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Contemporary issues in science learning

This masters-level module examines different aspects of science learning in a range of formal educational settings, from the early years right through to tertiary level. You’ll examine how the development of science education reflects current theories of learning, and consider – among other issues – the purposes of teaching and learning science at all levels of education; and how context influences learning. You’ll investigate how science education research is carried out, and look at resources used to support science learners – particularly information and communications technology (ICT). The module will benefit anyone engaged in teaching science at any level, and science graduates seeking a better understanding of science education.


Start End England fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015 -

Registration now closed

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

What you will study

There are five blocks of work.

  • Block 1 gives a first consideration of the purposes of learning science
  • Block 2 reviews contemporary understanding of learning and its implications for what kinds of knowledge learners acquire, and what pedagogy provides appropriate support in classroom, laboratory and work-based settings
  • Block 3 considers one particular type of learning environment, namely the growing use of ICT in facilitating science learning
  • Block 4 includes a discussion of extending access, overcoming barriers and widening participation to science learning
  • Block 5 considers the ways in which research in science education is conducted.

This course will be particularly suitable for those who seek more understanding of contemporary science education and wish to reflect on their own experience of learning. ICT is used heavily in the teaching of the course, and it is considered in detail as a vehicle for science teaching and learning.

The study materials consist of five printed study commentaries that link the articles, (some newly commissioned and some drawn from the published literature) presented in two readers and on DVD-ROM. There is also some audio-visual material, also presented on DVD-ROM. The tuition will be conducted electronically and you will be expected to take part in moderated and informal online forums.

You will learn

In summary, the course should offer opportunities for you to develop an understanding of the learning of science in a range of formal educational settings. This will involve studying the purposes of science education, together with current approaches that provide inclusivity and diversity in science learning. By presenting you with contemporary ideas about teaching and learning from a range of science disciplines, and the developments in information and communications technology, you will have the opportunity of reflecting on the possibilities for science learning that this offers.

This will allow you to develop skills in analysing and evaluating science learning in educational settings. After completing the course, you should be able to:

  • use electronic means of communication, information searching and retrieval
  • critically assess literature on learning and teaching science
  • prepare an extended piece of writing based on your experience of producing an extended essay on a chosen theme
  • develop evaluation skills in reviewing examples of science teaching.
Normally you must have completed either this module, SH804, SD815, S807, S808, S809, S819 OR S827 before progressing to the MSc project module (S810) or the MSc project module for MSc in Professional Science (SXB810). 


To register for this course you must normally hold a UK honours degree (or equivalent qualification). If this is to count towards the MSc in Science (F12) or MSc in Professional Science (F60) your degree should be in a science subject. Alternatively, if it is to count towards the MSc or Postgraduate Diploma in Science and Society (F48 or E35) your degree can be in related subject e.g. communications, museum or media studies, science education, or qualifications in the history, philosophy or sociology of science. If you do not have an acceptable honours degree, but have other study or experience that you believe equips you to study at masters level you can still apply, but must supply evidence of that study or experience. Your case will be referred to our MSc in Science Admissions Panel. For further advice, email the postgraduate science team.

Depending on your qualifications or particular area of expertise, some background reading may be necessary prior to the start or during the early part of the course. For further advice, contact the MSc in Science Programme Office, Faculty of Science, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, email us or look on our website.

You will need good computing skills for this course (e.g. able to search the Web, use email and use word processing packages).

All teaching is in English and your proficiency in the English language should be adequate for the level of study you wish to take. We strongly recommend that you have achieved an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 7. To assess your English language skills in relation to your proposed studies you can visit the IELTS website.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


SEH806 is an optional module in our:

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

The course depends heavily on reading and writing text on computer screens, and some of the material is presented on DVD-ROM. There are also some audio and video materials. The printed study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

Course books, other printed materials, audio and visual materials on DVD-ROM, online forums, dedicated website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some module software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2008 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile device is not suitable for this module – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this module by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Electronic communication will be used extensively. Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and end-of-module assessment (EMA) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in January 2015, when it will be available for the last time. 

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code SEH806
Credits 60
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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