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Annex 4: Country Papers Australia

Exemplars of Innovative/Best Practices in the Training of Science Te achers in Teaching-Learning of Science and Mathematics in Australia Category 1: Conceptual Development Student Teachers Investigate Childrens Understandings of Science 1. What is the best practice, rationale (primary reason) for the choice

When teachers are making decisions about what and how to teach a sequence of lessons on a particular science topic they gather information from various places including the curriculum and resource documents. As part of this process it is critical for teachers of science to consider the children that they will be teaching, in particular their conceptual understandings about the topic that is going to be the focus of the teaching and learning sequence. Research has suggested that young students have many alternative conceptions about science concepts and that when teachers are planning they must take these alternative conceptions into consideration. This exemplar of best practice in science teacher training involves pre-service teachers in an in-depth investigation of childrens ideas about a particular science topic on which they will plan a sequence of science lessons. The research they conduct becomes part of a rationale that they develop to explain and support their planning. The rationale, together with their planning documents, are assembled by the pre-service teachers into a planning portfolio that is submitted as a major assessment item for a unit in science education in the second year of their four year bachelor of education degree in primary teaching. 2. Problems of training teachers addressed by the best practice

Pre-service teachers find it difficult to comprehend that young children think in very different ways compared with adults. They tend to assume that the children they will teach know very little about science and that they will readily absorb the ideas that they explain to them. This exemplar of best practice helps pre-service teachers to understand that children have a wealth of experiences that have resulted in complex, nave theories and understandings that need to be addressed through the teaching process so that conceptual development can take place. Moreover, pre-service teachers often lack the knowledge of strategies and skills necessary for finding out what children know about science. This approach not only makes the pre-service teachers aware of a range of strategies that can be used to probe childrens understandings of science, but also gives them practice using such strategies in a micro-environment with a small number of children. 3. Description of the best practice

The pre-service teachers are required to spend a short, intensive session of time with a


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child or a group of children (maximum of 5) of primary school age to find out what they already know about the science topic that will be the focus of their planning portfolio. The child(ren) can be from the pre-service teachers teaching practice class, or they can be their own children, siblings, cousins, neighbours or friends. It is important that the pre-service teachers fully inform and have written permission from parents before they talk to their child(ren) for the purpose of this assignment for their education degree. A strong theme throughout the series of lectures and workshops in the unit is childrens prior knowledge of science. The pre-service teachers are involved in lectures, role plays and workshops that help them to become aware of the wide spectrum of strongly held alternative ideas that children have about science. The pre-service teachers also are taught about several techniques that are useful to probe childrens understandings in science including interviews, drawings, concept cartoons and activities such as predict-observe-explain. Further information is posted on the units on-line teaching tool, Blackboard, and the textbook (Skamp, 2004) is used as a source of ideas about science concepts and students alternative conceptions as well as strategies for probing understanding. The pre-service teachers are encouraged to stimulate the child (children) to talk freely about the concepts. It is explained that the purpose of the activity is to find out what they already know and the alternative conceptions they have. The pre-service teachers are required to record the information gathered from their discussions with the child(ren) and use this as evidence to support their rationale for their planning portfolio. This evidence can be selected drawings, photographs, written work or sections of transcribed tape recordings. 4. How the best practice made your training approach/strategy effective

This approach to the teaching of pre-service teachers generally results in them being highly interested and intrigued by the childrens pre-instructional ideas about science. This seems to be highly motivating for the pre-service teachers and we hope that it results in them giving attention to the diagnosis of childrens ideas about science prior to teaching when they become qualified teachers. We have found that this strategy improves the pre-service teachers approach to long term and short term planning because they have a better understanding of the rationale behind the constructivist approaches, such as the 5 E model (Skamp, 2004, p. 332), that they are encouraged to use. One problem with this approach that we have noticed is that some pre-service teachers make up a list of factual, recall-style questions, for example about the solar system or the water cycle, that they ask the child(ren). When the children respond with simple, incorrect answers or respond with I dont know these pre-service teachers tend to conclude that the students know nothing about the topic. While it is a minority of pre-service teachers who take this minimalist and reductionist approach, it is counter-productive to the whole rationale and purpose of this assignment. We are currently planning to develop video exemplars of best practice (and possibly poor practice) in probing students understanding to address this issue.


