Science in Secondary Schools (1960)

This pamphlet, prepared by a group of HM Inspectors, aimed 'to help and stimulate the better teaching of science'. Part I contains a useful history of science teaching.

See also Pamphlet No. 42 (1961) Science in Primary Schools.

The complete document is shown in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go to the various sections.

Introduction (page 1)

Part I History and present position
1 A hundred years of science teaching (5)
2 The English tradition of science teaching (23)
3 Conditions under which science is taught: changes in the last 25 years (28)

Part II The Science Course 11-15
4 The development of children and the teaching of science (37)
5 The design of the course (40)
6 General studies (47)
7 The simple empirical approach (52)
8 Practical work and demonstrations (62)

Part III Course for pupils over 15
9 General considerations (69)
10 The scientific method and the place of mathematics (73)
11 Science for the non-scientist (81)
12 Science for the scientist 96()
13 Science for other pupils (105)
14 The teaching of biology (109)
15 The teaching of chemistry (120)
16 The teaching of physics (128)

Part IV Practical considerations
17 The design of laboratories (139)
18 The teacher of science (147)
19 The making and design of apparatus (152)
Conclusion (157)

Appendices
I Laboratory assistance (160)
II List of tools for the science department (162)

Note

The term 'deck-hamper' appears on page 15. It is not in the Oxford Dictionary but from the context I guess it meant a hindrance.

The text of Science in Secondary Schools was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 18 November 2022.

Science in Secondary Schools (1960)
Ministry of Education Pamphlet No. 38

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1960
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


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[title page]

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
PAMPHLET No. 38


Science in
Secondary Schools







LONDON
HER MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE
1960


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Foreword

THIS pamphlet has been prepared by a group of Her Majesty's Inspectors whose aim is to help and stimulate the better teaching of science.

The authors know we are living in a changing world. Therefore no one can lay down methods of teaching once and for all. Deliberately they say controversial things. On the other hand they are wholly clear that science should be something much more than a reserved compartment in which only specialists have a right to travel.

They invite us to have faith with them that "the qualities, both moral and intellectual, which go to make the devoted scientist carry with them much of great value for a liberal education".

This must be our aim in teaching science. For though it is good to know how machines work, it is better still to know to what use to put them.






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Contents

Page
Introduction1

PART I
HISTORY AND PRESENT POSITION

1 A Hundred Years of Science Teaching5
2 The English Tradition of Science Teaching23
3 Conditions under which Science is Taught: Changes in the Last Twenty-five Years28

PART II
THE SCIENCE COURSE FROM ELEVEN TO FIFTEEN

4 The Development of Children and the Teaching of Science37
5 The Design of the Course40
6 General Studies47
7 The Simple Empirical Approach52
8 Practical Work and Demonstrations62

PART III
THE COURSE OF STUDIES FOR PUPILS OVER THE AGE OF FIFTEEN YEARS

9 General Considerations69
10 The Scientific Method and the Place of Mathematics in It73
11 Science for the Non-Scientist81
12 Science for the Scientist96
13 Science for Other Pupils105
14 The Teaching of Biology109
15 The Teaching of Chemistry120
16 The Teaching of Physics128

PART IV
SOME PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

17 The Design of Laboratories139
18 The Teacher of Science147
19 The Making and Design of Apparatus in Schools152
Conclusion157

APPENDICES

I Laboratory Assistance160
II List of Tools for the Science Department162


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Illustrations


PHOTOGRAPHS

PLATE 1 Long, light trolley, PLATE 2 Trolley on trolley
described on pp. 52 et seq. in a study of the motion of bodies in a horizontal plane

PLATE 3. Speedometer, driven by the tyre of the trolley wheel, which can be calibrated in arbitrary units.

PLATE 4. Tilted theodolite

PLATE 5. Photographs of the sun in January and June

PLATE 6. Apparatus for measuring the force required to cause a body to move in a circle

DIAGRAMS

FIG. 1. Calibration curve for the speedometer shown in Plate 354
FIG. 2. Results of measurements of solar diameter88
FIG. 3. Reciprocals of results in Fig. 288
FIG. 4. Diagram of apparatus of Plate 690
FIG. 5. Graph of results obtained with apparatus of Plate 692
FIG. 6. Further results with this apparatus93
FIG. 7. Further results with this apparatus94





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Introduction

THE objects of this pamphlet are to survey the teaching of science in our schools, to analyse the purposes which should inspire it and to suggest practical measures for carrying out those purposes. It has never been the policy of the Minister of Education in any way to impose rules in these matters, but rather to help those responsible for the work to reach decisions for themselves. Some of the suggestions made will doubtless prove controversial and give rise to discussion; to have omitted such matters in order to avoid controversy would have been to nullify much of the usefulness of the pamphlet. It has been written by a group of Her Majesty's Inspectors in the light of their knowledge and experience of schools and it is the hope of the authors that the discussions which it contains and which it inspires will prove valuable in promoting the development of the study of science in this country, both in quality and range, that all desire.

There is little need today to plead for more attention to science; everything around us demands it. But if we are to give some people a profound knowledge and all people a reasonable knowledge of science, we should now take stock, look well at the past and present and plan for the future. Until recently we have managed with our scientific knowledge limited in the main to specialists. There are dangers inherent in this situation; we risk becoming 'a well-fed rabble ordered about by experts', subjects of a new despotism. We cannot do without specialists; if we are not to become their slaves, we must see to it that scientific knowledge and the ability to reason scientifically are widespread. This does not mean that all men must aim at becoming technical experts; that would be impossible, and in any event few can become expert in more than a limited field. What it suggests is that science must find a central place in a liberal education, without the aim of turning everyone into a specialist, in the same way as language and literature have done without any thought of turning everyone into authors or critics.

The problem of what part science is to play in education is therefore at least twofold. There is the training of the necessary specialists to operate the machinery of a scientific society, and the education of all (including the specialists) to enable them to keep some measure of control over their own destinies. Our future community will need not only more specialists able to maintain the machines of the automatic age, but also more citizens capable of imaginative and creative thinking within the context of science.

In dealing with the first part of the problem, the principle which this pamphlet follows is that specialism carried to extremes has little to com-


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mend it; at best it is but a necessary evil. The specialist may come to concentrate upon the narrow section of human knowledge upon which he happens to be working and to ignore all the other problems which engage the interest of the fully educated man. Indeed, he may regard it as a virtue never to express an opinion about anything outside this range. This would make him a less valuable citizen and potentially a dangerous one. It need not happen if we ensure that his education is not jeopardised by attempts at severe specialisation. It is particularly a duty to keep the studies of his early years broad.

The second part of the problem is the scientific education of the non-specialist. Clearly the ordinary citizen should be given some connecting links with the great technological achievements whereby scientists have produced materials and machines to enrich man and to excuse him from labouring by the sweat of his brow. This pamphlet accepts the principle that to do merely this is not enough. Science itself, it has often been said, is more than material progress; it involves a disinterested search after knowledge. Economic urges have often furnished incentives and apparatus for this search - the two approaches have interacted fruitfully - but the search, and the 'scientific method' which it involves, should set the pace in education. Admittedly there is little in the scientific method which is peculiarly characteristic of science itself; the careful sifting of observations, the designing of experiments to test ideas and a habit of strict intellectual honesty are virtues which are needed in many other studies as well as science. But it may fairly be claimed that elementary science is sufficiently simple for what is at stake to be appreciated and that it is one of the few subjects where it is possible to go to the actual sources for the data upon which the study is to be based. The ideals, methods and attitudes involved in the scientific approach will not spread automatically into a pupil's general outlook unless a conscious effort is made to broaden their application; those who teach science have therefore a duty to attempt to foster this 'spread' so that it contributes to a liberal education.

So taught, an education in natural science, even at the elementary level, will contribute a fundamental ingredient to our western culture. A training in science is not sufficient in itself; there are aspects of a liberal education which science cannot touch and others to which it can contribute only little. But its contribution is distinctive and important. Whether one looks upon technical appliances as beneficial or simply as making life today swifter, noisier or more dangerous, it is clear that science contributes largely to the intellectual climate of the day and to the shaping of the mind of modern man. It is the object of this pamphlet to consider and examine the large part which science must play in the education of both the specialist and the ordinary citizen.


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Part I

History and Present Position








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CHAPTER 1

A Hundred Years of Science Teaching

THE study of science in schools began to develop in this country along its present lines about 100 years ago. It did not, however, develop free from restraints and much of its pattern shows characteristics derived from this earlier period. The present moment is, perhaps, appropriate to review this growth of the subject in schools and to attempt to trace the origin of some of its existing features. For this purpose the conditions in the schools from about 1850 to 1880 are of particular importance, and this chapter contains an attempt to describe them and to show how they have affected the development of the subject. It will be necessary first to glance briefly at the period immediately preceding.

Before the middle of the nineteenth century the study of any branch of natural science hardly existed in any school or even in the universities. Though there were professors in the sciences, they did not attract many students to their lectures and the subject formed no part of normal undergraduate studies. But though the scholastic world lagged far behind, developments were taking place outside. Societies for the study and popularisation of science were formed in considerable number. Of these the Society of Arts of London was founded in 1754, the Lunar Society of Birmingham in 1766, the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester in 1781, and the Royal Institution in 1799. The Royal Institution, under the later influence of Faraday, developed its well-known popular lectures for adults and children.

Oxford and Cambridge responded slowly to this growing interest in the sciences, perhaps because undergraduate instruction was undertaken by the constituent colleges and not by the university. The college staffs were not large and the tutorial method adopted necessitated a curriculum limited to what was within a reasonable compass for one man to supervise. During the whole of the eighteenth century the active prosecution of science ceased at Oxford. The Honours School of Natural Science was not instituted until 1850 (there appear to have been no candidates until 1854), the Natural Science Tripos at Cambridge until 1851, or the London Science Degree until 1860. The great public schools modelled themselves on the universities and naturally lagged still further behind, while many local schools were engaged solely upon work of the most elementary nature.

Some study of physics (initially of the Aristotelian variety) was included at an early date in the curriculum of the Jesuit schools on the


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continent and continued until the end of the eighteenth century. By the middle of that century their use of cabinets de physique (i.e. laboratories) indicated an experimental approach. The subject was also included by the academies which mainly served to educate Nonconformist pastors at this period. There were also private academies which included the study of the Principles of Natural Philosophy (1) in their curriculum.

There was, of course, no general provision for the education of the working classes until well into the nineteenth century. The schools of the British and Foreign School Society (starting in 1808) and of the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church (starting in 1811) sprang up rapidly before the middle of the century, and, for the most part, directed their efforts to teaching their pupils to read. For this purpose, in a large proportion of them, the only book available was the Bible. In his report on 134 schools in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire for the year 1847, the Rev. Henry Moseley, H.M.I., speaks of finding 100 schools where the children were taught to read mechanically from the Scriptures, 'the sacred volume itself being used for that purpose or parts extracted from it'. 'I have nowhere found', he says, 'this constant reading of the Scriptures associated with real scriptural knowledge, except where, in addition to this, the Scriptures are made the subject of a special course of instruction.' Sometimes this limitation of reading matter was not entirely due to inability to obtain anything different but was intentional. In many cases the aim of the schools was to produce amenable and obedient servants. Mr. Moseley goes on to say 'I am discouraged when I find the opinions of men, whose piety I have learned to venerate, and whose zeal for the cause of education I cannot doubt, identified with the prejudices of another class of persons who insist upon this limitation, not altogether (as they themselves admit) that poor children may know the Scriptures but lest they should know anything else'.

Before the year 1850 elementary instruction in science was scarcely attainable by the working classes. Some of the principal mechanics' institutes of the great towns had occasional popular lectures on scientific subjects, which were frequently illustrated by experiments, diagrams or specimens, but there were seldom any systematic courses. With the exception of a few institutes, such as those of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool and one or two in London, there were no classes, and very few laboratories, and apparatus where it existed was almost always 'ill arranged and incomplete, even for purposes of very limited instruction'.

(1) Vide e.g. 'A compendious and methodical account of the Principles of Natural Philosophy: As they are explained and illustrated in the course of Experiments performed at the Academy in Little Tower Street, London.' Benjamin Wootton, 1722.


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Several of these institutes were started in the second quarter of the century. They were founded with the express purpose of furnishing artisans with the technical knowledge they required for their work, but many later addressed themselves to wider and more dilettante audiences. That they were in any case far too thinly scattered over the ground at that time to effect any considerable improvement in the knowledge of artisans in general is shown by the following statement from a letter from the Union of Lancashire and Cheshire Institutes, to the Committee of Council on Education, dated 11th November 1859:

'... Not to trouble your Lordships with too much detail I would observe that the utter absence of not only any systematic instruction in science but of any instruction whatever, even of a superficial or desultory character, in the large and small towns of England and even in the great centres of machine making and manufacture, is one of the most astounding marvels perhaps in the whole history of our wonderful progress as a manufacturing and commercial people ...

Again as regards the study of chemistry as a science it is a lamentable fact that there does not exist a single adult class in any public institution in Manchester, with its half million of people whose everyday well doing depends upon the skilful application of chemical knowledge. ... Calico printers will not admit professional or well-trained chemists into their establishments. The production of colours is delegated to a class of workmen called colour mixers who are as jealous of their monopoly of knowledge, picked up anyhow, as the Egyptian priests were of the exclusive possession of their mysteries. The limited knowledge, or rather the ignorance, of these persons is one of the greatest barriers against our applying the chemical discoveries which German and French research place at our command'.

The situation in the public schools, then the preserve of the wealthy and ruling classes, was very clearly described in the Report of the Royal Commission on Nine Public Schools which was published in 1864. It could hardly be put more succinctly than in the form of a question which the Commissioners put to Sir Charles Lyle, one of the witnesses. 'At all the public and private schools that you know of physical science and natural history are altogether omitted, are they not? Except such few instances as do not interfere with the general rule?' To this Sir Charles assented.

Among exceptions to the general rule, one of the first schools in this country to give definite instruction in the subject was Stonyhurst, where the subject appears first to have been introduced by at any rate 1808 at the latest. (1) A lecture room, chemical room and mathematical room had

(1) Stonyhurst College was conducted at Liège before 1794, when it moved to its present position. The study of science had been included while it remained on the Continent.


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been erected at a cost of over 2,000 and an appeal for funds to purchase apparatus was made in that year. Mill Hill, which derived much of its early tradition from the Dissenting Academies, included physics in its curriculum in 1822. Lectures with practical demonstrations on chemistry and physics were being given in the Upper School of Greenwich Hospital by 1830. At University College School, which was started in 1832, prizes were awarded for subjects of a scientific nature, and in 1835 the first classes in experimental physics were inaugurated. The first examination for matriculation at London University took place in 1838 and, from the beginning, chemistry was among the compulsory subjects. Probably with a view to direct preparation for future examinations a chemistry class was established in University College School in the school year 1839-1840. The subject, however, was then discontinued for a time and the first record of boys matriculating from this school dates from July 1847.

Among the nine public schools investigated by the Royal Commission of 1864, Harrow appears to have been the school where thought was earliest given to natural science. Here it was said 'No direct instruction is given, private or otherwise, in natural science. There is, however, in each of the school quarters a voluntary examination open to the whole school, in some one branch of this study.' This scheme appears to have been initiated soon after 1837. Prizes were offered on the results. In 1864 recent subjects had been geology, botany, chemistry and electricity. At one or two schools visiting lecturers gave talks on scientific subjects, sometimes to boys who were interested and attended voluntarily, as at Eton, and sometimes to the whole school assembled, as at Winchester. At the latter school, the lectures were confined to about ten Saturday afternoons during time normally devoted to games in the summer term, a choice calculated not to enhance their popularity. The opinion expressed of them by the Headmaster is of interest:

'I think,' he said, 'many boys have taken an interest in these subjects and some boys have had their attention permanently attracted to them, but for a school like this I consider instruction in physical science, in the way in which we give it, is worthless. A few boys who intend to pursue it in any way as amateurs or professionally may get assistance from the lectures. An amateur of science is the better for knowing the elements of it and every man of liberal education is the better for not being ignorant of anything, but compared with other things a scientific fact, either as conveyed by a lecturer, or as reproduced in an examination, is a fact which produces nothing in a boy's mind. It is simply a barren fact which he remembers or does not remember for a time and which after a few years becomes confused with other facts and is forgotten. It leads to nothing. It does not germinate, it is a perfectly unfruitful fact. ... I think, except on the part of those who have

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a taste for the physical sciences and intend to pursue them). as amateurs or professionally, such instruction is worthless as education.'
The public schools professed as a main aim the training of the mind. For this purpose, it was maintained, the best possible means was a study of classics and perhaps mathematics. There appeared, indeed, to be one of these public schools only where any attempt to conduct a systematic course in science had been made. This was Rugby, where natural philosophy first became a subject of instruction in 1849. (1) The lecturer was a physician living in the town and his lectures were given in the Town Hall. Attendance was voluntary. Ten years later a laboratory and lecture room had been specially built for the work at a cost of 1,000. The subject was regarded as an alternative to modern languages, which were themselves alternatives for those with little aptitude for classics. Of the work, the Commissioners recorded the following description:
'The instruction given in this school during twelve months ended July 1861, consisted entirely of subjects formerly comprehended under the name of chemistry, i.e. chemistry and electricity. Lectures, following the arrangement and explaining the details of some approved text book, such as "Fowne's Chemistry", are given twice in the week to each (science) class. They are illustrated by experiments and diagrams and brought home to individual boys by questions put to test their understanding of the lectures. Notes taken at the time are subsequently expanded into reports drawn up by the boys out of school, containing sketches of the apparatus. These are shown up once a fortnight at least and are then corrected by the lecturer as a classical exercise might be by a tutor. At the close of every seventh lecture a paper of questions is set on the matter of that and the six previous lectures.'
Nevertheless, the results of this work appear to have been rather limited.
'The Examiners ... reported the examinees as fairly well up in the chemistry of the non-metallic elements. ... It is impossible to feel that the immediate results are, as yet, quite proportionate to the place which is now given to the study in the arrangement of the school and the expenditure which the Trustees have devoted to it.'
There were one or two other exceptional cases, at the other end of the social scale, where experiments in teaching science had been conducted in elementary schools, which indeed preceded that just described at Rugby. One was a school in a remote village in Suffolk, where the children had been found to have been thoroughly stimulated by, and to have given a remarkable response to, studies in botany directed by the

(1) Systematic instruction in physical science began at Cheltenham in 1854.


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incumbent of the parish. The other, even more remarkable, was the village school in King's Somborne in Hampshire, which owed its success and the considerable reputation it enjoyed at the time to the Rector of the parish, the Rev. Richard Dawes. The school and its environment were very carefully and fully described by the Rev. H. Moseley, H.M.I., in 1847 in the most interesting report already referred to. The school was first opened in October 1842, and the work described by Mr. Moseley thus ranks among the earliest attempts to introduce scientific studies as part of the education provided by a school of any type.

This school was much in advance of its contemporaries in many ways. The village was entirely agricultural and its population typical. Wages, particularly those of farm labourers, were low; yet the school was entirely self-supporting. The children bought their own books and their fees (graded according to the status of the parent) paid the salaries of the teachers.

'It is a village school,' said Mr. Moseley; 'the better bearing of the children, obvious in the intelligence of their looks, has not taken away their rusticity; a school crowded with sturdy, healthy, shy looking, cottagers' children, clad somewhat better, perhaps, than the children of other schools but in garments of the same rude fashion and coarse texture. In regard to cleanliness a marked difference is, however, apparent on closer observation. ... Every girl is provided with a hairbrush and comb, purchased by herself, and wears her hair separated in front and long enough to be placed behind the ears. ... Twice in the week every child is asked whether it has washed its feet and there are reasons to believe that ablutions of this kind are general in the school. (There was, at first, considerable opposition on the part of the parents to the washing of their children's feet in cold water lest it should injure their health.) Every child has, moreover, a tooth brush and washes its teeth daily ...'
In learning, it was not only in regard to science that the school was remarkable. The proportion of its children who could read with tolerable ease was more than twice what was commonly found in other schools;
'a fact which seems to point to the expediency, if not the necessity, of teaching children something else besides reading, that we may be able to teach them to read. ... The learning of one thing aids the learning of another; ... If various things be taught, not only is the knowledge thus acquired greater in respect of the aggregate, but in respect of each element.'
However, 'that feature in the teaching of the King's Somborne school which', in the opinion of Her Majesty's Inspector, 'constitutes pro-


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bably its greatest excellence', and to which was attributed the influence of the school with the agricultural population of the neighbourhood, was the teaching of 'a few simple principles of natural science applicable to things familiar to the children's daily observation'. Of this subject Mr. Dawes himself wrote as follows:

'After the school had been opened rather more than two years, I began giving to the teachers, and the more advanced of the school children, short explanations of a philosophic kind, and in a common sense sort of way, of the things almost daily passing before their eyes, but of the nature of which they had not the slightest conception; such as some of the peculiar properties of metals, glass and other substances in common use; that the air had weight and how this pressure of the atmosphere helped them to pump up water; enabled them to amuse themselves with squirts and pop-guns; to suck up water, as they called it, through a straw; why the kettle top jumped up when the water was boiling on the fire; why when they wanted to know whether it was boiling or not they seized the poker, and placed one end on the lid and the other to their ear in order to know whether it actually boiled; why a glass sometimes breaks when hot water is poured into it, explaining the reason of the unequal expansion of the two surfaces: these and similar things I found so excessively amusing to them and at the same time so instructive, that I scarcely missed a week explaining some principle of this nature, and in questioning them on what they had done before.

In subjects of this kind, and to children, mere verbal explanations, as every one will perceive, are of no use whatever; but when practically illustrated before their eyes by experiment, they become not only one of the most pleasing sources of instruction, but absolutely one of the most useful.'

Mr. Dawes goes on to describe how the teachers, who first knew little of these things, became qualified to give instruction in them; how they became familiar with the mechanical principles of the tools they used, such as the spade, the axe and the plough, and with a considerable list of topics in everyday physics.
'Seeing', he says, 'the way in which the bigger boys were interested in it here, and the tendency it had to raise the standard of the teaching, and to give rise to a wish for information, it has proceeded further than I at first contemplated; and the result has been that the school is provided with sufficient of a philosophic apparatus for all the common experiments of a pneumatic and hydrostatic kind, a small galvanic battery, an electric apparatus, etc.'.
However, King's Somborne and Rugby were exceptions which in no way 'interfered with the general rule'. That rule was that from the public schools on the one side to the parish schools on the other,


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'physical science and natural history were altogether omitted'. The public schools adhered to the classics; the elementary schools were hammering away in an effort to achieve mere literacy with, at best, moderate success. The power and influence of fashion led other schools to imitate the older public schools, so that from within the schools the ground can hardly be looked upon as being propitious for the cultivation of fresh types of studies.

Outside the schools, however, natural science, the interest it evoked among educated people and also its technical applications, all mounted towards a climax in the middle of the nineteenth century. Many of the philosophical societies already mentioned continued to flourish. But the main cause of the demand for the active teaching of science that arose about this time was, no doubt, the growing importance of its applications in the industrial revolution. A culminating point was reached in the opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851. This focussed attention on the importance of the applications of science to the industrial life of the country and on the danger that existed in the form of competition with other countries and in particular with France and Germany. The necessity for adjusting the life of the country to the circumstances of a competitive business existence became apparent, and demands for scientific instruction more clamorous. In 1853 the Science and Art Department was inaugurated. Under it in 1859 examinations were instituted and grants paid for classes 'intended for the children of manual labourers', which satisfied the Directorate of the Department. Lessons on scientific topics were also advocated for the elementary school. Foremost among the advocates of such studies was the Very Rev. Richard Dawes, by now Dean of Hereford. (1) He preached the importance of the 'Science of Common Things'. Lord Ashburton offered prizes to encourage the study of such topics, and there was a good deal of discussion on the merits of such work in schools.

Development in the public schools during the next quarter of a century, where indeed any took place at all, was slow. The general position was clearly shown by the replies obtained by Mr. Norman Lockyer, Secretary to the Royal Commission which sat in the early 1870s on Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science. In many of the public schools and the more important of the endowed schools, where science was taught at all, one or two periods a week in certain classes were all that was thought necessary. Of 123 endowed schools sufficiently interested to reply to enquiries, science was taught in only 63, of which only 13 had a laboratory and only 18 any apparatus at all, however scanty.

Towards 1870 the controversy over the introduction of the teaching of

(1) Formerly of King's Somborne.


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science in schools was reaching a climax. On the side of science were ranged men like Herbert Spencer, Tyndall and Huxley.

The writings of Herbert Spencer attracted considerable attention. As he had not been through the mill of public school and university he was, to a great degree, suspect within the schools, but he came to be accepted by many men of liberal ideas as a guide and philosopher despite the fact that, as he admitted, he 'never at any time paid the least attention to formal logic and held that, for all practical purposes, it is useless'. His four essays on Education were first published as a unit in 1861, though they had each appeared independently over the period from 1854 to 1859. In spite of the fact that many of his conclusions strike us now as palpably absurd, he made in these essays an attempt to provide a logical theory of education. He maintained, for example, that natural science comprised all fundamental knowledge, upon which everything else depended. 'Accomplishments, the fine arts, belles lettres ... should be wholly subordinate to that instruction and discipline in which civilisation rests. As they occupy the leisure part of life so should they occupy the leisure part of education.'

Tyndall and Huxley were no less vigorous but much more balanced propagandists in the cause of science teaching. They were far from wishing to see it ousting other studies to anything like the extent desired by Spencer. 'The circle of human nature is not complete without the arc of the emotions', wrote Tyndall, and Huxley held similarly that there are other forms of learning 'besides physical science and I should be profoundly sorry to see the fact forgotten or even to observe a tendency to starve or cripple literary or aesthetic culture for the sake of science.' Nevertheless Huxley wrote very forcefully in favour of science and many passages that are still often quoted are to be found among his writings.

'Leaving aside the existence of a great and characteristically modern literature,' he wrote, 'of modern painting and especially of modern music, there is one feature of the present state of the civilised world which separates it more widely from the Renaissance than the Renaissance was separated from the Middle Ages. This distinctive character of our own time lies in the vast and constantly increasing part which is played by natural knowledge. Not only is our daily life shaped upon it, but our whole theory of life has long been influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the general conceptions of the universe which have been forced upon us by physical science.'
While Spencer and Huxley were at a disadvantage in that they wrote from outside the public school system, a great impetus was given to the cause of science by the internal support of a number of public school masters. Chief among these was Dean Farrar (better known perhaps as


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the author of Eric, or Little by Little), then a master at Harrow. He directed his attack upon the classical studies which were then the staple instruction in the public schools and which he maintained were a failure, neglecting 'all the powers of some minds and some of the powers of all minds'. In 1867 he edited a collection of essays entitled Essays on a Liberal Education, which perhaps marked the climax of the campaign to introduce science into the public schools. Other powerful support from within the schools came from Canon J. M. Wilson, then science master at Rugby and later Headmaster of Clifton College, and also from the Rev. W. Tuckwell, Headmaster of the College School, Taunton. Matthew Arnold made some contribution also, though he was careful to maintain a middle position. He held that the object of education should be for a man 'to know the world and himself'. To know himself he could not do better than read the classics, whereas to know the world he agreed with Huxley that some study should be made of the natural sciences. In common with Huxley he advocated the kind of work undertaken in Germany under the name Erdkunde.

In the elementary schools progress was blocked, and nearly all the ground that had been built up was lost again, by the effects of the Revised Code of 1861, Lowe's Revised Code instituting 'payment by results' being introduced in the following year. In many of the training colleges for teachers in elementary schools it had become the practice for students to receive instruction during their second year in teaching the rudiments of science, chiefly though not exclusively to enable them to illustrate appropriate lessons in reading and geography. In the best of the elementary schools, in the course of lessons on these subjects, the general outline of physical geography, the more important facts of astronomy and principles affecting individual and public health were often dealt with. As a result of the pupil-teacher system, inaugurated by the Minutes of 1846, students came to the colleges well prepared with foundations upon which subsequent knowledge could be built. In the colleges special lecturers in science had been appointed, who had had to satisfy the Civil Service Commissioners of their fitness for the work and who were well paid. At St. Mark's College, Chelsea, for example, a laboratory had been built, a competent teacher had been employed and instruction was given 'in applied mechanics, chemistry, hydrostatics and optics'.

The Code of 1862, however, confined the inspection of elementary schools to tests in reading, writing and arithmetic and the teachers were paid on the result of these tests. Little was therefore attempted which did not contribute directly to the results upon which payment depended. The pupil-teachers were neglected and the whole standard of their training and examination was lowered. In the training colleges the


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special lectureships were abolished and subjects such as applied mechanics, physical science and the higher mathematics were struck from the curriculum. The profession of teaching became unpopular and there was a dearth of students. These disastrous effects persisted for many years and when the Royal Commission examined the position of science in 1871 the situation was still the same.

On the schools themselves the effects can hardly be described as less than catastrophic and great damage was done to national education. The natural sciences had been among the latest achievements, and, in the light of the principles of the Code, soon appeared as so much deck-hamper. They were consequently among the first things to be thrown overboard. The teaching advocated by such men as the Dean of Hereford, which was developing, was swept away and, when at length studies in natural science were again started, they were pursued along very different lines and the vision of the originators was not recaptured.

The Science and Art Department, instituted, as has been mentioned, in 1853 by a Minute of the Treasury in consequence of the representations of the Board of Trade, was placed under the Committee of Council on Education. In 1859 the Department inaugurated a system of teaching by means of elementary science classes and of payments on the results of examinations of the pupils. These payments, which were on a sliding scale according to the standard attained by the pupils, encouraged the formation of a class of teachers of elementary science and stimulated their activities. There was a rapid growth. There were 500 pupils from 9 schools in 1860, but ten years later the numbers had increased to over 34,000 pupils from 799 schools.

The introduction of this system by the Science and Art Department immediately preceded the period of frustration in the elementary schools that was brought about by the Code of 1862. It is not surprising, therefore, that masters in elementary schools, with their emoluments often seriously reduced, should turn to the Department of Science and Art to recoup themselves by taking science classes in the evenings. In 1871 two-thirds of the qualified teachers engaged under these schemes were masters in day schools. Nor were the pupils altogether distinct. In many cases classes under the Science and Art Department were formed in day schools, as a means whereby grant could be earned by older pupils. In 1870, of 34,336 candidates examined, 7,746 were under 14 years of age, and, incidentally, of these 7,746 no fewer than 5,027 failed.

Though not without its defenders (among whom was numbered T. H. Huxley) the instruction given was gravely criticised. The controlling factor was, undoubtedly, the chance of earning payment on the results, Not only was the knowledge of the teachers imperfect but their classes were mostly conducted without the aid of experimental or other illu-


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strations. Pupils were confined to the classroom and even the opportunity for studying nature out of doors was not taken. From the kinds of answer to the questions that were obtained in the examinations it appeared evident that a very large part of the instruction was derived from books, tested and aided by class examinations by the teachers. Even 'the familiar device of black-board and chalk' was not always employed. The syllabuses on which the pupils were examined were unsuitable for most of them and it was noticed that they relied upon memorising the textbook rather than on understanding the principles involved. Where textbooks were not available the method frequently adopted was the slow reading out of notes to be taken down verbatim and committed to memory. Furthermore, subjects of study were taken up in a quite irregular and unsystematic fashion, the choice being merely a question of expediency to suit the examination. A worse way of organising the work of schools can hardly be imagined. The younger pupils were put to an unimaginative grind at the three Rs. The older had their studies concentrated upon isolated branches of one subject, taught often in the poorest manner and at a standard ill suited to their ability and attainment.

Thus in the 1880s the teaching of science presented this picture. On the one side was to be seen a large volume of work under the Science and Art Department which, though somewhat improved, was still largely informational and often very technical; moreover it occasionally required merely the exercise of memory. On the other side was a slow advance in the public and grammar schools against a classical tradition, based on mental training, which offered great resistance. The shortcomings of the first were becoming obvious to many and enthusiasts were doing their best to accelerate the pace of change in the second. The time was thus peculiarly appropriate for the reception of the doctrines of that very vigorous critic who entered the field towards the middle of the decade and whose influence on science teaching extended for the next thirty years and more - Professor H. E. Armstrong. Indeed, his influence is still noticeable today. He occupied the Chair of Chemistry at the Finsbury Technical College and became concerned over the lack of scientific training his students received before joining the College. He devised his well known 'Heuristic Method' of learning by discovery, borrowing the title from an address by Professor Meikeljohn. Armstrong's influence on schools became very considerable. On the one hand his criticisms of work like much of that under the Science and Art Departments were felt to be well founded, while, on the other, his advocacy of a training in the scientific method fitted in with the educational ideals of the public schools.

Speaking of his own experience as a student he wrote, 'The facts


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recited in the lecture room, especially when accompanied by experimental illustrations, frequently came as revelations: but on the whole, listening to lectures produced little abiding effect, one image following the other too quickly. Textbooks I always found unattractive and unsatisfying - often nauseating - for I felt that I wanted to become a chemical cook myself, not merely to know what the dishes were made of and what they looked like on the table.' (1) He was anxious that as teachers we should use 'methods which involve our placing our students, so far as possible, in the attitude of the discoverer - methods which involve their finding out instead of being merely told about things'. (1)

In 1884, at an International Conference on Education held in London, Armstrong first outlined his methods of teaching chemistry. In 1889 and 1890, in response to suggestions of a Committee of the British Association, he gave 'details of practical courses of instruction deliberately intended to develop the faculties of independent enquiry, accurate observation and intelligent reasoning'. These schemes, which became known as the British Association Schemes, were widely accepted. They formed the basis of work in science in forty schools under the London School Board in 1891. With some modifications and additions they were adopted by the Headmasters' Association in 1895 and in their published suggestions for scientific studies in schools. Their scheme comprised 'physical measurements', a little heat and mechanics and a course of chemistry on the lines advocated by Armstrong.

Armstrong's aim was to develop 'scientific habits of mind: thoughtfulness and power of seeing: accuracy of thought, of word and of deed'. He wished his pupils to be 'exact and therefore truthful, observant, thoughtful and dexterous'. For this purpose he was a great advocate of weighing and the use of the chemical balance. 'First and before every other advantage which the new scheme presents', he wrote, 'comes the use of the balance - an instrument which, in the future, I believe, will be regarded in all schools as an extraordinarily potent means of effecting moral culture.' It was 'to be treated with the utmost care and reverence'. (1)

Armstrong encountered difficulties over the question of books. 'The use of textbooks', he wrote, 'must be most carefully avoided at this stage in order that that which should be elicited by experiment is not previously known and merely demonstrated - a most inferior method from any true educational point of view and of little value as a means of developing thought power. I regard Huxley's Physiography, for example, as a type of book to be avoided until method has been fully mastered.' (1) The difficulty arose from the fact that the frontiers of the branch in which he worked, chemistry, were so far beyond the comprehension of

(1) See footnote to page 18.


