Evidence for Learning: Improving primary science

Improving primary science

Six recommendations to support schools to improve primary science.

First Edition


School Phase


This Guidance Report reviews the best available research to offer primary science teachers, curriculum leaders, science leaders, and school leaders six recommendations to improve primary science.

Young children are naturally curious about the world they inhabit. Science is a powerful lens for all students for understanding the world – from the knowledge developed by First Nations peoples for thousands of years to recent discoveries about health, wellbeing, the environment, and interconnectedness of ecosystems. High quality science teaching builds students’ curiosity and critical thinking, helping them to develop a coherent understanding of the world around them. Many Australian primary school students enjoy science and would like to learn more science at school.

Improving primary science is underpinned by a systematic review of the best available international evidence around effective primary science teaching practice. It outlines six actionable recommendations to support teachers and school leaders to make improvements to their existing science provision, including how to develop students’ scientific vocabulary, and relate new learning to relevant, real-world contexts. Each recommendation includes models, worked examples and suggested strategies to illustrate what the evidence could look like in practice in a primary school classroom.

  • Recommendation 1: Develop students’ scientific vocabulary

  • Recommendation 2: Encourage students to explain their thinking, whether verbally or in written form

  • Recommendation 3: Guide students to work scientifically

  • Recommendation 4: Relate new learning to relevant contexts

  • Recommendation 5: Use assessment to support learning and responsive teaching

  • Recommendation 6: Strengthen science teaching through effective professional development as part of an implementation process

Evidence for Learning has produced another Guidance Report Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation which can be used as a guide as you plan to implement changes in your school relating to improving science.

Implementation can be described as a series of stages relating to thinking about, preparing for, delivering, and sustaining change. The section Acting on the evidence’ in the Improving primary science’ Guidance Report, suggests a range of strategies that you might find helpful in planning, structuring and delivering a whole‑school approach to science. 

E4L thanks the Australian researchers and practitioners who provided input to and feedback on drafts of this Guidance Report.

We acknowledge the particular insights of Brittney Downer of Ngarri Primary School and Dr Paul Unsworth from the University of South Australia.

This Guidance Report and supporting materials are licensed under a Creative Commons licence as outlined below. Permission may be granted for derivatives, please contact Evidence for Learning for more information.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Licence.