Resources to develop thinking skills in science lessons

Resources to develop thinking skills in science lessons

12 Nov 2019

Use the University of Bristol’s Thinking Science resources to motivate and engage students.

The resources are a simple and easy-to-use pack of philosophical questions designed to provoke thinking and discussion in science lessons.

The resources were designed for Key Stage 3 topics but have been used regularly by primary school teachers with a few adaptations. Over 50 science teachers in Bristol were involved in the development of the resources through feedback and testing alongside philosophy academics at the University.

You can download the resources for free at, contact the team for a free hard copy or to arrange a free training session (read more below).

About the Resources

The resources are based on a series of philosophical questions linked to core curriculum topics across biology, chemistry, physics and working scientifically. Each curriculum topic has four ‘get thinking’ questions and one ‘think big’ question for students. There is accompanying teacher guidance including additional ‘prompt’ and ‘challenge’ questions and ‘light bulb’ ideas for how to use the questions in the classroom.

Example questions:

  • Do scientists always need a hypothesis?
  • If scientists found a new particle that they thought was the smallest part of an atom, how could they be sure that there wasn’t anything smaller?
  • Is genetic engineering natural?
  • If ecosystems are damaged by human activity should we try and reverse this?
  • If energy cannot be created nor destroyed, why is there an energy crisis?

The resources are designed to slot easily into lessons rather than needing a dedicated lesson. They require little preparation and are quick and easy to use in the classroom. The questions are adaptable for use as starters, plenaries, revision or part of a practical investigation. Teachers can choose whether to work through all the questions for the topic or just focus on one or two.

Feedback from teachers

Teachers across the South West are using the resources and their feedback shows that the resources:

  • Improve teacher questioning, helping teachers to “get better at questioning – which in turn will give students access to higher-order ideas”.
  • “Have the potential to motivate and engage students who are usually disaffected by the science curriculum.”
  • Improve “students’ general literacy and … scientific literacy”.
  • “Reveal the depth of [students’] understanding – including misconceptions – which allows teachers to re-teach certain areas.”
  • Help to give students confidence to approach higher-mark exam questions

Free training sessions

The team have also developed free training sessions to accompany the resources. These have been delivered all over the UK to nearly 300 teachers. The sessions are free and can be adapted to suit your department/trust/network with sessions lasting from 45 minutes to half a day.

The training sessions cover topics include:

  • A brief introduction to philosophy of science
  • Example activities using the resources
  • Effective facilitation of discussions
  • Planning time for integrating discussions into lessons

Get in touch with the Thinking Science team at for more information.

Thinking Science Images of resources