What happens if you do this? What are students 'prior' views about how electricity works? What theories do they have? How can teachers challenge their thinking? Students' ideas 'grow' out of experience. The worst case scenario is for teachers to teach them.
I have just listened to a discussion on National Radio about the poor state of science teaching in primary schools.
According to a recent report from the Education Review Office science education is not up to the mark; that new teaching graduates and current teachers lack confidence in the teaching of science.
Lots of reasons were discussed but perhaps the main point was that teachers had poor attitudes towards science and lacked confidence to teach it.
I don’t think there is anything new in the findings.
I have to own up. For most of my teaching career I was a primary school science adviser with a particular fascination in natural science and, later, with an equal fascination with how students learn – the so called scientific process. Later I became interested in how students’ develop their ideas about any new content they become involved in. The last idea introduces the concept of constructivism – how learners reconstruct their current or prior ideas through their experiences.
I soon learnt as a primary adviser science that education was not popular with teacher and not only for reasons already expressed. It is also that a traditional mind-set holds sway in teachers' and the publics' mind. The 3Rs come first. New transformational ideas about education for the 21stC are needed.
The solution to the dilemma of science teaching is to make science, or rather inquiry learning, central to the whole curriculum – to extend into schooling the way the very young learn before learning is distorted by the imposed demands of formal schooling. The traditional emphasis on literacy and numeracy is now being further exaggerated by the need to comply with the politically imposed National Standards leaving little time or energy for such things as science teaching. Ironically this neglect is further reinforced by the very Education Review Office that has brought the matter to our attention!
My suggestion would be for schools to base all learning around the primacy of inquiry learning and then to re frame literacy and numeracy so as to achieve in depth learning and understanding.
The key to success, if this were to be done, is to do fewer things well. Another suggestion would be to use science content as part of reading comprehension or science experiments to develop the skills of science recording. Many science experiments are as much maths as science. Naturally not all literacy and maths (or science) needs to be integrated.
Teachers would see themselves as learning advisers, or coaches, and involve themselves as required with individuals or groups with shared needs.
Teachers, in such a learning community, would learn with their pupils, challenging their ideas and introducing content and teaching appropriate skills as required.s ‘just in time’ helping at point of need
In the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum teachers have a document that could change both teachers’ and students’ perceptions. This document asks teachers to help students become ‘seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge’.