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his pupils that he felt himself bound to resort to problems the answers to which had already been worked out and were thoroughly known, at least for pupils at an elementary stage. At one point he records the following: '"Why should I trouble to make all these experiments which take up so much time, require so much care and which yield a result so small in proportion to the labour expended when I can gain the information by reading a page or so in such and such a textbook?" is the question I have often known to be put by highly intelligent students. They fail to realise what is the object in view - that they are studying method.' (1)

Armstrong's schemes influenced school work directly over a period of at least twenty-five years. Less directly, present-day teaching owes not a little to them. His methods probably lost favour for several reasons. First, they involved too great a degree of artificiality; pupils could not be kept sufficiently in the dark. It was impossible and, indeed, highly undesirable to prevent them from reading about their work. Secondly, the methods proved excessively slow. But perhaps the most important drawback of all was the fact that the material upon which they were based was of very small significance in obtaining an understanding of and acquaintance with the salient phenomena of the universe and consequently they failed in the main to arouse the interest, and still more to stir the imagination, of boys and girls.

Armstrong's name is so closely connected with the heuristic method that the fact that he had views on the breadth of the curriculum, as well as on method, is apt to be forgotten. His first essay (1) contains the following:

'In my opinion no single branch of natural science should be selected to be taught as part of the ordinary school course but the instruction should comprise the elements of what I have already spoken of as the science of daily life and should include astronomy, botany, chemistry, geology, mechanics, physics, physiology and zoology.'
He reiterated this view on many subsequent occasions. Others, such as Professor Miall, who devised courses of study of a heuristic nature in botany, developed his ideas to a greater or lesser extent in other branches, but Armstrong himself never ventured outside his own province of chemistry.

Though Sanderson's influence on the methods of teaching science in the schools of the country was by no means so widespread as that of Armstrong, mention must be made of the system developed under him

(1) The quotations from the works of the late Professor H. E. Armstrong, LL.D., Ph.D., F.R.S., are taken from various of the papers included in his book "The Teaching of Scientific Method and other Papers on Education", MacMillan, 1903, and are reproduced here by permission of Miss N. Armstrong.


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at Oundle from 1892, when he was appointed Headmaster, until his death at the end of the second decade of the present century. Both Sanderson and Armstrong held the view that pupils should be put to work at problems and not merely be told about things; but Sanderson tried to escape some of the pitfalls which Armstrong had not wholly been able to avoid. Sanderson's aim was to bring his pupils as rapidly as possible to the real frontiers of the subject so that they could be induced to start thinking about problems actually current at the time. He would purchase equipment dealing with the latest discoveries, such as X-rays or radio-activity. There is a story of how he purchased for 60 a milligramme or two of a radium salt but feeling somewhat ashamed of his extravagance kept it in his waistcoat pocket until its effect became unpleasantly apparent. As is well known he laid great emphasis on applied science and set up workshops organised sufficiently on the lines of a factory to enable fairly complicated work to be done. In this he sought to instil into his boys an appreciation of the importance of service as a member of a team of workers and to show some of the ends to which science could be put. He also gave an important place to an annual conversazione, in which the problems boys were set were not so much scientific investigations into natural phenomena as the provision of explanations and demonstrations to others of known applications and principles. These were valuable alternatives to original investigations, which in certain branches were often too difficult for boys to carry out.

During the first World War opinion began to move away from the idea of formal training based upon heuristic methods. The possibility of the 'transfer of training' from one field to another was questioned and the old faculty psychology, upon which the idea of formal training had been based, waned.

Both Sanderson and Armstrong were members of a committee of the British Association which reported upon the teaching of science in schools in 1917. Their report is of importance as marking the beginnings of a gradual process of discarding exclusively heuristic methods which continued for the next twenty or more years. The committee were impressed by the neglect of the teaching of science as a 'body of inspiring principles and truly humanising influence' which resulted from the concentration upon training in experimental methods. Speaking of elementary practical measurements they said: 'There can be little doubt that many science masters have found that such work does not interest their pupils and is apt to give them a disinclination for science'. Too many laboratory exercises had been associated with a very restricted acquaintance with the world of science. They also pointed out that 'history and biography enable a comprehensive view of science to be constructed which cannot be obtained by laboratory work'.


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Sitting at much the same time and publishing its report in February 1918 was a committee appointed by the Prime Minister, under the chairmanship of Sir J. J. Thomson, 'to enquire into the position of Natural Science in the Educational System of Great Britain'. Their appointment was due, in large measure, to the importance that science had assumed in the waging of the war and to the obvious need for some expansion of facilities for scientific training if the country was to be given a reasonable chance of survival. Many of their most important recommendations, particularly with regard to the scope of the courses in the subject and the time to be devoted to them, were lost sight of as the war ended and its grim memories receded into the past, and they have never, in fact, been implemented. Though the Prime Minister's Committee was quite independent of the committee of the British Association, its recommendations as to the nature and method of school studies were couched in very similar terms. Thus they noted that school courses had become too narrow and were

'out of touch with the many applications of science. The principles are often taught without reference to the phenomena of nature which they explain - the course does not satisfy the natural curiosity of the pupils; it may give some knowledge of laboratory methods but little idea of the wider generalisations, such as the principles of the conservation of energy, which are quite within their powers of comprehension.'
They criticised an unenlightened obsession with practical work by the pupils and compared the value of experiments that were too difficult, and therefore inconclusive in the hands of the pupils, with good demonstrations by the master. Of the heuristic method, in particular, they said:
'The spirit of enquiry should run through the whole of the science work and everything should be done to encourage it, but it seems clear that the heuristic method can never be the main method by which a pupil acquires scientific training and knowledge. He cannot expect to rediscover in his school hours all that he may be fairly expected to know; to insist that he should try to do this is to waste his time and opportunities.'
They also criticised as 'most pernicious' the tendency to discourage pupils from reading anything about their scientific studies except their class and laboratory notes.

This move away from the position of formal training on heuristic principles continued after the war. It led to a demand for broader courses based more directly upon the interests of the pupils. In this the Science Masters' Association took up a prominent place. In 1916 they had published a document entitled Science for All, advocating the teaching of 'general science'. This they later defined as


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'a course of scientific investigation which has its roots in the common experience of children and does not exclude any of the fundamental sciences. It seeks to elucidate the general principles observable in nature, without emphasising the traditional division into specialised subjects until such time as this is warranted by the increasing complexity of the field of investigation, by the developing unity of the separate parts of that field and by the intellectual progress of the pupils.'
They criticised the unsuitability of many school courses which acquired meaning only when completed by advanced studies, and they emphasised the cultural value of science.
'We recognise fully', they recorded, 'the fact that the genius of our race has found a very rich and satisfying expression in a literature and an art of high excellence, but we would urge that the peculiar intellectual glory of the Western peoples has been the creation of a natural science which is far in advance of that of earlier times. No one can now be considered truly cultured, no one can be considered as having felt the European spirit at its best, if he has never had his imagination stirred by that great adventure of ideas on which we are engaged: the scientific exploration of natural phenomena.'
At the same time they emphasised that all lessons in science should be scientific and that a training in the scientific method depended much more upon the manner in which the subject was handled than upon the subject matter dealt with. Under the influence of the Science Masters' Association and the Association of Women Science Teachers, courses in general science were started in many schools.

At this point the story must be left. Developments since then raise problems which are still current and which will be discussed in the remainder of this pamphlet.

Though each school has organised its own curriculum according to its particular aims and successive changes have affected each one differently, all have derived much of their present practice from the collective experience of the last hundred years. To sum up, the main features in the development of natural science as a school subject have been: in the beginning, schools with their attention focussed on mental training, satisfied with the existing curriculum and opposed to the introduction of new studies; a promising beginning in the elementary schools cut short by the Code of 1862; the rapid rise of work, often of dubious value, under the Science and Art Department; the development of purely heuristic methods as a reaction to this and to the attitude of the public schools, and finally the swinging away of the emphasis again from method to the matter of the studies. At the end of the hundred


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years there is much progress to record but it has been the progress of a sailing ship tacking against the wind. Nevertheless the long legs lying apparently so much off the course have not been wasted. The extent of the channel is known and both extreme boundaries of formation alone and of information alone have been seen to be shallow. What can be achieved through knowledge and information and what through training is now better appreciated. Knowledge and training are by no means mutually exclusive and both are essential ingredients in any satisfactory study of science in schools.

There are elements in the situation today which render this story of the development of science teaching valuable. Once again the schools are subject to pressure from outside to increase scientific studies and once again emphasis is being concentrated upon the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge. It is of the utmost importance that the same mistakes which were made in the period which has been reviewed are not repeated.





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CHAPTER 2

The English Tradition of Science Teaching

THE experiments, successes and failures, partial or complete, which have marked the growth of science teaching in English schools for over a century have gone to create a great tradition and establish its hold in this country. So attached are we to well-tried methods that few past variations have failed to leave some mark upon the practice of today. Some, indeed, have outlasted their usefulness and others are capable of improvement. Change is brought about only with reluctance, which 'makes us rather bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of'. Nevertheless, gradual evolution has resulted in a system - if indeed such diversity of practice can properly be called a system - which may well be better than is achieved elsewhere by committees or government departments.

At no point is the diversity more marked than in the early years of the secondary schools, and this makes description difficult. Here experiment has been widespread and practice ranges from the complete exclusion of science from the curriculum at this stage, on the one hand, to the beginning of specialised studies, on the other. It would be fair to say, however, that the trends of development have been away from both these extremes. It has come to be realised that if science springs from an inherent interest in nature it is of importance that this interest should be nurtured and not permitted to wither through lack of exercise, or to be destroyed by an unimaginative approach. Few pupils, indeed, start their career in the secondary school without an interest in nature and it is rarely necessary to seek to implant it. All that is required is care to encourage it. Such encouragement is perhaps specially important for pupils who do not take naturally to a predominantly linguistic curriculum; such an interest may stimulate them to read and write and talk in a way they might find difficult in other fields; and it is now usual for schools, both publicly maintained and independent, to provide some opportunities for this kind of work to be done. The approach is frequently through natural history, growing out of and extending what has already begun in the primary school. Simple practical studies in the field at this stage and familiarity with the plants and flowers of the countryside, with the animals of hedgerows, fields, ponds and streams, are common objectives. To achieve them, specimens are maintained in aquarium, vivarium, greenhouse or garden for purposes of study; thus knowledge of the almost infinite variety displayed in the web of life is


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acquired and an introduction is effected to the diversity of the ways of life and its processes.

Even in the first year of the secondary course physical science usually finds some place, and its importance grows in succeeding years. Frequently it is associated with the biological studies, particularly with the processes of respiration and photosynthesis, the whole forming a unified study at this stage. The approach is by a simple empirical study of the facts, as elicited by careful observation and experiment. Occasionally a similar study of the heavens is included and sometimes the urge to 'collect', often particularly strong at this age, is enlisted to familiarise the pupils with the nature of fossils and the record of the rocks.

While there appears to be quite wide agreement in secondary schools of all types that science should start through this kind of general factual survey, made as stimulating as possible, and that later this should be followed by a more specialised and theoretical treatment, opinions differ about the right age for making the transition from one to the other. There are resulting variations in practice to be found within every type of secondary school. It would not be difficult, for example, to instance cases of grammar and technical schools where all the work up to the age of 16 is entirely general and others where it is entirely specialised and limited to certain branches; the same could be said of modern schools, though the second alternative is here decidedly less common. In the grammar schools the change from one type of course to the other often comes at the time when additional foreign languages are introduced, the additional time necessary for these languages being found by reducing the time given to science. Not infrequently the language streams continue with the general survey while the science stream restricts its study to certain branches and changes its style of attack. The effect of this linkage with the beginning of additional languages is to introduce the change from general to specialised scientific studies at an earlier age than is often thought, on other grounds, to be desirable. In schools arranged on such a plan, the general course is frequently as short as one or two years; but when there is no such connection with language teaching it may be as long as four or five years. There is a feeling, even among schools which adopt it, that the first arrangement tends to lead to too early a specialisation and to demand too early a decision from the pupils on the nature of their future career. There is little doubt that but for conflicting demands many, if not most, of these schools would prefer to postpone this decision. In those modern schools which do not keep an appreciable number of their pupils much beyond the age of fifteen the question hardly arises and the general course can last throughout their school life.

The torch which Richard Dawes first lit when he advocated his


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'Science of Common Things' is thus kept burning vigorously through the work in general science done in nearly all schools today. It is also possible to trace the effects of the heuristic teaching of Henry Edward Armstrong; indeed, being more recent, they are occasionally even more obvious. It is widely felt in this country that no course in science, whether general or specialised, can be satisfactory if it deals merely with the acquisition of knowledge and does not attempt to cultivate powers of reasoning and a critical attitude, to develop judgment and even to engender certain moral qualities as well. Whatever topics may be selected for study and whether or not they lead to elaborate theoretical structures, any course in science remains basically a study of nature; and a spirit of investigation will permeate the work if it is to be fruitful. Opportunities abound to emphasise the qualities and ideals which must be possessed by anyone engaged upon solving a scientific problem. Concentration upon 'method', almost to the point of obsession and to the exclusion of all else, which at one time flourished, is rarely found today, but the same fundamental aims, though pursued a good deal less obtrusively, still animate the work. The work of the psychologists on the transfer of training from one field to another shook some scientists as much as it did their brethren in the classics and mathematics departments, but it failed to eliminate entirely 'mental training' as an objective in English science teaching. Perhaps the English teacher felt some belief in transference too deeply in his bones for him to disregard it entirely. He felt his attitude to be supported by two sound reasons. First, it was considered that the field of science itself was so important and far-reaching in its effects upon the lives and thoughts of everyone that a training in its methods was entirely justified on these grounds alone. In the second place some transfer of training was thought by the psychologists to be made possible by taking special measures and calling attention to the broader implications of the work. Sometimes this may be left for mere incidental reference and sometimes special work may be designed for the purpose.

Up to as recently as twenty-five or thirty years ago there was a great difference between the science which was taught in boys' schools and that taught to girls. The former usually consisted of the physical sciences only while the latter was predominantly biological (often only botanical). The feeling that this state of affairs was unsatisfactory was an important contributory cause of the 'general science' movement. Since about 1920 much development of the biological side has taken place in boys' schools and, though it would still be untrue to say that it has achieved a state of complete equality with the physical sciences in all schools, it has done so in a great many and rarely is there the same disparity as there once was. Equal success has not attended the efforts of the girls' schools to


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develop the physical sciences. The reason for this lies partly in the fact that it has been extraordinarily difficult to attract women physicists into teaching; girls' schools have failed to produce many of them, in any case, and there seems to be a vicious circle. Partly the reason lies in the fact that science as a whole plays a much less important part in the curriculum of girls' schools than in that of boys', and some increase in the attention girls give to science seems called for.

Before this brief description of the English tradition of science teaching can be closed, there remain to be discussed two very important features which, more perhaps than anything else, distinguish science teaching in this country from that of other countries. The first of these is the emphasis which is placed upon practical work. In most countries practical work in the form of demonstrations performed by the teacher is included and these are often striking and very skilfully performed, with equipment for the purpose sometimes better than is possessed by most English schools. The standardisation of equipment, too, which is to be found in many other countries, may have led to a broader use of this extremely valuable method. While, however, schools in this country have much to learn from other countries in this matter of demonstrations in very few countries is the same emphasis to be found as here on practical work by the pupils themselves. Critics recognise that it has shortcomings - for example, frequently the work would merit the title of 'practical exercises' or 'individual demonstrations' rather than 'experiments', and it is impossible always to retain all the characteristics, even the important ones, of an individual investigation; nevertheless, great importance has been attached to this direct personal experience of the pupil. Its value is too intangible to permit of an accurate and objective assessment, and whether English science would be any the worse if less emphasis were placed upon it, it is impossible to say. But that it is part of our tradition in science teaching cannot be doubted and most science teachers believe that it forms a highly valuable part; at least it is reasonable that the subject should exploit the opportunities which it possesses and which no other subject can offer to the same degree.

Emphasis on individual experimentation is often accompanied by doubts, sometimes publicly expressed but more often silently felt, about the value of the demonstration lesson as a form of teaching. A class of passive listeners, absorbing to the best of their limited powers of concentration information conveyed to them by a lecturer, will receive very poor measure educationally. The lecture-demonstration is common enough at the university level and may be appropriate with older pupils, but misgivings about its suitability for those between the ages of 11 and 15 are well founded. Indeed few teachers, except the very inexperienced, would adopt such a procedure at all. The best demonstration lessons in


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this country are based upon an entirely different approach, for in them the members of the class take a full share; such lessons would be better described as cooperative investigations. The main function which the master performs is to pose the problem, and he then acts more as an organiser of research than as a demonstrator. Pupils' suggestions are elicited and followed up, the design of the experiments lies largely in their hands, difficulties are encountered and if possible overcome and the limitations affecting the final results are assessed. Lessons of this kind are obviously of quite a different character from demonstrations, and can make a most valuable contribution to the education of the pupils. While the purely didactic type of lesson is rightly criticised, the good lecture-demonstration - or cooperative investigation - is one of the strongest features of our science teaching.

The second particularly English characteristic of our science teaching, which, of course, is shared by other subjects, is the degree of specialisation which occurs at the higher levels in the schools of this country. This part of the science course will be discussed more fully in Part III of this pamphlet. In spite of all its shortcomings, specialisation does lead the ablest pupils to levels which would be looked upon by many in other countries as being beyond the possibilities of schools. Most English educationists hold that an essential part at school level of a truly liberal education in any field is some intensive study of a high standard and that without something of the kind a full education is impossible. There are, moreover, many teachers of science in other countries who admire this particular feature of English teaching. It has been the object of a good deal of criticism, particularly of recent years, but this has been directed, in the main, against excesses. Whatever views may be held upon this, English education could hardly retain its character if this feature of it were to be eliminated.




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CHAPTER 3

Conditions under which Science is Taught:
Changes in the Last Twenty-five Years

AS a preliminary measure for the preparation of this pamphlet, the conditions under which science was being taught in the year 1955 were investigated in a small, but reasonably representative sample of schools maintained by local authorities, distributed over England. There has been some change since then but not enough to vitiate the results of this enquiry to any serious extent. The sample comprised 98 modern schools and 54 grammar schools. The opinions expressed in this chapter are based upon general experience supplemented by this enquiry. Where actual numbers are quoted they refer to this sample only and in view of its small size they should be treated with some caution.

Not since 1932 has any document concerned with the teaching of science been issued by the Board or Ministry of Education. The last to be published was issued under the title of Science in Senior Schools and referred to the fore-runners of the present modern schools. The first impression to be recorded is that of the very great material progress which has occurred in these schools since 1932. Then, only a start was being made in the provision of laboratories for the schools, and most of them worked under the handicap of cramped and improvised conditions. An extensive building programme has produced, and is still producing, many new school buildings and it is rare for there not to be at least one good laboratory in any of these; sometimes, however, there is insufficient accommodation to meet the needs of the school and some measure of improvisation is still necessary. It has also been found possible to help a considerable number of those schools which have remained in old buildings; many such schools were provided with prefabricated huts immediately after the war, and these have been found to make very acceptable laboratories.

Yet, in spite of very encouraging progress much remains to be accomplished. Over one-third of the laboratories in the modern schools in the sample visited were converted classrooms, almost all of which were inadequate in size, permitting practical work to be performed by the pupils only in uneconomically small classes and even then with some difficulty. In many of the laboratories visited electricity at low voltage was not made available at the pupils' benches, even by means of portable cells; curtains or blinds for darkening the rooms were provided in only


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about half. In a few of the newest schools there were good facilities for storage but frequently quite inadequate storage seriously limited the nature of the work which could be done.

In the grammar schools the most important change has been the very great growth in the number of boys taking science in the sixth form. Not only have sixth forms as a whole increased but so also has the proportion of the pupils in them specialising in science. In independent boys' schools the science sixths number about as many as all the other divisions of the sixth forms put together; this represents a tremendous change from the state of affairs twenty-five years ago. The proportion taking science in sixth forms in maintained schools is even larger. Because many pupils leave without entering the sixth forms in these schools, however, the science sixth may be a much smaller fraction of the whole school than in independent schools. This growth has led to a great increase in the size of sixth form sets, and since many laboratories built for advanced work are small, their capacity is now often overtaxed. Laboratories for elementary work are, as a rule, of good size and have proved adequate. Many schools, however, have grown so that their laboratories are now insufficient in number. In a few schools advantage has been taken of the need for an increase in the general accommodation of the school to build new science blocks, the old laboratories being used for general purposes. There remain, however, many schools where existing laboratories are no longer adequate.

The same growth in numbers taking advanced science has not occurred in girls' schools and developments over the last twenty-five years have been slower. Frequently there are not enough science mistresses to provide a comprehensive course in the subject. Often both staff and laboratories for the physical sciences are quite inadequate and the lack of a good general standard in mathematics is often a further handicap. Much remains to be done before the teaching of science in many of these schools can be considered satisfactory.

Concurrently with the growth of the study of the subject there has been, over the same period, apart from the war, a steady improvement in equipment in all types of school. In building up their equipment the modern schools, which had greater initial deficiencies, wisely concentrated upon apparatus for purposes of demonstration. In many schools this is now sufficient to allow attention to be directed to acquiring additional apparatus for practical work by the pupils, which in most of the schools in the sample was still inadequate. In grammar schools the problem has been that of keeping pace with growing numbers. However, the leeway caused by the stopping of supplies during the war has now been largely made up and, except in schools where new branches of science have been recently taken up, it is comparatively rare to find


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shortage of apparatus a serious handicap to the work. Shortage of storage space is, however, frequently a great worry.

In suitable conditions apparatus can be designed and constructed on the school premises, and when this has been done it has incidentally lent a good deal of vigour to the teaching. Facilities for such improvisation, however, are still far from good, and the small though well-equipped workshop within the science department which is called for is seldom found. When there is a skilled laboratory technician, it is readily seen that this provision is essential to make proper use of his services; but the facilities are needed quite as much where the science master has to rely on his own efforts. Without this facility he cannot exploit the full possibilities of his laboratory. It would indeed be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the making of apparatus on the school premises. There is no need for an elaborate workshop though good use can be made of some simple machine tools. In some schools the science master has to rely on the goodwill of the handicraft master for his tools and raw materials. The goodwill is rarely lacking but the system is, nevertheless, unsatisfactory. The volume of work which should be undertaken is such that the science master would feel some compunction in calling upon his colleague to the extent required, and it is better for him to possess his own equipment. Moreover, such facilities are essential in the science department itself if any of the work is to be based upon investigations by the pupils themselves. Further consideration is given to this matter in a later chapter.

In modern schools laboratory assistance of any kind at present appears rarely to be provided. There was none in 94 of the 98 schools in the sample. Full-time assistance, though of widely varying degrees of skill, was provided in rather more than half of the grammar schools visited; in addition, the assistance of pupils was enlisted in some of the other schools. Though it is better than nothing and possibly does not interfere seriously with the progress of the pupils concerned, this practice is but a makeshift and is not to be recommended. As with tools and raw materials for the making and improvisation of apparatus, so with laboratory assistance; it would be difficult to exaggerate its importance. Much as science teachers would like to become experimenters, unless they have some assistance this side of their activities is often thwarted. Work reaches its highest standards where adequate assistance is provided, and no single step which is immediately practicable could improve the standard of the teaching to a greater extent than the making of this provision more general. (1)

Since 1939 the supply of teachers of science to the schools has been a cause of great concern and there is now a severe shortage in all types of

(1) See Appendix I.


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school. It was hoped by many, twenty-five years ago, that it would ultimately be possible to staff the science departments of senior schools with graduate teachers, and figures given in the report Science in Senior Schools show that about 42 per cent of those then teaching the subject were graduates. The sample of schools visited on the present occasion indicated that the proportion in modern schools had fallen to less than half this figure. On the other hand, in the grammar schools the proportion of non-graduates teaching science remains small. It is largest in girls' schools, where the sample visited indicated a proportion about four times the figure for the other grammar schools. It appears that many of those teaching science hold pass degrees, but it must not be assumed that such a qualification is unsuitable for work in certain posts in a school, for which indeed it may be admirable. There is still a fair proportion of teachers with first class honours, though again girls' schools fare worse than the others. The effects of the shortage of science teachers do not show up very clearly in total figures. Nevertheless the insidious result is apparent within the schools themselves. In boys' schools it is, however, much more a threat to the future than a cause of present ills; but in girls' schools the work is already seriously affected. The boys' schools still possess a considerable body of older teachers who are well qualified and competent. Up to the present they have been able to fill the key positions and cope with advanced work, which used at one time to be the peculiar province of the young graduate fresh from research or the university. Those taking the junior work are often young teachers less highly qualified academically. For this work they are frequently very well suited. As a whole, however, the teachers taking the junior forms are so differently qualified from those taking the sixth form that the staffs are much less flexible than they used to be; when a senior member leaves it is difficult to replace him and it is even difficult to cope with his work during a period of absence of any length. The danger of such a state of affairs for the future is obvious. Too few highly qualified people appear to be coming forward to replace those who leave.

Closely related to the supply of teachers is the question of size of classes. In maintained grammar schools the size of forms below the sixth form approximates to 30 pupils and, as a rule, these are taken in one group for science. Though the ideal size of a class is probably somewhat less than this, especially for practical work, it is hardly possible in present circumstances seriously to criticise this practice. Until it proves possible to recruit more science teachers, any wholesale division of classes must inevitably mean that less science would be available for any individual pupil, and the time commonly given to this department of knowledge is not such as to allow a reduction without serious loss of standard or even the complete abandonment of some branches. In


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boys' grammar schools, at the present time, the place where the shoe pinches particularly is in the size of some of the groups taken together for advanced studies. These are often as large as junior forms. The pupils are physically larger, they have experiments which are a good deal more complicated to carry out and they need a considerable amount of individual attention. In consequence these pupils are not as well treated as were their predecessors before the war.

In modern schools about a third of the classes in the sample exceeded thirty pupils, but on the other hand about a fifth of all classes were less than fifteen. There is a historical reason for this wide divergence; it has long been felt, and quite rightly, that it becomes exceedingly difficult to organise practical work with classes exceeding thirty in number, and since before 1945 it was accepted that classes in 'Senior' schools should have up to 40 pupils they were divided into two for the subject, giving groups around twenty in number, which were much more manageable. With mixed classes this was often done because of the administrative convenience of arranging separate instruction for boys and girls in other subjects. In general, classes have since become smaller but some rather small forms are still occasionally divided for science. When laboratories are small and facilities few this may be justifiable. But it is the science teacher who is most scarce and if very small classes can be avoided they clearly should be, while the shortage lasts.

While the content of courses in science has considerably improved in recent years there has not been much change in the time which is allocated. In the modern schools, as in the senior schools of twenty-five years ago, it is not uncommon to find two weekly periods throughout the course, even where accommodation exists which would permit more. For reasons which will be developed later, this is most regrettable. Shortage of staff, no doubt, accounts for a good deal of the absence of progress.

In grammar schools it is commoner to find science streams with a much more liberal time allocation but there continues to be a considerable discrepancy between schools for girls and those for boys. As the number of scientists required by the country continues to increase, the girls' schools will be one of the reservoirs which must supply further recruits. Opportunities of employment, especially in industry, open to girls with good qualifications in science at an advanced level, have recently increased. This is beginning to lead to a feeling of greater security for girls who are willing and able to pursue an advanced course; some of those who complete the school course will find that they wish to qualify further. There is little doubt also that the shortage of suitably qualified men will oblige industry to turn still more to women for


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recruits; the process has hardly yet begun but increasing attention to science may be expected in girls' schools.

There was a great variation in the number and quality of the scientific books possessed by different schools. In some the collection was poor and appeared to be little used. In others there was a good stock and it was well used. The vast majority of schools lie between these extremes, but as a whole the science libraries produce the impression that much more might be done to encourage pupils to read in and about the subject.

Textbooks form the material which a pupil has readiest for reference, and good ones .can obviate the necessity for a large volume of written notes. In some modern schools the pupils are not given responsibility for keeping their own books, and books are given out at the beginning of a lesson and collected at the end. This is a system which no doubt had its origin in inadequate supplies and in a lack of a sense of responsibility among the pupils. But such a sense of responsibility can only come through use and it is important that supplies should be sufficient to enable this practice, which deprives pupils of the opportunity of referring to their books at other times, to cease. Not only is the responsibility for keeping the books valuable in itself, but to take them out of the possession of the pupils as soon as a lesson finishes is to destroy what value they might have as a source of reference.

There are, unfortunately, textbooks which restrict their aim narrowly to preparation for external examinations; this accounts for much of the sameness to be found among them. There are others whose authors have remembered that the function of a good book is to encourage the pupil to read both in the textbook itself and in other books as well; a book of this kind does not confine itself to the syllabus for any examination. It will be sound in treatment but also attractive to read. Unfortunately it cannot be cheap to produce.

In addition to textbooks, books of reference are required. They are of two main kinds - those required for reference in connection with practical work and those containing rather fuller accounts of the theory of the subject than is to be found in the textbook. The former will include books for purposes of identification in biology, books of physical tables and instructions for experiments and preparations and the like. The latter will not be so advanced as to be valueless to the pupils, but some of them will need to go somewhat beyond the usual school course, so as to be available for occasional reference.

In addition to those books which are necessary for the formal work in the subject, there should be in the school library scientific books of more general appeal. Schools vary very much in what they possess of this kind. Possibly the commonest shortcoming is a lack of books of general interest for the younger pupils.


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Finally, it is proper to record here one important change in recent years affecting the teaching of science which cannot be reduced to statistics. This is the accelerating growth in the subject matter which has to be studied - a growth which affects all levels of instruction. At the levels which occur in the modern school there has been a great broadening of the curriculum. Teachers are persuaded that pupils should not go out into the world without some acquaintance with the principal branches of science - biology, chemistry and physics - and the better syllabuses in use reflect this feeling. They have replaced the narrow schemes common twenty-five years ago and the change has been for the better. Nevertheless a serious problem presents itself in dealing with a wide field in an extremely limited time. The solution of giving more time to the subject, never one easily made popular with teachers of other subjects, seems inevitable. More time will often mean increased accommodation. The pressure generated by the growth of knowledge is felt particularly strongly at the level of specialised advanced work in the sixth form. Here there is much confusion and conflict of thought. Many teachers think (whether justifiably or not) that the universities expect a great deal of the increase in subject matter to be dealt with by the schools. This has led to an inflation of the time devoted to each branch; and the practice of taking three or even four branches (including mathematics) because it is thought (rightly or wrongly) that this will be valuable in winning a scholarship or securing entry to a university, aggravates the situation. It is far too common to find sixth form pupils who do little else in school but science and physical education. Although this pressure bears directly on the sixth form, it is also transmitted throughout the school. Discussion between schools and universities with a view to mending this state of affairs might lead to useful results.


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Part II

The Science Course from Eleven to Fifteen








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CHAPTER 4

The Development of Children and the Teaching of Science

THIS chapter includes a brief study of the development of children's interests between the ages of 11 and 15, so far as they are relevant to the teaching of science, and attempts to deduce some principles which can be applied to the making of a curriculum for this stage.

It has been suggested that science itself had its origin before the dawn of history, in man's curiosity about his surroundings, and that this motive remains not only behind scientific enquiry today but also behind the desires of many, who would not call themselves scientists in any sense, to become acquainted with at least some of the main phenomena of nature and with the principal ideas which have been put forward to explain them. Such curiosity is innate and broad in its outlook. It is often strong in children.

It would be a mistake to allow the syllabus of work to be limited entirely by the interests displayed by the pupils concerned, since their knowledge is insufficient to select even the most interesting of the possible topics for discussion and still less those having the greatest importance; yet it is a sound principle in the guidance of children, as with other human beings, to work with them rather than against them, to give their natural urges scope for fulfilment rather than to attempt to make them conform to a programme which is foreign to their desires, and to make use of, rather than to stifle, their interests and energies. It was a weakness of the heuristic method that the topics used were of little significance to the pupils and it was not until importance was attached to knowledge as well as to method that their full cooperation was enlisted. Even when native curiosity by itself fails, children sometimes seem driven by an urge to grow up, to acquire the knowledge possessed by adults and to wield the power which they feel is carried with it. In the field of science their conscious desires may well be, therefore, largely in harmony with what an adult would choose for them, the main differences arising from their less complete knowledge and less complete realisation of what is important. The time when children began a study of the natural sciences with almost unbounded energy and enthusiasm only to end their course uninterested and even apathetic need not recur.

It is unwise to generalise about the interests of children, but it is at least true that at the age of eleven, when most pupils in this country


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enter secondary schools, all but the very dull have a great interest in the things around them, and many appear to reach a peak in the intensity of this concern; they are shifting from makebelieve towards reality. Their interests will have been carefully nurtured by the good junior school and will provide a vantage point from which the secondary school can start. Those whose interests have begun to be directed to the world about them sometimes show an enormous range of the mood of enquiry. Things on a large scale, such as the stars, the sun and the sky have a place with those which are impressive or terrifying, such as thunder, earthquakes or bombs. Invisible and intangible things such as shadows, rainbows and gases are at the other end of the scale. Reflective children ask questions which centre round properties which seem to be out of step with their ordinary experiences or beliefs. Why do the sky, the stars and clouds stay up? How can aeroplanes, birds, balloons, do the same? What makes smoke and fireworks go up? Why does ink rise in blotting paper? Some are interested in origins and ends. Where do fogs or babies come from? Where does water go to down a drain? What happens to the stars in the daytime? Not every child, of course, has these interests; but they are generally easily roused.

Out-of-school activities which are capable of being harnessed in the cause of science abound. The keeping of pets is all but universal, and in some areas the tending of garden plots is common. The collecting habit is so widespread as almost to amount to a menace. On holidays rock pools, streams, canals or ponds may be explored and even the old-time interest in birds' nests remains, though fortunately somewhat sublimated so that depredation of the eggs is much less frequent. In their spare time, children may play with scientific toys.

Marked differences between the interests of town and country children have in these times largely disappeared. Children appear to be interested in the very broad and general features of their environment; the finer details and the subtler problems tend to escape them. They see, are interested in and ask questions about the things hardly anyone could fail to observe. Wonder is universal, and it is wonder about the very obvious and outstanding things in nature.

Such is the inheritance to which the teacher of science is heir. To exploit it to the full would tax the ingenuity of the ablest and the energies of the most forceful. To face such riches with the density bottle and interminable practice in the use of the chemical balance alone, is to throw them aside and allow them to perish through sheer lack of attention. Curiosity is one of the main driving forces at this age and if it is to be harnessed in the study of science a wide field must be surveyed. Children's interests can, indeed, supply the teacher with useful suggestions for the selection of his subject matter and ideas for fruitful


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methods of approach. It is not too soon in these early years to attempt to capture the spirit of detached enquiry and of rigorous reasoning from verifiable facts which are characteristic of scientific investigations. To start on an examination grind at this stage is an almost wicked neglect of valuable opportunities; furthermore, it rarely improves the final results.

Curiosity, however, can be satisfied, and this doubtless explains, in part at least, the decline in interest in many topics which occurs with advance in age. Pupils' interests are also determined, in increasing measure as they get older, by what they have been brought into contact with in their schools. There has, for instance, certainly been a marked increase in interest on the part of boys in this country in biology following the greater prominence which is now accorded to it in boys' schools; and it has been noticeable that experience of field excursions has further heightened this interest.

