many countries, students do not have a good understanding about the scope of each subject nor about how the two subjects relate. This article reports on a study that involv...
Article
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This article examines some selected ethical issues in human space missions including human missions to Mars, particularly the idea of a space refuge, the scientific value of space exploration, and the possibility of human gene editing for deep-space travel. Each of these issues may be used either to support or to criticize human space missions. We...
Chapter
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Debates about the aims of school science education are perennial (e.g., Reiss & White, 2014; see also Kidman & Fensham, Chapter “ Intended, Achieved and Unachieved Values of Science Education” this volume), particularly in Western cultures. In this chapter we review some of these arguments about the aims of school science education, and look at wha...
Article
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This article examines an outdoor science activity based on Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning of Science (ITLS) undertaken with a collaborative research methodology as a Research-Practice Partnership (RPP). The ITLS activity was implemented in the Río Clarillo National Reserve in Chile as part of a continuing professional development unit. It...
Article
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At present there is a clear distinction between robots and persons. In this article I explore the possibility that this distinction may not hold in perpetuity, as some robots attain personhood. I argue that personhood is an emergent property in both the development of individuals and the evolution of life, that personhood may not require a carbon-b...
Chapter
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The educational benefits of school geography, science and a number of other subjects can be greatly enhanced by out-of-classroom learning. Such work provides authentic case studies of the ‘real’ world. Residential fieldwork has particular benefits but even short periods of time spent in school grounds can be of value. Benefits of fieldwork can be s...
Article
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Engaging with nature has been found to be associated with various benefits, including benefits for physical health and self-reported well-being (e.g. Rogerson, Barton, Bragg, & Pretty, 2017). However, most of the research to date has been undertaken with adults and much less is known about the benefits to children. Here we report on a project funde...
Chapter
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If we take the word creationism at face value we might suppose that it means belief in creation – bringing something into being – and/or by implication, a creator. When associated with the origin of the universe itself, the term ‘creator’ becomes synonymous in several religions but especially in the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and...
Article
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Many countries desire more students to study science subjects, although relatively few students decide to study non-compulsory physics at upper-secondary school and at university. To gain insight into students’ intentions to study non-compulsory physics, a longitudinal sample (covering 2258 students across 88 secondary schools in England) was surve...
Chapter
Much of the science and religion debate has focussed on statistics. The chapters in this section go beyond bare statistics by examining more nuanced studies of science, religion and education with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of the issues at play when attempting to deal with the issues of science and religion in the classroom.
Chapter
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What we eat is core to our health, how we understand ourselves and a substantial part of our enjoyment in life. Yet today’s diets differ greatly from those that we evolved to have. Furthermore, public understanding of nutrition is not strong and, for many people, there are major mismatches between what they would like to eat and what they actually...
Chapter
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The focus of this chapter is on how children come to understand aspects of the natural world, specifically biology during their pre-school and school years. In a book on the public understanding of biology such a chapter is appropriate in its own right – children (young people) are themselves people. In addition, today’s young people are tomorrow’s...
Chapter
This chapter introduces the subject of this book, the issue of problem solving within the post-16 physics curriculum, and discusses its importance. An argument on the role of physics within the curriculum and beyond is presented. The complex interaction of factual knowledge, cognitive and metacognitive strategies, experiences, belief systems and so...
Chapter
With an intervention that introduced the explicit teaching of problem-solving strategies through collaborative, group problem-solving sessions and cognitive apprenticeship, a general positive shift in the students’ problem-solving patterns was observed. Students demonstrated a better planned and more thoughtful deployment of the taught strategies....
Chapter
This chapter argues why critical realism was used a philosophical framework that guided this study in seeking answers to the research questions: 1. How do A-level physics students in an inner London comprehensive school approach physics problem solving? and 2. What generative mechanisms are triggered by the explicit teaching of strategies for physi...
Chapter
This chapter provides final responses to the research questions: 1. How do A-level physics students in an inner London comprehensive school approach GCE A-level physics problem solving? and 2. What generative mechanisms are triggered by the explicit teaching of strategies for physics problem solving and how do these generative mechanisms compare to...
Chapter
An effective practitioner must possess knowledge on how progression in problem solving is brought about, knowledge of the psycho-social processes and knowledge of the underpinning philosophies that enhance effective learning. This chapter presents the various views from the literature on what a ‘problem’ is, highlighting the subjective view of a pr...
Article
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How do we and should we decide what is morally right and what is morally wrong? For much of human history, the teachings of religion were presumed to provide either the answer, or much of the answer. Over time, two developments challenged this. The first was the establishment of the discipline of moral philosophy. Foundational texts, such as Immanu...
Article
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Background: There is a diverse range of opportunities for high school students to undertake Independent Research Projects (IRPs) in science and this is recognised as a beneficial aspect of high school science provision. In Higher Education, the importance of students undertaking research as part of their learning, including presenting at authentic,...
