Simon Naylor Keogh Maloney Downing

Puppets Promoting Engagement and Talk in Science
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 30, Issue 9 July 2008 , pages 1229 - 1248

Shirley Simon; Stuart Naylor; Brenda Keogh; Jane Maloney; Brigid Downing

Research into classroom interactions has shown that talk that promotes reasoning can help children in their learning of science. Such talk can only be generated when teachers are willing to take a dialogic approach that is stimulating and provides opportunities for children to articulate their ideas. This research set out to determine whether the use of large puppets would help teachers to change the nature of their whole class discourse to enhance children's talk and engagement in science. The study was carried out with sixteen teachers of children aged 7-11 years in schools in London and Manchester, UK. Through adopting a mixture of research methods, including classroom observation and teacher and child interviews, the research provides evidence that the use of puppets significantly increases the amount of teacher discourse oriented towards reasoning and argument, and decreases the amount of talk that focuses on recall. Through the puppets, teachers also use more narrative to set the science in stimulating contexts, and encourage children in their contributions to whole class discussion. Interview data also show the positive effects of puppets on children's motivation and engagement in science. The findings have led to further major funding for professional development in the use of puppets in the UK, and research into the reasons why the use of puppets is so effective.