While it would be interesting and valuable to know with certainty at what point an interest in the systematics of science emerges, it is by no means an easy matter to investigate this problem and so far little conclusive work appears to have been done upon it. The emergence of such an interest is likely to be related to the earlier studies which the pupils have already made in school, but available indications suggest that as a rule little interest in elaborate systematisation develops before the age of fifteen. Any complicated theoretical study calls for a degree of maturity and is best left until later. As children grow older they tend generally to do less and think more. Many also place more emphasis upon utility. Indeed, up to the age of about fifteen years (the precise limit varying, of course, according to ability) curiosity blended with utility appears to be the principal means by which enthusiasm may be fired. A premature concentration upon theory is generally unwelcome and damps enthusiasm.

For many pupils between 11 and 15 an education involving, or at any rate stressing, abstract thought, seems inappropriate. As their curiosity becomes more satisfied their interest will tend to revolve more and more around the useful. Such pupils are to be found in all types of school and for them science courses leading to an understanding of the application of science seem appropriate.



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CHAPTER 5

The Design of the Course

THIS chapter takes further the problems arising in the design of a course in science for pupils from the age of 11 to 15. First of all, perhaps a word is necessary to say why these particular ages were selected. The first is the usual age for beginning secondary education and calls for little comment. The second is at present the limit of compulsory attendance at school, but this had little to do with the choice. It appeared from a study of the teaching of science in schools that somewhere about the age of 15 occurs one of the natural turning-points determined by the nature of the subject and the development of the pupil. In the years up to that point future specialist and non-specialist can be taught together without serious detriment to either. Beyond it the need of the former to have something firmer to bite upon than would be suitable for his non-specialist colleague begins to be felt. This must not be taken to mean that intense specialisation is being advocated at this stage. It will be clear from what is written in the next section of this pamphlet that, although future specialists may henceforth give rather more time to science than others, this should not be allowed to destroy the general balance of their curriculum. The nature of their scientific studies, however, may well start to be different at this point. Such pupils might well embark upon the beginnings of systematic theoretical work which would be too detailed and, because it could not be carried to completion, lacking in significance for the others. On the other hand a matter which concerns us particularly at the present stage is that to embark upon such systematic theoretical studies much before the age of 15 means a risk of superficiality. Before that age few pupils have the necessary maturity to appreciate the arguments and concepts involved and are likely to fall back on learning by rote. The view advanced here (though it is not put forward as a hard and fast rule) is that the age of fifteen represents a convenient point at which to round off the consideration of elementary studies in science in schools.

Up to the age of fifteen the most important point which has to be borne in mind is that pupils with a great variety of ultimate objectives will be taught together. In grammar schools those who will ultimately continue their scientific studies in the sixth form and at the university must be taught alongside those who will later specialise in Arts and others who may stop their schooling without entering the sixth form at all. In modern schools there will similarly be those who will continue scientific


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study after leaving school and others who will obtain at school all the knowledge of science they will ever acquire. The most that appears reasonable in any type of school to meet this situation is some grading of classes according to general ability. It would be unwise at this early age to attempt to segregate pupils according to their chosen careers even if these were known. It is very easy for a school, especially one attempting to nurture a record of academic success, to lavish all its energies upon a few selected pupils and to neglect in some measure the remainder. The principle accepted here is that the results of this are not the best, even for those who are among the selected few.

The necessity, in these circumstances, of designing a course for all pupils on educational principles is not to be regretted. A school exists to educate its pupils and only secondarily to train specialists; specialists will be better men, and indeed better specialists, for having received a general education. The contributions which science has to make towards a liberal education are, in the main, two-fold; on the one hand it can provide that knowledge of the physical world without which intelligent action and thought under modern conditions is impossible; on the other it can furnish within a suitable field a training in consistent thinking. Good science teaching has indeed also a moral aspect, in that it aims at intellectual integrity; but the main contribution of science must lie in the first two fields. It is thus desirable to examine what in the field of knowledge and what in that of training might be attempted for pupils between the ages of 11 and 15.

That both biological and physical branches must be included is clearly indicated by the questions which children ask. It is no less true when seen from the view point of the adult. Both branches include much knowledge which is continually required in the everyday problems of modern society. It is in biology that a pupil will find knowledge of how his own body works and how to keep it in a state of health. Widely disseminated biological knowledge is essential if systems of public health are to be maintained on any better basis than rule of thumb. A pupil should also realise his own dependence upon other living creatures and particularly green plants upon the functioning of which practically all life upon this planet is founded. If he is later to appreciate anything of the theory of evolution, one of the outstandingly great theories of science, he will require an early introduction to living forms of the present day and their predecessors in the fossil record. Lastly no boy or girl, whatever his or her future is to be, should be denied acquaintance with that wealth of variety and adaptation which constitutes the web of life, or an introduction to those absorbing interests to be found in the natural history of the countryside, sea shore, rivers, moorlands and mountains - interests in which so many find satisfaction throughout their lives.


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It is no less certain that elementary chemistry, also, includes knowledge of prime importance to everybody. Because of the difficulty of dealing with the theory there has been a tendency recently to restrict the amount of chemistry studied in the early years. There is, however, a very great deal of important knowledge to be found in elementary chemistry. Methods need to be worked out to deal with the difficulties of an essentially factual approach. The general nature of chemical change should be understood and the properties of the simpler elements and their compounds investigated. An understanding of the basic processes of respiration, nutrition and excretion in plants and animals cannot be acquired without knowledge of the chemistry of air and water, of combustion, of the properties of oxygen and of the products of combustion, of solution and of reactions which go on in solution. Acids and alkalis, carbonates and bicarbonates, hard and soft waters, the extraction of some of the more important metals from their ores, are suitable topics; the making of coal gas as one of the uses to which the most important natural resource which this country possesses is put, should be included. Chemistry is also the origin, in recent scientific history, of the atomic theory, another of the great theories of modern science. This theory will be met by all at some point in their lives; to develop it in a logical and reasoned fashion before the age of fifteen on the basis of chemical evidence is difficult and reasons, which will be discussed later, exist which make it desirable to postpone such work to a stage when pupils have had time to study directly the experimental evidence and have acquired sufficient maturity to appreciate the arguments involved. In common with all the other science appropriate to these early years, the emphasis must be placed upon empirical knowledge secured as a direct result of experimental investigation.

Physics is the third main branch of science appropriate to the age-range. The basic principles of heat and mechanics are used throughout a wide field of science. In dynamics, pupils of this age may meet and discuss successfully problems which inaugurated the beginning of the era of modern science. In light and colour lies a stimulating field easily open to the young investigator. In the science of electricity is knowledge which should be possessed by all girls and boys before they leave school. Some of the important generalisations which occur in physics, such as that of the Conservation of Energy, are, if suitably treated, also well within their grasp. This was pointed out as long ago as 1918 by the Prime Minister's Committee sitting under the chairmanship of Sir J. J. Thomson, but many schools have been slow to act upon their recommendations. An appreciation of the necessity for the conservation of the fuel resources of the country (a parallel to the similar consideration of the conservation of mineral resources, which can be studied in


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chemistry, and of food in biology) can be obtained from a broad consideration of the Conservation of Energy. It was in the realm of physics too that the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries first began to extend. As with the atomic theory of chemistry, the tremendous intellectual implications of this change cannot be discussed effectively before the age of fifteen but a basis of physical knowledge, acquired in the main for other purposes, would enable it to be appreciated later.

Reference has already been made to geology. The main principles of stratigraphy, leading to some comprehension of the estimation of the age of the earth and the fossil record, are important if the basis of the theory of evolution is ever to be appreciated. In these days too, astronomy claims inclusion. Knowledge of the solar system and of an outline of the methods by which the apparent motion of the planets can be deciphered, should be gained. The first is commonly included but, by itself and apart from the second, it loses most of its educational value.

Such is the field of which some survey ought to be made in any elementary course. Its extent is considerable and it calls for a suitable allotment of time to enable it to be dealt with. The miserly two periods a week which are all that quite a number of schools even now allow at this stage (often because of poor facilities) are quite inadequate.

It is now necessary to consider method. Of the two major objectives of an elementary science course, that of the acquisition of knowledge depends almost entirely upon the topics selected for study. The second, that of training in objective thinking, remains to be discussed. The methods of science are basically the same in all its branches and a training in the scientific method of reasoning depends much more upon the method of study than upon the field selected.

Of first importance in training a pupil in consistent thought is the platitudinous fact that he should be encouraged, within the limits of his intellectual capacity, to think. This can only be accomplished if he is presented with problems, of suitable difficulty, about which he can think. Little of value as a training will be achieved by the mere learning of conventional arguments and hardly anything of importance by the memorisation of facts. Some of both these activities will have to be included in the course of other work but their educational value is very limited. For a pupil's thinking to possess reality in the field of science it will be essential for it to arise as much as possible from his own observations. Again, while his observations may well have to be guided or even directed, he should never be content, for example, with his master's drawings on the blackboard in place of his own.

If the opportunities which science provides of thinking in the context of an actual situation experienced at first hand by the pupil are to


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be exploited fully, it is necessary for the study to be approached from the consideration of simple problems. It is in ability to pose such problems lying within the powers of his pupils to solve that the mark of the outstanding teacher is to be found.

Besides these two main aims of knowledge and training there are others which deserve mention, even though it will not be possible to achieve all the aims to the same degree in all circumstances; indeed, with some pupils, certain of them may prove hardly attainable at all. One aim which can be attained in some measure with nearly every boy or girl, although not generally associated with science in schools, is improvement in linguistic expression. In the extreme case, for pupils of very limited ability this aim could take precedence over all others, even over the modicum of simple scientific knowledge which would be acquired at the same time. The field of science is often a good one in which to attempt to achieve self-expression and backward pupils are as much interested in science as are their brighter contemporaries. For them to make progress it is essential that their interest should be secured and in science are to be found topics sufficiently adult in nature for this to be achieved. There are schools where simple studies in science have been found to form a useful basis for much of the work of backward pupils. The many simple operations encountered can provide two essential conditions of progress: sufficient stimulation to make the necessary effort and a growing self-confidence.

Although the contribution which science should make to English will always be important, it will be a subsidiary objective for the majority. For rather more intelligent pupils, aims more genuinely scientific become possible. There will be a very large group who will gain a definite, though limited, amount of natural knowledge, but will do no more. Higher in the range of intelligence a return may be expected from attention to careful reasoning and scientific method. The best will benefit from a full development of a treatment of the work which for others may be merely implicit in what they do, serving to develop good habits without receiving explicit attention. At the highest stage (beyond that now being considered) deliberate consideration of the quality of an argument or method is called for; the history and philosophy of science here deserve a place in the curriculum but this would be out of context before the age of fifteen, except as an incidental.

Pupils vary not only in ability; they are also divided between two sexes. Significant differences between the interests of boys and girls are small in the early stages, and much of the difference to be found in the later stages in schools may result merely from an unexamined tradition. There may sometimes be a case for planning a different science curriculum for the two sexes, but there is no case at all for planning with the


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idea that girls will be concerned only with the domestic sphere and can properly be excluded from certain types of career. It can never be right to begin with the assumption that biology alone suits girls and physics alone suits boys.

So long as it is not permitted to become too cramping, the environment may also be allowed some influence in the design of the curriculum in science. Here again, however, the tendency appears to have been to exaggerate differences, with consequent neglect of some of the fundamentals. This tendency has been intensified by the invention of a whole series of names such as Rural Science, Building Science or Engineering Science, for what purport to be almost separate branches of science taught as such. In fact, the many different environments are marked more by common elements, so far as science is concerned, than by diversity. Schools should, of course, make the most of their environmental advantages. Any obvious scientific principle exemplified in the area of the school should be dealt with, but the course in science should also seek to extend experiences beyond the immediate neighbourhood. In addition to exploiting its advantages to the full, a school needs to plan deliberately to compensate for its disadvantages. Pupils in rural schools need good courses in the physical sciences - electricity and mechanics may perhaps be mentioned as of particular importance to them - and biology is equally needed by those in the towns, where problems of public health and the handling of food, to name but two examples, demand a widely disseminated knowledge. There is a danger of two distinct and almost antagonistic populations developing in this country. It would be a good thing if town and country dwellers were more aware of the limitations of their own environments and came to realise the advantages of the other. The one vital point which must never be lost sight of in considering the differentiation of the curriculum is that the job the school has to do is to deal with the fundamentals and, however these may be approached and illustrated, their range will not vary much from one school to another. The probable future careers of the pupils may also be enlisted to help vivify the work and intensify interest. There can be little place before the age of 15 for any specialised technical studies applicable to a narrow range of possible occupations. To introduce them before that age would be to limit and warp the basic studies. Yet it would be foolish not to illustrate these basic studies by examples to be found in likely careers in the district, with which a large group of pupils will almost certainly be familiar. Examples which are of importance to the whole community are of even greater value. In no case can differentiation of the curriculum be anything but a matter for judgment, and it is never susceptible of rule and regulation.

To sum up what has just been said about the possibility of dif-


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ferentiating the curriculum the following conclusions might be set out. Where variation in ability occurs among pupils at all widely, differentiation in treatment is essential if success is to be achieved with all of them. When the variations are of environment and interests, the differences are capable of some degree of exploitation but this should not be carried to excess. The vast bulk of the fundamental science will be the same for both boys and girls within the range of ages with which this chapter deals, wherever they may live and whatever careers they may hope to follow. Even in the case of variation in ability it is differentiation in treatment rather than in content that should be emphasised.

We thus arrive at the following desiderata of the course in science for pupils from 11 years of age to 15. First it will be a broad course embracing the study of elementary phenomena in biology, chemistry, physics, geology and astronomy. Secondly, the topics studied should be selected for their intrinsic interest and importance. It would be a gross mistake, for example, to divide the available time equally between these branches in the hope of being fair to all. The attempt by many schools to cut the Gordian knot by giving equal time to the first three has equally little to commend it. Thirdly, throughout the treatment must run a spirit of investigation. Fourthly, observation and experiment at first hand are of crucial importance. Fifthly, treatment and to a less extent choice of topics should be modified to match the ability of the pupils who must be persuaded to think to the limits of their intellectual powers. Lastly, some differentiation may be expected according to sex, the school's environment and the future careers of the pupils, but the scope for this is limited by the necessity to acquire fundamentals.




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CHAPTER 6

General Studies

IT may well be objected that what is being advocated is nothing more than a course of General Science (to which objections have been raised) taught by heuristic methods which are unsatisfactory and out-dated. While it is important that the mistakes made by earlier generations should not be repeated, it is equally important that the most valuable features of their work should not be neglected and lost sight of. The zeal of the reformer so often throws out the baby with the bath water. Instead, our endeavour must now be to retain as much as possible of the valuable characteristics of earlier work while discarding the errors.

The mistake made by those following Professor H. E. Armstrong was that they insisted that everything a boy should know should be discovered afresh by the boy himself. This proved, of course, to be preposterously slow and it further limited, in a ridiculous fashion, what could be attempted. Nothing of this kind is now suggested. The bulk of what a pupil learns will result from exercise and demonstration in the normal fashion; but it would be wrong to go to the other extreme and cut out individual investigation altogether. What is suggested is that two or three times in a pupil's career at school before the age of 15 he should be faced with a problem to investigate. The working out of methods, and the assembling and testing of apparatus will take time but the experience will prove invaluable. If a reasonable field is also to be surveyed it may be necessary to compensate for this delay by more rapid progress at other times. A method of securing this, which will be discussed in a later chapter and which would have much to commend it in view of the enhanced value of the practical work thus done by the pupils, would be to reduce some of the practical exercises which now form the bulk of the practical work in science and augment them by a greater proportion of good demonstrations.

It may be valuable to recall from the last chapter the essential basis upon which the course was formulated. This was that in any elementary scientific study both the twin aims of knowledge and training must be encompassed. If an adequate field of knowledge is to be surveyed some form of general science is essential. In the past, perhaps, it was carried on rather too long for the science specialists, who desired to make a start on the acquisition of special techniques and the study of the systematics of their subject before the age of 16. However, they are by no means the only group of pupils to be considered and even for them


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the premature study of the systematics of science can only result in a superficial memorising of conventional arguments. It is on attaining these two objectives of knowledge and training that alternatives to a general course in the early years of the study of science usually break down. Either the knowledge acquired is far too limited and inadequate or the studies are not well reasoned and valuable as a training. Not infrequently both faults are committed at the same time.

So long as future scientist and non-scientist can both be satisfied by a direct approach to the phenomena of science through simple empirical methods both groups can be taken together without detriment to either. After that stage has been passed it will become necessary to devise different studies for them which it will be the purpose of Part III to discuss. Before then, however, it is important to remember that not all pupils are destined to become science specialists and it will be necessary to be on guard lest traditional exercises designed to produce technical skills useful to the scientist, but to him alone, monopolise the work. For example, to the non-scientist the importance of weighing with a chemical balance is negligible and his time should not be wasted by seeking to make him acquire the skill at an early age. Even for the scientist the technique is more quickly learnt later and elaborate exercises in weighing and measuring which at one time were popular at the beginning of physics serve little purpose. The importance of density can easily be over-emphasised. Its most striking features are best studied from the results of rapid measurements with spring balances. There is nothing to be said for the various more or less complicated and indirect methods hatched up to serve as school exercises and it is hard to justify an attempt to achieve a high degree of accuracy of measurement in an elementary course. Though the tangent galvanometer may have been the basis of electrical measurement a hundred years ago, today it affords no glimmering of what is involved in the present method of measuring current. Together with the magnetometers from which it was evolved it justifies a place only in the science museum. It is possible to devise a course in current electricity suitable for young pupils which approximates to the present structure of the science. It is doubtful if electrostatics should find a place in the course before the age of 15.

Similarly in chemistry much of the elementary quantitative work attains significance only if it contributes to the establishment of the atomic theory on an experimental basis, which it would be unwise to attempt before the age of 15 because of the difficulty and obscurity of the argument. The determination of equivalent weights and the reacting volumes of gases can have but little significance in this part of the course; the learning of the results of modern theories of the structure of the atom is no more than a piece of esoteric dogma, which has, nevertheless,


[page 49]

been introduced at quite an elementary stage in some courses; it deserves no place there. Much biological detail and nomenclature are likewise inappropriate. It is particularly important that any attempt at indoctrination with theories or points of view which cannot be substantiated at this level should be assiduously eschewed. If pupils, for example, are ever to approach the theory of evolution with an open mind it is important that they should not be brought immediately to equate simplicity with primitiveness in the case of contemporaneous creatures before they have evidence to support such a thesis. When the fossil record comes to be studied - as indeed it should within the course now being considered - it should be studied at first hand as far as possible. Though pictures in books can be a great help they can never be a substitute for direct experience. Restorations, given without the evidence upon which they are based, can be a source of thoroughly unsatisfactory training.

It may perhaps be well to emphasise once again that what is being discussed in Part II of this pamphlet is the science course up to the age of 15 and that what is being examined is the appropriateness of a general course in science up to this point. While it is not suggested that science specialists should continue such a study to the age of 16, as many have done in the past, at the same time it should not be too readily assumed that such a course is inappropriate for others as far as that age. There may well be pupils in many schools for whom it would be the best way of rounding off their scientific studies, but the discussion of the problems which arise in this case will be considered in Part III.

It is sometimes objected that elementary general studies in science are necessarily superficial. No one would assert that general studies are never superficial; but the more specialised courses are in fact not infrequently much worse in this respect. Let us consider for a moment what might be an alternative and take as a possible example a course specialised in chemistry beginning perhaps at the age of 13. To confine such a course to a factual survey of chemistry could be hardly justified at all in view of other much more important phenomena in other fields which might have been included; and to create a course, based on chemistry alone, which could be defended it would be necessary to make an attempt to develop the atomic theory on an experimental basis. This is by no means easy to do satisfactorily. To carry out such a study with immature pupils would inevitably be slow and require time on a prodigal scale so that other topics would necessarily be crowded out of the course. But, given such conditions, it is highly improbable that young pupils could appreciate the arguments they are being asked to accept. What might be achieved, perhaps, by the age of 15 or even 16, would be, at the most, the following of the historical development treated as a story. Few, if any, would be able to examine the arguments employed at all critically.


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The experimental investigations would be such that little more than a repetition of the main historical experiments would seem possible and the pupil would be unlikely to devise investigations of his own. What could be achieved would be at the expense of any acquaintance with such topics as the conservation of energy, the elements of electricity and a study of the working of the human body, to name but a few examples, all of which are within the compass of a boy of fifteen. It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that up to the age of 15 a broad course in science is required by all pupils, and that such a course should not introduce considerations which are beyond their intellectual level.

Where general courses have become superficial it is usually because the time allotted to them has been insufficient or where the survey attempted has been unduly ambitious. A course in science of the kind outlined in Chapter 5 could not be covered adequately in less than four weekly periods in the first year and six in the succeeding three years. This is little more than the time recommended by the Thomson Committee in 1918 and the importance of science has certainly not grown less in the meantime.

It is sometimes maintained that to be successful a general course must be entirely in the hands of one master in any form. While there are important advantages to be obtained in this way by teachers who are capable of exploiting the opportunities, it is not an essential. The objectives aimed at are the acquisition of knowledge and training in thinking, and so long as these are achieved any successful method is justifiable. There are, however, certain practical considerations to be taken into account. For example, it is desirable that any one teacher should see his form at least twice in the week to allow him a reasonable frequency of attack. In the case of a practical subject like science, where double periods are essential for practical work, this means that the minimum time which any teacher should have with his form is three periods a week. It is thus unprofitable to divide the work of a form between two teachers if the allotment of time for the subject is less than six periods a week and to divide it successfully between three teachers requires nine periods a week. It would be quite unjustifiable to demand such an allotment of time as the latter throughout a school course below the age of 15, but six weekly periods should be the rule rather than the exception. When the work of a form is divided among two or more teachers it goes without saying that the closest cooperation between them is essential if the best is to be made of the work.

Teachers may well be ill-prepared to take broad courses of study. The training afforded by most university honours degree courses is a narrow one and does not, of itself, develop that breadth of interest which is essential in the early work in schools. Many graduates from these


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courses, however, have undertaken such work most successfully, often with the help of colleagues or of private reading. Much could be done by university training departments to help teachers over these difficulties. Many training colleges have recently instituted what is in effect a three year course in science where the subject is studied to a valuable depth on a broad front; teachers trained by such courses with an interest in elementary studies have an important part to play in schools of all types.






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CHAPTER 7

The Simple Empirical Approach

MENTION has frequently been made of the 'simple empirical approach' as an essential characteristic of elementary work in science, and it is appropriate to give three illustrations of what is meant by the term. The first example is an elementary study in dynamics, limited to a discussion of the first two of Newton's laws of motion (although there is ample opportunity for the third to be treated similarly). Many approaches are, of course, possible and this particular one is taken only to indicate the extent of the problem involved. The master has first to clear his mind on the best way of dealing with the fundamental concepts, such as that of force. Using such a concept, Newton succeeded in describing the behaviour of both astronomical and terrestrial bodies by one scheme. It is true that astronomical considerations need not employ the idea of force, yet it could be argued that this idea is more fundamental than that of mass, and that force, not mass, can be directly appreciated by the senses. Furthermore, it is to the study of terrestrial bodies that it is natural to turn, in the first place, for the formulation of Newton's laws. There are sound pedagogical as well as philosophical reasons for making a beginning in this way.

Newton's first law, as applied to the motion of bodies in a horizontal plane, may well arise from an examination of the motion of a heavy body, such as a packing case, across the laboratory floor. At first sight the behaviour of such a packing case seems to imply a mechanics like that of Aristotle, based upon a 'natural state of rest'. Motion occurs only so long as a mover is acting and ceases as soon as the mover ceases to operate. If the bottom of the case is polished, however, or if rollers are inserted, it becomes evident that the motion is governed by the nature of the interface between the case and the floor. To study the motion of bodies moving as freely as possible, it is convenient to have trolleys mounted on wheels, such as perambulator or, better, small cycle wheels. [text continues after photographic plates.]


[The following photographic plates were printed on unnumbered pages between pages 52 and 53]

PLATE 1

An experiment with a long light trolley. The student is attempting to walk forward across the trolley from a standing start. Because the wheels of the trolley effectively eliminate friction with the floor, she makes very little progress forwards, the trolley instead being propelled backwards.

In performing the experiment it is better to start with both feet on the trolley so as to avoid obtaining an initial thrust direct from the floor.


PLATE 2

Trolley on trolley. A second trolley is mounted on the first. When the latter is towed to the left, the former is not carried along but remains in its original position.


PLATE 3

Speedometer. A small permanent magnet electric motor mounted as a dynamo and connected to a milliameter. Driven by the tyre of the trolley wheel, it furnishes a speedometer which may be calibrated in arbitrary units.


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When the packing case is placed upon such a trolley it is evident that the motion continues long after the mover has ceased to act upon it. If a long light trolley is available, such as is illustrated in Plate 1, the further experiments of walking on to such a trolley and stopping may be tried. Although the walker stops relative to the trolley, he and the trolley together continue to move forward with a velocity only slightly less than that of the walker initially. If an attempt is made, also, to walk off such a trolley from a standing start, as illustrated in Plate 1, what happens is that the trolley moves backwards and there is very little motion of the walker forward. Lastly it is possible for the experimenter to walk over the trolley at a steady pace, beginning and ending some distance away on the laboratory floor; here, if the speed of walking is maintained as constant as possible the trolley shows very little movement indeed. In these experiments it is possible for the experimenter to feel the presence or absence of force upon his body, and the idea that a body not acted on by forces continues to move uniformly in a straight line is seen to correspond closely with the motion which has been observed. A smaller trolley which can be mounted on the larger one will also enable some further useful and amusing confirmatory experiments on inertia to be performed.

The existence of forces, when a body alters its direction or speed of motion, will have been observed crudely in these experiments, and attention can then be turned to finding the relation between the forces acting and the change in the motion which results. For young pupils the investigation is simplified very considerably if an instrument for recording velocities directly is employed. A speedometer suitable for the purpose is easily improvised. It would be possible to fit a cycle speedometer with suitable gearing, but some of them are inclined to 'hunt' and a less expensive and yet very suitable instrument is easily made from a small permanent magnet electric motor driven as a dynamo from the tyre of the trolley wheel through a small pulley of suitable diameter. A milliameter can be connected to the terminals of the motor and will register the speed of the trolley in arbitrary units.

The science of electrodynamics being inevitably a closed book at this stage, its results must on no account be assumed, and it is essential for the speedometer to be calibrated ab initio. This can be done in the obvious way by putting two marks at a suitable distance apart from each other on the laboratory floor and timing the trolley from one to the other when it is towed at a steady speed between them. A curve showing such a calibration for a speedometer made in this way is shown in Fig. 1, page 54.

It will be found that the speedometer has, in fact, a uniform scale, which is helpful if it becomes necessary to interpolate by eye between


[page 54]

FIG. 1. Calibration curve for the electric motor speedometer shown in Plate 3. The trolley was pushed at a constant speed and the time taken to pass between two marks on the laboratory floor measured with a stop-watch.


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consecutive marks on the scale. Speedometers are devices which are now familiar to everyone and their use leads to no difficulty. On the contrary, it is much easier to experiment with varying velocities when one is used and it eliminates the not very accurate and, at this stage, difficult operation of obtaining the acceleration from distance-time curves, even assuming that such curves can themselves be easily obtained.

Newton's second law of motion involves the consideration of both force and mass on the basis of the single relation which can be obtained to connect them. Force, as has been suggested, might be treated as a fundamental concept available, at least qualitatively, through direct sensory experience. In this case, however, sensory estimates of magnitude are far too vague to be of much value; an observer cannot judge by the unaided senses that two forces are equal as accurately as, for example, he can judge by eye that two intensities of illumination are equal. The question of the measurement of force and mass might be pursued as follows:

Sensory experience is sufficient to indicate that whenever an elastic body exerts a force upon us it simultaneously undergoes a distortion. It is an extension of this idea to assume that, whenever such distortions are observed, the bodies undergoing them are exerting forces, although these forces may not be directly experienced by anyone. A constant distortion thus becomes available for the indication of the application of a constant force. Equipped with this facility we can go ahead. A body capable of showing a useful distortion for the forces with which we need to deal is a spring balance. To avoid confusion, this should have paper gummed over its scale, since its calibration should on no account be assumed.

It is simple to tow a trolley fitted with a speedometer by means of a spring balance. If the pointer on the balance is maintained against a fixed mark on the paper scale the trolley will be acted on by a constant force. By measuring the time taken by the trolley to acquire a series of velocities it is possible to obtain the basic result upon which the measurement of both force and mass depends. It is that a constant force acting upon a body generates in it a constant acceleration. This provides a scale by means of which both force and mass may be measured. In the first place, taking a constant body and allowing it to be acted on by various forces we may define the magnitude of any of the forces to be proportional to the acceleration produced. Thus a force producing an acceleration of two units will be twice as great as a force producing an acceleration of one unit, and so on. In this way a scale could be constructed for the spring balance enabling it to be used for the measurement of force on an arbitrary scale. The measurement would be completed by the selection of a particular force to serve as a unit of measurement. If this force is chosen to be that producing an acceleration of one foot per second per second in a mass


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of one pound, the unit so obtained is called the poundal. If the mass is one kilogram and the acceleration one metre per second per second, the unit is the newton. Similarly, by taking a constant force acting upon various masses, a scale of masses could be constructed. One mass would be twice another if the acceleration which the force produced in it was half that which the same force produced in the second. A similar arbitrary choice of a unit would complete this measurement also.
This approach to absolute units of force and mass, though convenient for the theoretical study of the subject, would be very unsuitable as an attempt at an accurate practical operation, and the study would have to be rounded off by reference to gravitational measurements. An experiment to demonstrate the constancy of the acceleration under gravity would be required, and further observations on such phenomena as the time of dropping ball bearings would show that this acceleration was the same for all masses. Thus the force of gravity on a body, called its weight, must be proportional to its mass - for if we double the mass of a body we must also double the force acting on it if we are to maintain the same acceleration. Thus comparisons of masses are conveniently made by the comparisons of weights. Further, the weight of a mass of M pounds is seen to be approximately 32 M poundals and that of a mass of M kilograms to be 9.81 M newtons.

A simple empirical approach may thus, perhaps, be seen to allow of suitable quantitative as well as qualitative study. In dynamics it need not be allowed to end at this point. Motion in a circle and the rotational motion of rigid bodies are also capable of being studied in a similar manner. It is quite possible that able pupils could begin this before the age of fifteen, though generally it would come later. After the age of fifteen it would be profitable to divide the science specialists from the others; the latter would obviously benefit by having the range of topics open to them increased by an empirical approach in this way as will be further considered in Chapter 11; on the other hand, the former might be better employed in exploring the connection with the laws of linear motion in the more usual manner.

Elementary studies in dynamics, which have been taken in this first example, show many of the possibilities which may be achieved through a simple empirical approach. The topics for study which are involved are of considerable intrinsic importance, they allow of the development of some important concepts on an experimental foundation and they exemplify how quantitative considerations can be an essential part of such an approach. At the same time they illustrate well the limitations of a treatment based exclusively upon deduction. Simple kinematics, to which the study is sometimes limited, is a piece of mathematics rather


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than science. It is pointless to discuss the distance traversed by a body with a uniform acceleration unless there is available a means of ascertaining what that acceleration is and whether or not it is constant.

It is essential for the laws of motion to arise as a description of the properties of bodies rather than for the properties of bodies to be deduced from the laws of motion. By approaching science through a direct study of the phenomena of nature, not only may the dependence of all science upon observation and experiment be made manifest but also the genesis of scientific concepts may be appreciated. The place of hypothesis in the scientific method has received much discussion. The systematic methods of arriving at generalisations and causes, discussed by J. S. Mill, now receive less support than they did at one time; nevertheless the propounding of scientific hypotheses is never performed in the abstract but always within a context of certain observed facts of nature. It is misleading to present a scientific theory as something accomplished entirely a priori and merely verified a posteriori. The facts of geometry were largely known before Euclid demonstrated his deduction and those of astronomy were likewise already known to Newton before he elaborated his theory of gravitation. Copernicus would never have put forward the idea that it was the earth which moved if he had been unaware of the phenomena which such an idea could account for. Though scientific concepts are most usually old ideas moulded to fit a perpetually expanding experience, theories are rarely born in the mind of the discoverer complete like Venus. If the pupil is to be placed in any way in the position of the original discoverer and to be able, even in a very humble sense, to appreciate his task and achievement, it is essential that sufficient of the facts are first presented to the pupil for him to be able to worry over them himself before he is confronted with the finished theory.

The first example illustrated the simple approach to a study which is commonly included in elementary courses. The second example is intended to show how the range of topics which can be dealt with in an elementary course may be extended by employing a direct and empirical rather than an indirect and deductive treatment. The example chosen is that of the conservation of energy, which rarely figures as prominently as it should in elementary courses.

The suggestion put forward for dealing with this principle is that it should be arrived at as a result of a study of attempts to obtain perpetual motion. Such a study could be partly experimental and partly historical in character. Pupils are normally very ready with suggestions for getting perpetual motion and many of these could be tried. Almost every new phenomenon met with leads to new ideas for solving this problem. The harnessing of levers, the coupling of gears, flotation, surface tension,


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dynamos and motors, have all been prolific sources. When several of these have been tried and found useless, the discussion might be directed towards a comparison with simple engines in which energy is harnessed for useful purposes, such as the water-ram, the water-mill, the windmill, the steam engine and the electric motor. These practical studies can then be reinforced by reference to history. Some useful accounts are contained in an old book, Perpetuum Mobile by Dircks, which is available in certain libraries, and the subject is occasionally taken up in popular mechanics magazines.

When the impossibility of securing perpetual motion has been adequately demonstrated, it would be useful to discuss our sources of energy and the uses to which they are put. Their sharp division into capital assets, among which would be included the fossil fuels replaceable only after periods of geological time, and income, such as the energy obtained from winds, water power and the tides, is worth stressing. The conservation of resources of energy would naturally follow and the importance of this, even in an age of growing nuclear power, remains very great indeed.

In such a way as this it would be possible to approach the principle of the conservation of energy in a simple manner which can be appreciated by young pupils. In a similar manner an approach could be made to a great many other topics and the range of subjects which is open to discussion could be greatly enlarged while at the same time affording an excellent though elementary training in logical thinking and without running the danger of superficiality.

A third example which will be taken as an illustration is the study of feeding in animals and plants. It is chosen because it is capable of simple treatment and at the same time allows some further points, not so readily made in connection with dynamics, to be discussed. Perhaps the most important of these is that the initial empirical approach, if it is to be worth making, must always be an approach to something. It should lead to the beginning of an orderly arrangement of facts, even though the more complicated theories are beyond the reach of pupils at an early stage.

The principle or theory to which this work leads could be, perhaps, the ultimate dependence of life, as we know it, upon the green plant. As in the other cases, a variety of empirical approaches will be feasible. An approach which simply states the result, even though subsequent confirmation may be sought from experiment, would be open to the same objections as were urged against the purely deductive method in dynamics. It would destroy the vitality of any experiments which might be made and diminish the incentive to make observations. Further, it


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would afford no practice in the consideration of a group of facts and the making of generalisations.

The study of feeding will be based upon a considerable amount of general knowledge of the feeding habits of various animals which have been encountered in earlier work. Those animals which it has been possible to maintain and observe in the laboratory will, perhaps, be those for which the most definite and complete information will be available, and it is desirable that these animals should be as numerous and of as many different types as possible. Others will be met in the course of live-stock keeping and in studies in the field. The feeding of some animals will not be immediately obvious and may require a considerable measure of ingenuity to investigate and elucidate. It will be in the solution of problems such as these which are thrown up in the course of the work that much of the value of such studies as a training in thinking and experimentation will lie.

