Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180 - 199)



  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 teachers?
  (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 time.
  (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, why?
  (Lexi Boyce) There is not enough time in GCSEs.

  189. Who tells you that there is not enough time?
  (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 best?
  (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 arguing—and 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 teacher.

  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 science students?
  (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.

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