Article
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Background: Varied and complex forms of parental influence may shape young people’s decisions about whether or not to study science once it is no longer compulsory in school. Purpose: This study attempts to identify the role of parents in influencing the choice of science subjects in Mauritius among students at the end of the third year of secondar...
Chapter
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Evolution is widely seen as the central, key, unifying framework of biology. Yet many school-aged students and adults understand relatively little of the theory of evolution, for a whole range of reasons ranging from the cognitive difficulty of some of the central concepts to rejection of certain key ideas, whether consciously or unconsciously. Pri...
Chapter
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Knowledge and understanding of evolution are generally poor. Yet evolution is foundational to the science of biology. Here, we review the contributions made by the other chapters in this book and suggest ways forward for the field. The chapters in this book demonstrate that knowledge and understanding of evolution are aided by the sorts of pedagogi...
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There already exists a large knowledge base about teaching and learning related to the origins, diversity and history of life on Earth. We know less about teaching and learning related to wider issues pertinent to both religion and science. In our research with 40 students in six secondary schools in England, we looked at wider issues of student pe...
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In recent years, there has been a rapid growth in interest about the relationship between the arts and the sciences. This article explores this developing relationship and the suggestion that science and science learning are not complete without the arts. We see three levels at which the arts might improve the teaching and learning of science. The...
Article
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Issues of sexual reproduction lie at the core of evolutionary thinking, which often places an emphasis on how individuals attempt to maximise the number of successful offspring that they can produce. At first sight, it may therefore appear that individuals who opt for gender-affirming medical interventions are acting in ways that are evolutionarily...
Article
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We explore the professional identities of UK-based secondary science teachers who actively participated in science research for at least six months. The study uses thematic analysis to analyse semi-structured interviews with 17 participants across England and Scotland, from a variety of educational/socio-economic contexts. We found that through par...
Article
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Evolution is often seen as a site of contestation within the school curriculum. The topic of evolution is therefore often considered to be ‘controversial’. I first examine what is meant by ‘controversial’ and conclude that while, in an everyday sense, the topic of evolution can indeed be considered to be controversial, this term can mislead. A more...
Article
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This article describes the results of a study into students’ experiences of independent research project work in science. Independent research projects (IRPs) are projects in which students are supervised (usually by a teacher, scientist or both) to work independently on a scientific problem or question over an extended period. We collected data fr...
Article
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Researchers in various contexts have long struggled with an apparent disconnect between an individual’s level of understanding of biological evolution and their acceptance of it as an explanation for the history and diversity of life. Here, we discuss the main factors associated with acceptance of evolution and chart a path forward for evolution ed...
Chapter
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Tremendous care is generally taken in the design and construction of natural history dioramas, yet any diorama may be read in a number of ways. In this chapter I review the other chapters in this book and look at the extent to which they take seriously the importance of sociocultural issues for natural history dioramas and the importance of natural...
Chapter
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Natural history dioramas have long been identified as potentially valuable sites of learning. In this chapter, I first examine what the purposes of science education might be and then argue that the other chapters in this book show that natural history dioramas do indeed have considerable potential to advance the learning of science. Such dioramas...
Book
This collection presents research-based interventions using existing knowledge to produce new pedagogies to teach evolution to learners more successfully, whether in schools or elsewhere. ‘Success’ here is measured as cognitive gains, as acceptance of evolution or an increased desire to continue to learn about it. Aside from introductory and conclu...
Book
This book reports on a study on physics problem solving in real classrooms situations. Problem solving plays a pivotal role in the physics curriculum at all levels. However, physics students’ performance in problem solving all too often remains limited to basic routine problems, with evidence of poor performance in solving problems that go beyond e...
Technical Report
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This study looked at the impact of Wildlife Trust events that involved children learning about nature while out of doors. The research surveyed 451 children before and after they undertook Wildlife Trust events, and also undertook observations of and interviews with 199 of the children, 17 of their teachers, and 17 Wildlife Trust practitioners deli...
Chapter
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The focus of this book is on science and religion in education. The three of us, as editors, are passionate about education in general and about science education in particular. We see education as having a tremendous role to play in helping humanity if we are to live together justly and sustainably. Through the perspectives of experts from a wide...
Article
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There is a long history of some students finding that the science instruction they receive in schools fails to address their deeply held concerns about the theory of evolution. Such concerns are principally religious, though there are also students with deeply held religious views who are perfectly comfortable with the theory of evolution. New inst...
Article
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The 1998 Nuffield Foundation report Beyond 2000: Science Education for the Future, by Robin Millar and Jonathan Osborne, produced ten recommendations and had a major effect on curriculum development in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Twenty years after its publication, I pose ten questions for science education. The hope is that these will con...
Article
Full-text available
The 1998 Nuffield Foundation report Beyond 2000: Science Education for the Future, by Robin Millar and Jonathan Osborne, produced ten recommendations and had a major effect on curriculum development in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Twenty years after its publication, I pose ten questions for science education. The hope is that these will con...