Tuesday, 28 February 2012

How Science Works - the implementation

Following the CPD model of The Cramilington Learning Village and other schools we have an Action Enquiry Question to work on throughout the year. I have selected "How to implement How Science Works in the Curriculum".

This breaks down into several other questions: what is "how science works"? Why is it important to teach about it? How is teaching "how science works" different from what we do already? What changes do we need to make in order to implement "how science works" in the science curriculum?

I read the book in the image above about how science works and was completely sold on the importance of adding it to our curriculum and that did involve making a shift in how I think about the aim of science education.

Firstly "how science works" needs to be integrated into the curriculum and not a bolt-on. I agree with this, but it is hard to get staff to see that and not try and reach how science works by doing stand alone lessons that involve researching a topic or carrying out a full investigation with only a tenuous link to the topic being studied. For example in our key stage 3 scheme of work we have research lessons and data lessons. The objectives of these lessons often don't support the learning or consolidation of knowledge and are contrived; they feel more like ticking a box than supporting the engagement of students. The research lessons can be boring and the data lessons formulaic.

"How science works" needs to be more than doing some practicals and talking about a science related news story like global warming. It should help students become scientifically literate, and by that I mean help students understand what makes science "science".

The GCSE specifications and resources like Boardworks do try and address what science is. Schemes of work, resources and specifications ask that students be aware of the implications of science through things like the advantages and disadvantages of kidney transplants, and show how scientific ideas have developed for example the Big Bang Theory. Do we concentrate on this or only teach the bits that are examined in a way that kids will remember? If we do, is it enough to just expose students in that way?

Considering all of this, my main objective when teaching how science works is to ensure that students don't think that scientific ideas are fixed, but constantly change when new ideas are presented.

The best lesson I have taught on this was from the segue scheme about developing the theory of plate tectonics, my post-16 students see this for themselves when the turn on the news and tune into what is going on at CERN. However, it is hard to get it across to students when we teach it using language like "Newton's 1st LAW".

Finally, I really hope that I have managed to get across that science is constantly evolving and ever more complicated to a group of students I have taught from year 7 to year 11, and that this will help them appreciate science no matter whether they choose to study it further.

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