Best Practices in Professional Learning of Science and Mathematics Teachers

5. Brief training plan: (objectives, learning tasks concepts/skills development, resources used, assessment made, etc.) Objectives: 1. 2. Pre-service teachers will work with primary school aged children to probe their understanding about a particular science topic. Pre-service teachers will use the information gathered from the children to develop a rationale for a sequence of science lessons on the science topic.

Learning Tasks: The lectures/workshops/textbook/on- line teaching tool include information and activities centered around the notion of students alternative conceptions, methods of probing students understandings and constructivist approaches to teaching and learning. Resources: Pre-service teachers are encouraged to use a range of resources such as their textbook (Skamp, 2004), and other literature to help them develop a suitable approach to probing students understanding. Assessment: The pre-service teachers submit a planning portfolio that includes a rationale for a planning document based on the work that they did with the children. Category 2: ICT as a Tool for Learning Integrating ICT in Science Education Units for Pre-service Secondary Science Teachers 1. What is the best practice, rationale (primary reason) for the choice

New science teachers not only need to possess basic ICT (Information and Communication Technology) skills such as word processing, Power-point, and accessing the Internet, but they will need to develop sound pedagogical skills to successfully integrate ICT into the science curriculum. The use of ICT in the classroom enables teachers to challenge students and promote higher order thinking skills. ICT is also a resource for co-operative group learning and a means of communication with the wider community. When secondary students use ICT in their learning they are likely to enhance their own ICT skills. This approach to best practice includes a range of initiatives designed to integrate ICT in a compulsory science education unit for students enrolled in a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education. The program was evaluated using an action research model based on constructivist principles (Dawson, Forster & Reid, 2005) and this overview is based on the evaluation. 2. Problems of training teachers addressed by the best practice

Student science teachers skills and understandings of the use of ICT for teaching science varies widely and their prior experiences with ICT in educational and non-educational settings influence their preparedness to use ICT in their own teaching.


Annex 4: Country Papers


Description of the best practice

The class has unlimited access to a laptop computer, data projector and digital camera for teaching purposes. This enables the lecturer to model the use of ICT, where appropriate. The pre-service teachers are informed that the focus of the unit will be ICT in secondary science education. There is an expectation that as teachers they will be able to use ICT in their teaching. The pre-service teachers can use the equipment for any science-education related activities, so that access issues do not impede their use of ICT. They also are allowed to borrow software resources for use during their final teaching practice. The rationale is that this would encourage the pre-service teachers to gain familiarity with the resources and so gain an appreciation of their value for teaching. A CD is provided to the pre-service teachers with copies of syllabus documents and reading materials for the unit. Two consecutive three- hour sessions are used to familiarise pre-service teachers with ICT resources currently used in secondary science including: interactive CDs; web sites for students and teachers; electronic textbooks; data loggers; digital camera data projector and laptop; interactives, applets and simulations; and electronic portfolios and self-paced online modules.

The first of these two sessions is conducted in a regular classroom. The resources mentioned above are described and their use demonstrated. This session includes small group and whole class discussion in relation to pedagogy and critique on the advantages, disadvantages and issues associated with using ICT resources in secondary science education. The small group discussion is guided by a handout with open-ended questions for the pre-service teachers to consider. Pre-service teachers of varying ability are catered for through the use of student-centred, open-ended approaches. The pre-service teachers are provided with a journal article (Przywolnik, 2001) which describes factors to consider when using ICT in secondary science. The second session is conducted in a computer lab where the pre-service teachers are given the opportunity to play with the equipment and CDs and peer coaching is encouraged. Pre-service teachers are provided with a list of web sites that are suitable for educational purposes. 4. How the best practice made your training approach/strategy effective

After completing this unit, the majority of pre-service teachers feel they are better prepared to teach using ICT. This is especially so with pre-service teachers who begin