A possible method of developing the particular topic under discussion might be through a consideration of the origins of human food. Some of this is either directly vegetarian in nature or can be traced to a vegetarian origin by a few very obvious stages. Even here, however, some very interesting and occasionally quite difficult problems will emerge, which it will tax the resources of the pupils to solve. The object is to show that all human food, and not merely some or even a high proportion of it, can be traced to a vegetable origin. Some cases about which it is not possible to be certain at first glance are sure to occur. For example, the origin of human food derived from marine fish will not be immediately obvious. The analysis of stomach contents might be a possible line to investigate, though most fish arrive at the fishmonger's gutted. Some pelagic fish might be amenable to this method of investigation, but even where the stomachs of demersal fish can be secured for examination they may frequently be found to be empty, the food having been regurgitated as the fish is raised from the depths at which it is caught. Freshwater fish can be examined more easily in this way, however, and stomach analysis is well worth carrying out in their case. Trout from some waters and at certain times of the year may have been feeding almost entirely upon emerging caddis fly. A study of the life history of the caddis may further disclose that the larvae are mainly vegetable feeders, so that the food chain of the trout may be seen to end, in the main at least, with the green plant. In the case of carnivorous caddis larvae a further examination is necessary. Their prey, often chironomids, may be found to have fed on plants - for example filamentous algae or desmids. It may be that an even further stage will be necessary before plants are reached. The elucidation of the origin of such an apparently simple thing as human food can thus be seen to be a much more com-


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plicated affair than it seemed at first sight. No pupil is likely to reach anything approaching finality, but if he travels even a very small way along the road he will have obtained a greater insight into what is involved in a scientific generalisation than could possibly be reached by means of the mere learning of the final result on the authority of a teacher.

Other food chains may be investigated. An examination might be made of the pellets of owls, with a diet of mice and other small mammals, and of those of the curlew, if the school is fortunately situated or if advantage can be taken of a suitable excursion or of holiday collections made by pupils. The tracing back of all these chains to their origin in green plants suggest that this may be the ultimate source of the energy of all living things. Such a hypothesis, however, must then be tested by application to further examples and any apparent exceptions demand very careful scrutiny. The food of most parasites will often be very obvious, but in the case of some plants, such as the dodder, a much more careful examination may be required, and the saprophytes may be even more difficult. To trace the source of the materials utilised by the mushroom, for example, to build into its body or to develop the energy used in its metabolism may be too difficult, though some tentative conclusions might be reached through considering where it grows and the conditions necessary for its culture.

The study of the green leaf might thus be arrived at as the culmination of such a course, through the realisation that the processes which go on in it are the ultimate source of the energy and food of all other organisms. Alternatively, it might have been included in a different approach to the nutrition of plants or in the elementary 'air and water' studies of the early years. In whatever way it may arise, however, such a study is of fundamental importance and is well within the scope of the elementary course now being discussed. It will form a separate investigation on its own, which should be approached in an empirical manner like that determining the larger enquiry of which it forms a part.

Here again the first step must be to collect a certain amount of information, without which no problem can arise and no progress can be made. The effect of variations in the heat and light to which the plant is subjected, and in the gases by which it is surrounded, might be studied. All these investigations would involve the careful preparation and discussion of suitable control experiments, an aspect of scientific method which this work exemplifies better almost than any other simple scientific study. For the full value to be obtained from such work the pupils should have a large hand in the design of their own experiments, the function of the teacher being chiefly to criticise and suggest modifications in what they would like to do. Increase in dry weight may be


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taken as a measure of food production or the test for the formation of starch may be employed. A number of experiments, suitably controlled, may easily be designed and carried out by the pupils, which will lead to the conclusion that light, a certain range of temperatures, carbon-dioxide, water and the green colouring matter in the leaves themselves, are all essential for the elaboration of food stuffs. How far this can be carried with pupils of 11-15 is a matter for decision in the light of local circumstances. It may be difficult to determine, for example, whether warmth and water are essential for the process of photosynthesis itself or whether they are merely required to keep the plant alive. The hypothesis, formed as a result of such a preliminary survey, that these five factors are essential for the nourishment of plants would then form the background for the design of further work. Further tests would be carried out again into apparently exceptional cases, and here again the parasites and saprophytes would supply some stimulating problems.

It is not convenient in a pamphlet to go into greater detail than this, but further developments will, doubtless, suggest themselves. The third example - the study of feeding - which has been included serves to show that while no progress can be made at all until some of the basic facts have been elucidated as the result of more or less ad hoc investigations, subsequent development is not a haphazard matter; it can be guided by tentative hypotheses arrived at on the basis of these preliminary enquiries. This, indeed, is the method of all scientific enquiry. However complicated or well founded a theory may be, it will first have been adumbrated, not in the absence of all knowledge, but on the basis of limited information. The degree to which it is acceptable depends entirely upon its success in accounting for the results of further experiments which the theory itself may have suggested.




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CHAPTER 8

Practical Work and Demonstrations

A QUESTION which frequently arises in discussions on the teaching of science is the relative prominence to be given to individual practical work and to lecture-demonstrations. The problem is often seen as a balance between quantity and quality; individual practical work is deemed of much the greater value, but since it occupies more time it will, if pursued to excess, restrict the amount of ground which can be covered. There is much in this point of view. A thing which is learnt as the result of a pupil's personal experience is almost always better learnt than that which is only demonstrated to him, and still more so than that about which he is merely told. The importance of practical work must never be under-rated, and the judgment which places individual practical work above demonstration and that in turn above passively received description is without doubt sound; but it may be worth asking whether the practical work which is done attains the best of which it is capable.

The term experiment is often applied to what is done in 'practical' lessons in science; but an experiment is 'a trial or operation to discover something previously unknown' (1), and this hardly describes what normally takes place in a school laboratory. The end is known, to the master at least if not the pupil, and the modus operandi has been very carefully thought out and tested by the former so as to produce a certain recognised correct result. These practical exercises are important but they lack some of the essential features of original work. There is nothing, as a rule, to correspond to the clear formulation of a question by the pupil himself; this is provided for him and no value is placed upon curiosity. Nor is there any necessity to construct a plan of investigation, to design and make ad hoc experimental devices or to modify them in the light of experience. Nor, again, if the answer comes out 'right', is there much inducement to consider the results, to estimate their validity or to discuss their further improvement. Finally, there is missing the ultimate satisfaction of having really found something out, without the aid of anyone possessing sufficient knowledge to have provided the answer beforehand. If these missing features could be included, the work would be much more valuable and would reinforce the importance, on the one hand, of the acquisition of knowledge and, on the other, of a meticulous application of the scientific method.

(1) Harrap's English Dictionary.


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To attempt to solve problems which have never been investigated before seems at first glance to lie completely outside the confines of the school; to take some part in such activities it would be necessary to approach the frontiers of knowledge, at least at some point, and these are surely far too remote for pupils at school. Even in postgraduate research in a university the problems to be investigated will, as likely as not, be posed for investigation by a professor. It would seem hardly at all possible for the ordinary man or boy to look upon scientific experiment in the true sense as an activity for him to pursue. To what, for such a one, can his course in science lead? Must it inevitably stifle his curiosity and place a premium upon credulity?

It is sometimes difficult to appreciate how close some of the frontiers of knowledge are to us. Even when general principles are well understood, local applications of them often require careful thought. There are indeed even a few schools where actual contributions to the advancement of knowledge are being made. One or two, for example, possess astronomical observatories where original work is being carried on. Some of the work of school natural history societies deserves inclusion in the same category. There is also the considerable body of research conducted by the masters - often shared by some of their pupils - to further their own teaching methods.

In respect of personal investigation, pupils aged about 12 to 15 often possess advantages. Their main zest in life is still the excitement to be had from observation of the world around them. Being less used than their elders to relying on the printed word they turn more readily to their own observations; and the fact that the same things have been observed by others need not lessen their interest. Still less are they concerned by the possibility of obtaining the information they seek from printed books. They can interest themselves in almost anything to be found in nature and they require little help in finding problems to solve. They are well aware that, for them at least, the world abounds in problems, though they may or may not realise that for others some of the initial mystery has been removed. If they make a mistake it is probably in thinking that man knows more than he really does, but the question, in fact, is hardly considered. This, therefore, is a good stage at which to give full rein to the spirit of enquiry, and it is capable of producing very lively work.

It has already been mentioned that the desire to collect is strong at this stage and that it can be harnessed to good purpose. The only adjustment that the school may feel it necessary to make is to divert some of the energies which may be spent in the collection of useless things, like the numbers of motor cars or railway engines, into more useful channels. The mention of these serves to emphasise that an entry in


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a book can be almost as satisfying as collections of a less abstract kind, and the personal compilation of notes and records if not marred by the red ink of a teacher can harness the same impulses. The initial stage of any scientific study involves assembling observations and most collections easily lead to appreciation of similarities and differences, to classifications and further problems. Even though this work may have been suggested by a master, it is rarely looked upon as a task imposed by him and it can give the pupils a most valuable feeling of successful accomplishment.

Though a few retain their early interest in the worlds of plants and animals, in the story of the rocks or of the stars, with most boys and girls these interests pass. They seem rarely to be replaced by anything equivalent. It is as though curiosity has dried up. We become content to obtain our experience vicariously and accept the results of others' efforts at second hand. In part, no doubt, this arises from a realisation that the really important questions are too difficult for us to tackle unaided and that the ground has been worked over so thoroughly beforehand. This state of affairs is not good, and experiment by schoolmasters with the object of remedying it is desirable. Three lines of approach, at least, appear worthy of investigation.

The first of these is the obvious one of trying to maintain interest in some of the simpler activities of the earlier years. School natural history societies and bird watching clubs are often successful in doing this, though their activities are quite properly not confined to this level but include the study of real and more difficult problems in addition.

The second approach is through the stimulation of interest in problems which are purely local. These - both physical and biological - may readily be found. In the physical field examples might be found in investigating the distribution of radiation from a fire or of the light in a classroom, the examination of the efficiency of a particular instrument, such as a telescope or a microscope (not only for magnifying power but also for other attributes, such as field of view), the mechanical advantage and efficiency of a familiar machine, such as a bicycle, the effectiveness of its brakes and its stopping distances for various speeds. Out of doors, investigation might be made into the effect of local climatic factors, such as aspect, altitude and exposure. The chemical and mechanical nature of soils from different positions in the garden, observations of their thermal properties both in situ and in the laboratory, and the height of the water table in suitable localities throughout the year, might all be worth investigation. On the biological side problems may be found even more readily. To discover what kind of animals and plants inhabit particular localities is an obvious starting point. The comparison of one habitat with another, leading to a recognition of adaptation to environ-


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ment; the effects of variations in factors such as light, shade and temperature upon flora and fauna; population studies; simple work in animal behaviour; these might all form the bases of many investigations. Gardening lore is a most fruitful source of statements requiring investigation. Such simple questions as the percentage germination and the effect of storage on the viability of seed samples would repay study. Many other problems will readily suggest themselves to the mind of the teacher once this attitude to the teaching of science is accepted. In all investigations, physical or biological, the essentials are that the problem should have some interest and importance itself, even though purely local, and thus be worth investigating, and that the methods for finding a solution should not be cut and dried but should require thought and design by the pupil.

The third line of approach that seems to have received attention is that of the scientific exhibition or conversazione, already touched upon in connection with the methods of Sanderson of Oundle. The preparation necessary for any such occasion sets real problems for pupils to solve. Here the emphasis is not so much upon finding out something about natural phenomena themselves as upon explaining and demonstrating to others something already known to the demonstrators. As before, it is what the pupil does for himself and not what is done for him that is important, and the responsibility for designing the demonstration must rest with him. Another example of this kind of activity is the design, construction and testing by senior members of the school of apparatus for demonstration to juniors. Lectures given by pupils to school societies often include a certain amount of this sort of work.

These activities take time; the time would be well spent, but the question of how to integrate such work with the remainder of the studies is bound to arise. Experience obtained under the old heuristic schemes suggests that it is not possible to base anything like the whole of the work upon investigations of this kind, and it is not suggested that this should be attempted. Demonstrations and exercises are bound to continue to play a large part. But if work of the nature of original investigation could be introduced into the practical work rather more frequently than it is at present it might then be reasonable to replace a number of the practical exercises by demonstrations by the teacher and thus regain the 'lost' time. This is well worth trying and it appears to possess the greater attraction since, as has already been mentioned, even the demonstration lesson is capable of assuming the form of a cooperative investigation by the class rather than an illustrated statement by the master. This rather different balance between demonstrations and practical exercises might well entail little loss in ground covered and at the same time permit emphasis on an important side of scientific studies,


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to which our traditional methods at present pay little attention. In any case, the really important point is not so much the saving of time as its wise expenditure. Every opportunity for persuading pupils to think should be seized and it would be worth much to preserve the zest of the early years.







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Part III

The Course of Studies for
Pupils over the Age of Fifteen Years








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CHAPTER 9

General Considerations

PREVIOUS chapters have dealt with those scientific studies appropriate to pupils up to the age of fifteen years in secondary schools. This part of the pamphlet continues the considerations which were there discussed and extends them to include the more advanced work suitable to older pupils. The reason for dividing the writing in this way has already been explained. Up to the age of about fifteen years it is normally not only impracticable but undesirable to segregate pupils according to whether they intend to specialise in the sciences. Courses of study have, therefore, to be designed so as to be suitable for all. Studies which are significant only as preliminaries to later specialised work and which have small value if not carried to completion are inappropriate for pupils a large proportion of whom will not carry on to these later stages. After the age of fifteen, however, things become different. At about this age interests generally swing over from those appropriate to children to those of adults. Objectives tend to crystallize and marked preferences to arise. No longer will the same work suffice for all, and it becomes necessary to plan it according to the desires and needs of various groups.

Up to the age of fifteen scientific studies can be approached in a simple empirical fashion and recourse to the more complicated theoretical systems is both unnecessary and undesirable. Indeed, the pupils have not attained the necessary degree of maturity to appreciate what is involved in these systems or in their origins and derivations. This state of affairs too changes at about the age of fifteen years. Those among the ablest who develop special interests in science will by then have acquired most of what is obtainable from limited empirical studies. As will be discussed later, their studies must always retain an important empirical ingredient, but they need also to be strengthened by the careful consideration of the theoretical structure of the subject. The same applies to those able pupils who do not propose to specialise in science and, although they will not wish to explore scientific theories in the same detail, it is nevertheless desirable that they should undertake some scientific work at an age when they are mature enough to be able to appreciate what is involved. It is abundantly clear that the same course will no longer suffice for these two groups. Whether they have anything in common will be one of the points to be discussed in this part, but clearly the non-specialist is unlikely to be in a position to derive much benefit from portions, even selected portions, of the specialist course.


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But there are other groups as well. In many schools less able pupils will be found who wish to continue their studies after the age of fifteen. Some of them will want to continue with a fairly intensive study of science, in order, among other things, to prepare themselves for entry to some of the less exacting scientific careers. Their needs will not properly be met by courses designed primarily for the able pupils whether specialising in science or not. Pace will have to be slower and objectives more limited.

How many different groups it is possible to organise separately and treat differently will depend upon the circumstances of individual schools. A further group, however, which will be numerically important in many schools will be those pupils who intend to stay only until the age of sixteen. Even for these pupils, however, formal education will often be continued after they leave school and for many science will be an important ingredient in their further studies. A large proportion of boys, for example, may enter industrial apprenticeships and work their way through part-time or sandwich courses.

What happens elsewhere than in schools will not be considered here. In this pamphlet it is desired to discuss how best the schools may face the many-sided problem which presents itself at this stage. The national importance of training scientists need not be emphasised at the present time; the need is felt at all levels, from the highest to the lowest. It can only be met by the full utilisation of all the talent available and by training every pupil to work at the highest level of which he is capable. At whatever points additional manpower can be made available repercussions will be felt all along the line. It is of the utmost importance that the best should be made of everybody.

The problem facing the schools, however, is not limited to providing the bare minimum of training necessary for a scientific job. Broader educational considerations arise. The country will not be well served unless its scientists have been educated as well as trained. This has implications, of course, which are wider even than the field of science itself. Though some of them may find it difficult to realise at the time, pupils themselves will not be well served if their schools have an eye only for equipping them with the knowledge and skills required by the particular occupations upon which they may wish to enter. Even looked at from a purely material point of view it would be a grave mistake to limit studies narrowly. The future cannot be foreseen and the man who is liberally educated will be more ready to meet it than one who has been prepared more narrowly for a particular employment. This view would be supported by all enlightened industrialists, and changes in the pattern of employment caused by automation or in other ways lend force


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to the argument. Pupils should be educated liberally and to the limit of their capacity.

In this connection it is desirable to point out the ill-effects which external examinations can have on the science courses of secondary schools if they are not kept within bounds. Up to a point such examinations have value. They present pupils with limited objectives upon which they can concentrate; the desire to overcome an immediate obstacle stimulates industry. The danger is that the mere passing of an examination may become, instead of a means to an end, an end in itself; the limitations of examinations, both as tests and as stimuli, should be fully realised. The external examiner finds it easier to test memorised facts than original thinking, and deductive reasoning than inductive methods or comparative considerations involving a measure of judgment. Thus very important parts of science teaching may suffer because they cannot conveniently be tested by external examination.

Another adverse effect of external examinations as at present conducted flows from their competitive nature. They have come to be thought of as a test of a school's efficiency, and pupils are too often presented as soon as it is thought that they will just manage to pass. In such conditions, a premium is placed upon the cramming of factual knowledge. The ill-effects are liable to be multiplied if the requirements of professional bodies or external educational institutions are made very particular and allowed to extend to lower and lower reaches of the school organisation. A generous measure of freedom is necessary for schools if they are to organise their science courses in the best long-term interests of their pupils; only very broad occupational objectives are appropriate.

A good school can certainly so teach its pupils that the ablest take examinations in their stride, and may be able so to influence all pupils that they do not rush to take examinations at the earliest possible time, with the risk of failure and psychological disaster. Further, some examinations are necessary for selection; but it is particularly difficult to devise a science examination which puts emphasis where it should be, and the disadvantages of having any examinations at all which are not strictly necessary should be carefully weighed.

By the age of fifteen those who are going on with their schooling approach a parting of the ways and it is useful at this point to survey briefly the territory through which they have come so far and to try to estimate what they will have at their disposal to carry forward into the next stage. Most obviously, perhaps, they will possess a fairly extensive factual knowledge acquired through direct observation and experiment. This should include the basic facts of biology, chemistry and physics together with some acquaintance with the elements of astronomy and


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geology. It should be solid enough to be built upon and necessity for repetition should not arise, except in so far as it requires to be elaborated or approached again from a theoretical standpoint. They will be familiar with such concepts as force, work and energy, with the properties of light, heat and electricity and with elementary ideas of measurement in at least the last two. They should possess an appreciation of the web of life and be able to recognise some of the great variety of animals and plants and to know how these successfully maintain their existence each in its own ecological niche. In acquiring this knowledge they will have made a good many anatomical, physiological and ecological studies. They will have considered theories of combustion and be aware of the enormous importance of oxygen. They will know the nature of chemical changes and have had direct experience of several. They may have begun to arrange them in some order, as for example, one based upon the activity series of the metals. In addition to factual knowledge they should be equipped with certain skills. They should be able to describe their experimental work in simple, concise and grammatical English, to draw diagrams direct from the material they are using and to compose their own notes. They should be sufficiently familiar with ordinary scientific investigation, the necessity for controls, and the degree of accuracy required in each measurement to achieve the purpose in mind, and they should have had practice in formulating an argument based upon observation. Above all else they should appreciate the integrity without which no investigation, scientific or otherwise, can be prosecuted. They will also go forward with their interests sharpened and be keen to learn about and to take part in the adventure of ideas which, more than any factual knowledge or technique, is the essence of science.

The problem now to be discussed is how, given this not inconsiderable equipment, pupils may go forward each along the particular highway he chooses to make his own. It will be obvious that from this point onwards the problem can no longer be treated as single, but will have to be broken down into a number of constituents each of which calls for separate consideration. Differing degrees of ability and specialisation call for different treatment. The full education of all pupils must be sought, but each will look to science for a different contribution.



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CHAPTER 10

The Scientific Method and the Place of Mathematics in It

IT is not possible in a short pamphlet dealing with the teaching of science to enter into a detailed discussion of scientific method, but teaching methods are intimately associated with, and in large measure shaped by, the disciplines with which they deal, and the problems of pedagogy are capable of being illuminated by a consideration of the essential nature of the subjects being taught. Some mention has already been made of this in Chapter 5 in connection with the very elementary work of the lower forms of the secondary schools. As the study of theory advances and greater use is made of hypothetical concepts and mathematical procedure becomes more involved, it is even more important that the nature of scientific knowledge should be clearly appreciated and the distinction between it and other forms of knowledge drawn. It will help in the discussion of the arguments to be advanced later in this pamphlet if as a preliminary some consideration, however brief and inadequate, is given to these questions and particularly to the distinction between scientific and mathematical knowledge.

Scientific knowledge is ultimately traceable to data afforded by the senses, of which it is an interpretation. From its very nature it lacks that certainty and finality associated with formal logic and mathematics. It is sometimes thought that the mathematical sciences derive a measure of certainty by the application of mathematics, which they would not otherwise possess; it would be a mistake to press this too far. Mathematical methods may lead to such a degree of convenience of argument that rapid progress may be made where little or no headway could be achieved without them because of the difficulty and complicated nature of the considerations involved, but though mathematics can supply conciseness of thought and elegance of argument it cannot confer upon scientific propositions that certainty which pertains to those within its own domain. This is because mathematical knowledge differs in kind from scientific knowledge.

Formal logic and mathematics achieve this certainty by carefully avoiding all statements which cannot be asserted without a measure of doubt, and this they do by confining themselves to propositions which are devoid of empirical content. Such propositions are of the nature of definitions of terms such as 'All mammals suckle their young' or


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'Arthropods have jointed legs'. To deny such statements would be a contradiction in terms, no animal which did not suckle its young, for example, being classed as a mammal. Formal logic may be looked upon as a system of rules for consistent thought. The arguments with which it is able to deal are deductive in nature and to accept the premisses of a valid argument and deny the consequences would be inconsistent. It is true that such arguments are in essence tautologies, but this is not to say that they are trivial. Some of the propositions which occur in mathematics, a branch of formal logic, are indeed surprising and are certainly not immediately obvious to the normal human intellect.

The nature of deductive argument is seen most simply in the syllogism. A syllogism is an argument composed of three statements. Two, usually the first two, are premisses from which the third follows as a consequence. As an example of one of the valid forms (that known as Barbara) the following might be taken.

'All fish have gills
All herrings are fish
Therefore all herrings have gills'
The argument is valid, it being impossible to accept the first two statements and reject the third. It happens also that the statements are true. A syllogism can, however, be valid even though the statements which it contains happen to be false. Thus
'All cats have horns
Simon is a cat
Therefore Simon has horns'
is a valid argument even though two statements in it are obviously false. Given the premisses the conclusion is inevitable. Formal logic deals with the validity of the argument and not with the truth of otherwise of the propositions composing it. To establish a statement as true it is necessary not only to employ a valid argument but also to start from true premisses. With the truth or falsity of the premisses formal logic is not concerned.

The following difficulty about the syllogism, which applies to all deductive argument, was raised by J. S. Mill. He pointed out that the conclusion derived from a syllogism is already contained in the premisses and thus the argument adds nothing new to knowledge. It is impossible to assert, for example, that all fish have gills unless it is already known that certain among them, herrings to wit, are included in this endowment. It is thus impossible to set out the argument at all unless the conclusion is first known. A further example may make this clearer. Suppose it is desired to ascertain a new fact at the moment


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unknown to the investigator. It might be whether whales possess hair or not. (The fact that this may well be known to some already is unimportant to the argument.) One might be tempted to set up a syllogism such as - all mammals have hair and whales are mammals so they also must have hair. However, the major premiss cannot be asserted unless it is already known that the conclusion, that whales have hair, is true.

At the same time it would not be true to say that the fact that all mammals, with the exception of the group of whales being investigated, are known to possess hair, is irrelevant to the question at issue. General theories of the inter-relatedness of animals of similar structure enable the statement that an unknown animal possesses hair to derive a certain probability of being correct from the evidence that some other known animals possess hair. If it can also be stated that all known members of a group of animals to which whales belong, namely that of mammals, possess hair, the probability of the truth of the statement that whales also possess hair will be increased. An examination of specimens of whales might then be made and fail to reveal any traces of hair. The probability of the statement then being true would be considerably diminished but it would not necessarily be reduced to zero. The examination would be a matter of considerable difficulty and hair on certain parts of the body might be easily overlooked. Even if certain specimens could be thoroughly examined and shown not to possess hair the question would not be settled finally. It would be possible that hair was possessed at certain ages but that the animals became bald all over at a particular stage in their growth. An extensive examination of specimens of all ages would be necessary. This is typical of the nature of scientific knowledge. The most that can be said of a scientific statement is that its truth possesses a certain probability. Probability depends on evidence; it is not reasonable to say that a proposition is probable or improbable without stating or implying the evidence for its probability. Any proposition in science has an initial probability which may be raised to near certainty or lowered to negligibility by subsequent evidence. According to the thoroughness with which they have been investigated or the evidence which can be made available, scientific theories possess varying degree of probability. In some cases the evidence is immense and the probability is very high; in others the evidence is meagre in the extreme and the probability is very low.

While formal logic deals with the forms of valid argument, the interest in mathematics lies in determining the consequences of making certain assumptions. Mathematics is not primarily concerned with the truth or otherwise of these assumptions. It was at one time thought that the axioms, such as those of Euclid, from which mathematics starts were self-obvious propositions. The investigation of non-Euclidian geo-


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metries, however, showed that its purpose was simply drawing the conclusions to be obtained from a set of assumptions, quite apart from their applicability to the physical universe. They were assumed to apply to a 'universe of discourse' only.

There is a resemblance between the deductive system thus produced in mathematics and the very similar hypothetico-deductive systems of science. In the latter the starting point of the argument are hypotheses from which deductions are made in a manner similar to the deductions from the initial axioms in mathematics. The purpose of a scientific deductive system, however, is to furnish a description of the physical universe and whether or not the consequences are in agreement with sensory experience is of fundamental importance. In fact the hypotheses of science are acceptable only in so far as deductions from them agree with experience. The importance of mathematics in the scientific method is therefore clear. It is to furnish in a readily comprehensible manner the consequences of accepting certain hypotheses. These consequences can then be tested experimentally. The superiority of the mathematical sciences, if indeed it exists, must lie in the fact that in them the full consequences of hypotheses can be more readily ascertained than in sciences relying upon other types of argument.

Mathematics may enter scientific theory, however, in another and more fundamental manner. It is possible for the initial hypotheses from which the system starts to be of two kinds, a distinction which can be traced back to the Greeks. On the one hand they may be physical in nature, like the hypotheses of Lucretius and Democritus, on which their atomic theories were based. On the other they may be mathematical, like the numerical theories of the Pythagoreans. To some people mathematical hypotheses seem unsatisfying, unreal and mysterious, a feeling which many of the other views of the Pythagoreans would tend to confirm. However, physical hypotheses are not always possible. There is no reason to suppose that matter on the atomic scale, for instance, should always behave as it does on the macroscopic scale, and that physical models can always be constructed. It is indeed remarkable that physical models have been as successful as they have and even mathematical hypotheses, such as those of the wave mechanics, retain a large element of the model in them. Mathematical hypotheses maintained their popularity throughout the Middle Ages in the search for the perfect patterns behind the world of nature, but they gave way to physical hypotheses with the rise of the physical sciences in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. With the development of modern physics, however, there is a tendency for them to return. Whatever the nature of the hypotheses from which a scientific theory may start, its essential character as a hypothetico-deductive system remains unaltered.


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The field of any one science is so vast that it is impossible to put forward a hypothesis which will comprehend all its phenomena ab initio. It is necessary to proceed by stages. A certain group of phenomena are surveyed and these are described in terms of certain hypotheses. Some of the facts of chemistry, for example, were comprehended in a comparatively simple atomic theory based upon 'billiard ball' atoms.These 'low level' hypotheses are, in turn, comprehended under further hypotheses; this happened when to the simple atomic theory of chemistry was added atomic structure and thereby a fresh range of phenomena was brought within comprehension. Again, Clerk Maxwell unified the theories of light and electricity by means of his theory of electromagnetic waves, and the verification of this theory opened up an entirely new field, that of 'wireless' waves. It is always possible for a group of facts or low level hypotheses to be explained in many ways and thus the higher level theory can be altered without affecting that which lies beneath it. In a scientific deductive system the lowest levels are consequently held with greater tenacity and certainty than the higher.

If the genesis and purpose of a scientific theory are to be understood, it follows therefore that it is essential that scientific studies should be built from the base upwards, proceeding from lower to higher levels in stages. A scientific hypothesis can be put forward only within a context of experimental knowledge. It is never formulated a priori. The scientific method thus consists in taking a certain domain of fact, sufficiently limited for the possibility of unifying it under one hypothesis or system of hypotheses to be realised by the limited intellect of the human being; these hypotheses are then further tested by applying them to different fields. A few of them may have to be abandoned completely, while others are found to be acceptable subject to modifications. Hardly a single one survives intact.

For the most part, scientific theories have been put forward in the past by men of genius. Today even genius has often to give place to the labour of the team. Pupils studying science are rarely to be found endowed with genius and if they are to understand anything of the intellectual processes which gave birth to any scientific theory it will be essential for the pace to be slow and the steps through which the theory grew to be followed in a fair amount of detail. Any method in which reliance is placed upon some deus ex machina to propound a theory complete and a priori, must be poor. As was pointed out earlier, it would be similar to a detective novel in which the solution was presented first and the clues followed afterwards. Science has much in common with the detective story and it is worth a good deal to preserve the suspense and interest. Its processes take place in the order inspection,


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induction, deduction and verification. Of the four, deduction is as a rule the easiest and least open to uncertainty. Though an essential, deduction is also often the least stimulating and it is a pity that it is often allowed to crowd out the others from school courses.

This point is of such importance that it may be well to look at it from a slightly different angle. In an elementary course in mechanics a pupil usually first meets such propositions as Archimedes' principle, the law of the lever or the parallelogram of forces through direct experimental evidence of their validity. In actual fact, it is not on such simple direct experiments that these propositions are accepted; nor is it even on the basis of the results of more accurate experiments of the same kind. Their acceptance is now universal because they can all be deduced from Newton's laws of motion and the evidence which supports them is provided by the extraordinary punctuality with which the planets in their courses keep their appointments with the Newtonian theory. It would, however, be a grave mistake to deduce from this that the school experiment is unnecessary and that all a pupil need do is to deduce all his mechanics from Newton's laws of motion. The main process of education remains today the same as it was in the time of Socrates. It is the formulation of an argument which the pupil can not only be persuaded to accept, but which his training also should lead him to regard as sound. Merely to deduce the parallelogram of forces from the laws of motion does not become an argument until independent evidence has been provided for the acceptance of these laws as premisses. Such evidence can only be found within the experience and state of intellectual development of the pupil. For any appreciation of the structure of science to be obtained it will be necessary for it to be built up from the lowest levels on the foundation of observation and experiment.

This raises the question of purely empirical studies in the more advanced courses in schools. It is obvious that before a science can begin a certain amount of uncoordinated empirical knowledge must first be acquired. Some knowledge must be brought into existence before any of it can be organised. Whenever the study of new fields is begun an initial approach of this nature must inaugurate the work, unless it lies close enough to fields already explored for it to be linked with them. Beyond this point, however, experimental investigation is almost always guided by theoretical considerations. Scientific theories are of the nature of analogies. The behaviour of a new system being investigated is compared with that of one already familiar. Thus the behaviour of gases shows many properties which they share with a system of very small, smooth, swiftly moving and perfectly elastic spheres, and it is possible to establish an extensive analogy between the two systems. But the extent to which the analogy holds cannot be known a priori and can only


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be found by experiment. The investigation of the kinetic theory of gases shows that the analogy is capable of very wide application and that it can be extended by endowing the particles with finite size. In the end, however, the analogy breaks down and further extension becomes possible only by abandoning the familiar mechanics of colliding spheres and replacing it by something much more complicated. Again, in electricity it is useful to build up an analogy between an electric current and the flow of a fluid and once more experiment shows that the two systems share an extensive series of properties. It is of course on this that the usefulness of the analogy depends. Once more, however, the extent of the analogy cannot be known a priori but can only be ascertained by experiment, and it would be unsafe to attempt to deduce the properties of an electric current from those of a fluid in motion through pipes. The analogy is in fact not complete. Apart from the obvious fact that the flow of a fluid has no magnetic field associated with it, whereas an electric current has, there are other differences. For example, the resistance of a conductor to an electric current is proportional directly to its length and inversely to its area of cross-section, whereas the resistance of a pipe to the flow of a fluid is proportional directly to its length as in the case of electricity, but inversely to the square of its cross-section. There is also nothing corresponding to the Bernoulli effect in electricity. Such limitations can only be found by experiment and a priori deductive reasoning can give no assistance.

These considerations have been set out at some length in order to emphasise the fundamental role which experimental investigation plays in science. The purpose of an analogy or theory is two-fold. In the first place it helps in remembering what has been discovered and enables this to be applied in subsequent cases of the same kind. In the second, in the endeavour to determine its limitations and the possibility of extending it beyond them by suitable modifications, it furnishes suggestions for further investigations. In the realm of the so-called classical physics these factors are, on the whole, well appreciated. The ideas of modern physics, however, are beginning to enter school courses in both physics and chemistry, and the temptation is to treat them almost entirely deductively so that their origin in and connection with the older physics are not brought out.

In conclusion a word may be said about an historical approach to science. It has much to commend it. In particular, it brings into prominence a study of scientific method, and since it follows the gradual unfolding of the whole story, it runs no risk of ending in an anti-climax. If superficiality is to be avoided care is sometimes necessary, when considering the evidence and arguments which may have been accepted in the course of history, to weigh their adequacy in the light of the


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phenomena being explained; it is not sufficient to let them pass without criticism as mere historical episodes. But against the historical method is the factor of time. It is not often possible to go into the by-ways and dead ends which were in fact explored in the gradual progress of science to its present position. It may be valuable to enter one or two but to do more than this is unnecessary; the object is to achieve an appreciation of the present position, its basis and the methods by which it can be attained and further progress made. Whichever of the great variety of methods possible is adopted, it will remain important for the essential role of experiment to be emphasised and for theoretical systems to be evolved gradually from simple beginnings by a process of continued annexation of fresh ground to the domains already explored. In such a constructive treatment, involving the continued incorporation of limited theories in more extensive systems, it is likely that there will always remain a considerable historical element.





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CHAPTER 11

Science for the Non-Scientist

AMONG the topics being much discussed at the present time is that which has come to be known as General Studies in the Sixth Form. It is widely felt that while a fair measure of specialisation is desirable in the advanced work of the schools, it has already gone to a degree which is difficult to justify. It has to be admitted that science has been among the offenders in this respect and it has been the growth in the volume and importance of science which has in large measure brought the matter to a head. It has fallen to the schools to deal with much of the growth in the subject matter of science, and science specialists have found their time more and more taken up by their specialist studies, so that other work has been crowded out. Consideration of the education of the specialist in science will be reserved for subsequent chapters. In this it is proposed to discuss the parallel problem, that of science for the specialist in other subjects. Has science any contribution to make to the general education of pupils not specialising in it over and above what can be included in the general course up to the age of fifteen; and, if so, what would its nature be?

