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The Teacher Tip

Six Important Features of Effective Science Teaching

January 12, 2018

Adapted from Teaching Science for Understanding in Elementary and Middle Schools by Wynne Harlen. 

If education is preparation for life, it has to develop children’s understanding of the scientific aspects of the world around them. What are the six most important features of effective science teaching?

  1. Students are engaged.  Provide a stimulus to engage your students with the topic. No matter how much you want students to pursue their own questions, it’s not realistic in most classrooms.
  2. Students have real objects to handle.  Provide materials and equipment for children to can use in their investigations. They have limited ability to deal with abstract ideas and need to do and see things for themselves.
  3. Students communicate what they already know. Find out what students already know about what they are studying, so they can use relevant existing ideas and develop them into more powerful ideas.
  4. Students talk. Discussions play an important part in revealing students’ ideas.  
  5. Students are involved in inquiry. The idea of a fair test when comparing objects, materials, or events is a useful introduction to being scientific. Avoid telling students what to do. Give them the opportunity to decide what to do.
  6. Carefully plan the learning experiences. Use feedback from students to adapt your teaching to your students’ particular development.

To learn more about Teaching Science for Understanding in Elementary and Middle Schools and download a sample chapter, visit 

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