Best Practices in Professional Learning of Science and Mathematics Teachers

the unit with limited skills and knowledge of ICT. It seems that they gain more than those with advanced skills and knowledge. The greatest improvements are related to awareness of suitable resources, pedagogy and critique of ICT which correlates well with the learning activities that pre-service teachers participate in. Basic ICT skills (e.g. preparing power-point presentations, using computing equipment) shows minimal improvement. In addition, the ICT resources produced by the pre-service teachers tend to have poor navigation and instructions and lack an evaluation component. However, the pre-service teachers make good use of presentation formats (e.g. graphics, sound, hyperlinks, text and video) in their ICT resources. 5. Brief training plan:

Objective: To develop a safe learning environment where all pre-service teachers are encouraged to experiment with ICT in science and subsequently enhance their skills and confidence. Learning Tasks: Two three hour workshops, the first to familiarise the pre-service teachers with a range of ICT to use for teaching and learning science, the second to allow them to use the equipment. Resources: interactive CDs; list of suitable web sites for students and teachers; electronic textbooks; data loggers; digital camera; data projector and laptop; interactives, applets and simulations; and electronic portfolios and self-paced online modules. Assessment: As an authentic assessment, each pre-service teacher is required to develop an ICT resource that would require lower secondary science students (12 15 years old) to use ICT. The resources are placed on a CD and a copy is made available to all pre-service teachers enrolled in the unit. Category 3: Creativity and Practical Work An Open Investigation for Pre-service Teachers of Primary Science 1. What is the best practice, rationale (primary reason) for the choice

Recently, inquiry approaches to science teaching and learning have been given a higher priority in curricula in many countries. Inquiry approaches to science learning requires students to answer questions about the natural and technological world, to use reflection and analysis to prepare a plan, to collect, process and interpret data, to communicate their conclusions and to evaluate their plan, procedures and findings. This exemplar of best practice involves pre-service teachers in planning, conducting, reporting and evaluating an investigation about plants. The rationale for this approach is to give pre-service teachers the experience of an open investigation so they can better understand the procedures that are required for inquiry approaches to teaching and learning science and to allow them to reflect on this process from the perspective of both the student and the teacher. 2. Problems of training teachers addressed by the best practice


Annex 4: Country Papers

Most peoples experience of science in school included doing scientific investigations that involved following step-by-step instructions, like a recipe, where they were given the questions to investigate, the materials required and the steps of the method that should be followed. While most people who have studied some science in high school would have experience conducting such investigations and processing data, few have had the experience of developing their own questions that can be answered by a scientific investigation that they plan and evaluate themselves. The process of developing a rationale for an investigation, designing a method and evaluating that process is considered to be highly motivating for science students. Many teachers of science, particularly primary school teachers of science, feel uncomfortable about allowing their students to conduct open investigations because the teachers perceive that they are not in control, the classroom activities are not structured and planning (for materials and time, for example) becomes unpredictable. Moreover, primary school pre-service teachers (and some secondary science pre-service teachers) lack confidence in their knowledge of the basic scientific method and experimental design including research problem, hypothesis and variables (independent, dependent and controlled). Pre-service teachers often lack the time management skills and tenacity to support students in conducting long-term inquiry projects. This activity is designed to encourage pre-service teachers to develop and practice these skills. 3. Description of the best practice

The investigation that the pre-service teachers conduct is called a botanical investigation because it involves them growing and experimenting with plants. The pre-service teachers work in a group of 2 or 3 to plan, conduct and report on the ir results and conclusions. The pre-service teachers are assigned to groups in their first tutorial and given time and support to begin to plan their investigation. There are two limitations on the botanical investigation: 1. The investigation must involve the growth of a selected plant variety. 2. The investigation must have an experimental design preferably with plant growth as the dependent variable. Each group selects one independent variable and manages the controlled variables. Each group develops a rationa le for their investigation based on their experiences with plants or by interviewing people who are interested in or experienced with gardening. They are encouraged to generate a research question that can be answered by doing an experiment. Examples of questions that students in the past have used include: 1. 2. 3. 4. Does the use of Thrive fertilizer improve the growth of petunia seedlings? Do pansy seedlings grow better in full sun or part shade in Perth weather conditions? Does the use of premium potting m improve the growth of spring onion ix seedlings? Does the use of seed raising mix improve the germination of carrot seeds?


