Is there a downward trend in primary student attitudes towards science?
There used to be.
In 2008 a report by the National Education Monitoring Programme drew attention to the downward trend in attitudes of primary school students towards science.
In response to this, a new model was developed for the Primary Science Teacher Fellowships with the aim of developing a community of confident science educators. They would facilitate better science experiences and science learning outcomes for primary age students.
The Primary Science Teacher Fellowship Programme
The programme is run by the Royal Society of New Zealand, and funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The Royal Society has for many years run a teacher Fellowship program during which teachers were seconded to science-based host organisations for periods of up to one year. The objective? To get a taste of what "real" science is like. And of course, this gets passed on to their students.
Nature of Science appreciation, curriculum development and leadership: goals of the course
The six-month programme involves three elements:
- Work experience involving placements in a science-based organisation, working alongside people who use science in their everyday work. The goal is for teachers to gain an appreciation of the Nature of Science, and relate this understanding to the New Zealand curriculum.
- Attendance at curriculum development days where teachers develop on their own schemes of work, using science facilitators to give guidance on how the science content could be improved.
- Participation in a leadership program that has been tailor-made to help these teachers return to school and take on a leadership role in science.
Curriculum development workshops
CORE Education is involved in developing and delivering the curriculum development workshops, and facilitating an online community to support the programme. Our team is made up of Dayle Anderson of Victoria University, Wellington; Michael Fenton of the Open Polytechnic, and from CORE Education Brigitte Glasson and me.
The curriculum development workshops focus on teaching science through the lens of the overarching Nature of Science curriculum strand. This curriculum strand has four sub-strands:
- Understanding about Science
- Investigating in Science
- Communicating in Science
- Participating and Contributing.
Hands-on science activities suited to teachers, students, and schools
The workshops involve plenty of hands-on activities, and consideration of the nature of scientific investigations, which is far wider in scope than just "fair testing". We also include at least one visit to an off-site organisation which can offer students a valuable out-of-the-classroom experience. In the past we have visited organisations such as Ferrymead Historic Park in Christchurch, and Kelly Tarlton's aquarium in Auckland.
Practical sessions during the workshops focus on simple activities that can be run at minimal cost to schools, and which are designed to encourage questioning and wondering about "why?" and "what if?" There is always a buzz of excited activity during these practical sessions—teachers excited about science!
It was a very full and stimulating couple of days. Thanks everyone.
2010 Primary Science Teacher Fellow after a Curriculum Development workshop.
We believe that it is important for teacher Fellows to be able to relate their experiences in their host organisations to the science curriculum, and to exploring science with their students when they return to the classroom. To this end, we encourage them to relate their experiences in their host organisations to the nature of science strand of the curriculum. We have noticed teacher fellows actively reflecting on this relationship in their posts to the Fellowship's online community, which currently takes the form of a Facebook group.
The end of the programme is only the beginning
At the end of the six months Fellowship, the teachers are expected to return to their schools and to play a leadership role in the development and nurturing of science within their schools.
CORE Education provides ongoing support for the 12 months following the Fellowship. This consists of two in-school visits by members of the CORE Primary Science Teacher Fellowship team, and two cluster meetings. We do this in order to provide support to the individual teachers, and to help them retain a feeling of being part of the greater science teaching community.
Is the programme successful? We'll find out soon.
We are currently working with the fourth group of teacher fellows. The total number of teachers who have been through this programme is approximately 60, with a further 12 to 13 in the second half of 2011.
It is important to evaluate the effectiveness of such a program, which is designed to have positive outcomes both for schools and for students. We intend to carry out an evaluation of the impact of the programme during 2011 to 2012.
I count myself very fortunate to be working with both the core E-Fellows and the Royal Society Primary Teacher Fellows. Both groups are made up of highly motivated and innovative teachers, who are stimulating company and a great pleasure to work with.