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Skills progression in practical science within the Life Sciences

Project leader(s): 
Janet Haresnape

The aim of this project is establish how effective the practical skills progression is for students within the Life Sciences pathway. With the demise of residential schools, we have had to find other ways to deliver practical science, both online (eg via OSL) and through field based investigations such as the bird predation experiment (in both S295 and S317) which students do on their own. The Level 2 (S295) investigation involves feeding coloured dough to wild birds according to a set protocol, enabling students to develop practical skills; it requires them to devise strategies to attract wild birds to feed, and gives them experience of using appropriate controls and of the challenges involved in using live animals for research. Level 3 (S317) students develop these skills further by devising and undertaking a follow-up investigation, giving experience of selecting an appropriate experimental design to give meaningful results.

I plan to identify students who have successfully completed both S295 and S317 and ask them to complete a questionnaire, to explore what experience of practical investigations they already had before embarking on S295, and what particular skills they developed when undertaking the S295 investigation. It will also explore how the skills developed through the S295 project helped them to successfully complete the requirements for the more challenging investigation in S317, and to what extent they can articulate the skills they have acquired in terms of employability skills (practical skills, problem solving etc). 

Students will be asked if willing to be contacted to elaborate on their answers. Selected willing students could then potentially be contacted by telephone (eg by an AL) and asked to give more detail.

The aim of the project is to:

  • Establish whether students recognise the importance of their practical skills development in employability terms, and if not, how we can enable them to do so.
  • Explore how we can make it clearer that the practical investigations undertaken in S295 and S317 are helping students to develop crucial employability skills.
  • Explore other places in which such skills progression might be embedded more effectively within our Science Qualifications, eg online practical skills progression from S288 to S317.