So far experiments in this direction have been few and on the whole not very conclusive. Nevertheless there yet remains a vigorous feeling that something must be done. Where more is possible it cannot be satisfactory for girls and boys to leave school to take their places in a community, the affairs of which are governed in important respects by scientific considerations, with a knowledge of science gained in the very limited time allowed in the lower forms of school at a time before they are mature enough to realise what its purposes are. They may have ceased to study science by the time they were thirteen and in very exceptional cases may never have had any science lessons at all. If the recommendations embodied in Part II of this pamphlet are carried out, however, and all pupils continue a study of science together until the age of fifteen, some of these disadvantages will be lessened. It is unlikely that they will be eliminated unless some time can be found for science when the pupils are older and able to enter upon discussion of some of the really important features. The course up to fifteen, by its very nature, cannot furnish more than a modicum of empirical knowledge and a training towards valuable attitudes of mind, though it will be valuable in itself and a basis for further study. In particular, the main intellectual achievements of science, which are among its greatest glories


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and in which its most important impact upon mankind resides, will be left untouched. Technical achievements in plenty there are, of course, in addition, and this is what in the popular mind the term science so often signifies; but they affect only man's material circumstances and, important though these may be, the pupil whose main interests do not lie in science is easily satiated by an account of them. But the intellectual impact of science affects man himself, and from this there can be no escape; it is ingrained in the modern mind.

Little of this can be appreciated before the age of fifteen, but by the time a pupil reaches eighteen or more and is ready to leave school the possibilities are greatly enlarged. It is important, therefore, that anything which is arranged should build up to a climax by this time. It could be argued that it might be better to leave it later still, when the pupil is at the university. There are, however, limits. Only a fraction of the pupils even in the sixth forms of grammar schools go on to universities and in some people the mood for general studies passes with increasing age and as the day to day business of the world looms larger and becomes more overpowering. The more intimate atmosphere of the school would seem to provide the appropriate climate for general studies to flourish. It would indeed be a pity were pupils to leave school with so little appreciation of the real purposes of science that they emerged with a feeling that they were fighting against the overwhelming current of events in an alien world. Modern science, when all is said and done, is essentially an achievement of the human intellect which, in its field, has never been surpassed. It would seem only right that all should have the opportunity of achieving an understanding of its purposes and of welcoming it for the altruistic adventure in search of knowledge which, at its best, it can be.

It must be accepted that there will not be much time for any one aspect, such as the scientific, in the field of general studies. The whole of what science has to offer can be but a part of a larger entity and it will be essential to concentrate on one or two carefully selected topics only. To attempt to survey the whole field would lead to so cursory a consideration as to be of small value. The first task must therefore be to select one or two of the most important pinnacles and to plan an assault on these rather than to dissipate effort in attempting to conquer the whole range. Opinions will doubtless differ about which of the peaks should be attempted and much is bound to depend upon the interests of the particular teacher entrusted with the work. There are, however, two summits which tower above all the others, which will call for special reconnaissance and consideration when planning the expedition. They represent two of the most important points of impact of science upon the


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human race, and as a result of them much of human thought has had to be reorientated.

The first of these is the revolution in ideas which occurred in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, already mentioned in Chapter 1, which marked the initiation of the modern period of science. It led to the abandonment of the Aristotelian mechanics and, with them practically the whole of the medieval view of the universe. The heavenly bodies, from being things apart incorruptible and controlled by spirits and intelligences, were brought within the same system as terrestrial ones and were found to be subject to the same laws. The earth was deposed from the position it held at the centre of the universe and became one of a number of planets circling round the sun. Teleological gave way to causal explanation and even after more than two hundred years philosophy is still trying to accommodate the new method of thought. No one at the present day can maintain himself immune from this convulsion and it is important, especially to those students of the humanities whose work may bring them into contact with medieval ideas and vestiges of them which remain at the present time, that the origins of many of the attitudes and presuppositions of the modern world in this great change of two hundred and more years ago should be appreciated.

The second great scientific adventure of ideas, which profoundly shook contemporary thought and which still exerts a fundamental influence today, is to be found in the theory of evolution. Just as the astronomical revolution did not occur instantaneously but was spread over a considerable time, so the great changes which swept across the biological sciences took place gradually over a period and only reached their climax in the publication of The Origin of Species by Darwin. Man's view of the universe had already been transformed by Newtonian mechanics and less opportunity existed for so radical a change as was occasioned by their introduction. Indeed, Darwin's theory could never have been formulated at all had it not been for the changes already wrought in the earlier period. However, Darwin continued the same development as had been initiated already and the effect of his theory was to put man himself in a place among the rest of creation and to displace him, so far as his physical nature is concerned, from the pedestal upon which he had for so long thought himself placed.

The study of such topics, if it were possible, would lead naturally to a consideration of the whole position of a materialistic philosophy and its limitations and a bridge would thereby be created for passage to a fuller study of philosophy itself. Indeed, some such approach is necessary if materialism is to be criticised adequately. If for no other reason, its


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origins and the force of its arguments must be appreciated if they are to be met.

Another topic which without doubt ranks among the greatest achievements of science is the atomic theory of matter. With all the vast possibilities and dangers which it discloses, there can be no question that the discoveries to which it has led, and others which will doubtless follow, are likely markedly to affect the material prosperity of mankind for better or for worse in the near future. To trace how knowledge of the almost infinitely small has been acquired would be, moreover, an exciting story and one which would show the scientific method at its most daring. Nevertheless it is one which is by no means easy to understand, in the full sense of the term, even for science specialists in schools. It would be possible to study some of the historical investigations, such as those leading to the theory of the electron, the mass spectrograph and the theory of radioactive transformation, but the basic knowledge of the non-scientists is not likely to be such as would enable them to trace the ramifications of these researches very far. Recourse would be necessary, even with specialists, to mere statement of results and there would be grave danger of the study degenerating to the level of popular science. There is little of educational value in this, and after the initial novelty has worn off listening to a catalogue of achievements soon palls and it becomes difficult to maintain interest. There are, moreover, numerous books in which those who want it can find this kind of information and it would not be inappropriate for discussion, on occasion, in school societies. As far as nuclear energy is concerned a much more profitable course would be, starting from the principle of the conservation of energy, which, as has been mentioned, might be arrived at in a simple manner through a survey of attempts to achieve perpetual motion, to discuss the transformation of energy, its ultimate fate as low-temperature heat and the efficiency of various conversion processes. This would lead naturally to a consideration of the sources of energy, among which atomic processes would take their place alongside combustion, wind, water and the tides. Both the atomic nucleus and combustion supply energy in the form of heat and it would not be essential to go into the nuclear origin of atomic energy any more than it is into the details of the molecular origin of the heat derived from combustion. The role of radioactive substances as an additional mineral fuel alongside coal and oil and such questions as their location and availability could be discussed. A simple qualitative study of the radiations from radioactive substances, using very weak sources, would enable some of the difficulties arising in the case of atomic piles to be understood and for the importance of these radiations and radioactive isotopes to be appreciated. Little of this, however, calls for any great degree of maturity to


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understand and such work, if it can be fitted in, might precede more philosophical studies.

This raises one of the most important of the questions which spring from the problem of the non-scientists' study of science. Their course at the top of the sixth form cannot be designed in isolation from the rest of their scientific work. If the aims which it is desired to achieve by the end of their course can be formulated, then their course as a whole can be planned to accomplish the task in the most economical and effective manner. Work which is planned for the non-specialists in the sixth form must exert an important influence on the course of studies up to the age of fifteen. Since the broad educational requirements of the specialists and of those who leave earlier than the sixth form also necessitate their appreciating the same issues, the course before fifteen will be largely determined in this way.

As an example of how this might work out in practice let us assume that among the aims for the non-scientists' course as a whole is to give pupils a knowledge of the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the theory of evolution and the conservation and transformation of energy. Together with this it might be hoped either to discuss explicitly or to acquire incidentally something of the scientific method and its philosophy, leading to a comparison and linkage with other subjects. How should the course as a whole be planned, and at what stages should particular episodes be taken? To treat this problem will involve going back for a moment to the course up to the age of fifteen and the arguments which will arise will be found to reinforce what has already been said in Part II of this pamphlet.

Let us consider first what is necessary to under-pin the study of the events of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The first and most obvious characteristic is perhaps the importance of astronomy. A basis in astronomy must therefore be furnished by the early course. Most schools include certain astronomical topics either in science or geography, and young girls and boys show great interest in the lessons; that this interest persists into later years is indicated by the success of school astronomical societies in which non-scientists frequently play a prominent part. If direct observations were included in some of the early studies it would be possible for them to form a basis for an understanding of the development of ideas of planetary motion, which was instrumental in starting the rapid changes in outlook which occurred in the sixteenth century.

In designing a course of study it is hardly ever profitable to attempt to complete a topic entirely at one time. It is much better to arrange to take the simpler parts in the early years and to come back to them again later, adding more difficult work as the pupils mature. In dealing with


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the elements of astronomy such a method is particularly appropriate. A study of the sky can be begun at quite an early age - with some pupils before the age of eleven. The first thing is to be able to find one's way about the heavens by learning some of the constellations. Although surprisingly few adults are able to do this it is a comparatively simple matter and no teacher need be afraid to tackle it. Some ten or a dozen constellations suffice for what is wanted and, given a good star map or planisphere, either of which can be purchased for a few shillings, an hour or so on two or three evenings when the sky is clear will provide a teacher with all the knowledge he requires for this stage, which might be called that of 'boy-scout astronomy'.

The next stage, which might perhaps be dubbed star-gazing, is to look at some of the more striking celestial objects. For this purpose a telescope is required, but the mistake which many schools make is to think that a very elaborate instrument is necessary. A very serviceable instrument can be constructed for little more than the price of the objective, which, for one of about two and a half to three inches in diameter, is about 5. This can be mounted in a cardboard tube, at the other end of which is placed an eye-piece borrowed from one of the school's microscopes. The moon, the crescent phase of Venus, Jupiter and its satellites and, of course, the sun can be examined with such an instrument. No attempt should be made to look at the sun directly through a telescope but it is a simple matter to cast an image of it on a sheet of white card by means of the telescope and to observe sun spots and their movement across the disc. If pupils can be given a glimpse of Mercury at a suitable time of the year it should rank as an 'occasion' and justify special efforts to see. This stage of the qualitative exploration of the sky would commence while the 'boy-scout' stage was still being pursued but later it could be elaborated. The change of Venus from an evening to a morning star might be followed and the later rising of the moon on successive evenings could be taken to illustrate direct motion, further exemplified by the direction of the rotation of the earth. The position and motion of the sun obviously calls for attention and observations of its elevation by two schools well separated to the north and south could supply an estimate of the size of the earth.

It is at this stage that many schools abandon the subject. Perhaps it could be given a rest for a while about now, but if it is to be useful for a study of the Copernican-Newtonian theory it will be necessary to take it up again and do some more quantitative work. What is required need frighten no one, and somewhere about the age of fifteen would be a convenient point to do it. This stage might be called 'finding your way about the solar system', and it is well to remember that this system was unravelled before the telescope was invented. Here the first thing to do is [text continues after photographic plates.]


[The following photographic plates were printed on unnumbered pages between pages 86 and 87]

PLATE 4

Tilted theodolite


[click on the image for a larger version]

PLATE 5

Photographs of the sun taken (a)in January and (b) in June, to illustrate the variations in apparent diameter caused by variations in the distance between the sun and the earth.


PLATE 6

The apparatus described on page 89 for measuring the force required to cause a body to move in a circle.


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to plot a star map, which is easily done by means of a simple theodolite mounted in a tilted position so that the axis of the normally horizontal circle now points to the pole star (see Plate 4). The two angles given by such a tilted theodolite, when sighted upon any object, will enable declination and right ascension to be discussed. Sights can be taken on various stars. The angles measured in the circle now lying in the plane of the equator will have to be reduced to a common time by adding or subtracting 15 degrees per hour. A sight taken on the sun before sunset can similarly be reduced and the position of the sun plotted on the final map. It can thus be seen how the position of the sun among the stars can be ascertained. Once this has been understood it becomes possible to go to the Nautical Almanac for the right ascension and declination of the sun whenever it is required; this will be necessary for some of the later work.

Though the observations take a year to complete, it is a very simple matter to obtain an orbit for the earth, which is also required for later studies. The earth is closer to the sun in the winter of the northern hemisphere than it is in the summer and consequently the sun appears bigger to us in winter than in summer (see Plate 5). The difference is considerable and amounts to about three and a half per cent in apparent diameter. Thus if an image of the sun about 10 centimetres in diameter is cast on a card its diameter changes by about three and a half millimetres in the course of a year. This can easily be measured, and as a reading once a month is sufficient the observations are by no means laborious. The telescope casting the image has to be maintained unaltered and at a fixed distance from the screen throughout and this is best achieved by lashing it to a pole to which the screen is also attached. A few concentric circles at millimetre distances are drawn on the screen at about the right diameter to facilitate measurement. In order not to immobilise a good telescope for a whole year one can be improvised from lenses of the quality used for spectacles. Chromatic aberration can be eliminated by looking at the image through coloured gelatine or by concentrating on a given colour at the edge of the image when measuring it. Results obtained with such simple apparatus are shown graphically in Figs. 2 and 3.

The distance of the earth from the sun is obviously inversely proportional to the sun's apparent diameter, and by marking such distances off from an arbitrary point on a piece of paper in the direction of the sun, as obtained from the Nautical Almanac or from observation of the constellation due south at midnight, the orbit of the earth may be plotted. Accurate values for the apparent diameter of the sun are also in fact included in the Nautical Almanac, and these could be used instead of carrying on the observations for a whole year if desired. It would not


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be wise, however, to dispense with direct observation altogether. The earth's orbit so obtained will be found to be as nearly circular as can be drawn by a pencil, but the sun is not at the centre.

FIG. 2. Graph of measurements of the apparent solar diameter made by projecting an image of the sun on a screen by means of a simple telescope.

FIG. 3. Graph of the reciprocals of the values plotted in Fig. 2. These reciprocals provide a measure of the distance from the earth to the sun. Assuming that the earth's orbit is an ellipse with the sun in the centre, the maximum and minimum values allow the eccentricity to be determined. The value obtained from these simple observations (.0175) agrees closely with the accepted value (.0167).


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The orbits of the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, may next be drawn on the same scale. As these planets circle the sun, the angle as seen from the earth, between the planet and the sun, increases to a maximum and then decreases. When the planet is at its extreme position the line of sight from the earth to the planet can be taken to be along the tangent to the planet's orbit. By measuring the greatest angle between the planet and the sun (the angle of greatest elongation) it is possible to draw this line on the diagram, already obtained, of the orbit of the earth. The angle of greatest elongation for the planet Venus is easily measured by means of a theodolite the horizontal circle of which is tilted to lie in the equatorial plane. This, of course, gives two angles for each of the planet and the sun and the determination of the angle between them is done by plotting on a sphere graphically rather than by spherical trigonometry. Reference to the Nautical Almanac will readily give these angles for a period of years and a large number of tangents to the planet's orbit can be drawn. From the envelope so obtained the orbit of the planet can be sketched in. For both planets the orbits will appear very nearly circular in shape, but in the case of Venus the sun will lie practically at the centre while in that of Mercury it is a long way removed. The three orbits so obtained will be to scale. The completion of this task, which altogether might be spread in easy stages over eighteen months or two years around the age of fifteen (say from fourteen to sixteen) could be allowed to finish this stage. It would be an advantage at the same time to keep records of the positions of the satellites of Jupiter for one season. Their positions, noted once a day for a fortnight, are required, but the incidence of cloud will make it necessary to watch for longer than this. These observations will provide an independent confirmation of the law which can be obtained from the orbits of the earth and the two inner planets.

The study of mechanics is also an important ingredient in the knowledge which is necessary to appreciate the events of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and if the latter is to be among the objectives of the course a place must be found for dynamics in the elementary stages. How this might be done up to the age of fifteen has already been described in Part II. Some extension of this will be necessary, however, and this might well be attempted soon after the age of fifteen. What was described in Part II was the study of linear motion in a direct experimental manner. To this must now be added a study of circular motion in the same fashion. The apparatus illustrated in Plate 6 and again in diagrammatic form in Fig. 4 is convenient for this.

Its principal feature is the use of a simple permanent magnet electric motor or dynamo as a speedometer, as before. Such a generator will serve to measure angular even more readily than linear velocity. A lath


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of wood W is mounted on the axle of such a motor and as it is made to rotate it carries round with it the masses M, which are in a number of equal pieces so that the total mass may be varied. These masses are, in turn, carried by the spring S, which is deflected outwards as the lath rotates. When the deflection is sufficient the electrical contact G is closed

FIG. 4. Diagram of the apparatus shown in Plate 6.

which lights the pea lamp L. The deflection of the spring necessary to do this is measured on the scale R. The shaft of the motor is rotated at such a speed that the lamp just lights. A meter measures its angular velocity in arbitrary units. The force on the mass M is thus known and its distance from the centre may easily be measured. Thus all four


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quantities angular velocity (ω), distance (A), force (P), and mass (M) are determined. The force may be altered by adjusting the gap G and the method of altering the other quantities is obvious. It is thus possible to show experimentally that the force P necessary to make a mass move in a circular path is proportional to the mass, its distance from the centre and the square of the angular velocity (or what is the same thing, inversely as the square of the periodic time - T)

Some values obtained with such a piece of apparatus are plotted in Figs. 5, 6 and 7.

This result may be immediately combined with the astronomical observations. The scale drawings of the orbits of the Earth, Venus and Mercury can easily be done sufficiently accurately for Kepler's third law to be deduced. A very good straight line should be obtained if the squares of the periodic times are plotted against the cubes of the radii of the orbits. The same is true for the orbits of the satellites of Jupiter, if these have been recorded as suggested. The squares of the periodic times are thus seen to be proportional to the cubes of the radii of the orbits; from this Newton's inverse square law of gravitation follows immediately. For if T² α A³ it follows from equation (i) that

That is to say, the force which the sun must exert upon the Earth, Mercury and Venus, or Jupiter upon its satellites to cause them to pursue their orbits must vary directly as their masses and inversely as the square of the distances between them.

This brief account of how some of the physics which lies behind Newton's theory of the solar system might be studied will suffice to show that it is quite possible for it to be tackled in a limited amount of time by pupils not specialising in science. It hardly begins to sketch the possibilities of the scientific or, even more, of the philosophical questions which would offer themselves for discussion. Perhaps it may have been sufficient to indicate a skeleton which could be clothed by flesh which it would serve to support; it might be hoped that opportunity would be found to extend even the skeleton. Thus the study of dynamics might be extended to include that of the rotation of rigid bodies, an exciting field of study with obvious applications to such things as balance and athletics; for such an extension the electric motor speedometer is a valuable tool. Again, it might be hoped that the study of astronomy might be continued. Objects outside the solar system possess


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FIG. 5. Graphs of results obtained with the apparatus shown in Plate 6. This straight line shows that the force required to cause a body to move in a circle is proportional to the mass of body.


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FIG. 6. Further results of the apparatus of Plate 6. This straight line indicates that if the periodic time and mass are not varied, the force required to cause a body to move in a circle is proportional to the distance from the centre.


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FIG. 7. Further results of the apparatus of Plate 6. This straight line indicates that if the mass and distance from the centre are maintained constant, the force required to cause a body to move in a circle is proportional to square of its angular velocity or, what is the same thing, inversely proportional to the square of the periodic time.


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an immense interest and their study affords many opportunities for discussing the possibilities and difficulties of the scientific method. Some of the problems of modern cosmology form a particularly rewarding study, because the evidence available is so meagre that, while it is capable of being comprehended quickly, the exercise of a measure of critical judgment is called for in the consideration of some of the theories which have been advanced.

Space does not allow of other topics being considered in anything like the same detail, but similar considerations will obviously arise if other topics are to be included in the course. Thus if the theory of evolution is to be studied it will be essential for the elementary work to include a substantial study of biology and sufficient geology for an appreciation of the sequence of the rocks, the time scale and the fossil record, to be obtained. This again must be supplemented by further direct experimental studies, such as of genetics, to enable the main lines of argument to be judged. The inclusion of an appreciation of the method and philosophy of science would point to the need for the heuristic study of some problem to be undertaken in the course of the lower school. It will be only by the exercise of foresight and planning in this way that, while the course may be rounded off and form a suitable whole at those stages at which pupils cease to follow it, it can at the same time form the basis for further work. In doing this care will be necessary to avoid introducing studies which are not very profitable for those not going on to the later stages.

This chapter may be concluded by considering how far the science specialists could join in the same studies. Some of what has been suggested, such as the experimental extension of mechanics, would be approached by them in a different fashion, though they might in fact perform the same or similar experiments. The further discussion of the scientific method and its philosophy, leading on to broader questions outside the field of science altogether, however, would be of great value to them. Even the study of cosmological theories would supply them with opportunities of exercising their powers of criticism which their ordinary work does not often afford. Indeed, all this kind of study might be thought to be quite as essential for them as for the others. For this there appears to be no good reason why the groups should not join forces and, indeed, there is much to be said for their doing so.

In other branches of general studies it is often said that science specialists are at sea. Perhaps it might be possible to bring them on to more level terms with students of the humanities if they were given some special work appropriate to their scientific interests, rather on the same lines as the scientific studies which are here proposed for non-scientists.


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CHAPTER 12

Science for the Scientist

BEFORE discussing the detailed course which specialists in science follow in the various branches it is necessary to raise a number of general considerations. Such questions are the following. What combinations of the various branches will supply a coherent and self-supporting study? What fraction of the total time is it reasonable to devote to specialist work if a full education is not to be prejudiced? What place should be given to the history and philosophy of science? How can public examinations be fitted into the course without any deleterious effect on the work of the schools?

Such questions will be the concern of all teachers taking advanced work in science, but it will be mainly for the head of the science department to formulate a policy. It will not be satisfactory for this to be left to chance or the operation of various pressures from sectional or vocational interests. Capitulation to such influences involves abdication from the proper function of a school. To act effectively as head of department is thus to hold no sinecure. We cannot expect a man to keep himself thoroughly conversant with every detail of advanced work in all branches of the subject and ready at a moment's notice to teach them, but no man can act as head of a science department satisfactorily if he is unaware of the general lines of development of all the branches of the subject or does not know what is involved in their study. It is of the greatest importance that there should be someone in the school able to take a synoptic view of the scientific education being provided at the more advanced levels and to see its potentialities, essentials, lacunae and pitfalls.

The question of the relation of the scientific studies of the specialists to the rest of their education is best left until after the essentials of their scientific work itself have been discussed. At the stage being considered the main driving force in a pupil's education is bound to reside in his specialist work. If this is narrowly conceived or concentrated too closely on the mere passing of examinations, little education of value will be possible. The attitudes and ideals which it encourages will form the yardstick by which a pupil will judge the rest. The specialist studies, more than any of the others, must be beyond reproach. They cannot be based upon hollow sentiment or slipshod thinking. Once a systematic study of a group of sciences has been embarked upon it must be pursued with rigour of argument and integrity. The first and most fundamental


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question to be asked, therefore, about any advanced course arranged in science relates to its logical coherence. Does it attempt to assemble the evidence which it is necessary to consider as the basis for the system which is to be evolved? Consideration of this question, of course, lies at the origin of the demarcation of the conventional branches of the subject. In their higher levels each contains a family of ideas which are interdependent among themselves and only fairly remotely related to the ideas in other branches. Ultimately the pursuit of individual branches becomes possible but this is not true at the beginning. No single branch is capable of achieving logical self-sufficiency and it is important to examine the coherence of those groups which are normally studied together in science in schools.

There are three principal groups which are commonly taken as advanced courses. These are (a) mathematics and physics (b) mathematics, physics and chemistry, and (c) physics, chemistry and biology. A fourth grouping - that of chemistry, botany and zoology - is sometimes made and something will be said on this as well. Other combinations are to be found from time to time in schools, but the factors which are important in their consideration will be obvious from a discussion of these main cases. In this discussion it is inappropriate to try to take into account any current special requirements of university faculties or professional institutions; it is assumed that the intention of all these organisations is to encourage satisfactory studies and if, through oversight or mistake, the effect of their requirements is occasionally otherwise, this fact renders an impartial consideration of the problem the more necessary.

When pupils concentrate upon mathematics and physics the former is usually the dominant partner and it is usually given about twice as large an allotment of time as the latter. The objective of such courses in that case is the training of mathematicians, to which physics is looked upon as ancillary - a field in which mathematics can profitably be exercised. Such an arrangement is perfectly legitimate. Advanced courses in mathematics have been a feature of English sixth forms for over a century, they are capable of producing a satisfactory education and it is not the purpose of this pamphlet to comment upon them. Sometimes, however, such courses are looked upon as the proper training at school level for future physicists and this calls for some comment. Mathematics is a tool of fundamental importance to the physicist and it is important that he should have a good command of the subject. But a considerable volume of evidence employed in the elaboration of the system of physics lies in chemistry, and it is important that these basic facts should not be overlooked or neglected. For example, much of the evidence supporting the atomic theory, with which so great a part of physics is now con-


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cerned, is to be found in chemistry. Again, the evidence for the electron is initially to be found partly in the experiments of J. J. Thomson on the deflection of beams in discharge tubes, partly on the integral nature of the charge on the gaseous ion, established by Millikan, and partly on the much more extensive evidence of the integral nature of the charge on the chemical ion in electrolysis, the elucidation of which requires a knowledge of chemical atomic weights. The ionic theory of physics could hardly have originated but for the ionic theory of chemistry. It is true that it would be possible to conceive of a development of theories of the electron and the atom in which chemical evidence was neglected and there are those who maintain that, so far as final results go, chemistry may be regarded as a superfluous study. Scientific theories can never achieve certainty, however, and consequently no direct evidence can ever be thrown away. To do so in this case obscures the genesis of the whole enterprise, and the fact that chemical evidence leads to a picture similar to that suggested by physics is in itself important. At the higher levels the theories of chemistry and physics are united and chemistry remains an important field in which the theories can be verified. At the lower levels it supplies very important evidence which should be assembled with the rest, when the whole edifice is being built. The part of chemistry which is germane to the building of the edifice of physics should be, for the most part, contained within the Advanced level of the General Certificate of Education and it would seem important that anyone who desired to become acquainted with the basis of physical theory should pursue a study of chemistry to this level at least.

If there remains an element of doubt about how much chemistry is needed by the future physicist, there can be none whatever about the fact that a great deal of physics is required by the future chemist. As has just been indicated, the theories of chemistry at their higher levels contain many concepts derived from physics. The difficulty in the teaching of chemistry, which will be referred to more fully in a later chapter, is that the particular concepts which the chemist takes over from physics, such as wave-mechanics, are just those which are evolved only towards the end of the construction of the system of that branch of science and there appears to be no way of either assessing their validity, or even of rendering them plausible, without the pursuit of physics to a fairly high level. Without the opportunity of making some such assessment of its basic concepts chemistry would cede its grounds for being considered a vehicle of education. Research into the teaching of chemistry by methods not involving such vast hypothetical jumps is badly needed. One thing, however, is certain; for chemists, the continued study of both physics and mathematics is essential throughout their school career.


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There are few biologists who would not maintain that for the pursuit of their subject a sound knowledge of both physics and chemistry is required. At elementary levels it needs hardly to be pointed out that neither can physiological processes be appreciated without a knowledge of chemistry and of the phenomena and method of measurement of heat and light, nor can structure without familiarity with mechanics or ecology without ability to determine the characteristics of soil and the atmosphere. Even in branches apparently remote from the physical sciences, lack of appreciation of them can be revealed by general attitudes. Two further questions which revolve around the arrangements for the teaching of biology can be appropriately discussed in this chapter. They are, first, the need for mathematics as a support and, second, the appropriate degree of specialisation upon biology. There is no doubt that mathematics, particularly but not exclusively statistics, is necessary for the study of biology itself and that mathematics is also required for ancillary physics. The requirements of biologists for mathematics, however, are a good deal less exacting than are those of pupils aiming to go further in chemistry and physics.

The degree of specialisation to which the study of biology itself should be carried at school level often comes into question in the discussion whether botany and zoology should be taught as separate subjects. The pros and cons of this latter question are considered in a subsequent chapter where the conclusion is reached that, for most of the work of the schools, the two cannot be separated successfully. The question therefore is fundamentally one of how much time should be devoted to the biological sciences as a whole. If biology is given approximately a double ration of time it will mean that only one other supporting science, normally chemistry, can be taken. This is certainly not satisfactory for the whole of the course from the age of fifteen and it would therefore seem desirable that this degree of specialisation should not be attempted before three years of the broader course have been completed.

The principal aim of the advanced courses must be the careful study of the systematics of the subject or group of subjects taken. A critical approach to this is essential and a steady pace, allowing each step to be explored before proceeding to the next, is to be preferred to more rapid travel at the expense of thoroughness. The suggestion has been put forward that this deliberate progression can appropriately begin at about the age of fifteen. Studies up to this age will have provided sufficient empirical information to justify those embarking upon a specialist study in beginning a logical organisation of what has already been discovered and in following it by an attempt to fit into that system further knowledge, as investigation of the possible extension of the system proceeds. Such a plan of campaign cannot be achieved quickly and if, as will


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doubtless be necessary, it is to be the basis for external examination, the natural objective would be something approximating to the present Advanced level, which could be taken three years from the beginning of the course - that is at about the same age as at present. The question which naturally arises at this point is what function, if any, would the present examinations at the Ordinary level fulfil.

It is not easy to see what part such an examination could usefully play in furthering or testing the education of the science specialist. If taken at the same age as at present, it would occur a year after he had begun his specialist study. By that time he would not be ready for the testing of any of his theoretical knowledge, which, as a rule, will not reach a point of culmination before the age of eighteen, and it would be a hindrance to the steady development of his work if he were asked to prepare the beginnings of it for examination after one year. He needs a period of steady work, undisturbed by the distraction of a public examination the results of which have little or no significance for him as soon as he passes the Advanced level standard.

These are signs that an examination at this point interrupts steady progress in science and introduces unnecessary difficulty. In fact, this examination occurs too late for it to be a test of simple factual knowledge only, and too soon for it to be one of an understanding of theory. Some of the theoretical questions which are often inserted, such as those dealing with magnetometry and the tangent galvanometer in physics, are there more because they are thought to be within the powers of pupils of sixteen and there is little else suitable for examination of which they are capable, than because they form any integral part of the theoretical structure of the subject. Such topics could be eliminated without loss. Others are frankly beyond the powers of comprehension of most pupils entirely. Among such may be mentioned the electron, atomic structure, the ionic theory and the electric current considered as a flow of electrons - all topics which can be found in some syllabuses in physics at the Ordinary level. Similar topics are of frequent occurrence in chemistry. For instance, a question set in a recent examination (1) in chemistry at the Ordinary level, asked candidates to 'show by a simple electronic diagram the structure of -

a. a chlorine atom
b. a chlorine ion
c. a chlorine molecule
d. a molecule of ammonia
e. a molecule of calcium oxide.'
The comments of the examiners upon the answers submitted indicate

(1) Since this was written, atomic structure has been withdrawn from the syllabus of this examination at the Ordinary level.


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what was expected. They wrote 'Much good electrolytic and electronic chemistry was exhibited. There has now been sufficient experience of this section of the syllabus for it to be said that the diagrams should show:

a. a quantitatively accurate nucleus
b. a correct allocation of the electrons in their orbits
c. a clearly defined notation
There was a very successful use of the o x · notation to indicate the source of the "different" electrons.
d. where appropriate, the resultant electrolytic charge. A very common mistake in co-valency was to share one electron instead of an electron pair. ... A few candidates showed off conceptions they did not understand.
It should be said, therefore, that at this level concepts of resonance and wave electrons are not required.'

It is clear that questions such as this, at this age, can only tend to destroy any critical attitude a pupil may possess and make nonsense of any attempt at a systematic development of the theory of chemistry.

It might be thought that examinations in general science would be less likely to make this sort of error, and this is true. But as at present conducted they also make large demands on credulity and memorisation. On the whole, examinations in biological sciences at this level suffer less from this failing, though an occasional question on genetics could only be answered by a slick account of ideas learnt from diagrams rather than experimentally. Experiments on genetics might well have been begun at this stage, of course, but they are neither easy to perform nor are they quick to yield results, and many are difficult to interpret.

The suggestion which is put forward to meet these difficulties is that the science specialists should omit the examination in science at the Ordinary level altogether. For them it occurs at an inappropriate stage and interferes with the steady development of the work. Some may object that a pass at Ordinary level serves as an 'insurance' in case of failure at the Advanced. If such an insurance is desired it would be much preferable to take it at the age of seventeen than at sixteen, after two years of advanced study. Not only would chances of failure in this way be much reduced, but pupils would be then so much in advance of its standards that the examination would not interfere at all seriously with their studies.

Such a process of by-passing the external examination at the Ordinary level would yield little advantage, of course, if the course pursued continued to be based on the syllabuses of the examination. In practice this must normally mean that the science specialists should be formed into a group on their own, at about the age of fifteen. There are limits to the


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number of groups which any school can organise at this stage, but an ordinary grammar school of about three streams should produce at least fifteen to twenty boys wishing to specialise in science in any one year. Such a group is amply large for efficient teaching at advanced levels and, the national need for scientists - and scientists of the highest possible quality - being what it is, it would seem not unreasonable that such an organisation should be adopted, even if it were necessary for some of the other groups for science at this point to be a little larger to compensate. It is not uncommon to find smaller groups isolated at an earlier stage than this for other subjects, such as classics. In the larger grammar schools little difficulty should be encountered, and, in addition, there must be many schools of only two streams where the number of science specialists would justify taking steps of this nature. The formation of classes even somewhat smaller could not be considered unreasonable. When, as in certain small schools for girls, numbers staying for advanced work in science are likely to remain very low, separate classes of science specialists at the fifth form stage are impracticable. The very smallness of the numbers, however, then opens up another possibility, namely that scientists from the fifth form should join the sixth form for their science. Where numbers are very small the organisation of groups within the sixth form classes becomes possible without undue difficulty. Practical work can easily be organised in this way and so can much of the theoretical work. It is not possible to lay down any hard and fast rule. With very small schools or when the numbers of science specialists is very small the decision may occasionally have to be taken that special provision for them in the fifth form cannot be justified. In such cases, however, it would be clear that the work of the bulk of the school should not be spoilt by an attempt to cater for one or two exceptional specialists.

In the early part of this chapter specialisation within the field of science itself was being discussed. There are obviously limits which this should not exceed. However, there is also the broader and more important question of the degree to which specialisation in science as a whole should be carried. In considering this it would be well to include mathematics in addition, for the nature of the arguments and matter entering into that subject are sufficiently similar to those of science for the two to be considered together. To discuss this question it will be necessary to deal briefly, yet frankly, with the limitations to which both these branches of knowledge are subject, when looked upon as vehicles for education.

