1) The demand for the future jobs and current challenges: the disruptive technologies
Based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper to produce, simpler, better performing, and more convenient to use. Disruptive technologies have the potential to impact growth, employment, and inequality. By creating new markets and business practices, needs for new product infrastructure, and different labour skills. This, in addition to affecting existing firms in established markets, can also affect the labour market, incomes of workers, and ultimately the distribution of income. Examples of disruptive technologies include email, the personal computer and laptop, and smartphones, which have revolutionized communication and the way that we work or spend leisure time, and have displaced many products such as typewriters, mainframes, pocket cameras, and GPS devices, among others.
New business models are also disrupting entire industries, such as Uber with taxi cabs, Netflix with satellite and cable television, and Skype with telecommunications.
Disruptive technologies can certainly benefit the consumer by providing cheaper, more accessible goods or services. They will have potentially negative effects on firms, however.
Indeed, Christenson argues that most firms are slow to anticipate or react to disruptive forces.
Firms may therefore suffer declines in shareholder value and lose markets. The knock – on effect on labour markets is more unsettling as workers are often less well placed to retrain, retool, or relocate, and traditional program of adjustment assistance have proven to be largely ineffective
This creates an issue for public policy as governments may be confronted with the effects of disruptive technologies in the form of displaced workers and increased demands for assistance
2) What practical science or school science practical work is?
In this article, the term ‘practical skills’, which we discuss further below, is used to mean those skills the mastery of which increases a student’s competence to undertake any type of science learning activity in which they are involved in manipulating and/or observing real objects and materials. The development of practical skills (such as the ability to focus a microscope, find the end point of a titration or use a voltmeter) is therefore one aim of practical work. Other aims, as indicated by the above quotations from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (2002), include the development of conceptual understanding in science and an appreciation that science gives a high weighting to empirical, objective evidence.
Recent research in the area of practical work (Abrahams & Millar, 2008; Abrahams & Reiss, 2012) and in the assessment of science education more broadly (Bernholt, Neumann, & Netwing, 2012) all describe the significant influence of the curriculum and, in particular, its associated summative assessment on the practical work that teachers opt to do with their students. Certainly, in England, with reference to external examinations such as General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs), normally taken when a student is aged 16, and Advanced levels (A levels), at aged 18, it has long been recognised (ARG, 2001; Donnelly, Buchan, Jenkins, Laws, & Welford, 1996; Pollard, Triggs, Broadfoot, McNess, & Osborn, 2000) that, to a very considerable extent, it is summative assessment that drives what is taught, to the extent that teachers’ preferences for using different types of practical work are routinely influenced by their considerations of curriculum targets and methods of summative assessment (Abrahams & Saglam, 2010).
In order for assessment to be effective, it is necessary to know what it is that is being assessed, be that conceptual understanding, procedural understanding, process 210 I. Abrahams et al. skills or practical skills.
Process skills are ‘generalisable, transferable from one context to another and readily applicable in any context’ (Hodson, 1994, p. 159). However, the term ‘practical skills’, whilst often referred to in the literature on practical work (cf. Bennett & Kennedy, 2001; Hofstein & Lunetta, 2004; SCORE, 2009), is rarely explicitly defined. As we have already stated, we take practical skills to mean those skills the mastery of which increases a student’s competence to undertake any type of science learning activity in which they are involved in manipulating and/or observing real objects and materials. In the language of Hodson (1994) and Gott and Duggan (2002), practical skills therefore include procedural understanding and certain process skills, in addition to specific skills of observation and manipulation, but little if any conceptual understanding.
3) How you prepare your students for future working demands through practical science in schools (i.e., school science practical work).
One conclusion that can be drawn from these reports is the ever-growing need to ensure that students gain not only experience of practical skills in schools but also Studies in Science Education 213 the confidence within a laboratory situation so that they are better prepared for employment and higher education. Indeed, while it is clearly impossible to teach the full range of practical skills in science that every employer and higher education institution desires, enabling school students to gain experience of a reasonable number of core practical skills will certainly benefit them far more than having no such experience.
