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What enables successful open-ended practical investigative work at A Level?

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JournalSchool Science review
DateSubmitted - 10 Jul 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 3 Jan 2020
DatePublished (current) - 30 Mar 2021
Issue number380
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)50-57
Original languageEnglish


The Gatsby Good Practical Science report (Gatsby, 2017) identified opportunities to carry out open-ended investigative projects as one of ten benchmarks for good practical science. However, there is currently no requirement for post-16 students in England to have access to such opportunities as this is not required by A-level specifications (the most common post-16 qualification in England). Nevertheless, some teachers incorporate open-ended investigative work into post-16 teaching. Drawing on in-depth semi-structured interviews with 12 teachers, enablers of and barriers to open-ended investigation are identified, and the ways in which several teachers have successfully implemented such work are demonstrated through vignettes. Ways that teachers can use and value open-ended project work within current A-level specifications are presented.

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