No subject is without some limitations. Those which fall within the province of the arts provide little opportunities for contact with the physical world and hardly any at all for contemplating the vast arena in


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which the microcosm of the earth is placed. They fail to provide that factual knowledge which has become essential for rational existence in the modern world. Science, on the other hand, is overburdened with facts, so much so that other values have tended to become submerged. One of the most obvious of the shortcomings of both science and mathematics as means of education is what might be termed the tyranny of the right answer. This shortcoming originates not because, in science, all answers must conform to the phenomena; the difficulties do not occur at the frontiers of knowledge. It arises because on the way the territory has been so thoroughly mapped that there is little opportunity of finding an unexplored tract. Progress is almost confined to a macadamised highroad. While in history it is possible to hold a variety of views upon the vices and virtues of Metternich or Castlereagh, or in English upon the merits of Boswell or Burke, in science it is a matter of extreme difficulty for a boy to hold an opinion of his own and to hold it successfully against the assaults of others, his teachers included. In mathematics the difficulty is even greater. Pupils soon tire of their own thinking if their efforts inevitably end in defeat. These subjects therefore appear limited in the opportunity they afford for the exercise of independent judgment. They tend to breed conformity rather than initiative. A further limitation is the absence of consideration of questions of 'value'. There is little in science concerned with duty, justice or liberty and even if some regard may be had for integrity, morals and beauty their treatment cannot easily be made very extensive.

These deficiencies few scientists would dispute, and they would wholeheartedly support any attempt to improve matters. The question requiring discussion is one of means rather than of ends. It is widely felt that the policy of balance, the only one to have been tried at all on any scale, whereby the shortcomings of specialist subjects are carefully counterbalanced by suitable additions of others unrelated to the first, has not been an unqualified success. Subjects acting as counterpoises in this way have rarely been given enough time, and as a rule they fail to arouse much enthusiasm. Sometimes their objectives have been altogether too limited. English for scientists is sometimes envisaged as the grammar of writing. Science itself can supply all the opportunities for clarity and conciseness of writing that are required, and it would be helpful if the teacher of English could advise and could take a direct part in what is done. Attention at the moment seems now to be turning towards the possibility of broadening the specialist studies themselves, so as to forge links with other subjects and departments of knowledge. It is here that philosophy seems to offer attractive possibilities. The only thing which could be held to unite the different kinds of human knowledge is the philosophy of knowledge. A direct study of certain questions


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of epistemology would have obvious bearings on science, and philosophy itself has in turn wide connections in other directions. It is too soon to offer an opinion as to the possibilities. Such experiments as schools have carried out so far appear to indicate that, sometime about the age of eighteen, there are pupils who reach the stage where they can appreciate philosophical questions and become interested in their discussion. For such pupils a study of this kind would appear to offer some prospect of supplying, at least in part, what is required.

If additional studies are to be included in this way, the inevitable question of how time is to be made available will arise. There is only one way. The volume of specialist study will have to be reduced to make room for them. That much is clear. What remains to be discussed, however, is whether the reduction should be made by a more or less uniform reduction over the whole field or whether it should take the form of restricting the number of branches studied. What has been said already in this chapter would appear to indicate that, as a rule, the solution is more often to be found through a general reduction in content rather than through a restriction of the field. To reduce the field would often be to destroy the coherence of the whole study. On the other hand a partial contribution to a general reduction of content might be made by some pruning, if not of dead wood, of some which has lost some of its vitality.




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CHAPTER 13

Science for Other Pupils

THE standpoint of this pamphlet is thus that in organising the work of its science department a school would be well advised to give exceptional consideration to its science specialists, and that first priority should be allocated to the arrangement of special courses for them, starting at the level of the fifth form. They would need no preparation for an examination at the Ordinary level, which they would do well to by-pass. When these arrangements have been made, however, there will remain a large body of pupils for whom it will be necessary to cater.

Many of these other pupils will require a pass at the Ordinary level in a scientific subject for one purpose or another. Except in fairly large schools it may not be practicable to arrange special classes for those who have no particular examination in view. The value of a course not directed towards examination objectives, however, should not be neglected and the alternative of certain pupils dropping their study of science for a year need not be dismissed without consideration. For example, an arts pupil who requires no pass in a scientific subject at the Ordinary level would suffer no great harm if he gave these subjects a rest after the initial course of four years, so long as he returned to them in the sixth form at a time when he was mature enough to enter into some of their more philosophical aspects. There is little point in requiring pupils who have no need to do so to take the examination. If they have so little interest in the subject that they cannot otherwise be persuaded to work at it, it is unlikely that what they will memorise in order to get through will have sufficient significance for them for it to remain with them for very long. On the other hand, in schools in which numbers justify doing so, it would be sensible to arrange special courses, on the lines suggested in Chapter 11, for arts specialists in the fifth form.

After due weight has been given to these considerations, however, there will remain in all schools a substantial body of work in science directed towards the Ordinary level examination. It is to be hoped that, even here, the direction of the work towards examination ends will not be so close as to detract from its educational value. The later the taking of an examination can be left, the smaller will its influence be on the work, and incidentally so also will be the chances of failure. There are many pupils for whom it would be better to take the examination at seventeen than at sixteen. For example, those girls proposing to enter nursing or other auxiliary medical professions frequently remain at


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school until seventeen or even eighteen and are not always suited by the courses arranged for the Advanced level. Such pupils might well take the Ordinary level, in appropriate separate branches, at the age of seventeen, by which time they might well hope to have got substantially beyond the standard required for a mere pass. Some, such as those proposing to enter upon industrial apprenticeships, may need their passes in science at the Ordinary level by the time they reach the age of sixteen. It should not be beyond the bounds of possibility for them to give sufficient time to those branches in which a pass is required in their fifth year for them to satisfy these requirements.

Reference has already been made to the syllabuses and examinations at the Ordinary level of the General Certificate of Education. Although science specialists may not enter for these examinations but aim directly at the Advanced level and arts specialists may omit them in favour of an unexamined course in the sixth form, Ordinary level examinations will continue to exert considerable influence upon the studies of the less able pupils and those intending to leave school at 16. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that these examinations should be conducted so as to emphasise the more valuable aspects of the work of the schools. Many of the difficulties facing those who conduct these examinations have arisen because of the great heterogeneity of the candidates. So far these examinations have been taken by those for whom the Ordinary level has been but a vaguely defined step in a longer course as well as by others for whom it marks the completion of their studies or who, if they are to continue their studies, will look upon them from a much more utilitarian point of view. If the examinations could be designed for a less heterogeneous group the task of the examiners would be considerably simplified.

The incidence of these difficulties is different in the various branches. It is most marked in chemistry where much of the educational value of the subject has been lost through an insistence upon memorising the results of theories which cannot be understood at this stage. But the advantages to be obtained from a narrowing of the aim of the examination would be by no means confined to chemistry. If it were known that the Ordinary level examinations aimed at assessing the contributions which science has made to the liberal education of those candidates who would not normally expect to follow further an educational course in the subject, the whole attitude of the examinations could be altered. Items which are commonly reserved for study at a later time could be introduced so long as their study were suitably modified to make it convincing for less mature pupils. A more frequent and direct appeal to experiment would enable many topics to be included which are ordinarily thought to be beyond the powers of pupils at this age. For


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example, it has been shown that it is possible to approach the principle of the conservation of energy in this way, and if it can be done there is surely no other generalisation in the whole of science whose greater importance merits inclusion in the studies of everyone. Those staying at school longer may deal with it more fully later, but those who do not should not omit it altogether. Again, it has been indicated that by employing a direct experimental approach mechanics can be extended to include much more dynamics than is commonly attempted and there is no reason why a simple treatment of the rotation of rigid bodies, such as was suggested for the arts pupils in the sixth form, should be impossible; thus the stimulating applications to balance and athletics could be discussed. A simple study is also possible of something of physical optics which would be of interest and importance, and some study of alternating currents could profitably be added in electricity. To make way for these additional studies it would be possible to reduce manipulative exercises upon rather uninteresting topics which, though possibly valuable as a preliminary training for the science specialists - though even for them the importance is easily over-rated - are irrelevant and deadening for the less able pupils who may not have the opportunity of adding the more important studies later.

A similar re-assessment of the topics chosen for inclusion in syllabuses in biology at the Ordinary level would also be profitable. Whether, for example, the best balance between botany and zoology has been achieved for these pupils might be worth discussing, and this could now be done without prejudicing the natural concern of specialists over the training of research workers. Further study of topics such as embryology and genetics might be considered as might also be a greater emphasis upon elementary work in the field. Those who leave school early are, on the whole, the less intellectual of the pupils and for them an extension of the empirical survey of the first four years in this way is likely to be the most appropriate course.

It would be wrong to suggest that considerations such as these have been overlooked in the schools. In many the choice of topics for study has been made with great care and without undue regard for examination requirements. Many have taken the view that the training of the specialist should not be allowed to distort the work of the lower forms and that so long as both specialists and others have to be taught together it is better to adapt the course to the educational requirements of the non-specialists. Many such schools have found the examinations in General Science at the Ordinary level to supply more nearly what they require than those in the separate branches, and it is to be hoped that competition with other schools who have concentrated early upon the training of science specialists will not prevent their continuing to do so.


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However, even the examinations in General Science could be greatly improved if they had not to be directed partly to meet the demand for an early specialist training. If the work of the specialists were directed towards the Advanced level from the age of about 15, much of this difficulty should be overcome.

Among those leaving school at 16 will be many who will have no direct need of a pass at the Ordinary level in a science subject. It would be pointless to force them to sit for the examination or to follow an examination course. If these pupils are not very numerous it might be possible for them to join the arts specialists for their science. In larger schools they may be able to form a set on their own. Their numbers are probably larger than either pupils or parents will readily admit and schools may have some difficulty in convincing them. General uncertainty about vocational intentions will also add to the difficulties, but where non-examination courses can be arranged and taken by really stimulating teachers, there are advantages to be reaped.

On the other hand some pupils, such as those bound for industrial apprenticeships at the age of 16, will wish to include studies having a direct vocational bias and to take an examination at the end of their fifth year. Thus engineers may desire to sit for examinations in physics and chemistry. The key to the satisfaction of their educational, as distinct from their vocational requirements seems to lie in the adequacy of the time they devote to scientific studies at this stage. Given adequate time, pupils of suitable ability should not only have little difficulty in passing the examinations in the separate branches which they desire at the conclusion of a year's study following a four year unspecialised course, but should also gain from their science an important contribution to their full education.




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CHAPTER 14

The Teaching of Biology

THE biological sciences will have found an important place in the studies of pupils up to the age of fifteen and, though these studies will have been designed primarily for the general education of all and not aimed specifically at providing a basis for advanced work, nevertheless the experience gained in the early years will be of value in this more restricted direction also. In the course of their work in the lower school pupils will have become familiar with a limited range of facts, selected for their general importance. These will include the physiology and structure of plants and animals considered from an elementary angle. Ability to recognise the common plants of the hedgerow and field and some of the more familiar animals should also have been acquired. More important than this knowledge of fact, perhaps, will be the careful training in method and reasoning, together with the attitude of mind which should result from it. If the opportunities for original investigation of a kind simple enough to be undertaken by young pupils, which are offered by the biological sciences better than by any other branch of science - or for that matter by any other subject of the curriculum - have been seized, pupils will have acquired ideas upon how an investigation or observation should be carried out and on the way conclusions may be drawn from the results. They will know a good deal about the maintenance of living material. They will have been carefully trained in ways of recording and should be able to use the written and spoken language clearly and concisely and be able to record by drawing with a measure of accuracy. These are among the important contributions which biology has made to general education but they are also a valuable contribution as a starting point for further studies.

One of the important and most obvious tasks of the advanced course in biology will be the extension of the factual knowledge possessed by the pupils. It is not always realised, however, that training in methods of experiment and observation will also continue to be even more necessary and, too often, lessons in biology take the results of this training for granted. Far too frequently the arrangement of the lessons is for the teacher first to describe, often in considerable detail and with the aid of excellent and elaborate diagrams on the blackboard, the anatomy of, say, the cockroach or dogfish. This is followed by the dissection of specimens of these animals to exemplify what the pupils have been told. The latter dissect in order to demonstrate knowledge


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acquired otherwise and not for the purpose of finding out something which they did not know before. The best pupils are those who are able to show most clearly the validity of the statements of the teacher and woe betide those who fail to find what they are looking for. It is the method by which the errors of Galen were perpetuated, with added incentives which effectively discourage any budding Vesalius. The same sort of thing is also to be seen in pupils' drawings. These often resemble more closely the diagrams of the master on the blackboard or the drawings in the book of models kept by their side while they examine their specimen or perform their dissection. They tend to draw what they think they ought to see even when this is not there. At the same time they are apt to omit from their drawings things which are, in fact, present but which, because perhaps they may be unusual, do not figure in the standard diagrams. Similar methods are sometimes extended to the case of simple physiological experiments which are performed only after the teacher has described in detail what the results should be. All this clearly puts the cart before the horse. No doubt it is occasioned by the desire on the part of the teacher that his pupils should get their facts right. The result is often a cut and dried picture of affairs which corresponds only inaccurately with nature and the effect is to undo much of the good which has resulted from earlier training.

On the other hand, the aim of the great teachers of biology, both in the past and at the present time, has always been to put educational considerations first, and it is perhaps worth stating again how biology offers opportunities for promoting education, which are not so easily found in the other branches of science. In the first place it is often easier to understand the operation of the methods of science in the field of the biological rather than the physical sciences. With the so-called exact sciences mathematics may obscure rather than illuminate the essential features. The mathematical nature of the physical sciences, while it renders easier the carrying through of long and detailed chains of deductive reasoning, does not alter, fundamentally, the nature of scientific methods of argument and is not, itself, an essential constituent of these methods. Where a broad grasp of the nature of science and its presuppositions is desired, biological studies may provide the key more readily. The findings of biology, too, apply more immediately to man himself than do those of the physical sciences. Biology supplies knowledge of man's own anatomy and physiology and its social implications are obvious. It is concerned with the great debate between the vitalistic and mechanistic philosophies. The study of behaviour in animals throws direct light upon some of the patterns of human behaviour and questions of motive and moral responsibility cannot be avoided when, for example, reflex action and conditioned reflexes are being discussed. If the proper study


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of mankind is man it is equally clear that the proper study of man can only be pursued if full account is taken of his reaction to his environment.

The place which is occupied by advanced biological studies in schools, especially boys' schools, at present, is unfortunately that of vocational training rather than of an instrument of education. In a considerable number of schools biology is, indeed, confined to the sixth form and is taken then only by those who require it for professional qualifications. Under such conditions it makes very little impact upon the broader education with which the schools are mainly concerned. The possibility of taking the First M.B. examination at school is responsible directly for a large fraction of the teaching of biology at the present time. Education is an intellectual, aesthetic and moral process but it does not follow that vocational objectives need be excluded entirely. An education can be had in many ways and, the world being as it is, it would appear only sensible that education should be acquired in a manner which also promotes vocational attainments. Training for a job, however, though it may well influence, should never determine the objectives of a school. Still less should it be allowed to monopolise the time of a pupil. It is doubtful if this distinction is drawn sufficiently clearly in many advanced courses in biology in schools.

The influence of vocational requirements, real or imagined, bound up as they are with test and examination, leads to an emphasis being placed upon factual knowledge. In biology, even more than in other branches of science, the burden of facts is extremely heavy. Much depends upon how knowledge of these facts is acquired. There is fortunately a tendency, at the present time, to emphasise the approach of the field naturalist which indicates a growing awareness of this aspect of the study. The whole of biology cannot be approached in this way but where it is appropriate it is an excellent method of acquiring and organising factual knowledge. Its virtue is not, of course, limited to this by any means. It is also an excellent approach to the general techniques of investigation by observation and experiment. Material from the field can be brought into the laboratory for study and from the mere maintenance of such material there is a vast amount to be learnt. Moreover the ramifications of field work lead to a new interest and vitality in laboratory studies, in such topics as morphology and physiology, particularly as they will be related to organisms not over-documented by descriptions in textbooks. Pursued quantitatively it raises questions of sampling and statistics, the discussion of which is of considerable educational value and not to be found in other branches of science in schools.

It has already been pointed out in general terms that, in passing from


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the purely empirical studies of the lower school to the advanced course, a pupil will embark upon a careful and steady survey of the theoretical structure of the subject he is attempting to make his own. It is worth while, at this point, to consider for a moment what, in the case of the biological sciences, is this systematic framework, which is capable of holding them together in a logical unity. Have indeed the biological sciences such a degree of unity at all? If one is looking for some principle from which all the phenomena of biology can be deduced by the processes of mathematics and of logic, from which vast predictions and extrapolations can be put forward with any measure of confidence, one will search in vain. There is nothing corresponding to the Newtonian mechanics of physics or the atomic theory of chemistry. There is in biology, however, something which is equally valuable. As biological knowledge is acquired it can be synthesised gradually into a vast and all pervading pattern, provided by the great theories of biology - those of inheritance and evolution. These, indeed, are among the greatest achievements of the human intellect and there is exhilaration to be experienced as it is seen how they enable a grand synthesis of a broad domain of human knowledge to be effected. The development and recognition of this pattern will be the main concern of the advanced course.

As is the case with other branches of science it will be necessary to develop these theories upon a foundation of empirical fact. The presence of a basic element of doubt will be a characteristic which these theories share with all others in the field of science. They can be established not as affairs of certainty, to doubt which is impossible, but only as plausible and possible explanations. Their establishment will take the form of a reduction in uncertainty as the evidence is accumulated and examined. Certainty, like the absolute zero of temperature, can be approached but never reached. It is important, therefore, that the evidence for these central theories should be assembled in such a form that it can be discussed and evaluated. As much as possible of it will have to be assembled in concrete form and basic observations repeated. Only in this way, through personal experience of the kind of judgment involved, will it be possible for the justification of many of the generalisations contained in the theories to be appreciated and assessed. Given a broad basis of personal experience, the discussion can proceed beyond its immediate limits through the ability to appreciate similarities with tracts of knowledge already explored. It is essential, however, for belief to arise as the result of argument and not to be imposed from outside. This calls for an ability to recognise relevance and for independence of judgment to be cultivated.

It is through the absence of any systematic attempt to criticise the


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evidence for the central theories of biology that the teaching of the subject is most open to criticism. Few schools, for example, possess an adequate collection of fossils and fewer still use them effectively for this purpose. Though all pupils will have read about fossils and perhaps seen pictures in books, many still go through school without ever actually handling one. Even a very rudimentary collection will serve for an initial examination and as a basis for discussing the preservation of certain features and the probable loss of others. It is, however, in the making of a collection to illustrate particular points that most is to be learnt. Again, the evidence of the fossil record cannot be assessed without at least a broad and general acquaintance with the principles of stratigraphical geology, a subject omitted from the courses of most schools. A practical study of this kind would make all the difference to the possibility of a real understanding of the arguments which find their way into the textbook. Not only the force of the arguments but also their limitations would be appreciated.

In a similar manner opportunity for practical experience of investigation in genetics is rarely given to pupils in schools, yet its theory is not only one of the great achievements of biology but it lies at the roots of the mechanism of evolution. The theory itself is hardly ever omitted from a course in biology in schools and much effort, as a rule, goes into the attempt to provide pupils with an understanding of what is involved, but the experience which would enable pupils to assess the achievements of the theory is rarely afforded them. The best approaches are usually historical in character and the famous experiments of Mendel are normally described. Nevertheless experiments are frequently omitted altogether and even the facts which should have been observed are deduced from the theory of genes. When experiments are performed they are often done post hoc, after the theory has been learnt in considerable detail. Many of them, moreover, turn out to be inconclusive. The subject is not a simple one, like dynamics, where the factors involved in any phenomenon are limited and can easily be isolated, and the inconclusiveness is part of its very nature. The account which is given in many textbooks supports this attitude. Textbooks in biology differ from those in chemistry and physics in making many fewer suggestions for the practical work of the pupil. As a rule they discuss the classical experiments and accepted results but they do not suggest in any detail experiments or observations which might be performed by the pupils. Experiments in genetics for schools are not widely known and there is opportunity here for considerable research in biology teaching. Many experiments which are tried have not been sufficiently tested and are incapable of leading to simple results. One of the commonest to be performed is the crossing of mice with different coloured


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coats. In the typical case, however, the inheritance of coat colour in mice is by no means simple. It is normally controlled by several factors which pupils at school have neither the time nor the ability to disentangle. Another is the crossing of long white with round red radishes. Again the hereditary characters are of such complication that an almost complete range of variation is produced. Similar results were obtained by schools which crossed red and white godetias and antirrhinums of different colour.

The aim of genetical experiments in schools should be two-fold. On the one hand it should include a study of the inheritance of characters such as those mentioned above, which are not simply controlled, in order to emphasise the complicated nature of most of the familiar features of animals and plants. Simple results are not to be expected in the general case. It is, in fact, quite difficult to obtain characters which are controlled by single factors with which to work. It is important that school experiments should not give the impression that the actual state of affairs is simpler than it really is. The Abbé Mendel was fortunate in his choice of material. Even a genius must have luck. The difference between him and the rest of us is that he can recognise it when it comes his way.

On the other hand some experiments which are performed in school must deal with characters which are controlled by single factors so that simple numerical results can be obtained. It is desirable that schools should repeat for themselves the original experiments of Mendel with peas. Such a repetition could form the basis for a critical assessment of genetical experiments in general, as will be mentioned shortly. Simple results have been obtained with maize and sweet corn but unfortunately they cannot be relied upon to ripen in the northern half of the country in average seasons. Where, as in the southern half of the country, they can be brought to maturity, however, they have proved most useful material. Drosophila is used quite widely and poultry is commonly employed to demonstrate sex linkage. Where poultry is kept in a school it is desirable that pens of the two pure lines should be maintained in addition to the cross-bred birds used for egg production. Crosses should be carried out in both directions and the results studied. Such are but a few experiments which are possible. Nevertheless there still remains an obvious need for the investigation of further material - a laborious but rewarding task for the science master.

An essential part of experiments in genetics is the discussion of the statistical adequacy of the results. Few of the biology specialists in the sixth form are sufficiently familiar with elementary statistics to appreciate this and it is most important that their mathematical studies should include sufficient of this branch for them to argue intelligently upon this


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point. It is one of much wider educational significance than genetics itself and its importance is not even confined to biology. What is involved is an understanding of the possibilities of sampling, a thing which underlies much else in biology and beyond. In this connection criticism of some of the classical experiments is enlightening. Too close a fit between theory and experiment can give rise to suspicions as well as lack of agreement. Pupils should assess their own results in this way also and the possibility of distinguishing between one theory and another on the basis of samples of limited size should be discussed.

Experiments in genetics are slow to yield results and it is important that they should be begun in time for pupils to have a chance to complete them and consider what conclusions should be drawn from them. They should, if possible, include a study of the inheritance of some physiological character, such as resistance to rust in antirrhinums which, unlike their flower colour, appears to be simply controlled. On the inheritance of such characters much of evolution must have depended. If a variety of experiments of this nature is performed, as obviously it should be and, given an advanced course of three years and a few facilities in the way of garden and breeding apparatus, it could be, and if such experiments are combined with parallel practical studies in cytology, it will be possible for genetics to take its proper place in a boy's mind and to make a full contribution to his education.

A question which frequently exercises the minds of teachers of biology is whether their subject should be taught as one branch or as botany and zoology treated separately. An important point of practice frequently hinges on the discussion, for when botany and zoology are taught separately they are usually each given as much time as is allotted to the subject, biology, taken as a whole. Clearly, if account had to be taken of no other consideration, the biological sciences must profit immensely from the more generous time available and the decision would be a foregone conclusion. Questions of time apart, however, to teach biology as though it were composed of two water-tight and separate compartments would be a grave mistake. If the gradual development of biological knowledge is to achieve a synthesis in the theories of genetics and evolution, as has been suggested, such a division is impossible. Without some such synthesis the study would remain at the level of a catalogue of information, not even arranged in alphabetical order, and would be unworthy of the title of a science. Evidence for evolution and for the theory of genetics cannot be confined to the worlds of either plants or animals alone and to attempt to do so would fail to provide an opportunity for assessing the credibility of these hypotheses. Most of the educational opportunities would be thrown away. The question of the teaching of biology as a single, integrated study must be isolated from


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that of the time which is to be given to it. It is one of the unfortunate consequences of examination arrangements that a choice is possible only between one allocation of time and another double in extent. It might well be that a better result would be achieved by some intermediate allotment. The point has already received some discussion in Chapter 12. The double allocation of time to biological science would preclude the study of both physics and chemistry and the provision of even a little supporting mathematics would be difficult. The importance of all these to the study of biology, to put it no higher, is such that they should all be continued until about the age of eighteen. After that time a greater degree of specialisation upon the biological sciences might be contemplated, so long as their essential unity was not destroyed.

Advanced biological studies in schools have evolved from work dominated by morphology. Morphological studies are now exemplified by the study of 'types'. The original idea of such an arrangement was due to T. H. Huxley and the types selected were sufficiently numerous to illustrate the range of living things and specifically chosen for the purposes of illustrating evolutionary series. Even so, extreme caution is necessary in arriving at conclusions with regard to their origins by arranging contemporary animals in an order corresponding to their complexity. To some extent sight has been lost of the original purpose through a reduction in the number of types examined but the study can still be a useful one. The limitation of the number of animals and plants with which a pupil makes contact gives rise to a further difficulty. The features which he meets in the case of any example are partly characteristic of that particular specimen, partly common to the variety and genus, and partly to the family and class. There are also characters which are shared, for example, by organisms adapted to certain modes of life - such as parasitism. The study of a single or only a few examples does not furnish sufficient variety for these differences and relations to be appreciated.

A change in emphasis has recently been noticeable in the teaching of biology. There is a growing realisation of the limitations of too great a concentration on the study of types. No one suggests that value is not to be obtained from the close study of particular animals and plants or that it ought to be eliminated. But there is a strong desire to introduce a greater variety, through the study, first of a larger number and second of more unfamiliar examples. Greater emphasis is also now placed upon the relation of the organism to its environment. Structure is related to function and not taken in isolation. In both these developments it is possible to lay greater stress on a spirit of investigation and valuable opportunities are thrown up for the design of original enquiries by the pupils themselves. It is commonly found that a valuable extension of the


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work out of school hours results and laboratories have to be made available to pupils to work in throughout the day. Since much of this work out of school is concerned with living organisms special arrangements are often necessary. Enthusiasm has also been kindled for long term investigations carried on by the pupils largely in their own time. The reaction on all the work is beneficial and that of the more straightforward kind, such as experiments in physiology, is approached with more of an enquiring mind.

The course which has been discussed so far has been that taken by those specialising in science who are sufficiently able to carry it to the level of the advanced examination in the General Certificate of Education. There will, however, be other pupils wishing to spend a considerable fraction of their time upon biological studies but unable to carry them on so far. In this category are to be found pupils who are looking towards careers in which knowledge of the biological sciences is essential. In boys' schools agriculture and horticulture will ultimately claim the attentions of a considerable number of these pupils. In girls' schools, nursing and other careers in the auxiliary medical services attract many. Most of the considerations discussed in relation to the advanced course apply here also, though some of the conclusions reached may prove more difficult to carry out in practice. Pupils less apt at academic study than their fellows, who often find their outlets in other ways, are liable to have their attention more closely riveted on the immediate objectives of professional requirements. Care, tact and resource are called for if their studies are to achieve the maximum educational value. Cooperation of professional bodies goes a long way towards making these worthier objectives possible. When such bodies appreciate fully the educational, as well as the professional, implications of their demands the work of the schools is greatly eased. Conferences between them and the schools, at which these issues could be discussed, could be productive only of good.

The study of human anatomy by certain pupils, mainly girls, is fairly common and it may, perhaps, serve as an example for purposes of discussing the principles involved. For some reason, which it is difficult to understand, it is sometimes thought that the specialist teacher of biology is inappropriately qualified to undertake this work, which in consequence is handed over, as often as not, to the physical education mistress. This immediately tends to isolate it from other scientific studies which the pupils may have taken. Human anatomy is a subject which can be approached only through direct observation and experiment, at a comparatively elementary level in schools. As often taught it makes inordinate demands on the memory and very little indeed upon reasoning. In practice it often is based almost entirely upon charts and diagrams and the contribution which the study makes to the pupils'


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education is so small that it is doubtful whether such a subject ought to find a place in a school at all. Would it not be of much greater value, both as an educational process and, indeed, as a preparation for a future career in which such knowledge might be useful, if what was demanded of pupils was an understanding of broader biological principles? The ultimate objective of much of the study of the biological sciences must be a knowledge of the human body, its method of functioning and how it may be maintained in a state of health. Such knowledge comes, however, as the end point of a chain of comparative examples. Arrived at in such a manner it has great educational possibilities and, although perhaps the knowledge so obtained would be not quite as detailed, it would be capable of being brought to a state of greater completion in a very short time by a vocational institution.

The teaching of biology requires support from various aids. Many of these, necessary for the carrying out of experiment or observation, are essentials rather than auxiliaries and every good teacher of biology has lavished care on their selection and collection. In biology the need for storage and means of display are particularly important. Something in the way of a museum is necessary. Ideally it should be in a room of its own, large enough for a class to work in, but few schools will be able to afford such a development. Most of them will have to rest content with a few show cases in which, from time to time, material can be attractively set out as required. Such material needs to be changed frequently - and discrimination, too, needs to be exercised in collecting. Material should be collected for a purpose. It should include living as well as preserved specimens and the former will need to be maintained under as nearly natural conditions as is compatible with ease of observation. Some caution has often to be exercised in accepting 'bequests'. Occasionally these are of considerable value but room can seldom be offered for trophies of the chase or miscellaneous and purposeless collections.

Material too uncommon for schools to possess may be found in town or national museums. Curators of these museums are usually glad to cooperate with schools and some arrange for 'museum boxes' of material gathered together for certain purposes to be available to schools. Visits by schools to museums can also have value although that of the casual visit without specific purpose is much more doubtful. Preparation for visits by the staffs of both school and museum adds to their value considerably.

Visits to farms and gardens and to various research institutions can be valuable. Mention has already been made of what is probably the most valuable of all occasions for work off the school premises. This is the visit necessary to undertake field studies. Some schools arrange for such work to be done during holidays and some make use of special centres


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set up to promote this kind of work. It is desirable, indeed essential, that the possibility of spending a considerable period of time, such as a whole afternoon and evening or even a whole day, working off the school premises, should be envisaged, in addition to the more infrequent expeditions to distant centres. As with the visit to a museum, such work is rarely profitable without thorough preparation by the staff.





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CHAPTER 15

The Teaching of Chemistry

THE importance of a knowledge of chemistry to those mainly following other branches of science has already been discussed. It is a matter of history that the present highly complex status of science has been reached, to a considerable extent, by means of developments which took place in chemistry. Upon it are based important industries and much of the prosperity of this country. It is vitally important, from the national point of view, that there should be a large and able body of pupils wanting to make chemistry the principal ingredient in their studies. It is the purpose of this chapter to discuss how these pupils may be attracted to the subject and how, having elected to study it, they may derive a large proportion of their education through it.

Chemistry is a branch of science which makes a vivid appeal to young pupils in the stages of education considered in Part II of this pamphlet. The phenomena, such as those of combustion, included in these early stages are arresting in themselves, and the explanations of them which are encountered are, at once, important, capable of being investigated simply, and easily understood. From the very early days of the teaching of science in this country, chemistry has always played an important and fundamental role, in furnishing both a field for training in accurate and objective thinking and a knowledge of important facts.

The study of chemistry, however, has not been exempt from the effects of the pressure for rapidity of learning and the assimilation of a growing list of facts, to which, as has already been remarked, the whole of the teaching of science has been subjected. It is on chemistry more perhaps than on any other branch that the full impact of this demand has most noticeably fallen. The result has been often to push to lower and lower stages studies which are appropriate only to those of greater maturity, so that, though pupils completing the elementary work emerge with a large number of pieces of information, there is a tendency for these to have been passed over too hurriedly for their origins to have been appreciated or their nature understood. There is no doubt that, in places where the pace is apparently much slower and the treatment more thorough, pupils commence their advanced studies better trained to think, even though their factual knowledge may be smaller. Their subsequent progress may be all the more rapid.

As in the case of biology, pupils studying chemistry in the advanced course will by this time be able to make records of their investigations


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without assistance and to compile their own notes. They will have been trained in laboratory methods and discipline and be able to appreciate the essential features of a scientific investigation. They should approach the next stage in their education with minds not so much filled with undigested information about the results of modern research as fired with a keen desire to know how these results have been obtained and the basis on which they rest. In the satisfaction of this desire pupils will find themselves subjected to a discipline sufficiently strict to satisfy the ablest. Without such strictness there is a danger that the subject would fail to attract the best brains which it so greatly needs.

The transition from the elementary to the advanced course will be marked in chemistry, as in the other branches of science, by the addition to considerations mainly empirical in nature, which have been dealt with so far, of a theoretical structure, tying the whole subject into a logical unity. In the case of chemistry there cannot be the slightest doubt what that central framework of theory is. It is to be found in the atomic theory of matter, a theory which has opened up such vast possibilities and has so gripped the imagination of the present generation that it is at the very apex of the achievements of science. It will be among the principal functions of the advanced course in chemistry to study the erection of this grand edifice, to appreciate the mechanics which endows the whole design with strength and rigidity, and to become familiar with the foundation of fact upon which it rests.

There is, at the present time, some difference of opinion how this should be done. On the one hand there are those who would develop the theory historically, following the more important steps which have stood the test of time, in something like the same order in which they followed each other as the subject itself developed. Such a method does not yield very rapid results and modern ideas are difficult to approach. On the other hand there are some who no longer find the basis of the atomic theory in chemistry at all. The historical scaffolding by means of which the ideas were originally obtained is abandoned and a new basis for them is sought in physics. If, in fact, the basis of the atomic theory is now to be found in physics, as they maintain, there can be no logical objection to such a procedure. As a method of study suitable for schools, however, there are very serious objections to it. The concepts of physics which are taken over in this way are those arrived at only at the end of a study of that branch and are certainly not open to criticism and assessment by pupils at school. To apply a theory which is derived from another branch of science and which cannot be questioned, is a limitation which would nullify any possibility of education whatsoever. The dilemma is a most serious one and it has not been resolved satisfactorily. There can be no doubt that it merits the closest attention by


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teachers of chemistry. To choose the first horn of this dilemma is to accept some restriction in the ideas which can be discussed. To allow oneself to be impaled on the second is to find oneself tossed, unprepared and helpless, into the very centre of controversy in the field of modern theory.

There are several factors which deserve consideration in attempting to resolve this difficulty. Perhaps the first would be to place some limitation upon the concepts with which pupils are expected to become familiar in the course of their school work. This limitation must clearly be such that no pupil has to be asked to accept or utilise concepts the necessity and the evidence for which he will be unable to consider, whether these are to be found in chemistry or in physics. If any regard is to be had to the proprieties of scientific debate, a pupil must not be expected to agree to the use of concepts which are more elaborate than is justified by the group of phenomena he is studying and seeking to explain. If such a limitation is to be brought about a change of policy will be needed by those who appear too frequently to be attracted to the chimera of the memorisation of modern notions and to give little or no attention to ability to think and reason.

