Colleges that want to achieve success in science should treat students as individuals, ensure lessons are interactive and relevant and make smart use of technology, according to an Ofsted study published yesterday.
The regulator visited 15 colleges across England in Spring 2011.
A total 12 colleges had been judged as good or excellent in recent inspections, the remaining three were either located in areas of high deprivation or offered a wide range of science courses.
The researchers found the best colleges were aware of students' backgrounds, able to identify starting points and go on from there.
The best teachers were able to relate the curriculum to the student's own experiences and design lessons which were manageable and relevant.
Questions were often used to stimulate discussion and debate. Field trips, site visits and work-placements made the courses more varied and interesting.
The best teachers helped their students get the most out of practical sessions, offering assistance in setting up equipment and working with them during experiments, to increase their confidence and develop investigative skills.
High performing departments made full use of technology – using video, audio and animations.
Students were encouraged to use the technology to make their own presentations, and virtual learning environments enabled students to work at their own pace, from home. The best colleges offered students additional support, all year round, not just in the run-up to exams.
In the best departments, staff worked together to develop the curriculum, analyse results and develop each other's skills.
However, the authors were concerned at the quality of careers advice available to science students, and felt that learners studying science at foundation or intermediate level had less choice than those taking other subjects.
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