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QuSmart is a pedagogical approach designed for primary teachers and pupils to use regularly to improve the quality of scientific questions asked when working scientifically.

An innovation and research programme funded by the University of Manchester in partnership with the Primary Science Teaching Trust.


Bianchi, L., & Bonsall, A. (2019). Children’s scientific question-asking–an initial scoping of academic literature. Journal of Emergent Science, Special Edition, 29.

Bianchi, L. & Bonsall, A. (pending publication) Exploring how primary science teachers can be supported to engage with academic research literature. Journal of Educational Studies

About QuSmart

Why scientific question-asking?

Children’s opportunities to ask and investigate their own questions in primary school is limited. The Wellcome Trust State of the Nation Report on Primary Science Education (2017) reported that child-led and child-designed investigations were being undertaken ‘occasionally’ or ‘never’ in 47% of schools.  It is through these rich opportunities that children can be taught to develop their skills in questioning so as to have an authentic engagement with enquiry and work scientifically.

We can no longer talk about the fact that the profile of primary school science in England isn’t what it should be. The negative turn following the removal of the standard assessment tasks (OFSTED 2013) is a reality that we must challenge so as to improve the chances of young people and their capacity to engage fully with a fast moving society.  We know that the Science Capital of many children is low, especially those within areas of social disadvantage. It’s our responsibility to do as much as we can to inspire them into science and to widen their future aspirations into STEM (King’s College, 2013).

Our evidence suggests that teachers and pupils need support. Grounded in the work Dr Lynne Bianchi, who has long-championed pupil-centred learning approaches through the development of children’s Personal Capabilities (2002) and Wonder in the science classroom, QuSmart embraces research and innovation past and present in turning the flow of talk in primary science classrooms away from being mainly teacher driven to being a shared and guided experience towards enquiry (OFSTED 2013). 

The QuSmart Routine is designed on the premise of increasing the autonomy and control that children have when working scientifically. Through a guided approach they should take some, but not necessarily all decisions for themselves (AKSIS, P37).

The benefits offer potential beyond just the science classroom but to the children’s life outside it and well into the future. At a time where fast media means that information and news is a touchscreen away the QuSmart speaks to enabling young people to be:

  • empowered to ask the ‘right’ kind of questions at the ‘right’ time
  • judge and evaluate the questions and evidence presented to them
  • make better choices about what information to trust and base their decisions on.

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