Best Practices in Professional Learning of Science and Mathematics Teachers


Does companion planting with marigolds reduce the number of aphids on rose bushes?

The investigation is conducted over a four t six week period with observation and o recording occurring in a home situation. Each group measures, records, photographs, graphs and presents the growth of their plants using technology appropriate to the task. Each group also carries out research appropriate to their particular investigation using the internet and library. Each group is required to submit a written report of their investigation and to give a 5 minute presentation of their findings to other members of the class. The method of presentation can be the groups choice, for example, posters, demonstrations, role-plays or power point presentations are all suitable. All members of the group are encouraged to contribute to the preparation and organization of the presentation, but it is up to the group to decide whether or not all members actually give the presentation on the day. 4. How the best practice made your training approach/strategy effective

The open botanical investigation gives the pre-service primary teachers experience with and better understanding of an inquiry approach to teaching and learning. They often comment about how they feel engaged and actively involved in the investigation because they have a sense of ownership of the whole process of deciding on their research question and designing the method. It becomes clear to them that their students will enjoy science if this approach is used. The pre-service teachers become more confident about using the language associated with investigations such as independent and dependent variable and they feel they have better understanding of how to use an experimental approach in the classroom. 5. Brief training plan:

Objective: To give pre-service primary teachers experience with and understanding of inquiry approaches to science. Learning Tasks: Pre-service teachers plan, conduct, report on and evaluate an open- investigation involving plants. Resources: Various resources required such as seedlings, pots, potting mix. Assessments: Groups of pre-service teachers hand in a written report on the investigation and make an oral presentation to the class. Category 4: Networks and Partnerships A Compact Between The University and Local Schools 1. What is the best practice, rationale (primary reason) for the choice

In 2002/2003 Edith Cowan University (ECU) and the West Coast District of the Department of Education of Western Australia established partnerships to improve the


Annex 4: Country Papers

quality of professional support available to students, teachers, pre-service teachers and teacher educators. Each partnership is called a compact. The compact used to illustrate how this approach can facilitate best practice in science teacher education is called the Joondalup Compact because it is located in the Joondalup district of Perth, Western Australia. The aims of the compact are to promote: 2. The engagement of ECU pre-service teachers in productive professional activities in partner schools that lead to better teaching and learning; The professional development of teachers and teacher educators; Collaborative research to support teaching and learning; The professional status of teaching. Problems of training teachers addressed by the best practice

The are two main problems of training teachers that are addressed by this approach. The first problem is that there is a great degree of difficulty in placing pre-service teachers into schools for their teaching practice. This approach to partnerships improves the relationships between schools and the University and provides the University with a predictable, regular numb er of positions where our pre-service teachers can be placed for their teaching practice. The second problem is that it is often difficult to expose pre-service teachers to interesting, creative and innovative practice in science education. The best practice activities that are established as a result of the collaborative network in the Joondalup Compact are used as case study exemplars in lectures and workshops for pre-service teachers. Pre-service teachers also observe such innovative practice when they are in schools on distributed (one day per week) or long term teaching practice. The following paragraphs describe one such collaborative activity between the University and schools in the Joondalup Compact. 3. Description of the best practice

Edith Cowan University collaborated with three schools in the Joondalup Compact (Mater Dei Catholic College, Belridge Senior High School and Kinross Community College) together with the City of Joondalup (a local government authority) and the Water Corporation of Western Australia to apply for a $3000 SCIps (School, Community, Industry partnerships in science) grant for each school from the Australian Science Teachers Association to conduct science-based investigations into real life problems that students identify in their local community. The Australian Science Teachers Association also provided online support for the projects that ran during Term 1, 2005. All three schools were successful in being awarded the $3000 grant. The activities that Kinross Community College participated in as a result of this collaboration are briefly described below. Students and teachers from Kinross Community College investigated the factors that impact on a local lake, Lake Joondalup and it surroundings. Students considered a range of problems including salinity, rubbish and water and air pollution. Students were assigned tasks to design and create new environments that considered these problems and reflected the nature of compromise that exists in any community between human


