By the 1970s a fundamental shift had taken place in German science education. This was a shift away from the learning of more-or-less isolated facts and facets in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics towards a restructuring of science teaching along the general principles of the respective science domains. The changes included also the addition of dimensions such as problem-based learning, understanding the basics of the Nature of Science, and engaging students in the methods of science. Since then, practical work has been solidly built into German science syllabi for each one of the separate teaching domains in school science. However, research evidence shows that practical work is still limited in many science classrooms. In many cases, hands-on work is only present as either teacher demonstrations or as cookbook-style recipe experiments for pupils. The shortcomings of such practice have also become evident in the TIMSS and PISA studies conducted since 1997. However, the outcomes published by PISA 2000 also initiated further change in Germany. For the first time ever, national science education standards were introduced for lower secondary science education. In 2004, these standards sharpened the focus of learning more prominently on how to practically carry out science tasks. The resulting reform led to research and development activity in different fields of innovation, among them science education practical work. This paper gives an account of the development of practical science work in German schools and it discusses the most prominent trends in practical science efforts in German secondary science education, which have taken place in recent years.
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