Session 5: Strategies for teaching science

Chapter 6 of The art of teaching primary science (Dawson, V. & Venville, G. (2007)) describes the 5E model for teaching science. “The 5E model consists of five distinct but interconnected phases” (Dawson & Venville, p 116). These phases are

  1. Engage the interest of students through a stimulus activity or question
  2. Explore problems of phenomena through experimentation
  3. Explain the results of experimentation using scientific terms
  4. Elaborate by applying scientific ideas to new scenarios
  5. Evaluate what has been learned

The engage phase starts with students having an opportunity to share what they already know about the unit topic. This creates a connection which means students are not merely thinking about new things, but linking it to what they already know. This will pique their interest as well as helping them to challenge where their current needs to adapt. This will help raise questions for them to investigate.

The explore phase using experimentation and exploration to give students a new and common experience through which they can learn. Hands on learning activities, combined with discussing ideas in their own language contributes to an effective inquiry based learning environment.

The explain phase helps students to reflect on what they have experienced in the explore phase. Explanation and scientific terms are given, to assist students develop their ideas.

The elaborate phase is where students can take the new things they have learnt and apply them in new situations. They can know discuss what they have learnt using the scientific language and consider how it might apply to other situations. Based on what they have learnt in the explore and explain phase, student now have an opportunity and the knowledge needed to construct a scientific argument based on sound reasoning.

The evaluate phase gives students an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learnt and is also where teachers can assess learning.

Session 4: Programming

When programming a unit of work, thoughtful planning and preparation is necessary to help ensure that the outcomes can be achieved for all students. As discussed in previous posts, teaching science is not a task of simply teaching facts. It is teaching ideas about science. It could be describe as teaching students how to learn.

This takes intentional planning and effort. In chapter 5 of The art of teaching primary science (Dawson, V. & Venville, G. (2007)), planning is describe in this way

When planning units of work you are planning a sequence of lessons that will develop logically children’s knowledge and understanding of content, skills, values and attitudes across a period of some weeks. This means you need to consider the order of activities carefully. Which ones should be at the beginning of the unit and which should be towards the end? You also need to plan for ongoing assessment throughout a unit of work so that evidence is collected to evaluate children’s progress.

Each unit of work needs to contain its own logic and flow that builds children’s knowledge of the unit topic. In addition, it should flow on logically from previous units, to allow students to build on and challenge existing knowledge, and to bring in their knowledge from other subject areas.

Careful and thoughtful planning will allow a teacher to choose activities that ‘consider the children’s existing knowledge’ (Dawson & Venville, p 48), give adequate time to inquiry based learning activities, and plan for differentiation throughout the unit.

Session 2: Scientific and technological skills

In reading 2.1 (Bartholomew, H., Osborne, J. F. & Ratcliffe, M. (2004). Teaching students “ideas-about-science”: Five dimensions of effective practice. Science Education88(6), 655-682) knowledge about science is defined as ‘the methods of science, the nature of scientific knowledge, the process and practices of the scientific community, and a consideration of its application and implications that should form an essential component of the school science curriculum’. The paper lays out the work undertaken by a group of teachers as they teach knowledge about science in the classroom over the period of a year. The thesis of the paper is that one of the critical skills for working scientifically is to have an understand not only of the outcomes of the scientific process, but the methods and process that lead to that outcome.

This is reflected in the NESA Science and technology K-6 stage statements and outcomes. Each of the stages includes understanding, using and demonstrating scientific investigation as part of student learning. An example of this is found in the stage 3 outcome for students to “plans and conducts scientific investigations to answer testable questions, and collects and summarises data to communicate conclusions”

Primary Connections is a resource designed to help teachers link literacy and science in the classroom. It identifies literacy as a critical skill to enable students to work scientifically. One teacher states “through the literacy products, in particular the speaking it’s given the children a chance to really say what they know, and what they think they know, and look back and reflect on what they’ve learnt through the unit.” (Representations in primary science (focus on literacy) – 2.56mins).

Literacy is an assumed skill in the NESA stage statements and outcomes. An example from the stage 2 statement

“They generate and develop ideas, using research to inform their design ideas, which are represented using sketches, brainstorms and where appropriate, digital technologies.”

None of this can be done without the necessary literacy skills, making literacy a critical skills for students to be able to work scientifically and technologically.

Session 1: Rationale

An evaluation of the NESA Science and Technology K-6 rationale raises a key ideas, which resonate with the findings of the research project outlined in session 1 reading Osborne, J.F., Ratcliffe, M., Collins, S., Millar, R. & Duschl, R. (2003). What “ideas-about-science” should be taught in school science? A Delphi study of the “expert” community. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40(7), 692-720.

The rationale states “[s]tudents studying science and technology are encouraged to question and seek solutions to problems through collaboration, investigation, critical thinking and creative problem-solving.” This reflects the responses collected in the Delphi study of the need to teach that “scientific knowledge is in a state of continuous change” (Osborne et al. 2003).

The NESA rationale also has a underlying principle that includes a curiosity about the world that goes beyond simply teaching students fact about science and technology, but includes teaching the nature of these things, and developing their curiosity. This theme is also reflected in the Delphi study.

Using the Osborne reading and the NESA rationale I have developed my own rationale for science and technology.

Science and technology is an integrated discipline that fosters students’ natural sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them and how it work. Science and technology encourages students to learn through trial and testing and to building their understanding based on evidence and reason.

In a faith based community students will be encouraged to consider how knowledge of a creator God contributes to their understanding of the world, and how faith and science can both be held together.

Science and technology will develop student’s curiosity about both the natural world and the built world and build skills that will prepare them to succeed in a rapidly developing world.