Powerful Ideas of Science and How to Teach Them  book cover
1st Edition

Powerful Ideas of Science and How to Teach Them

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after July 7, 2020
ISBN 9780367188689
July 7, 2020 Forthcoming by Routledge
184 Pages - 63 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

A bullet dropped and a bullet fired from a gun will reach the ground at the same time. Plants get the majority of their mass from the air around them, not the soil beneath them. A smartphone is made from more elements than you.

Every day, science teachers get the opportunity to blow students’ minds with counter intuitive, crazy ideas like these. But getting students to understand and remember the science that explains these observations is complex. To help, this book explores how to plan and teach science lessons so that students and teachers are thinking about the right things – that is the scientific ideas themselves. It introduces you to thirteen powerful ideas of science that have the ability to transform how young people see themselves and the world around them.

Each chapter tells the story of one powerful idea and how to teach it alongside examples and non-examples from biology, chemistry and physics to show what great science teaching might look like and why. Drawing on evidence about how students learn from cognitive science and research from science education, the book takes you on a journey of how to plan and teach science lessons, so students acquire scientific ideas in meaningful ways.

Emphasising the important relationship between curriculum, pedagogy and the subject itself, this exciting book will help you to teach science in a way that captivates and motivates students, allowing them to share in the delight and wonder of the explanatory power of science.

Table of Contents

About the author


Introduction – thinking about the right things

Aims for school science education – for who and for what?

  1. Fallacies of science education
  2. Powerful ideas of science
  3. Biology powerful idea 1: The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of life from which organisms emerge

  4. The nature of science and the rules of the game
  5. Biology powerful idea 2: Organisms reproduce by passing down their genetic information from one generation of organisms to another

    The science of learning science

  6. Why learning science is hard, but wonderful
  7. Physics powerful idea 1: Changing the movement of an object requires a net force to be acting on it

  8. How we learn – a cognitive science perspective
  9. Chemistry powerful idea 1: Objects are made from materials that are made from one or more substances made from atoms

  10. Why motivation matters
  11. Chemistry powerful idea 2: When substances react, atoms are exchanged and new substances are made but mass is always conserved

    Planning lessons with thinking in mind

  12. Preparing to plan – thinking about progression over time
  13. Physics powerful idea 2: The movement of charge forms electric current and causes magnetic fields

  14. Planning what to teach in a lesson
  15. Chemistry powerful idea 3: Substances are held together by electrostatic forces of attraction

  16. Planning how to teach it
  17. Chemistry powerful idea 3: Substances are held together by electrostatic forces of attraction.


    Planning and teaching the phases of instruction

  18. Rewind and success for all: retrieval practice
  19. Chemistry powerful idea 4: Chemical reactions only occur when the reaction increases the disorder of the Universe

  20. Trigger interest and activate prior knowledge
  21. Physics powerful idea 3: Every particle in our Universe attracts every other particle with a gravitational force

  22. Introducing new ideas: explanations and models
  23. Physics powerful idea 4: The total amount of energy in the universe is always the same but can be transferred from one energy store to another during an event

  24. Practice ideas to build understanding: deliberate practice and worked examples
  25. Chemistry powerful idea 5: Quantities in chemistry are expressed at the macroscopic and submicroscopic scales using grams, volumes and moles

  26. Apply and integrate to make and break connections
  27. Biology powerful idea 3: Organisms compete with, or depend on, other organisms for the same basic materials and energy that cycle throughout ecosystems

    Responsive science teaching

  28. Feedback goes two ways: making thinking visible

Biology powerful idea 4: The diversity of organisms, living and extinct, is the result of evolution by natural selection


Conclusion – time to reflect

Lesson planning templates

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Jasper Green has worked in science education for over ten years as a teacher, head of science and most recently in initial teacher education. He is founder of thescienceteacher.co.uk and can be found on Twitter @sci_challenge.


"Jasper Green’s book offers an antidote to the lack of vision which frames so many science curricula. Here you will find a fresh and innovative exploration of what it means to teach science. Drawing on much of the latest and best research and scholarship in education, it shows how these ideas can improve both the quality of student experience and their engagement with learning. The book reveals the nature of the complex challenge that it is to teach science. As such it should be essential reading for all teachers of science". - Jonathan Osborne, Kamalachari Professor of Science Education, Emeritus, Stanford University, US.

"This is a beautifully structured book which explains some of the big ideas of science together with the best pedagogical strategies for teaching them. It is rich with examples, activities and practical applications of difficult concepts. And it is all about the challenge and the joy of making meaning, and how all our activities and tasks must work towards that goal." - Daisy Christodoulou MBE, Director of Education, No More Marking, UK.