Scaling Up Higher Order Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities in Primary Science: Theory-into-policy-into-practice

Collette Murphy, Lynne Bianchi, John McCullagh, Karen Kerr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper builds on and contributes to work on learning and teaching in science, specifically in the area of thinking skills in primary (elementary) and early post-primary science education. It is based on the development and implementation of policy on thinking skills and personal capabilities in Northern Ireland (NI), where they form part of the statutory curriculum. The paper traces the development of a framework for thinking skills and personal capabilities, the adoption of the framework and its translation into policy, and through research on implementing the policy in school science. This critical exploration of theory-into policy-into practice demonstrates ways in which gaps in the process can be addressed, such as the higher-level involvement of teachers as researchers into policy development and implementation, as opposed to being merely ‘trained’ to implement new science learning and teaching policy. The contribution of pre-service teachers in the process provided an important element of the implementation process, particularly in relation to primary science. The article provides insight into issues such as how might we ‘teach’ thinking skills in conceptually rich science content, the relationship between thinking skills in science and other subjects, and the links between research and practice in children's science learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-188
Number of pages16
JournalThinking Skills & Creativity
Early online date22 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • thinking skills and personal capabilities
  • primary science
  • research-in-practice
  • Vygotsky
  • cognitive acceleration


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