Another point to which attention might be directed is the cooperation between the departments of chemistry and physics in a school. It has already been mentioned that the necessity for pupils intending to specialise in chemistry to continue their study of physics is widely appreciated. Of the validity of this feeling there can be no doubt but the two branches are almost invariably pursued completely independently. Very rarely is it to be found that, in designing the course in physics, any attention has been given to the desirability of including those topics which should be studied if the theory of chemistry is to be understood or to timing their introduction so that their study can be useful to those concerned with the development of chemistry. The evidence for the atomic theory is derived from both branches and can successfully be assessed only as the result of combined operations by both departments. Such cooperation is called for at many points. The phenomena of electrolysis and the ionic theory cannot be satisfactorily unravelled by either chemistry or physics alone; but the most important field for joint efforts lies in the development of the atomic theory itself. If the course in physics were re-examined it would probably be found possible to introduce such topics as the simple kinetic theory of gases, the phenomena of the electric discharge through gases at low pressures, the concept of the electron, and positive rays, much earlier than is usually the case at present and this would be of great assistance in furnishing some of the basic evidence for the theories required in chemistry.

If the genesis and present state of the atomic theory are to be appre-


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ciated, and there can be little doubt that this must be the central theme running through any attempt to derive a full measure of education from the study of chemistry, it is evident that a fairly large historical ingredient must be present. This, however, does not mean that it is necessary always to follow the story through the labyrinth of discarded hypotheses by means of which progress was ultimately achieved. The third factor in the development of a satisfying sequence in the study of chemistry, to which attention might be directed, is, therefore, a re-examination of the historical approach. The place and function of hypothesis in it and the whole resulting argument need to be re-evaluated. It seems that it is at least likely that such a reconsideration would enable the proceedings to be considerably shortened, the fundamentally important evidence to be examined more thoroughly than at present and the structure of the subject to be rendered more evident.

It would be well worth the while of any teacher who wishes to consider these problems, to read again the Sketch of a Course of Chemical Philosophy (1) written by Stanislao Cannizzaro in 1858. It contains a reasoned account of the theory of chemistry of that time and is a model of how a course in that subject should be designed. It was, in fact, the origin of the approach to the subject employed, until recently, by almost all teachers of chemistry in this country. Each step is thoroughly argued and assumptions discussed, and Cannizzaro's students must have completed the course with a feeling, if not of absolute conviction, for that would have been inappropriate, at least of knowing the basis for the theory of the subject. In the light of modern knowledge it may be possible to improve upon his arguments, though even this, indeed, is doubtful, but it will require a genius of the first rank to better the clarity of his exposition.

Among the phenomena out of which the theory of chemistry grew are to be found the chemical reactions of gases treated volumetrically. The investigation of many of these was developed by Hofmann and they became a central consideration in the study of chemistry, and chemical atomic theory was shown to be largely an interpretation of them. In recent times, however, practical investigation of gas reactions seems to have dropped into desuetude, but, if the theory of chemistry is to be developed rationally within its own boundary, it seems that attention will have to be directed to them again. The gravimetric considerations which guided Dalton are insufficient to justify the theory in its later forms, and it was not until the reacting volumes of gases were given their proper place that Cannizzaro was able to work out his scheme for the theoretical study of the subject. These reacting volumes form a very

(1) Alembic Club Reprints.


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suitable topic for elementary experimental investigation and provide admirable opportunities for acquiring skill both in experimenting and in arguing from the results.

Important evidence, confirming the tentative explanations to which the reacting volumes of gases lead, is to be found in the periodic table of the elements. The confirmation is achieved through the fact that the order in which the chemical evidence, derived from their properties, would place the elements, is also the order of a certain pattern depending solely on their atomic weights. This basic chemical evidence is built into the higher level theories of atomic physics, a study of which should follow and not be made before the more fundamental work has been considered. It is obvious, therefore, that the study of the table must be preceded by some consideration of the chemistry of the elements. This might well include, for example, hydrogen, the inert gases, the alkali metals (including lithium) and the halogens. Because of the importance of the evidence for the atomic theory which is provided, it is desirable that the periodic classification should be introduced into the course as early as possible. The moment for its introduction would seem to be after the groups of elements just mentioned have been studied. The initial step having once been rendered possible, the justification of the classification will grow and the evidence accumulate as other groups are added to the study.

Evidence is also supplied by organic chemistry and its importance would seem to indicate as early an introduction of this branch as is possible also. There appears to be no inherent reason, other than tradition, why this should not be begun soon after the advanced course starts at about the age of fifteen. The most striking evidence for the atomic theory which emerges later from organic chemistry is to be found in isomerism. This is invariably predicted from theory but rarely confirmed experimentally. A complete experimental treatment is not easy to devise and the attention of teachers of chemistry is called to this point so that some research into the possibilities may be carried out. It is not satisfactory that a phenomenon of such importance should be learnt through verbal description only. Even if only a vapour density determination of a pair of suitable isomers, such as ethylene dichloride and ethylidene dichloride, or ethyl alcohol and dimethyl ether (dimethyl ether boils at minus 23.6°C and this would not be an easy pair of isomers to choose), or acetone and propion aldehyde, could be carried out - for example in a Victor Meyer apparatus in suitable cases - it would suffice to show that each pair was, at least, characterised by the same molecular weight. Determinations of their physical properties, such as boiling points and densities, would suffice to show that they were in fact different substances.


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The extension of the evidence from isomerism by that derived from stereoisomerism is one of the most beautiful and important achievements of chemistry. Actual experience of the phenomenon is even more difficult to give pupils than is that of ordinary isomerism, and to work out practically and in detail the constitution of the compounds involved may remain beyond the powers of schools. Sodium ammonium racemate can be purchased, however, and, given somewhat monumental patience, an attempt might be made to repeat Pasteur's manual separation of the d and I crystals of sodium ammonium tartrate deposited from solution below 27°C. Optical activity is more easily studied in sugars but again it is difficult to tie the phenomenon down practically to molecular constitution. Here perhaps is a case where the original papers might be consulted by pupils. (1)

Whenever a new theory or a fresh extension of an old one is to be studied, it is important that pupils should first achieve some acquaintance with the actual phenomena with which it deals. For example, the basis of the division of compounds into electrovalent, covalent and 'molecular', should be familiarity with the compounds themselves. At an earlier stage the concept of valency itself should be introduced only after the formulae of a sufficient number of compounds have been ascertained, to lead readily to the ideas which have to be adumbrated. Reactions which are general methods of synthesis and are also important pieces of evidence for determining structural formulae, such as the Wurtz synthesis of the paraffins from the alkyl halides using sodium, should be carried out at least once.

The question is often debated as to how far the use of formulae can be justified before at least general methods of establishing them have been studied. It is pointed out, for example, that pupils soon learn from hearsay or from articles in books that the formulae for water and sulphuric acid are H20 and H2S04 respectively. They may even be able to state the fact that the formula for water indicates that two atoms of hydrogen are combined with one atom of oxygen to form one molecule of water. What then is the point, it is asked, of refusing to use such things in their formal lessons, if they are well aware of, and indeed familiar with, them already? The question indicates a lack of appreciation of the purposes of a scientific education. A man's intellect is developed very little indeed by simply knowing what he thinks is the usual formula for water. Indeed a man who had memorised all the formulae of chemistry would be little better than one of those curious people gifted with the power of memorising a railway time-table. A

(1) For example: Le Bel Bulletin de fa Société Chemique de Paris, Tome XXII, 1874, Oxford University Press, pp. 337-347. Van't Hoff Chemistry in Space. Translated J. E. Marsh. 1891.


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pupil needs to realise that there is a world of difference between having heard of the formula given to water and understanding the reason for its being what it is and the knowledge which it summarises.

Many of the shortcomings of chemistry as a vehicle of education stem from bad practices in the early years. Habits of accepting opinions of others in place of taking the pains necessary to convince oneself can be acquired very quickly. Forcing oneself to think is an arduous process and habits once formed are very difficult to eradicate. It is important that the utmost care should be taken to see that bad habits get no foothold in the mind. To write the formula CO2 for the gas evolved from limestone on heating as soon as a pupil meets it, is to put into his mouth information of which he is not in possession. If he has not met the gas before he will not be aware even that it is a compound of carbon and oxygen, let alone of the proportions in which the combination occurs, represented by the formula. As far as he is concerned the bulk of the formula is an unnecessary multiplication of entities. Formulae need to be introduced with the greatest care and even reluctance. Simple word formulae, such as oxide of carbon, for the gas, when the pupil is aware of the ingredients in its composition, are to be preferred at the beginning and the same caution should be applied to the use of equations.

This doctrine, however, must not be pushed to an absurd extreme. While pupils should not be burdened with symbols the implications of which they cannot appreciate, they cannot possibly investigate for themselves the formulae of all the compounds with which they will come into contact. What is essential is that the first cases should be argued closely until an appreciation of the general methods is obtained. Once this has been acquired progress can be rapid, and methods, when understood in certain cases, can be applied to others without difficulty. To read again the Sketch of Cannizzaro will be to refresh the memory with the sort of objective at which it is reasonable to aim. The exercise of care in this way, as has been suggested, will often mean a later start with formulae and equations and valency than has been customary of recent years. It is doubtful whether an introduction to the full theory of chemistry, if it is to have any real educational value, can profitably be begun before the science specialists have been separated from the others and the advanced course begun at about the age of fifteen. To attempt it earlier will, on the one hand, burden the non-specialists with knowledge which, because of its incompleteness, will be largely meaningless to them, and, on the other, lead to a very superficial consideration of what is involved by the specialists themselves.

As in the case of biology, there will be pupils who desire to make science an important part of their education but who do not feel able,


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for one reason or another, to proceed to the advanced level in chemistry. In the case of those who intend to leave school at the age of sixteen there will be one year in which to bring their school study of chemistry to completion after the general course of the lower forms is finished. With a suitable allotment of time it will be possible for them to have a good chance of reaching the Ordinary level of the General Certificate of Education if that is thought to be a suitable objective for them. With slower pupils a further year of study may make more than a proportionate increase in the value of their studies. There will be many girls, aiming at careers in housecraft, physical education and nursing for example, for whom such an arrangement would be very appropriate. Enough time should then be available for the work not to be narrowly directed towards the examination and considerable and valuable excursions beyond the syllabus should be possible.

A good deal has been written in this pamphlet and elsewhere about the importance of practical investigations by the pupils. This chapter might well close with a reference to the related question of demonstration by the teacher. Chemistry has long been a subject in which great demonstrators have been bred. It was said of Sir W. H. Perkins, for example that

'he lectured at 9.30 a.m., arriving at his laboratory at 8.30 a.m. in order to supervise his assistant's arrangement of the lecture table. These elementary lectures were properly illustrated by experiments and in their preparation and delivery he took extreme care ... and expended considerable nervous energy upon them. They were kept fully up to date; his easy method of delivery and the logical order of formulae and other details made them almost ideal'.
The art of demonstration seems now to be declining. Demonstrations, however, have a particularly important place when it is desired to base some conclusion, important theoretically, firmly upon experiment. The master's skill, so much greater than the pupils', may make all the difference between success and failure. The greatest care and attention should be given to it and, when it is done frequently, as it should be, the maximum importance should be attached to it. Crucial experiments need rehearsal. They cannot be assembled on the spur of the moment. It is in connection with demonstration that the help of an assistant is invaluable. Not only can a capable laboratory assistant bring success to this side of the work, but he can make a much wider range of it possible. In other words, he can have an important and direct effect on the quality of the teaching.


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CHAPTER 16

The Teaching of Physics

FEW who pursue the study of science as specialists of any kind will omit physics from their curriculum. It is an essential to those who are mathematically minded, to those whose interests centre in the physical sciences and to those whose work may ultimately come to lie in the biological field. In schools where the advanced course in science is not sufficiently large to allow of the organisation of separate groups, this diversity of interest and, to some extent, of ability - at least in mathematics - is a source of some difficulty. It is important that, when heterogeneity of this kind is at all marked, the size of the classes in physics should not be so large as to preclude individual instruction where appropriate.

With physics, as with the other branches of science, it is desirable that the change to what may be called an advanced course, by which is meant a carefully considered study of the logical arrangement of the subject, should take place at about the age of fifteen. By then the simple empirical approach of the lower school will have furnished sufficient basis for those who wish to make a further study of the subject to begin a more intensive course. When, at the commencement of such a course, stock is taken of what has already been accomplished, it will probably be found that physics has rather more to build upon than the other branches. In addition to the training in recording, note-making and investigation, the fruits of which will be shared by all branches equally, there may be acquaintance with a somewhat greater range of physical phenomena, because of their wide importance, than of those of biology and chemistry. Some of the simple generalisations, such as the laws of Boyle and Charles, will almost certainly have been included and some consideration may have been given to such important principles as that of the conservation of energy.

Unlike chemistry, where the wide ramifications of a single theory - the atomic theory of matter - serve to synthesise the bulk of the subject, physics, at the stage now to be considered, is characterised by having a number of theories which have to be studied, each of which unites a particular sub-section of the subject. There is, of course, the fundamental theory of Newtonian mechanics, which will figure prominently in the work, but there will be, in addition, the theories of light, the kinetic theory of gases, the theory of electricity and magnetism, of heat and sound; all these must receive attention. There are certain more


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general topics which affect many sections of the subject, the independent study of which can be valuable. Thus a study of waves might well be made before embarking on the wave theory of light or on sound or electro-magnetic radiation. Examples of resonance also occur very widely and it might be well either to summarise them together towards the end of the course or to treat them as a topic drawing examples from all parts of the subject.

Because of the mathematical nature of much of the subject, there is a great temptation in physics to concentrate upon the deductive element and to neglect the rest. The nature of an argument in physics needs to be clearly appreciated. A formula arrived at as a result of a piece of mathematical reasoning is but a restatement of some aspect of the hypotheses from which the process of deduction started. It possesses no greater validity than they do and the main job to be done in physics is to test and establish the premisses from which deductive reasoning can proceed. Undue concentration upon mathematical processes tends to obscure this fundamental state of affairs. Many exercises which are performed are, for this reason, very artificial. There is little point in calculating, for example, when a ladder placed against a wall will slip unless it is known that the conditions assumed in the calculation correspond at least approximately with reality. Since a loaded ladder as often as not digs into the ground, the usual assumption of a constant coefficient of friction is likely to be quite wide of the mark. The exercise may be useful as mathematics but it is a poor piece of physics.

Though the central theme of the advanced course in physics will be the careful consideration of the theories of the subject, this consideration is bound to entail investigation experimentally. Experiment must continue, therefore, to play a large part in all studies in physics, including those in mechanics. Of course the routine of mathematical procedure must be mastered and some of this may appear obscure and difficult. The concentration necessary to acquire this mastery must not, however, be allowed to transfer attention exclusively to symbols on paper when it should be directed to investigation in laboratory, observatory and field. The mathematician who uses physics as a territory in which he may exercise his mathematics needs also to be aware of these dangers.

A part of the value of any course in science, and particularly of one in physics, must lie in the argument which arises between teacher and taught as each topic is discussed. The skill of the teacher is to be found, in considerable measure, in his ability to stimulate discussion and to take advantage of the opportunity for that cut and thrust already mentioned. Courses in science of all kinds too easily degenerate into a mere dispensation of factual knowledge; to a very large extent this knowledge can be acquired from the pupils' own reading and practical investiga-


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tion. There are other and important issues with which only the teacher can deal and he should not overlook them in order to pursue a grind through long lists of facts and calculations, essential as many of these may be.

One of the first things a teacher must do before he can even embark upon a course of lessons in physics is to clear his own mind on the logical structure of the matter with which he is to deal. In a quantitative study of a section such, for example, as electricity, this logical structure is determined by the accuracy of measurements which have been made. Thus the measurement of electric current now rests upon determinations made with current balances and the basis of the whole of this science is thus to be found in the laws which determine the forces exerted by one electric circuit carrying a current upon another. The laws of electrolysis are thus capable of being expressed in terms of an electric current already independently measurable. Again the determination of the mechanical equivalent of heat by an electrical method presupposes that an independent and accurate method exists for the measurement of a potential difference. It is but to argue in a circle if the measurement of the mechanical equivalent of heat purports to be done before the student has reached the point at which he has at his disposal such an alternative method of calibrating a voltmeter. It is profitable, in the advanced course, to return at some point to a consideration of Newton's laws of motion and to discuss explicitly their logical status, though this will have been at the back of the teacher's mind when he designed his elementary introduction to them. It would be valuable to consider the nature of such concepts as fields of force, energy or temperature - are they more than economical mathematical fictions? Is the same even true of atoms and electrons? It is clear that at this point physics merges into the philosophical fields of theories of perception and existence, excursions into which can be of great profit to the able pupil and may even lead to a further and more complete study of philosophy itself.

As the accuracy of measurement develops, the structure of a subject may change. This has occurred, for example, in electricity. It is important that the teaching of a subject should keep pace with such developments. As a rule, however, a very conservative attitude is maintained and though developments are incorporated the treatment leading to the older structure is often maintained, as again has been the case with electricity. At one time the basis of the measurement of an electric current was the force experienced by a neighbouring magnet. The chain of arguments thus led through considerations of magnetic measurements to those of instruments of the type of the tangent galvanometer. All this is still retained in many schools in spite of the fact


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that this has long been superseded. Electric currents are now measured to an accuracy of the order of one in a hundred thousand by means of current balances and experiments with instruments like tangent galvanometers no longer give the slightest insight into what is involved; The value of the ampere would remain completely unaffected should a redetermination of the earth's magnetic field with the Kew Magnetometer lead to a modification in the accepted value. Such experiments remain in school courses solely as exercises for the schoolboy. They are, however, misleading and it would be better if such irrelevancies were cut out from the curriculum. There seems little to be said for giving pupils the impression that electricity is still organised according to the pattern of the science in 1860 - about the time when its study first began to find its way into the schools.

Reference has already been made in Chapter 15 to the desirability of organising 'combined operations' in an attack on the atomic theory. There can be little doubt that valuable improvement in the courses in both physics and chemistry could result if effort could be pooled and the evidence considered as a whole and not divided into two water-tight compartments. It is true that, as a rule, a considerable reorganisation of the studies in both branches would be entailed, but the effort involved in doing this would be well justified. The atomic theory is one of the crowning achievements of both branches and if any study of science could be justified it is one of this great development. In physics it would mean putting the simple kinetic theory of gases a good deal earlier than the place it commonly occupies and every effort would have to be made to deal with the evidence for the electron and corresponding positive particles in time for them to be of use to the chemist. This might entail some additions to courses in physics, as they exist at the present, but a place might be found for some of them, perhaps, by rationalising the treatment of electricity as suggested in the previous paragraph.

It is unlikely that, in a school, it will prove possible to deal with the ideas of modern physics which are included under the general heading of the quantum theory. This theory cannot be satisfactorily approached without a thorough preparation in the so-called classical physics and both the education of the pupils and their preparation for later stages at the university will be best served by a more thorough study of the classical basis than by attempting a superficial survey of later developments. In the course of their studies points will emerge where the notions of classical physics fail to agree with the phenomena. For example, it will be impossible to deal with the number of degrees of freedom which it is necessary to assign to the molecules of the elementary gases in order to arrive at a correct value for the ratio of their two specific heats without realising that the usual mechanics of macroscopic


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bodies cannot be applicable to anything as large, even, as a molecule. They may also meet with such limitations in connection with the photo-electric effect though it is unlikely that they will get far enough to include a study of black body radiation from which the quantum theory originated. Such unfinished topics will be left by schools as places to which further building can be keyed at a later stage. It will help to maintain interest if such points are left undetermined and for further study.

The advanced course in physics is likely to be a heavy one. It will call for some ability to handle mathematics and the vast developments in recent years are bound to have an effect on the volume of work of the schools, whatever may be done to limit it within reasonable bounds or to rationalise its treatment. It is better tackled in a course of three years after a four year introduction composed of empirical studies, rather than in two years, following a five year course that is neither wholly empirical nor logically systematic. It would be well, however, if, by some such limitation as is suggested above, the provinces of university and school could be rather more clearly defined.

Time is needed for practical investigations. It would be unsatisfactory if the pupils' practical work came to be limited to the demonstration of known principles by methods in whose design they had no part. It is particularly true of practical work in physics that more often than not the thinking has been done by the master rather than the pupil. Full value from investigation into unknown problems will be achievable only if pupils have reached a stage when they are able to appreciate what is involved in the planning of an experiment. It is desirable also that there should be time for the pursuit of special interests such as in astronomy or in the history of science. It is through such investigation and special interests especially that incentives will be found for vigorous thinking. Such thought will also be of inestimable value if a clear idea is to be obtained of the purposes of physics, of its structure and of the methods by which this structure has been erected.

It is of importance in the study of physics that pupils should not have all their time laid out for them but that they should have private study and the responsibility of planning a good deal of their work. To use this time allotted for private study effectively, training will be necessary. This may even have begun before the advanced course is entered upon and, as this course proceeds, the amount of private study should increase. Discussion will play a large part in the work but opportunities should be given in written work for essays which contain critical appreciations or which lead pupils to synthesise their knowledge. Numerical examples should go beyond giving practice in the use of a particular formula and should contain exercises in which pupils must


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give serious thought to physical principles before manipulating the mathematics. It is clear from this that great stress needs to be laid on using language with precision, so that exact statements are made and no more is implied than is justified. It is through challenges made by the teacher during such work that an atmosphere of precision can be established.

In lessons for pupils up to 15 the importance of demonstration of phenomena and principles by the teachers is fully realised and much effort goes into it. For some reason, possibly the pressure of examination, this is much less true of physics in the sixth form. The added vitality which can come to the study through striking demonstrations skilfully carried out is immense, and it is a pity that more is not done.

It is desirable that, as a rule, experiment should precede theory, which should be developed on the basis of the results obtained, but there are certain physical measurements in which it is important for theoretical work to keep abreast of the practical side or, at least, for the master to ensure that the relevant theory has been studied before practical measurement is attempted. This is often difficult to accomplish but there is sufficient flexibility in the practical course for pupils to perform experiments based on knowledge gained earlier which gives them necessary opportunity to exercise their growing powers of accurate measurement or to carry out investigations for which they are not ready at the earlier stage. The time allotted for practical work should contain a group of consecutive periods from the timetable sufficient to enable work at this stage to be continued without interruption, to permit the teacher to examine pupils on their understanding of what they are doing and to discuss with them problems arising from their work.

It would be a fundamental mistake however to imagine that, in physics, theory should always precede practice. Indeed the direct opposite is more nearly true. No physical theory can be properly discussed unless it is preceded by a survey of some part, at least, of the range of facts to be dealt with. In this it is possible to draw a distinction between physical measurements and other investigations in physics. In measurement the broad lines of the phenomena are presumed known. In other experiments this is not so and theory follows rather than precedes practical investigation.

There is need to give pupils specific training that will enable them to make appreciations of the accuracy of their experimental results. This training will have started in the early stages of the school course, when, for example, they have been led to consider the factors implicit in their class average for the results of a quantitative experiment. The free use of graphs at this stage, plotted during the course of an experiment, and of graphical methods in general, gives valuable opportunities for practical


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work to be appreciated critically. Demonstrations by the teacher need skilled preparation at this stage, and a good deal of time is often needed to set them up. As with chemistry, the art of demonstration is one which should be vigorously cultivated and the same invaluable help of a laboratory assistant is desirable.

Something has already been said about the courses for those not proposing to specialise in science. Teachers concerned with physics, however, alongside their colleagues engaged in other branches, will be faced by the necessity of designing work for those who, while they wish to make science the main ingredient in their education, are not able profitably to pursue the advanced course which has been discussed so far. Physics, however, possesses an advantage in that it is by no means so difficult to arrange courses which fructify early. A large proportion of the technical achievements of science have been gained in physics and they may have a special appeal for pupils less intellectually endowed. It would be undesirable even for them to limit their studies to empirical knowledge on which a consideration of some of these achievements could be based. They should be able to appreciate some of the broader questions which the able specialist in other subjects might tackle in science, though many of the more philosophical implications might be beyond them. Thus they might well be able to extend a study of the principle of the conservation of energy based upon attempts to achieve perpetual motion, and to include thermal efficiencies of various processes of conversion of energy from one form to another. Such a study should lead to an appreciation of the fundamental problem of energy, on the solution of which the whole economy of the country ultimately depends. The more obvious and elementary effects of the Newtonian mechanics on the medieval view of the universe should also be within their grasp. They should be able to understand the necessity for a logical sequence in electrical measurements even though they are unable to go into the detail appropriate to the specialists. Some of the applications of physics to meteorology would also be well within their powers of comprehension. It would be a pity if their studies in physics remained so rigidly conventional that none of these topics came to be included. Even though some of them will later pursue the study of physics further at other educational institutions, it is nevertheless important that their studies in school should culminate in the consideration of problems of some significance.

It would be a gross mistake to imagine that the general organisation of a school can do more than fit the needs of a high proportion of the pupils. Whatever is done there will always be exceptions. While it is impossible so to plan the organisation as to take into account all possibilities, it should nevertheless be sufficiently flexible to allow of modi-


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fications in special circumstances. Thus some of those pupils considered in the last paragraph may so develop as to justify transfer to the advanced course proper - possibly with some degree of retardation compared with those who entered it at the beginning. Such late developers may be assisted by special coaching to help them over difficulties, or if they should on occasion prove sufficiently numerous they may justify the running of a special habilitation course for them.

The last group of pupils to require mention is that of the less able pupils in grammar schools, most of whom will leave school at the age of sixteen. For them it will probably be difficult to do better than to pursue the simple empirical studies of the early years to a wider extent. With a little ingenuity on the part of the teacher it is possible to approach a very wide range of phenomena through such a direct practical study. Again the objective should be to enable the course to culminate in the consideration of topics of real significance and, although an insight as deep as that acquired by those following the more advanced courses will not be attainable, yet it should be possible for these less able pupils to be able to engage in simple scientific thinking and to appreciate the relevance of their studies to the adult world which they are about to enter.




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Part IV

Some Practical Considerations








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CHAPTER 17

The Design of Laboratories

THE design of school laboratories will be determined by the activities which it is desired should go on in them. While these activities are subject to gradual change as the teaching of science develops, a considerable body of experience has now been built up, by methods of trial and error, over the years. This chapter will discuss some of the lessons to be drawn from this experience. It would be inappropriate to discuss details of the construction of school buildings; information of that kind may be found in the technical journals and in the various Building Bulletins issued by the Ministry of Education. Here the discussion will be limited to such considerations as arise directly out of the teaching of science.

All grammar schools will need at least three specialist laboratories equipped respectively for biology, chemistry and physics. In large schools some of these may need to be duplicated. They should be designed to accommodate the work of the specialist advanced course which, if the thesis of this pamphlet is accepted, should begin at the age of about fifteen. In small schools it may be possible to take some of the more elementary work in them also. In planning these it is well to remember that not every foot of working space at the benches can always be occupied by a pupil. It will be necessary to have some bench space where experiments may be left standing for considerable periods and some, indeed, to be occupied by permanent apparatus. It is also necessary to remember that pupils doing advanced work will be the older members of the school and will be fully developed physically. They need more space per head at the benches than the average. Their experiments are also more complicated and occupy a greater area. It is a mistake, therefore, to build specialist laboratories small. It is not unreasonable under present conditions to expect groups of about fifteen pupils to be taken together at this level. For a group of this size for specialist work, a laboratory of the full standard size of 960 square feet [89.2m²] is by no means too large and anything much smaller would be unsatisfactory.

After the needs of the specialists have been met there will remain the question of providing less specialised laboratories for more general studies. These rooms will be found in all types of school. There can be no finality in suggestions for the accommodation to be provided for science; the general design should give flexibility rather than simply


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meet the immediate requirements of one or two teachers. Given reasonably generous space, simplicity in permanent fittings and ample provision for storage in preparation rooms, cupboards and shelving, there need be little fear that the design will prejudice any future change in ideas or the needs of individual teachers.

Flexibility in design should not only allow a teacher to develop his teaching freely and if desired in an original manner, but should be such as to allow the greatest freedom to the school. It seems likely that the place occupied by scientific studies in schools in general will increase in importance. New schools also frequently grow in size either because they are situated in new and growing communities or because pupils tend to be transferred to them from older buildings as these are closed or used more restrictedly. It is thus of very common occurrence for a new school to have to house many more pupils than the number for which it was originally designed. It is important, therefore, that the possibility of extending the laboratories of a school should be borne in mind when the building is being planned. A little care in the siting of the ordinary classrooms in relation to the laboratories will frequently allow for extension, by converting two normal classrooms into a laboratory. Extra classrooms are more easily added as an extension than are laboratories with their various services and there is no need for them to be placed - as new laboratories ought to be - contiguous to the laboratories already existing. Care is necessary to ensure that additional laboratories can have access to preparation rooms. Flexibility should also extend to the use of the laboratories by the pupils. It is undesirable in the elementary stages for laboratories to be specialised for particular branches of the subject. Elementary laboratories should be designed so as to allow work in any branch to be carried out.

In elementary laboratories it is well to avoid fixed island benches for the pupils. It is a great convenience to be able to push the benches back when the demonstration bench is being used, so as to allow the pupils to sit in comfort, and even to clear the room completely, on occasion, so that the laboratory may be used to seat 60 or 70 pupils for a lecture or the meeting of a society. A useful compromise, when this is not easily possible, is to arrange for one or two of the tables near the demonstration bench to be movable, the remainder being fixed. Simple, solid tables with stout legs, but without cupboards underneath, permit this. Eight tables 5 feet by 3 feet 6 inches [1.5m x 1.1m] would provide comfortable working space for 30 pupils. The height of the benches should be about 2 feet 9 inches [0.8m]. A wall bench of the same height is desirable along one of the long sides of the room. It should be placed under the windows, which should come down to bench level on this side.

A most important consideration in determining the arrangement of


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the laboratories is the provision of service to them from the preparation rooms. In the larger schools this will be the province of one or more laboratory stewards. The laboratories should always be grouped together so that where laboratory assistants are provided they may not waste their time carrying apparatus on unnecessary journeys. Still more is this grouping of laboratories important where the science masters have to do the work themselves. Unless accommodation is extensive it should all be planned on one floor, preferably the ground floor, and as a continuous intercommunicating block. When there are many laboratories, greater compactness can sometimes be obtained by planning on two floors, but if that is done there should be direct communication between the floors by a minor staircase and service lift from one preparation room to another. The possibility of using a flat roof for meteorological and astronomical work should not be overlooked.

Experience shows that a laboratory with a floor area of 960 square feet [89.2m²] is adequate for the kind of work to be done in elementary science with the number of pupils commonly taught together at present. Reasons have already been given for adopting this size for advanced work also. Smaller rooms restrict unduly what can be taught and rooms of less than this size should not be planned where classes of 30 pupils have to be accommodated. It is probable that for some time to come elementary classes will have to be of this size in order to economise in the time of the science masters. When, in the future, it becomes possible to reduce the number of pupils in a class, such a size of laboratory will allow of the provision of seating in front of the demonstration bench, a facility which is much to be desired. Even in such circumstances, therefore, a room of 960 square feet [89.2m²] will continue to have important advantages.

It is not possible to lay down in detail all the activities which may go on in a laboratory. They will include the grouping of a class in front of the demonstration bench for experiments performed by the master or for cooperative investigations, the writing of notes and records of work, and practical work by individuals, pairs and larger groups. Some experiments, such as those with the large trolleys in elementary dynamics mentioned in Chapter 8, may need a considerable area of free floor space, and others, such as experiments with pulleys, may require support from the ceiling or walls. A room with the ratio of length to breadth in the proportion of five to three is satisfactory. It allows of fairly easy movement of furniture and gives a teacher control of a class at practical work. The width of the room may be controlled by that of the classrooms but for a room of 960 square feet [89.2m²] in area a width of 24 feet [7.3m] is much to be preferred to 22 feet [6.7m], which is a common width for classrooms.

An admirable arrangement for a science room is for it to contain not


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only benches for practical work but also tiered seats in front of the demonstration bench for use when lecture-demonstrations are planned. Some continental schools possess rooms of this kind, but they are uncommon in this country. Such rooms afford the teacher the maximum flexibility in the planning of his lessons. As has been pointed out earlier, a room of 960 square feet [89.2m²] will allow of this arrangement when it is possible to reduce the size of classes for science to 20 pupils. When the number of rooms is large the provision of one or more demonstration rooms in place of a similar number of laboratories may be considered, although a demonstration room cannot be used for practical work, whereas a laboratory can easily be used for demonstration. When a demonstration room is provided ample room should be left for the demonstration bench. The room itself should have an area of not less than 540 square feet [50.2m²], and a square room with sides of about 24 feet [7.3m] is satisfactory. If it is likely to be required for lessons other than science, school desks are preferable to built-in benches and the tiers should be sufficiently wide to take them; they should not be less than 2 feet 9 inches [0.8m] from back to front. School desks possess advantages for science also, although they may be out-weighed by other considerations. It is desirable for a science teacher, as well as for teachers of other subjects, to be able to pass freely among his pupils and overlook written work being done by them. Tiers should rise in slightly increasing amounts from about 5 inches [127mm] in front to about 9 inches [229mm] at the back. Ample space should be left between the front of the demonstration bench and the front row of desks. For a tiered room the demonstration bench should be low; 2 feet 3 inches [0.7m] is ample for the height and no platform is, of course, required for the teacher.

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of ample space for storage and preparation, and each laboratory should have direct access to a preparation room. This should have a width of at least 10 feet [3.1m] and an area of about 250 square feet. Preparation rooms serve also as storerooms and should be well supplied with shelves and cupboards. Water (hot and cold), gas and electricity are also necessary.

Somewhere in the science block there should be provision for a science workshop. In the simplest case this may be no more than a stout bench for working in wood, metal and glass. In a big school with advanced work, a room of 480 square feet [23.2m²] in area, serving as a double preparation room and equipped with power for installing one or two machines, such as a lathe, bench drill and circular saw, would make a serviceable workshop. (1) This room would form the hub of the laboratory service and it would act as the headquarters of the principal laboratory steward and his assistants.

(1) See Appendix 2.


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Wall space in laboratories is valuable. It is needed for the fixing of apparatus, for the display of charts and diagrams, for screens for the optical projection of pictures, spectra, spots of light from galvanometers, etc. and for shelves and cupboards. Therefore every effort should be made to see that as little as possible of the wall area is taken up by windows, door and radiators. Windows can be reduced by careful design to the size necessary to produce adequate lighting. The number of doors can be kept to a minimum by careful planning. Radiators inevitably require a lot of wall space - and floor space too - but other forms of heat emitters are less obstructive. The area of windows can be substantially reduced if top lighting is used.

Wall space near the ends of the demonstration bench is particularly valuable. It is well to avoid, as far as possible, breaking this up by doors and windows. Small stone corbel shelves let into the walls near the demonstration bench at a height of about 8 feet [2.4m] from the ground are useful for the permanent mounting of galvanometers free from vibrations. A suspension beam capable of carrying a load of about two hundredweights concentrated at one point is useful in the ceiling above and just in front of the demonstration bench.

Good lighting, both natural and artificial, is essential in laboratories. In any room not only should the illumination be adequate for the work which is to be done there but the lighting and surroundings should be so designed that the eye can utilise the light efficiently and comfortably. The lighting of laboratories, especially by daylight, is complicated by the variety of work which may be carried out in them, which demands varying levels of general lighting. Some of these kinds of work are as follows:

(1) That involving the use of bunsen burners and blowpipes, the flames of which must be easily visible if their use is to be efficient and safe. A bunsen flame becomes invisible against a white background illuminated by about 25 lumens per square foot - i.e. a surface of about 20 feet-Iamberts brightness.

