EBM for Under 18s
EBM for Under 18s is a project that supports introducing Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) as part of the wider science activities in schools. Our aim to engage students, teachers and the public in EBM for a better understanding of its benefits and methodologies, and develop critical thinking to assess health claims and make better choices.
We are working with a number of partners who share that agenda including TestingTreatments the Education Endowment Foundation, James Lind Initiative, Informed Health Choices and Cochrane UK. Using resources from across the partnership we have been able to identify where key concepts for assessing claims about treatment effects link with the National Curriculum Key Stage 3 Science.
Understanding these links has enabled us to develop resources for teaching that can be piloted across the UK and assessed against the claim evaluation tools as a basis for implementation onto the national curriculum.
Development of critical thinking skills is embedded in the English National Curriculum, particularly in the sciences, where students build scientific understanding through experimentation and analysis alongside factual content.
EBM for Under 18’s is supporting teachers through the creation of resources that emphasise opportunities to teach critical thinking using health claims, opportunities that may be lost in the need to emphasise factual knowledge in such topics, especially where there is no direct link to classroom-based experiments.
At Lower Key Stage 2, children are expected to be “asking relevant questions and using different types of scientific enquiries to answer them”. They are also expected to “[use] results to draw simple conclusions … and raise further questions”. As they reach the end of Key Stage 2, children are “planning different types of scientific enquiries to answer questions, including recognising and controlling variables where necessary”. By the age of 11, children should be “reporting and presenting findings from enquiries, including conclusions, causal relationships and … trust in results”. They will also be “identifying scientific evidence that has been used to support or refute ideas or arguments”. The non-statutory guidelines recommend that children be given opportunities to “recognise which secondary sources will be most useful to research their ideas and begin to separate opinion from fact”.
When they reach Key Stage 3, pupils will have further opportunity to develop critical thinking skills. This will include the understanding that “science is about working objectively, modifying explanations to take into account of new evidence and ideas and subjecting results to peer review”. At Key Stage 3, there are many different skill statements that emphasise children’s ability to work scientifically, including the evaluation of data, “showing awareness of potential sources of random and systematic error”.
At Key Stage 4, which for many students is the final stage of their scientific education, there is greater emphasis on students understanding the key universal themes in science that can be used to explain diverse phenomena, for example “the assumption that every effect has one or more cause”. By the age of 16, students will have had opportunities to “develop their ability to evaluate claims based on science through critical analysis of the methodology, evidence and conclusions, both qualitatively and quantitatively”.
At all levels, the idea of “working scientifically” is developed through age-relevant topics. The EBM for Under 18’s project is providing relevant resources to allow teachers to explicitly develop these skills in their pupils.
Quotes throughout are taken from the National Curriculum for England, Science Programmes of Study, May 2015.
Key Stage 2 refers to children in school Years 3-6, aged 7-11.
Key Stage 3 refers to children in school Years 7-9, aged 11-14.
Key Stage 4 refers to children in school Years 10-11, aged 14-16.
Science is a compulsory part of the curriculum for all students up to the age of 16. National GCSE examinations in the sciences are sat by students at the end of Key Stage 4.