This is the third article to be discussed in the Primary Teachers’ Journal Club. Please read the article (you can download it through the link below), and have a think about the discussion questions. You are invited to share any thoughts you have about the article in the comments below; responding directly to the questions is optional. Please keep comments constructive and within the guidelines of graceful disagreement, if disagreement occurs–as it might! A synchronous discussion about the article will be held for an hour on Twitter on Thursday, 28 May, at 8 pm Vic/NSW/Qld time, using the hashtag #pritjc and the questions as discussion points. It is hoped that a new article and questions will be posted by the second week of each month, with a synchronous chat held on the last Thursday evening of each month, except December.

Currently, many countries employ a science curriculum and pedagogies that primarily serve the small percentage of students who will go on to become scientists. Osborne argues that the primary purpose of science education is scientific literacy for all. He describes a number of fallacious assumptions about science and science education undermine efforts to bring about progressive change in the curriculum and pedagogies for teaching science. Osborne makes suggestions about the type of science curriculum and pedagogies that might serve the majority of students who would benefit personally from a sufficient scientific literacy. Such a curriculum would emphasise scientific ontologies (content knowledge), scientific inquiry (epistemological knowledge) and science as a social endeavour (philosophical knowledge). This last goal is partially met by the Australian Curriculum: Science strand Science as a Human Endeavour. Osborne then articulates five continua that might be used to describe the diversity of science teaching practice (e.g. teachers’ conceptions of their role, from dispenser of knowledge to facilitator of knowledge). The article stimulates discussions about the purposes of science education, the role of the teacher, pedagogical styles, and curriculum design in science.

Reference

Osborne, J. (2007). Science education for the twenty first century. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 3(3), 173-184.

Abstract

This paper argues that the dominant form of science education that is common across the world rests on a set of values that have no merit. Moreover, such practice has a negative impact on students’ attitudes to science. It makes the case that the primary goal of any science education should be to develop scientific literacy and explores what that might consist of and why such an education is necessary in contemporary society. It concludes by examining some of the challenges that such a change might require.

Length

12 pages, including references

Download this article

Charlotte’s summary will be available soon, for Primary Teacher Journal Club participants who may not have time to read the full text prior to the discussion, or, having read the full article, want to revisit the ideas briefly before participating.

Questions to consider:

  1. Which of the ‘seven fal­lac­ies’ are most sig­nif­i­cant in your lessons? How do you over­come them — or do you think the prob­lem of one or more is over­stated? Can you sug­gest sim­ple prin­ci­ples or changes, either in the class­room or within the teach­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tion, which would address these issues?
  2. This paper, like many oth­ers, dis­cusses the need for and def­i­n­i­tion of ‘sci­en­tific lit­er­acy’. Leav­ing aside the aspect described as ‘cog­ni­tive’, how do sci­ence courses test this skill and what tasks do you use to teach it? Do the ideas in the paper sug­gest new ways in which we could help our stu­dents develop scien­tific literacy?
  3. Osborne places great impor­tance of the abil­ity to rea­son in sci­ence — crit­i­cal think­ing — and it is hard to dis­agree, but it is a claim that has been made for other sub­jects, includ­ing Latin and Phi­los­o­phy. How can we demon­strate the acqui­si­tion of rea­son­ing skills in our class­rooms and lessons?
  4. Osborne lists ‘five dimen­sions of prac­tice’ which describe teach­ers’ use of ped­a­gogy. Where would you place your­self on each scale and how have you pro­gressed towards (his def­i­n­i­tion of) the ideal? What have you changed, or what do you aim to change in the future? How would you share this with colleagues?

Many thanks to Alby Reid and Alom Shaha, who operated a Science Teaching Journal Club a few years ago, and who discussed this paper with the club in early 2012. Alom kindly gave permission for me to use their questions. While the questions were originally written for secondary teachers, who are subject specialists, I think it is of value to discuss these same questions as generalist primary teachers.

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