(2) Experiments and demonstrations in light and colour. These may range from experiments with the common ray boxes, which can be carried out with general lighting up to about 100 lumens per square foot to those experiments in colour which require complete darkness.

(3) Optical projection. The degree of background light which can be tolerated depends upon the brightness of the image on the screen, which in turn varies with the type of projector. A good diascopic projector producing an illumination of between 10 and 20 lumens per square foot on the screen can be used when the general illumination is about one or two lumens per square


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foot. On the other hand projection microscopes or episcopes, which produce much less bright images, require complete blackout.
The need for controlling the lighting should be taken into account from the start of the design. In almost all laboratories any of these activities may be necessary and blinds or good curtains will be required to produce darkness. In laboratories for advanced chemistry the need is perhaps less, and Venetian blinds to control direct sunlight may be sufficient.

The lighting of laboratories must therefore fulfil other conditions besides the normal ones of complying with the minimum requirements of the Building Regulations and do so in a way that will enable the users to see efficiently and comfortably. The lighting must be controllable, so that different levels can be achieved according to the type of work which is to be done and it must be achieved without the use of an excessive area of wall. Top lighting can be used to reduce the area of window and it is held by some that lighting from a saw-tooth roof, as in factories, is almost ideal for laboratories. Top lighting may complicate the installation and control of blinds, however, and increase their cost, and it will not always be possible. Windows should not be placed so that a teacher faces his class with their backs to a window. The teacher needs quickly to realise the reaction of his class and he cannot do this easily if he sees them against the light.

It is highly desirable, on grounds of safety, that there should be access to a laboratory at or near each end. It may be necessary, in case of accident, to evacuate a room quickly. Danger from fire may occur in any part of the room, though the area where danger is greatest is that around the demonstration bench. Experiments in which there may be an element of danger would be performed by the master himself rather than by individual pupils. Fires, when they occur, are most often the result of inadvertence or the breaking of a vessel containing an inflammable liquid and they can spread very rapidly. If the laboratory is on the ground floor a window through which the pupils can climb in case of emergency will suffice as a means of escape from one end of the room. It will be sufficient in other cases if one of the doors opens into another room, for example a preparation room, from which there is independent means of exit.

Water supplies and sinks should be provided on all demonstration benches and at two or more points against the walls of the room, suitably distributed, in all laboratories. In elementary laboratories it is well to avoid placing sinks in the pupils' benches, so as to allow of the latter being movable. One of the wall sinks should be of the deep household type, suitably placed for the cleaning of apparatus and provided with


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hot water and a draining board, and it should be possible to fill tall vessels, such as buckets, at one tap. In specialist laboratories for chemistry more sinks will be required and these will have to be placed in the working benches. In all laboratories points for gas and low-voltage electricity will be required on the pupils' benches; to permit mobility, these services can be taken to traps in the floor and flexible connections made to the benches. It will be advisable to bolt the benches to the floor while they are so connected.

All laboratories and lecture rooms require one electric power point on or near the demonstration bench and another at some suitable point at the back of the room. One should also be provided in the preparation room. Electricity at mains voltage should never be used for pupils' experiments in an elementary laboratory and it should never be wired to their benches. The only essential electricity supply for pupils' benches is alternating current at low voltage, which will serve for much electrical and optical work and for lighting microscope lamps. When the use of a single transformer would lead to too great a voltage drop, each bench can be provided with its own transformer in a locked box underneath. The central point of its secondary coil should be connected to earth. In addition, sources of direct current at low voltage will be required for electrical work. There are advantages in deriving this supply from a number of good capacity two-volt accumulators, though some prefer a central rectifier. An elaborate system consisting of a bank of house lighting accumulators with a complicated switch board is quite unnecessary and indeed it can be an actual nuisance when alterations in one pupil's circuit affect that of another.

Demonstration benches should be mounted on a low platform in all laboratories and without a platform in rooms with tiered seating. In laboratories the minimum length should be 10 feet [3m]; 12 feet [3.7m] is better. A 10 foot bench can be extended by 2 foot [61cm] flaps at one or both ends. In demonstration rooms benches should be 12 to 14 feet [3.7 - 4.3m] long and at least 2 foot 6 inches [76cm] wide. Except in a room with tiered seating, when a low bench is essential, a height of 2 feet 9 inches [84cm] is suitable.

Fume cupboards for pupils' use are unnecessary in elementary laboratories. One may be placed behind the sliding blackboard for the use of the master. Even in laboratories for advanced chemistry the use of small scale methods for analysis has made the provision of a large number of fume cupboards unnecessary. Two for pupils' use in addition to that for the master should suffice.

Shelves and cupboards are essential. These will be distributed between the laboratory and the preparation room. In the laboratories it will be desirable to have some cupboards fitted with glass fronts. To see some of the more impressive pieces of apparatus on the shelves serves


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to whet the appetite of young pupils. Glass fronted cupboards are also useful for displaying specimens and staging exhibits. A chest of drawers about 3 feet [0.9m] high with a glass top and interchangeable drawers allows of a number of exhibits to be maintained permanently and shown when required. A useful size for apparatus cupboards for the laboratories is about 7 feet [2.1m] high with a bottom section 1 foot 9 inches [53cm] deep with wooden doors and a top section 1 foot 3 inches [38cm] deep, with glass doors. Special display cabinets may be valuable in certain laboratories - particularly where much biology is to be taught. In ordinary preparation rooms there should be at least one working wall bench with cupboards underneath and racks of shelves above. One cupboard should be provided with a lock and key for the storage of valuable or dangerous materials. Book-shelves, preferably placed where the class can see them and where the teacher can refer to the books easily, are also desirable.

Storage of apparatus is normally best effected in cupboards which restrict the accumulation of dust. On the other hand open shelves often lead to a greater tidiness and ease in the finding of what is required. A balance room opening out of the laboratory is desirable for advanced chemistry, and a dark room attached to the physics laboratory is also necessary.




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CHAPTER 18

The Teacher of Science

THE teaching of science presents different problems at different stages in a school and different qualities are required by the teachers responsible for them. The teacher of young pupils must be ready to face their multitudinous questions about all sorts of natural phenomena and must share the wonder and delight which they take in them. The teacher of older pupils must prepare himself to face the criticism of minds approaching maturity and can have no truck with slipshod argument or insincerity of attitude. Many, of course, succeed in combining ability to stimulate and satisfy the juniors with the intellectual incisiveness required by the seniors. Some, on the other hand, are content to perfect their powers of dealing with one group only.

At whatever stage a science master is to teach it will be necessary for him to have studied the subject himself to a stage a good deal higher. No teacher can teach all or nearly all he knows himself, but this is not the really important point. Teaching science is not, or should not be, an affair of handing out information and considered satisfactory if this is accurate. A man's most stimulating teaching will be done only in those fields in which he is himself thinking. A schoolmaster's thinking, unlike that of his colleague at the university, will not be mainly concerned with the advancement of scientific knowledge, even if he has time to indulge in this also. It will deal, on the contrary, with the ways in which young pupils acquire an understanding of the world of nature and with the methods by which they may be encouraged to think accurately about it. The approach to and development of his subject will form inevitably his main preoccupation.

It is of advantage for any teacher, at whatever stage he proposes to teach science, to have reached the standard of a university degree. It must be emphasised however that, even for the specialist teacher of advanced work, this is not all, and the possession of a university degree, desirable as it may be, is not by itself sufficient. All the ablest teachers of science would testify to the necessity for continued development after graduation. Following the course for a specialised honours degree may carry a man to the frontiers of knowledge, but on a relatively narrow front. The territory of science is now so vast that to go so far in more than a very limited field is virtually impossible. It is true that to have reached these frontiers of knowledge, even though at only a single point, is an exhilarating experience. The value of the perspective which this


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provides is by no means confined to the taking of advanced work in schools, to which it is perhaps nevertheless most germane; but until this specialised knowledge has been leavened by experience and extended, both within the field of science itself and beyond, the teacher's work will be too narrow to be of the highest value in either the junior or the senior forms. Specialisation in a narrow field, however, is not incompatible with the possession of a broad knowledge in addition, though the shortness of university courses in this country makes it difficult to achieve both by the time a degree is taken. Too often the university course, hurrying to reach the unexplored territories of science, provides little opportunity for independent thinking or for seeing science in the broader context of human affairs as a whole. The effect of this pressure is often transmitted, through faculty requirements, to the schools themselves, so that even they find themselves prevented from pursuing a course as educationally sound as they could wish, and thus from sending to the universities students in whose minds the seeds of a broad culture are likely to take root. The breadth of vision characteristic of the well educated man in general, and particularly of the schoolmaster at his best, has often to be added later.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the work done in the early years. For many pupils it may constitute the main part or even the whole of what they will ever learn of science. Early memories and habits are the most firmly held and many are indelibly printed in the mind. As memory fades with advancing years it is often what has been first learnt which remains the longest. Throughout the whole of life, for all of us, the habits and knowledge acquired in our early years have a profound effect upon conduct. A fact which a man learns late in life, if not afterwards continually used, will become simply 'a barren fact which he remembers or does not remember for a time and which after a few years is confused with other facts and is forgotten'. In later life it may, indeed, be difficult to learn anything which does not form an essential part of one's livelihood or of one or two special interests. For these reasons attention to specialised skills may well be postponed to allow the early years to be well used. They are among the 'formative years' and require the most careful and skilful treatment.

For work with younger pupils a general degree, including the study of several branches, may be more valuable than a specialised degree which has never required the study of a wide field. Unfortunately the esteem in which a general degree is held is often below that for a specialised degree. As a result the general degree tends to be taken mainly by those unable to stand the pace of the more specialised course. While this remains the case schools may always be tempted to appoint the specialist rather than the man with the broader training, in order to


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secure the one with the greater ability. It is, indeed, rightly felt that ability can quickly compensate for short-comings in university training. Several universities, however, have introduced general degrees which, if they attract their proper quota of the ablest students, will provide a valuable source of teachers. Indeed with accumulated experience such teachers should possess the necessary versatility required by a successful head of department.

A promising field for the supply of science teachers for the junior forms in all types of secondary school is to be found in the training colleges. With the institution of a course of three years' duration substantial work on a broad front will be possible and it seems likely that such courses will prove of the greatest value in providing teachers, not only for the modern schools but also for the junior forms of all types of secondary school. Such teachers require to be equipped to teach both the physical and biological branches of science, and in few universities do degree courses offer opportunities for this at present.

That the early general work can be thoroughly stimulating to the teacher may be seen from the fact that such work is frequently taken by the more experienced masters - an arrangement that was at one time even more frequent than it is now. Indeed junior studies are often found to afford greater scope for initiative and skill than are afforded by advanced studies. The problem challenging the teacher of junior forms is that of selecting and developing the best direct experimental approach to his subject, which at this stage must be given a thorough empirical basis. The solution of the problem is made particularly rewarding by the active interest of young minds, and yet the field is but half explored and much more remains to be done. Young pupils are capable of profiting by the direct experimental study of a much larger number of more exciting topics than usually falls to their lot. Advanced work is of course not lacking in opportunity, but the contribution of both elementary and advanced studies to the education of the pupil depends very greatly upon the breadth of interest of the master, both within and beyond the frontiers of science itself.

The best teachers of science have added in another way also to the accomplishments they acquired when they graduated. The attainment of a degree may have involved little more than the passive absorption of the ideas of others. Beyond this, all good teachers of science possess a measure of originality. They are able to recognise problems which are within the powers of their pupils to solve and to guide the investigation of them. This requires alertness and an enquiring habit of mind. The hack and the crammer pass such problems by without giving them a thought. Few can approach the work of any original teacher without being impressed by the ingenuity and careful thought, often amounting


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to real genius, which have gone to the design of his demonstrations and methods of approach. He possesses the knowledge of the biological resources of his neighbourhood and facility in handling the raw materials of wood, metal and glass. He has some of the skills of the museum curator, of the animal and plant breeder as well as of the industrial scientist. 'Of all the facts which contribute to satisfactory work in schools by far the most important is the quality of the teacher. Organisation, accommodation and equipment all play their part but the best examples of these will be wasted if the teacher be of poor quality'. (1)

In addition to the specialist teacher of science there is also a place for a certain number of general practitioners or form masters with a knowledge of science. With backward pupils and with some of the most junior forms in the secondary schools, a form master covering a wide range of subjects may be more successful than the specialist, and it is important that the training of such teachers should not be neglected. On the whole, however, their place in the teaching of science will be limited, and with pupils of increasing age and ability science teaching will tend to be more and more in the hands of specialists.

The training of teachers of science for the schools is thus not a simple business and there is a place within the scheme of things for a variety of methods and aims. There is a part for teachers with a broad knowledge of science to play in the junior stages of the work and for them, especially, it is important that breadth of knowledge should be matched by a similar breadth of skills. Until the institution of the full three year course in training colleges, supplementary courses both for serving teachers and for those who have just completed a two year course, now being organised on a considerable scale, should help to meet the requirements of the schools.

As has already been pointed out, the main weight of the more advanced studies in science in schools has always fallen upon the shoulders of specialists in one branch. While courses for university degrees remain as short as they are this is likely to continue. A special burden is thereby placed upon university departments of education responsible for the training of graduates for teaching. Not only must they attempt to widen the interests of highly specialised people and equip them with the skills necessary for their work in schools, but, very often, it will also be necessary to add a consideration of the history and philosophy of science which, at present, fails to find a place in the courses for many degrees.

In any discussion of what is required of teachers of science it is fair to point out how arduous are the conditions under which they work. A science master may well have as full a load of marking as most of his

(1) Science in Senior Schools, (Board of Education pamphlet), pp. 59-60.


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colleagues, he would wish to take part as fully as others in the general life of the school and in addition he has the running of his laboratory, the improvisation and repair of apparatus and the collection of specimens to see to. Any science teacher worth his salt will put in 'over-time', but this is not enough. He deserves to be allowed time for the maintenance of his laboratory, and technical assistance in this difficult task in addition.

It is too often assumed that anyone can teach, that such work can be relegated to second class brains and that the reason why science is included in the curriculum of schools is primarily the need to produce an adequate number of research workers. Of course scientific research is highly important but teaching too needs its quota of first class brains. Science is included in the curriculum of schools because it has an important part to play in the education of the pupils. It has been one of the most important aims of this pamphlet to stress the way science can fulfil this role, and to this all else must remain subsidiary. Research affects science in still another way. The possibility of pushing back the bounds of human knowledge has an immense appeal and to the vigorous, if at the same time rather undiscerning, young mind teaching cannot compete in attraction with it. The lure of research has been such as to denude the schools of science masters and, as the process has been to a large extent selective, it has taken away a high proportion of the best. This has been singularly unfortunate, since teaching presents problems no less urgent and requiring no less ingenuity for their solution than many of those to be found under the heading of scientific research. The problems facing the schoolmaster taking science are such as to stretch the ability of the most able. Few of them can be solved without careful analysis, a great deal of thought, wide experience and experiment.




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CHAPTER 19

The Making and Design of Apparatus in Schools

JOHN TYNDALL said on one occasion: (1)

'And here, if I might venture to do so, I would urge upon the science teachers of our public and other schools that the future of science as a factor in English education depends mainly upon them ... Their principal function just now is to arouse a love for scientific study. This is best done by the exhibition of the needful facts and principles with the simplest possible appliances, and by bringing their pupils into contact with actual experimental work.

The very time and thought spent in devising such simple instruments will give the teacher himself a grasp and a mastery of his subject that he could not otherwise obtain; but it ought to be known by the headmasters of our schools that time is needed, not only for devising such instruments, but also for preparing the experiments to be made with them after they have been devised. No science teacher is fit to meet his class without this distinct and special preparation before each lesson. His experiments are part and parcel of his language, and they ought to be as strict in logic, and as free from stammering, as his spoken words'.

Science failed to develop significantly until man turned from a priori speculation to direct observation of the phenomena of nature, and it was not long before his unaided senses proved insufficient for his purposes. The astronomers developed their quadrants and the chemists their crucibles. Today scientific apparatus has attained an almost overwhelming complexity. Nevertheless its genesis has not altered. The evolution of a scientific instrument starts in the mind of the enquirer faced with the problem of the careful and accurate observation of nature.

To assist him in this task he may devise apparatus which may, on the one hand, simply extend the powers of his own organs of sense or, on the other, serve to limit and isolate the phenomenon he wishes to investigate. As a rule, however, success rarely comes at once. His first attempt may fail because he has not, in mathematical jargon, controlled sufficient variables, or he may need to modify his question. A series of

(1) Lessons in Electricity at the Royal Institution 1875-6, Longmans Green, 1876. Passage quoted is from the Conclusion.


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improved designs may follow, until one provides the answer with the accuracy he seeks.

The instrument having served its purpose, he may throw it on one side, but occasionally he finds that he has produced something of more general use. If so, he will again modify it or employ an instrument maker to redesign it with the new ends of durability and simplicity in view. For the first he attends to the strength and rigidity of the parts, and to resistance to corrosion and dirt. For the second, he thinks of ease of manipulation and convenience of storage. As the instrument may be used by one who cannot give it his full mind, its parts may be concealed, just as a radio receiver may show only one or two controls. By now the construction has become a job for a professional craftsman, who will probably be at pains, not only by good workmanship but also by elegance of finish and by advertisement, to build up the purchasers' confidence in his device.

At some stage in this development the value of the apparatus as an educational aid changes. In the early stages it provokes thought; later it may inhibit thought or at best release the mind to think of other things. Yet it is salutary for the boy or girl to question the propriety of the tools he uses and the more so as his course proceeds and his critical powers develop. The home-made apparatus presents the challenge forcibly. When he learns of Faraday separating his turns of wire with twine and calico as he looped them through his ring core for his fundamental experiments on induction he will not forget the essential path of the current.

The pupil is entitled to an initiation which takes him behind the sleek and thought-suppressing machines to see that natural law still holds in the interaction of simple, homely materials and to realise that the limitations of the law in the simple case must still control the complex. If, further, he can feel that his, his group's or his master's improvisation is off the beaten track, he is likely to respond to the opportunity for pioneering in the same way as restive adolescents enjoy the experience of camping out away from the complex civilisation of adults.

The benefit to be derived from the improvisation of apparatus by the science master or mistress may be even greater, as Tyndall knew and as many teachers have discovered in their turn. The most popular feature at meetings of the Science Masters' Association is the Members' Exhibition, at which science masters show home-made apparatus and records of their individual experiments. It is at the moment when the teacher produces, in the laboratory, his own device, over which he has laboured until he understands its every peculiarity, that the lesson takes on a new intensity. For example a boy who may never think of questioning the readings on a precisely engraved scale may have his suspicions


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aroused by more primitive markings. The need for considering the method of calibration of his instrument is brought home to him and there is little need to force his attention to it. Moreover it is at his own level that the problem is tackled and it is by such means that the sword play of intellectual exchange between pupil and master, which has been the essence of educational method since the days of Plato, may be fostered.

The case so far presented for the design and making of apparatus in the school as an essential part of the work in a science department has not rested on any saving of expense. Substantial economy can undoubtedly result, but no one nowadays would deny that a laboratory should be equipped, on the one hand, with the normal items which are needed in such numbers that mass production is the most efficient means, or, on the other, with those mechanisms, such as a good exhaust pump, which are in regular use and whose making requires the expert craftsman. There remain, however, many more pieces of apparatus which are not used sufficiently to justify their cost or, which is more important, whose construction the teacher sees will have educational value. If, however, he is to undertake this constructional work, materials and tools must be available for him and the time consumed must be found among his other responsibilities. In music improvisation may be unpremeditated, but not so in science.

Those who devise apparatus for schools will have an eye for its value as a teaching agent in addition to its serviceability for the enquiry in hand. Simplicity in design is a primary consideration, sometimes at the expense of accuracy, for it is dangerously easy in a course in science to miss the wood for the trees. Large apparatus is often, for this reason, to be preferred to small and has the further advantage of requiring less manipulative skill. The natural tendency for conducting wires to become mixed and the distraction of prolonged arithmetical calculations are two very different causes of confusion. The effects of both may be diminished by the careful design of apparatus. The circuit board allows electrical connections to be laid out clearly, and the choice of large quantities which may be measured in round numbers may go a long way to simplify the arithmetic. The ubiquitous clamp and stand proliferating over the apparatus may look impressive, but the beginner in science has not the master's acquired blind spot by which he can see only the rest of the apparatus.

In a previous chapter, when the nature of practical work was being discussed, it was pointed out that much of what is done is of the nature of exercises required of the pupil. If at any time during the course something more than this is to be attempted, it will be necessary for the design of an investigation to be discussed with the pupils and for some


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of their suggestions to be taken up and acted upon. Such discussions, however, can bear little fruit unless facilities for the making of apparatus exist in the school and the master possesses sufficient skill and interest in workshop practice to offer advice and help. Such activities can lead to a fundamental development in the whole scope of the course. In the absence of the opportunity for carrying them on a master has difficulty in putting any new ideas he may have to the test, and unless they are tested he cannot improve upon them or be led to further lines of experiment.

Because improvisation involves, essentially, snatching opportunity by the forelock, it is difficult to prescribe training for the beginner. Among the arts likely to be needed are to be found the simple blowing and cutting of glass and its assembly with corks and rubber tubing; simple wood-work, including marking out, sawing, planing and the making of a few easy joints, screwing and nailing and the cutting of circular holes; simple metal-work, which would include marking out, sawing, filing, drilling, the cutting of screw threads with taps and dies, and soldering. The virtues of some of the synthetic plastics, particularly transparent plastics, should certainly be explored. Their inflammability and their solution in certain solvents should not be overlooked. Some of these materials are easily worked and, like synthetic boards, such as plywood and hard-board, can keep their shape under heavy wear. A variety of adhesives and waxes must be kept, and the different forms of steel clips now available provide convenient means for speedy assembly and dismantling. Nor should the possibilities of the many forms of extruded aluminium and other metals be overlooked.

The rich store of convenient materials for making apparatus that was presented by the surplus stocks after the war of 1939-45 is less abundant now, but some supplies are still available at comparatively low prices. The shops which sell mechanical spare parts, second-hand shops and junk yards provide opportunities for the experienced eye, and indeed, quick interception can sometimes profitably be made between the house and the dustbin. Where the system allows a teacher to use a small amount of petty cash for emergency purchases, bargains are more likely to be procured.

On occasions the school workshops can be pressed into service in the making of apparatus; indeed there are times when such construction can form a useful part of the handicraft course, particularly where a sound framework is needed for rigidity or to provide length of service. The workshops cannot take the place of the laboratory work bench, however, for the aims of the two departments will not always coincide. In the one, craftsmanship is encouraged by the close following of traditional forms;


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in the other, a restless, enquiring spirit challenges the accepted and conventional.

An essential part of the work of a good science teacher is the consideration of original methods of approach. Unless there are a good many teachers engaged in thinking out such problems, the subject itself will stagnate. In this country progress is made through the dissemination of good ideas from one school to another. The fundamental research at the basis of this calls for much patience, ingenuity and ability on the part of the teacher. Though such development is called for in all subjects of the curriculum, in most it involves only classroom techniques. In science, however, little can be done without facilities for practical investigation, and the design of new demonstrations and experiments forms an essential part. To face problems of this kind taxes the ingenuity of the most skilful and the ability of the most scholarly, and, next to the human aspects involved in all teaching, it is among the most rewarding of the science master's activities, in spite of the inroads it frequently makes into his own time.

This chapter may well close with a reference to a further consequence of apparatus-making which is not perhaps at first sight obvious. This is the free-masonry which springs up between those practising the art, amongst whom ideas are readily exchanged and appreciated. This tradition, typical of, but not restricted to, the scientific worker, is one which the pupil should not fail to observe and experience.




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Conclusion

THE ground described in the introduction to this pamphlet has now been covered in detail; it remains to look at the picture as a whole. It has been assumed that there is little need to argue the case for science as a part of education. Discussion has been aimed instead at questions which have often not had the attention which they deserve: what sort of science should be studied, at what stage is it profitable to specialise in it and how are the requirements of a full education to be married to those for the technical knowledge and skill necessary for practical purposes?

The conclusions are, it is hoped, clear. In both elementary and advanced studies it is necessary to balance the twin aims of acquiring knowledge which is valuable in itself and of training in the methods of investigation and logical thinking in a practical context. The spirit of science itself should extend throughout the work; the essence of this is the disinterested enquiry after natural knowledge. There is room for more investigation and a greater sharpness of criticism in much that is done in the name of science in school. The qualities, both moral and intellectual, which go to make the devoted scientist carry with them much of great value for a liberal education.

In the elementary stages the courses arranged for the future specialists should not be different from those for the others. Not only is it difficult and undesirable to segregate specialists at an early age, but also their education, no less than that of others, should be entire and involve a broad study of the important topics to be found in several branches. All should undertake a simple empirical study of the salient phenomena, which incidentally will be much more valuable to the future scientist than any superficial attempt to begin specialised work before pupils are old enough to understand it.

A course of this kind may constitute the whole education in science of those who leave school at the age of 15 and will be suitable for those who propose to take up part-time or full-time vocational courses in colleges of further education. Some pupils can profitably pursue such general studies in science until the age of 16 or even beyond. Those entering on an advanced course in the subject might well begin it at such an age that they have a clear period of three years leading to the Advanced level; for the majority of such pupils this will mean a break from the elementary course at about the age of 15.

For those who continue secondary education to the age of 18, the suggestions imply that as a rule no pupil need be faced with more than one external examination in science while at school, and that when such


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an examination is taken it would occur at or near the end of his course. The ill consequences of having to bring half digested knowledge to an examinable state would be banished. The examinations, instead of having to effect a compromise between the diverging interests of different groups of pupils, could be concentrated separately upon needs which are much more closely definable. This clarification of objectives would extend to classes in the school as well as examinations and they too could become more homogeneous in outlook and aim. The gains would not be limited to those who actually take examinations in science. The vast majority of secondary pupils are in schools where, quite rightly, they never sit for such an examination. Examinations, often inappropriate examinations, nevertheless exert a powerful influence on what they do. If each examination became less widespread in its incidence and more closely linked to the needs of the groups of candidates, and especially if the elementary examinations were aimed primarily to test the contribution which science makes to general education and not so much the preliminary acquisition of skills useful only at a later stage, the effect on the system as a whole would be most beneficial.

Finally, there has been some discussion of what is needed in the teacher of science. Among the most valuable of qualifications must always be the experience of expeditions into unknown territory, the 'Antarctica' of science; but this will serve the teacher's purpose only if it provides him with a philosophy of his subject, a knowledge of its structure and an ability to use his knowledge with discretion. Men with this experience come from the research departments of the universities and it will be in the true interest of those departments themselves that some of their best students should become teachers. But there is a job in science teaching for men and women of many other degrees of learning: the honours graduate, on whom the bulk of advanced work in the schools must rest; and the man with a general degree who appreciates the interlinkings of branches and will develop the borderland between them. There is a place for the man with a broader knowledge still who is able to see the scientific education of the young boy or girl and to see it whole; there is a job here for the training colleges to tackle, as many of them are now doing.

There is much to do, but the problems which remain should not lead to any feeling of undue pessimism. It is refreshing to recall again the conditions affecting the teaching of science less than a century ago and to compare the difficulties which then had to be faced with those which exist today. There is no school in the country now where science could be said to be 'regarded with jealousy by the staffs, with contempt by the boys, and with indifference by the parents'. Indeed, with the emphasis which is being placed upon science today, the wheel has almost come


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full circle. Amongst our secondary schools there are many which would give great pleasure to the Reverend Richard Dawes and the Reverend Henry Moseley. In most grammar schools today the number of pupils specialising in science is greater than in any other subject of the curriculum, and it becomes possible so to arrange the work of the specialist that what he does in the fifth form is much more closely integrated than in the past with his sixth form studies. There are a number of schools where this has been done already and their experience shows that, even measured in the concrete form of examination results, it leads to a significant improvement. The gains are not limited to those which can be measured by examination results, and they are not confined to the science specialists; moreover, there is reason to think that they will grow and become clearer.

In writing this pamphlet no attempt has been made to avoid criticism where it was thought to be necessary. To have done so would have been to lose a great deal of value. Some of the suggestions are controversial and many are not new; much further discussion, which it is hoped the pamphlet will provoke, is necessary on many of the topics raised. This is a time when the importance of science to the living standards, the general economy, and the influence of this country is fully realised. It has been one of the main concerns of the pamphlet to match this realisation by an equal understanding of the importance of the contribution to the humane education of the pupils which science is capable of making. This indeed constitutes the real basis of our great tradition of science teaching, to which we owe most for the outstanding position which British science continues to hold in the world and which we cannot afford to lose.




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APPENDIX I

Laboratory Assistance

LABORATORIES and the apparatus in them need skilled and careful maintenance. Although the responsibility for giving this care must rest ultimately on the teacher of science, it is not his greatest responsibility nor is it one that he can discharge satisfactorily without assistance. The kind and the extent of help he needs varies with the number of laboratories to be maintained, with the amount of apparatus in use and with the types of course followed by the pupils. This help is best given by full-time assistants - technicians who are members of the non-teaching staff - possessed of skills and qualifications appropriate to their duties. Most teachers lack this help, and their work suffers accordingly. No other single practicable step is so likely to improve the quality of science teaching at the present time as the provision of adequate laboratory assistance in schools.

The assistants would not be expected to do routine cleaning of apparatus such as would be undertaken by pupils as part of their laboratory training, nor to set up alone complex apparatus for demonstration that a good teacher would prefer to erect himself, but they would give help, according to their abilities and training, with tasks such as the following:

1. Making new apparatus in cooperation with the teaching staff.
2. Maintaining in good working order the science rooms, their furniture and services. Part of this duty would be carried out when the school was not in session.
3. Checking and replenishing sets of apparatus.
4. Storing apparatus in its proper manner.
5. Keeping a stock-book, and recording routine requirements.
6. Preparing stock solutions; maintaining an adequate supply of distilled water; cleaning mercury.
7. Setting up simple standard assemblages of apparatus.
8. Putting out and collecting some apparatus for class use.
9. Repairing faulty apparatus.
10. Cleaning out cupboards and stores periodically.
11. Maintaining such long-term experiments and demonstrations as might properly be assigned to them instead of to pupils.
It is clear that, in order to carry out this work, a laboratory technician needs access to a room that is properly equipped with a work-bench and tools and is situated conveniently near stores and teaching-rooms.


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In many schools more than one technician is needed, and in large schools a competent senior technician is required who would supervise the work of his juniors and assist in training them. It is well recognised that some pupils enjoy helping with the work needed to run a laboratory and that they often derive benefit from doing so but, if their educational development is to be put first, they can never give the assistance that is desirable. Nor can such assistance be given by untrained adults, though in present conditions, which make recruitment difficult in some areas, some schools are forced to accept them as substitutes for the trained technicians that they would like to employ.

It is essential that laboratory technicians should be given proper training, and this cannot be undertaken only by the science staffs and the senior technicians: they need to attend specially designed courses of instruction. A few such courses are already in existence, but there are insufficient of them to meet even present needs. It would be an advantage if technicians could work for suitable qualifications that were recognised nationally and that opened avenues of promotion.





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APPENDIX II

List of Tools for the Science Department

THE following tools are intended to provide a simple tool-kit for the use of teachers, stewards and pupils in the Science Department. It is presumed that there will be a bench large enough to take a woodworkers' vice (7 inch) and a vice for metalworking (4 inch). The bench might be a normal 'dual' woodwork bench, or a special bench built along one wall. If possible the section for metalwork should be about 5 inches taller than that for woodwork. In addition, storage space is needed for the tools and for the stock of materials, such as wood, metal, plastics, wire, screws and nails which will be required.

[I have not attempted to provide metric equivalents for all the imperial measures mentioned in this table. An inch (") is 25.4mm.]

1Hammer, engineers' ball pein, I lb.
1Hammer, carpenters' Warrington pattern, ½lb. or ¾lb.
1Flatting block, steel, 8" x 6" x 1" approximately.
1Rule, 12" stainless steel, marked on one edge inches to 64ths and on the other edge in cms. and mms.
1Spanner, small, adjustable.
1 setB.A. Spanners, 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8.
1Try Square, steel, 5".
1 pairInside Calipers, 4".
1 pairOutside Calipers, 4".
1 pairCalipers, 6" odd leg.
1 pairDividers, spring bow, 4 or 6 inch.
1Scriber.
1Centre Punch.
1Nail Punch
1 setLetter stamps 1/8"
1 setNumber stamps 1/8".
1Cold Chisel, flat, 6" x ½".
1Hacksaw frame, pistol grip type, adjustable to take 8" or 10" blades.
1 doz.Assorted Hacksaw blades.
1Junior Hacksaw frame with spare blades.
1Hand Drill, to take up to ¼" drills.
1 setTwist drills, high speed, 1/16" to ¼" by 64ths.
1 eachTwist drills, high speed, size numbers 12, 24, 27, 30, 32, 33, 37, 43 and 49, for tapping and clearing sizes in the BA range.
1 eachDies, split ring type, 1/8", 1/16" and ¾" Whitworth.
1 eachDies, split ring type, numbers 2, 4, 5, 6 and 8 BA.


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1 eachTaps, taper and plug, 1/8, 1/16" and ¼" Whitworth.
1 eachTaps, taper and plug, numbers 2, 4, 5, 6 and 8 BA.
Tap wrench and die stocks to fit the above.
1 pairPliers, electricians' 6"
1 pairPliers, round nose, 6".
1 pairPincers.
1 pairScissors, 6".
1 pairTinman's snips, American pattern, for concave and convex work.
1Adjustable Wrench.
1Screwdriver, 6" cabinet type.
1Screwdriver, 6" electricians'.
1Screwdriver, watchmakers'.
4Bradawls, fine and medium.
1Coping saw with spare blades.
1File, hand, safe edge, 10" second cut.
1File do. 8" and 10" smooth.
1File, half round 6" smooth.
1File, round or rat tail, 6" smooth.
1File, three square 6".
1File, square or taper 6".
1 setWarding files.
Handles for all the above files.
3Special file blades, and adaptors for use in the hacksaw frame.
1Special grater type Rasp.
1Soldering iron, electric, 8 or 12 oz. with pencil bit and normal bit.
1Carpenters' Ratchet brace, 10" sweep.
1 setTwist bits, ¼" by 1/16" to 1".
1Screwdriver bit.
1Rose countersunk bit.
1Washer cutter.
1Plane, with metal foot.
1 eachChisels, bevel edge, ¼", ½", ¾" and 1".
1Gouge, 8" outside ground.
1Tenon saw, 10".
1Panel saw, 20".
1Gauge, marking.
1Mallet, carpenters'.
2G cramps, 6".
1 pairFolding bars, 10".
1Spirit level.
1Gauge, s.w.g. for wire and metal sheet.
1T square for glass cutting.
1Drawing board for use with the T square.


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1Glass cutter, wheel type.
1Oilstone, carborundum, medium and fine.
1Oil can.

This list is by no means exhaustive and an inventive master may find great advantage from adding other items. Where complex tools and power driven machines are required, but only infrequently, he should be able to use the school workshops. For a science master or technician who is skilled and enthusiastic it would be profitable to provide the laboratory workshop with some of these.