Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002
180. But the teacher could just give you a video
of the lecture or talk, could they not?
(Sam Ford) Yes, but people found videos less effective
in teaching methods, although it was more enjoyable.
181. What about the use of the internet, did
you discuss that? It is the big idea. I am sure you are on your
computer all the time doing your essays and things. Who is going
to talk about that?
(Lexi Boyce) The main problem with the internet is
there is a lot of information on it but you cannot get hold of
what you need. When you are doing a science course there are very
specific things you need for your course, but if you just have
a topic on the syllabus to try and find something on the internet,
you get a whole load of things which might have absolutely nothing
to do with what you need. If the internet was to be used more
in science or any subject like that it would need to have specific
sites, sites recommended by the examination boards or something,
where they say, "This is the kind of information you will
need to know and revise." There is so much information you
cannot find on it.
182. Has anybody else in the group something
to say about the internet?
(Joel Brown) From the survey we found that five per
cent of the students found it useful, while 57 per cent found
it was enjoyable. Everybody likes going on the internet and surfing
around but in terms of how effective it is we are really concerned.
183. Have you ever learnt anything by going
on the internet?
(Lexi Boyce) There are not many sites where you can
find useful information that you need or if there are they are
difficult to find.
184. Have you ever discussed that with your
(Lexi Boyce) Not really. We tried using the internet
when we did science but the only site we had was Bitesize, which
does have useful things but it only has basic outlines. It has
the information you need to get a C, but if you want to do more
and go into more depth about it you cannot find it without getting
huge long things.
185. What do you use the computer for yourself?
(Lexi Boyce) Writing essays.
186. You can get essays now on computers at
universities. Some people flog them now and we are trying to catch
them. Does anybody else have views about the internet. Who has
tried and been frustrated or been successful?
(Mark Towers) With the A-level side of things it is
a lot more useful than it is for GCSEs because of the level of
understanding of the work. The work that is out there is more
adult, it is what you are looking for, whereas at GCSE level it
is not aimed for you at all. If you are searching for your GCSEs
you find lots of information, but it does not really have any
relevance because it is of a standard that is beyond you at that
(Lexi Boyce) I found it was either too simplistic
or did not go into enough detail or there was too much information
at that level that you would not be able to understand and you
would not be able to filter out what you needed to know for your
exams or your course work.
187. Let us go back to the methods that are
used to teach science. Which ones did you individually enjoy most
and which did you feel you learned most from about a particular
scientific subject? Do not say heart dissection, we know that
is fairly popular! Is there anything else?
(Lexi Boyce) You do learn most from textbooks or teachers
writing on the board what you need to know to get a good grade.
If you have asked a question, because you have to be given an
answer, that is probably the most effective way of doing it. That
is the way you do it in the exam, so it is probably the most
188. That is a bit conservative, is it not?
You are just doing it to pass exams? Do you ever say why, why,
(Lexi Boyce) There is not enough time in GCSEs.
189. Who tells you that there is not enough
(Lexi Boyce) You do not have time to cover anything
other than what is in the syllabus. You have two years and you
have only so much time to fit everything in. It is like people
were saying about ethics, it would be nice to have it included
and it would probably get a lot more people interested if it were
included and it has relevance, but at the same time to be able
to pass exams, which is what you are doing, you only have time
to cover the facts and learn them.
190. Do you think sometimes you are saturated
with facts just for exam purposes and that you do not really,
really understand what is going on, but you can just about get
by? As somebody who is a trained scientist, in the training I
went through I could do enough geometry and trigonometry and all
that stuff to get by but I did not really have that confidence
that I understood it like other things.
(Lexi Boyce) One of the questions we looked at from
the survey was whether or not people in GCSE science had too many
facts to learn and whether people were intending to carry on science
to do A-level or not, and we found that of the people who were
not, 60 per cent said it was too many facts, and that is probably
why people were put off because it was not things they could get
interested in and look at properly and think it has relevance.
191. What do you think?
(Karl Stringer) That is the problem with science education
in general, that you are not taught science at all, you are taught
exam techniques at the end of the day, and it is that which is
making science boring. You are not learning a subject, you are
learning how to pass an exam.
(Lexi Boyce) It is like that with every subject, that
is the reason you are doing it, to pass an exam. For pretty much
every subject you are just learning facts, and you spend a lot
of time figuring out what it is the examiner wants to hear rather
than learning it.
(Karl Stringer) Whereas if it was more interesting,
you would be learning the subject rather than learning the paper
you sit at the end of it.
192. Do you agree with your colleague that the
way to learn it is by blackboard, text books and so on? What is
(Lexi Boyce) That is the way you have to learn, it
is not the way you should learn it.
(Karl Stringer) For me the best teaching method was
having a debate because that way everybody was arguingand
the thing about being a teenager is that you love arguing. So
everyone goes away and does a bit of research and then they come
into a lesson and argue with each other and it is brilliant fun
and everybody enjoys it and remembers it. So that, for me, is
probably the best teaching method.
193. What about anybody else in the team?
(Mark Towers) With learning methods, I do find the
notes and text books are good but it is mainly relying on a good
194. What is a good teacher?
(Mark Towers) A teacher who can control the class,
answer questions and does not get massively side-tracked. You
get a problem where you have a teacher, you ask a question and
they go off on a tangent and you never get the understanding you
are supposed to get from the lesson. You need that in some ways
because if they are writing on the board and you do not understand
it, you have to ask, and if you ask, they have to explain, and
that is why it was a good method for me. You have to ask if you
need it explained any further. If you are asking it, everybody
else in the class usually is not understanding it either.
195. I have a daughter who did not do science
and she thinks that all scientists at school were nerds. What
do you think of that? Is that the impression you have of school
(Mark Towers) I would not class myself as a nerd.
196. You do not look like one.
(Mark Towers) I am continuing science and will be
taking it at university.
197. What science are you doing?
(Mark Towers) I am doing all three sciences at the
moment and I hope to do pharmacogenomics at university. Some people
do think of people who do science as nerds and they resent people
who are good at science because they are not, but what needs to
be done is for them to be helped with science more and then if
they understood it, they might not feel like that. But science
is not everybody's game, that is the other thing.
198. Do you go outside what you are taught at
school in terms of learning about science? If so, what do you
do? Do you read books?
(Mark Towers) Yes.
199. I hope so! Do you read books that the teacher
has not told you about or newspaper articles about science? Do
you watch TV programmes?
(Mark Towers) Yes.