A report, published by the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK and the Royal Society, has reviewed existing studies to identify interventions and teaching approaches that have a positive impact on student learning in science, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The researchers from the University of Oxford analyzed data in the National Pupil Database in England to measure the extent of the gap in the performance between economically disadvantaged students (students who have been entitled to free school meals at least once in the last six years) and students from higher socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds on national science tests.
- This analysis confirmed that disadvantaged students had much lower scores and made poorer progress in science, at every stage of their school career, than students from higher SES backgrounds.
- The gap first becomes apparent at Key Stage 1 (ages 5 – 7) and only gets wider throughout primary and secondary school. The gap for science is as wide as it is in English and math, and grows particularly strongly between the ages of 5-7 and 11-16.
- The study also found that the strongest factor affecting student’s science scores was how well they understood written texts. Poor literacy skills affect how well a student is able to understand scientific vocabulary and to prepare scientific reports.
This suggests that strategies to boost disadvantaged students’ reading comprehension could have a positive impact on their achievement in science too. The authors write: “In correlational studies of science learning, the strongest and most consistent predictor of pupils’ scientific attainment has undoubtedly been how literate they are.” They add that there is a “strong relationship” between student’s socioeconomic status and their literacy.
Source (Open Access): Nunes, T. Bryant, P., Strand, S., Hillier, J., Barros, R., & Miller-Friedmann, J. (2017) Review of SES and science learning in formal educational settings: A report prepared for the EEF and the royal society. London, United Kindom: Education Endowment Foundation.