Evaluation of the SSERC Primary Cluster Programme in Science and Technology
This research project assessed the impact of the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre (SSERC)’s professional development and learning programme for teachers: Primary Cluster Programme (PCP) for science and technology. The programme involves two residential events for teacher-mentors; During the nine-month interval between the events mentors from school clusters work as a group to develop ‘cluster conversations’ with a view to jointly devise and review an approach to design and implement a programme of Career Long Professional Learning (CLPL) that will support promoting effective science and technology teaching in their cluster. The evaluation focused on the effectiveness of the CLPL programme across the participating LAs, in particular regarding:
- Impact on primary teachers’ reported confidence and skills to teach science and technology,
- Impact on P2-P7 learners’ self-efficacy, engagement and views regarding aspects of science. This aim was added to the later stages of the evaluation focussing on cohorts involved in the 2015-18 period.
The findings informed the development of the programme and SSERC’s Local Authority and other national partners regarding effective and sustainable CLPL for STEM teachers.
Research methods used:
- Pre and post-programme survey of all participating teacher mentors
- Postal survey of all headteachers/senior management in involved clusters, administered 13-16 months after the mentors’ first CLPL event
- On-line survey of all mentors’ teacher colleagues in involved clusters, administered 13-16 months after the mentors’ first CLPL event.
- Pre and post-programme P2 – P7 (ages 5-11) pupil survey (Autumn 2015 onwards), which allowed pre and post-programme analysis of 5000 matched pupils.
- Focus groups with mentors at the end of their first and second CLPL residential sessions.
- Analysis of mentors’ reflective diaries
- Participant observation of SSERC and SSERC approved CLPL events
- Impact rating proforma for headteachers of schools taking part in the SSERC CLPL.
The evaluation found that the SSERC PCP had been successful in achieving the overwhelming majority of aims and had:
- produced highly motivated mentors who are promoting the skills and confidence of their cluster colleagues to teach science and technology;
- developed teachers’ pedagogic and assessment skills;
- promoted and exemplified more varied approaches to learning and teaching of science and technology;
- promoted more science and technology activities in classrooms;
- had a significant impact on school science education in schools recording higher levels of deprivation;
- significantly impacted on learners’ confidence to engage in science activities in schools with higher levels of PCP involvement compared to schools with lower levels of involvement.
The evaluation found that the SSERC model CLPL used in the PCP programme is particularly effective when it adopts a collaborative mentoring approach deployed across school clusters. This model is underpinned by collaborative professional dialogue, action research and a focus on promoting teachers' confidence and expertise in science and technology using practical skills as a vehicle. The features of the SSERC PCP can be seen as reflecting the structure for effective professional development advocated in the literature (e.g.: Desimone, 2009)
PI and Co-Is
Start and End Date
Phase 1: April 2012 - May 2015
Phase 2: May 2015 - May 2018
Funder and Funding Amount
Crawford, K., Lowden, K. , Hall, S. , Mitchell, E., McErlean, T., Sherrard, H. and Daley, L. (2020) The SSERC Primary Cluster Programme in Science and Technology – impact on teaching and learning. Journal of Emergent Science, 18, pp. 13-18.
Lowden, K., Hall, S., Lusk, D. & van Amersfoot, D. (2019) Evaluation of the SSERC Primary Cluster Programme in Science and Technology Final Report: Teacher Survey, 2012-2018; Pupil Survey, 2015-2018. SSERC, Dunfermline.
Lowden, K. , Hall, S. and Friel, N. (2015) Evaluation of the SSERC Primary Cluster Programme in Science and Technology: Final Report. Project Report. SSERC, Dunfermline.
Journal of Emergent Science, 18, Jan 2020. Special PSEC 2019 issue from PSTT. Guest Editor: Sarah Earle.
SSERC PCP evaluation summary news
STEM Experiences in Early Years and Primary School Education: A Response from the Learned Societies’ Group on Scottish STEM Education to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee.