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Teaching and Learning: An Analysis of Science Best Practice

CIC is a community of learners. As such, we are committed to ongoing learning, and the enactment of evidence-based, best-practice strategies. Through this approach, we aim to support student learning, as well as a building a positive learning culture across our school community.

CIC Founder, Jen Young, recently attended an online presentation by the Royal Society of Victoria, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, and the Science Teachers Association of Victoria.

There are some interesting trends in international, national and state (VCE) data which can be applied to Corner Inlet College students. It is important we understand what is occurring, and why, in order to deliver the best learning program for all of our students.

We wish to see our teachers thriving and striving, however while there is a crisis in the teaching profession, many teachers are stretched to their limits. The presentation discussed some of the implications of this issue, particularly as it applies to the teaching of science.

The influence of media was explored, and examples shared of how media represents teachers in a negative way. Media often simplify teacher's work, focusing on teacher quality and teacher-bashing. “The way teachers are talked about in the media has a flow-on effect to how people feel about becoming a teacher, and how current teachers see their place in the community”. Blaming teachers instead of talking about how the system has failed is problematic.

Professor Amanda Berry from RMIT University shared media reports about science studies which demonstrate societal discussions around teaching and learning, participation trends in science, who is enrolling, problems and solutions in school science, and the roles of science teachers.

VCE Trends

The number of students enrolling in senior science has declined overall. Data from STEM Equity Monitor shows that there’s slightly more girls studying science than boys. There is an uneven gender spread however, when the data is pulled-apart by subject area. Biological Sciences is predominantly studied by girls, and Physics/Astronomy are predominantly boys. Chemistry and Earth Science did not show a large gender gap (Cooper & Berry, 2020). It was also noted that participation in higher mathematics subjects is declining for girls.

Professor Berry described the impacts on participation rates, including SES status and demographics. Particularly drawing attention to the idea that access and availability of science should not be limited by SES and demographics. Other influences include: science and identity, ATAR & University requirements and COVID-19 (as potential interest sparked by immunology).

What is happening is school science education across the world?

At present, the science curriculum is overloaded. There is a large amount of knowledge to be covered, with increasing pressures to deliver the growing body of scientific knowledge being produced. Cohesion between and within science topics is poor, as topics are taught as discrete units without many connections made between them.

Few practical assessment methods are used, and experiments are not integrated to discover knowledge, rather they are conducted to confirm an already known answer. Textbooks are dominant and guide much of the lesson time. There is also a large focus on high stakes, summative assessment. Therefore, many students perceive science as difficult and stressful. There is a fear of failure. Many students cannot see the relationships between science and the real world.

PISA data has been trending downwards since 2006. Students in the top 25% score far above the OECD average, however the lowest 25% is still falling.

The core purpose of science education? It is to inspire learners to engage with science.

The current curriculum enables young people to become scientifically literate, but it does not allow them to prepare for the future.

Science Education in an Age of Misinformation - We rarely teach students whether the knowledge received can be trusted. Students are novices in their ability to evaluate the credibility and quality of the information they encounter online, in social media, and through AI.

Suggestions include:

· Conceptual changes needed to realign students to think scientifically,

· Inquiry-based, project-based, content-based, design-based lessons to learn and explore real-world and authentic problems,

· Technology-enhanced learning such as gaming, simulations, AR immersion,

· Curricular and extra-curricular initiatives,

· More contemporary forms of science education such as dark space research, energy, etc, that on the cusp of scientific knowledge, on the frontier science,

· Focus on a “science for all” curriculum, thinking about science, being able to critically evaluate,

· Informal science education opportunities such as museums zoos, science centres, and tech schools,

· More focus on practical skills,

· Make sure content is up to date,

· Reduce amount of content to allow for deeper learning,

· Connect learning within classroom to outside of classroom.

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