Book Chapter

Practical theorising in the professional development of primary teachers: Outcomes of the ‘Thinking, doing, talking science’ project


In this chapter we apply the concept of practical theorising to the context of primary teacher education, focusing specifically on the ways that teachers develop subject knowledge alongside critical engagement with creative approaches to pedagogy. We begin by framing critically the concept of practical theorising in the context of primary teacher education. Then we move on to explore a successful example of practical theorising through the Thinking, Doing Talking Science (TDTS) project. TDTS draws on research that identifies key features of a creative pedagogy that supports cognitive development in science (McGregor 2007; McGregor and Gunter 2006; Davies and McGregor 2017) and focuses on teachers applying theoretical propositions related to a constructivist approach to learning science in a practical and inclusive way. A key component of the programme is the nurturing of ‘adaptive expertise’ (Berliner 2001) or the capacity to adopt a flexible, research-informed approach to the teaching of Primary Science. Through participation in the programme, teachers are encouraged to develop creative and challenging science lessons that encourage pupils to develop higher order thinking skills. Teachers enable their pupils to think and talk about scientific concepts through open discussion and through creative investigation and problem solving. In so doing, teachers model practical theorising as well as organising teaching and learning in a way that is underpinned by this concept. Results from the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) funded  efficacy trial (Hanley et al 2016) indicated that school pupils (aged 9-10) using the approach made approximately three additional months’ progress in science. The EEF research also presented evidence that there was a positive effect on girls and those pupils with lower prior attainment. There were also indications that the approach had most impact on pupils eligible for free school meals. With this in mind, we argue that the ‘practical theorising’ approach adopted by teachers engaged with the TDTS pedagogy provides more equitable opportunities for all pupils and has clear benefits for them, both in terms of learning outcomes and positive attitudes towards science. In terms of professional learning for teachers, TDTS provides clear guidance for them to practically theorise ways of affecting change in pupils’ learning in their science classes.  

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Embargo end: 2024-07-28


McGregor, Deb
Wilson, Helen
Frodsham, Sarah
Alexander, Patrick

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2021-07-15

“This is an accepted manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Practical Theorising in Teacher Education on [date of publication], available online:”

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of Practical theorising in the professional development of primary teachers: Outcomes of the ‘Thinking, doing, talking science’ project
This RADAR resource is Part of Practical theorising in teacher education holding theory and practice together [ISBN: 9781032025674] / edited by Katharine Burn, Trevor Mutton, Ian Thompson (Routledge, 2022).


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