The Gatsby Charitable Foundation has carried out investigations into the views of higher education institutions and employers on the assessment of practical skills. to Gatsby (2012), STEM employers felt that practical skills are important within their establishments. Their understanding of ‘practical skills’ was ‘broad … a significant proportion included dexterity, hand skills and lab work within their 212 I. Abrahams et al. definition’ (Gatsby, 2012, p. 3). It appears very likely that different employers value different types of practical skills, so that getting a consensus amongst employers, however desirable, might be very difficult.
Because different employers require different practical skills, the area where there might be a consensus would be the one with regard to generic skills. Indeed, Gatsby (2012) found that: Analysing and interpreting data to provide good evidence, and taking and recording measurements with accuracy and precision were identified as skills that were essential for school leavers recruited into science staff roles and being of most value to an organisation.
Furthermore, Gatsby (2012) found that 46% of surveyed employers stated they used a practical test at interview to assess practical skills and knowledge alongside the application form. Even if these new recruits are not tested on their practical skills at interview, 95% of the employers provided them with practical skills training (Gatsby, 2012). The study also found that employers felt that the ability to apply practical skills to new situations, such as manipulation of equipment and experience of new techniques relevant to employment, would be a useful additional to A-level courses to help students in employment upon leaving school.
Currently, practical skill, as a term, is widely used in school science but is rarely defined with anything like the precision that is typical for ‘subject content’ knowledge in school science. In particular, school science is frequently less precise than some other school subjects as to exactly what manifestation of skills is expected at each age or level. Furthermore, there are a large number of such skills, making it unfeasible to assess all of them summative within the limited time available in school science. In addition, different employers, as well as university science departments, will have very different perspectives on which practical skills they consider important. This helps to explain why, despite the development of a range of practical skills in school science, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI, 2011) was still able to claim that 23% of employers felt that the lack of practical experience and lab
Studies in Science Education 243 skills (possibly only those skills appropriate to their specific industry) was a barrier to the recruitment of staff with skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
4) How technologies play important roles in teaching and learning science through practical work.
THE USA: USE YOUR OWN PHONE
Students’ own devices, especially smartphones, can be powerful digital devices for collecting experimental data. We recognise that there are downsides to any policy of ‘Bring your own device’, and schools will need to balance these against the upsides, which in the case of practical science are likely to grow. In Massachusetts, we saw fluent use of technology within the classroom, particularly in physics, including the use of tablets, data loggers and students’ own smartphones. We saw students using their phone to film one another throwing balls, and then returning to class to track trajectories and plot graphs. Students used the associated software packages with ease. Technology was not shoehorned into the activities but used to enhance and support learning.
3.7 BENCHMARK 7: REAL EXPERIMENTS, VIRTUAL ENHANCEMENTS
Of course, there is a place for digital technology in science teaching. Modern laboratory science in universities and industry is heavily computerised, and students need to get a feel for this. Simulated experiments can enable students to have an experience of practical science that might be too complex or too dangerous in the school laboratory. Virtual environments can give access to data from remote places such as robotic telescopes and inaccessible environments.
Using data loggers and sensors, interfaced with computers, enables students to collect data faster and more precisely, over extended periods. But, however sophisticated the data handling technology may be, it can never aid understanding unless students themselves engage intellectually with the data.
A research conducted by the researcher for ‘Benchmark 7: Real experiments, virtual enhancements’ have found traces and signs that schools or higher educational institutions are replacing hands-on practical science work with computer simulations, and it is found that 58% of schools or higher educational institutions use computers to substitute practical work of the science subjects and 33% are doing the implementations in a partial manner of actions. This seems a reasonably healthy situation, but the level of training in digital technologies for science teachers are still considered low. Furthermore, another relevant idea are the findings for Benchmark 5 that only 27% of respondents responded that all their laboratories give ready access to technology enabling collection and analysis of digital data.
Other research regarding the ‘Benchmark 3’ emphasises the importance of not only the implementations require the recruiting of expert teachers but also inquire the developing of the teachers’s expertise through CPD. Even after initial training, teachers need to have their subject knowledge updated and to find new ideas for practical activities, including for example the use of digital technology to support practical science. This is important for their confidence as well as their skills and knowledge.
Leipziger, Danny and Dodev, Victoria, (2016), Disruptive Technologies and their Implications for Economic Policy: Some Preliminary Observations, Working Papers, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy”,://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2016-13.
Christenson, C. (1997). The Innovator’s Dilemma. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.