British Science Association: CREST Silver Award – enquiry based learning in science

The British Science Association’s CREST Award programme aims to help students build their science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) skills and interest. Students develop their own project ideas and conduct desk-based and practical research with support from an educator (for example, a teacher, club leader, or supervisor). The CREST Discovery, Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards differentiate by number of required hours and age of participating students, with the Silver Award requiring 30+ hours of project work in total.

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Science

Subject

accessibility

Key Stage 3

Key stage

EEF Summary

A key challenge for secondary schools is encouraging students to take an interest in STEM subjects and to pursue courses and future careers in the sciences. The CREST programme promotes engagement by allowing students to investigate a research question, engaging in inquiry-led STEM learning. This independent evaluation, involving 2,810 pupils from 180 schools, builds on the previous evaluations of CREST by undertaking the first randomised controlled trial of the programme. 

The study found no evidence that year 9 pupils offered participation in the CREST Silver Award made any additional progress in science attainment, compared to similar pupils that were not offered the programme. This finding has moderate to low security due to the high number of students that dropped out of the trial, and the risk that remaining students may not be representative of the overall student population. 

There was no evidence to suggest that the CREST Silver Award improved self-efficacy in science or increased the proportion of students aspiring to a STEM career; however, small positive impacts were found for pupil confidence and attitudes to school. There is some indication that the delivery model of CREST might influence the programme’s impact on science attainment. Despite the overall average being zero, exploratory analysis found that pupils participating in CREST outside of class time made two months’ additional progress while those that participated during class time made three months less progress than similar pupils in control schools. These results should be treated with caution as the trial was not designed to measure the difference between these groups. 

It is important to note that this result does not disprove a link between inquiry-led STEM learning and academic attainment. A small proportion (22-29%) of students successfully submitted their final projects to the British Science Association. The process evaluation indicates that both CREST educators and students found that they had little time to work on CREST alongside other commitments such as preparing for GCSEs. This may be one possible explanation for a lower than expected proportion of final submitted student projects. 

The EEF has no plans for a further trial of CREST Silver Award.

Research Results

Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

  • There were 180 schools involved in the trial
  • For schools to be eligible, the proportion of FSM-eligible students in the school had to be at least as high as the England average (34%)
  • Participating schools could not be in special measures

Could I implement this in my school?

  • The CREST Award programme is flexible: sessions can take place during STEM classes, at lunchtime, as an after-school club, or as a placement outside of school
  • Students can complete their projects in a wide variety of settings, with different levels of support, and over different lengths of time: a core requirement for CREST Silver is 30 hours of project work in total
  • Access to the BSA’s online bank of project documents is free: teachers decide which project topics students work on (for example, literature reviews, engineering or designing projects, science hypothesis testing, or science communication projects) and can access support via the BSA’s online helpdesk
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Teachers

Delivered by

person

Individuals

Participant group

date_range

11 Months

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

The approximate average delivery cost of the CREST Silver Award per student over three years is £17.25. This includes a £10 fee to the BSA per student (a subsidised fee currently available to all British schools participating in CREST). Without this subsidy, the fee for the CREST Silver Award would be higher. 

Other costs to schools came from purchasing resources such as materials and equipment, which varied depending on the type of project work undertaken by pupils (for example, some projects required scientific lab experiments for which specific material resources needed to be ordered).

£

£17

Cost per pupil

today

1 Day

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info

Schools

180

Pupils

2810

Key Stage

Key Stage 3

Start date

October 2016

End date

December 2019

Type of trial

Efficacy Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. Pupils that were offered participation in the CREST Silver Award made, on average, no additional progress in science attainment in comparison to those in the control group, equivalent to zero months of additional progress. This is our best estimate, which has a moderate to low security rating.

  2. There is no evidence to suggest that the CREST Silver Award improved self-efficacy in science or increased the proportion of students aspiring to a STEM career. Small positive impacts were found for pupil confidence and attitudes to school. This is our best estimate.

  3. There is no evidence that participation in CREST Silver impacts science attainment differently for girls and boys.

  4. There is some indication that the delivery model of CREST might influence the programme’s impact on science attainment. Exploratory analysis found that pupils participating in CREST outside of class time made two months’ additional progress while those that participated during class time made three months less progress than similar pupils in control schools. These results should be treated with caution as the trial was not designed to measure the difference between the groups and the statistical uncertainty around the results is consistent with larger or null impacts in both cases.

  5. The process evaluation indicates that both CREST educators and students found that they had little time to work on CREST alongside other commitments such as preparing for GCSEs. This may be one possible explanation for a low proportion of final submitted student projects.


  1. Updated: 12th December, 2019

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-british-science-association-crest-silver-award-enquiry-based-learning-in-sc.pdf

Full project description

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