Best Practices in Professional Learning of Science and Mathematics Teachers

development and the natural environment. As part of their examination of Lake Joondalup, students identified a number of problems that impacted on the lake including salinity, rubbish and nutrient run-off; these were displayed in their learning area as snakes. Kinross Community College students utilised a wide range of expertise from City of Joondalup, The Water Corporation of Western Australia, Captain Cleanup, The Reptile Man and Ribbons of Blue to research the project. Classes of students made a number of out-of-school excursions including a visit to a site where plant regeneration could be observed, several trips to Lake Joondalup as well as a trip to the local sewage works. Each excursion enabled the students to observe real-world science projects that were addressing some of the issues that they had been examining in class. At the conclusion of the topic students presented talks to members of their classes outlining how to address some of the problems they had encountered. This allowed teachers to use science as a context to evaluate outcomes in the English area. Finally students participated in a role-play where different groups of students represented different community groups that had a vested interest in a large development project. Students had to argue for their interests and negotiate to help all parties reach an agreement that addressed a wide range of issues. Students learnt that the world was rarely black and white and that most issues were resolved by compromise between different factions. 4. How the best practice made your training approach/strategy effective

Case studies conducted by the University were used during lectures and workshops in the primary bachelor of education and middle years graduate diploma as exemplars of best practice. As a result, pre-service teachers were exposed to science projects that involved students in real- world investigations based on local issues of importance. Pre-service teachers also could see through these case studies how learning in science can be integrated with learning in other subjects, such as social studies and English, at a high conceptual level. Pre-service teachers also were able to observe how networks and partnerships with organizations such as local government authorities and industry can be used to enhance the quality of school science programs by using their expertise and knowledge of local issues, problems and science projects. More recent developments have resulted in the Joondalup Compact securing a $95 000 grant from the Australian Governments Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) to continue and broaden this project through a grant scheme called Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Project (ASISTM). Five schools in the compact will be involved in this new project that will involve teacher


Annex 4: Country Papers

associates recruited from the University student pool to work in schools to excite and motivate students about conducting and participating in science. Category 5: Assessment, Evaluation and Research The Science Education Assessment Resources (SEAR) 1. What is the best practice, rationale (primary reason) for the choice

Assessment is a critical aspect of science education (Hackling, 2004). An assessment program should include a variety of types of assessment activities that are designed to provide information about a students achievement of specific objectives and outcomes of a syllabus. Teachers are responsible for ensuring the tasks they use to assess students in science are appropriate. For example, practical skills sho uld be assessed through observation during hands-on practical tasks and understanding of scientific inquiry can be assessed by requiring students to plan and conduct their own investigations. Tasks should allow individual students the opportunity to show what they know and can do in different ways, for example students might be able to demonstrate their understanding of the links between scientific concepts through an essay, by preparing a concept map or diagram, or describing their ideas in oral language. By using a variety and balance of assessment instruments, teachers are better able to determine the achievements of their students. This exemplar of best practice involves introducing and familiarising pre-service teachers with a website provided by the Curriculum Council of Australia called The Science Education Assessment Resources (SEAR) that provides a wide range of assessment resources (or tasks) suitable for use across the compulsory years of schooling in Australia (http://cms.curriculum.edu.au/sear). SEAR is a web-based online resources bank of assessment tasks for primary and high school students that can be downloaded in either Word or PDF format. Hard copies of the student pages can then be distributed to the students. 2. Problems of training teachers addressed by the best practice

