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