Research in Science Education

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 415–438 | Cite as

I’d rather they did Experiments with us…. Than just Talking: Irish Children’s Views of Primary School Science

  • Clíona MurphyEmail author
  • Janet Varley
  • Órlaith Veale


This paper reports on a national study that explored primary pupils’ attitudes towards and experiences of school science in the Republic of Ireland. The study focussed on collecting data from children and in doing so recognises the importance of children’s views as an essential part of reviewing curriculum implementation. The findings of this large-scale study are based on an analysis of data gathered from observations of 15 primary classrooms, 1,149 children’s questionnaires and 11 group interviews. In this paper the findings regarding the extent to which the children appear to be engaging in ‘deductive’ (didactic) and ‘inductive’ (inquiry-based) approaches in their science classes, and their attitudes towards school science are presented. Encouragingly, evidence from all parts of the study revealed that in general Irish children are very positive towards learning science in school and are being provided with some opportunities to engage in hands-on inquiry in science, commonly via group work. However, there were also indications that, for some pupils, hands-on science experiences were infrequent, and for a few did not appear to be happening at all. It was not especially evident that pupils were being afforded opportunities to lead their own scientific investigations. Teacher explanation, teacher demonstration, reading and writing featured frequently in pupils’ responses and while the pupils expressed mixed feelings about these methodologies, one thing was apparent: hands-on inquiry based approaches to science had far greater appeal to the children. The significance of the findings of this study are considered in light of the findings and recommendations from recent national and international reports on inquiry-based approaches in science education.


Primary science Inquiry-based science education Deductive methodologies Children’s views 



This research study was funded by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics teaching and Learning (CASTeL)St. Patrick’s CollegeDublin 9Ireland

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