Pre-service teachers have difficultly understanding the principles of good assessment. They tend to focus on recall of factual information rather than using assessments that focus on applying conceptual understandings and skills that help students make sense of issues relevant to their everyday lives. Pre-service teachers find it difficult to develop a productive, constructivist-based approach to the relationship between teaching, learning and assessment (Hackling, 2004). Pre-service teachers have a lack of awareness of forms of assessment and a limited range of assessment practices. They also have a lack of knowledge about where to access appropriate assessment resources. Familiarisation with this website addresses these problems and provides immediate access to a wide range of assessment resources that can be directly applied to classroom practice. 3. Description of the best practice

Pre-service teachers in the second year of their four year bachelor of education degree are introduced to the SEAR website through their lectures. They also are given the opportunity to explore the website during a two hour workshop/tutorial. They are


Best Practices in Professional Learning of Science and Mathematics Teachers

required to include an assessment item in their planning portfolio that is a major component of their assessment for the unit. They are encouraged to use the SEAR website to find an assessment item that articulates well with their planning documents, however, they are not restricted to this resource. The description of the SEAR assessment activities included in the box in Figure 1 is adapted from the SEAR website. Figure 1: A description of the SEAR resource based on information provided on the website (http://cms.curriculum.edu.au/sear). The SEAR assessment tasks include items that can be used fo r diagnostic, formative and summative purposes. They are supported by rich marking keys and are linked to a scientific literacy progress map scale that connects with the OECD PISA assessments for 15 year olds and the national primary science assessments for Year 6 students. SEAR also contains general information about science assessment and links to key teacher resources including the various Australian state and territory curriculum frameworks. Tasks include objective items, open-ended items and practical tasks. The objective items include such things as multiple choice items; matching items; circling alternatives given one or two words to select from; completing a sentence (fill in the blank) by selecting from a list of key words; completing a sentence (fill in the blank); and limited student response requiring only a one or two word answers (e.g. its colder). Responses to open-ended items may range in format from those requiring the student to write a sentence or short explanation, to writing a paragraph or more. Alternatively, students may be asked to label or construct a diagram, chart etc. Responses of this type would be unscaffolded, that is, the space supplied for the student to construct their response consists of a number of lines or blank space on the page. For research and practical tasks, varying levels of scaffolding are also provided. These tasks include those that require students to construct their own investigation design, or identify their own research questions. Practical tasks involve a hands-on component as an integral aspect of the task. The task may be completed in a short period of time, or may be the basis for more lengthy projects. The degree to which the students plan the task is likely to vary widely: some may be highly structured, others may provide some scaffolding for students (e.g. What I am going to do?; What variable I will keep the same?); while others are very open with students responding to an inquiry investigation question. 4. How the best practice made your training approach/strategy effective

Pre-service teachers became more aware of forms of assessment and tend to extend their range of assessment practices. The pre-service teachers approach to planning incorporates assessment in a more integrated manner as a result of them being aware of and familiar with the SEAR website. 5. Brief training plan:


Annex 4: Country Papers

Objective: To increase pre-service teachers awareness of forms of assessment so as to extend their range of assessment practices. Learning Tasks: Links to the SEAR website are provided to the pre-service teacher through the units on- line teaching tool, Blackboard. The pre-service teachers are given time to explore the website during workshops in order to increase their awareness of forms of assessment and range of assessment practices. Resources: Computer with internet connection so that the SEAR website can be accessed. Assessments: Pre-service teachers are required to include an assessment item within their planning portfolio (a major assessment assignment for the unit on science education). The relationship of the assessment item with their planning documents in the planning portfolio must be described. References Pryzywolnik, G. (2001). Integrated appropriate technology in the science classroom. SCIOS, The Journal of the Science Teachers Association of Western Australia, 35 (3), 9-11. Dawson, V. M., Forster, P. & Reid, D. (2005). Information communication technology (ICT) integration in a science education unit for preservice science teachers: Students perceptions of their ICT skills, knowledge and pedagogy. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 1-19. Skamp, K. (Ed.). (2004). Teaching primary science constructively (2nd edn). Southbank, VIC. Thomson. Hackling, M. (2004). Assessment in science. In G. V enville & V. Dawson (Eds.), The art of teaching science (pp. 126-144). Sydney: Allen and Unwin.