Does practical work really motivate? A study of the affective value of practical work in secondary school science

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The present paper reports on a study that examined whether practical work can be said to have affective outcomes, and if so in what sense. The term ‘affective’ is used here to refer to the emotions, or feelings, engendered amongst pupils towards school science in general, or one of the sciences in particular. The study is based on 25 multi-site case studies that employed a condensed fieldwork strategy. Data were collected, using tape-recorded interviews and observational field notes, in a sample of practical lessons undertaken in English comprehensive (non-selective) schools during Key Stages 3 and 4 (ages 11–14 years and 15–16 years, respectively). The findings suggest that whilst practical work generates short-term engagement, it is relatively ineffective in generating motivation to study science post compulsion or longer-term personal interest in the subject,
although it is often claimed to do so. This suggests that those involved with science education need to develop a more realistic understanding of the limitations of practical work in the affective domain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2335-2353
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2009


  • practical work
  • Motivation
  • affective value
  • situational interest

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