Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 2, Issue 2, Article 2 (Dec., 2001)
Describing and supporting effective science teaching and learning in Australian schools - validation issues
The Victorian Government has identified science and technology as a major focus within its development strategy, and this has led to a major set of initiatives on science in schools, drawing on a considerable resource base. The policy of the government is to embed these initiatives within a comprehensive research framework. Indicators of the need for a focus on science teaching and learning include concern with student results in statewide testing including the TIMSS test, concern with declining interest in science over the years 7-10 and falling numbers taking senior science subjects, and concerns about teacher beliefs and knowledge, and classroom practice, arising from a large scale baseline survey of science teaching across the compulsory years (Gough et al., 1998). The Science in Schools (SiS) Research Project is a central constituent of the Science in Schools initiatives developed by the Victorian Department of Education, Employment and Training (DEET). The purpose of the SiS Research Project is to develop and trial a model for improving science teaching and learning in Victorian schools. The SiS Research Project is funded by DEET and run by a consortium managed by Deakin University.
During 2000 and 2001, the Deakin-based research team has been working with primary and secondary schools in each region of the State, and has developed an approach to the improvement of science teaching and learning which has two major features:
- The SiS Components, which provide a framework for describing effective science teaching and learning, and
- The SiS Strategy, which is the process by which schools can improve their science teaching and learning.
These features sit within a theoretical framework characterised by the SiS School Improvement Model. This model focuses on whole school improvement, and is closely related to other initiatives within Victorian schools. It draws particularly on the literatures dealing with science professional development, and whole school change (eg. Baird & Mitchell, 1986; Bell & Gilbert, 1996; Fullan, 1996; Hoban, 1997; Franke et al., 1998; Hall & Hord, 2001). In particular it utilises the design elements of the Hill-Crevola General Design for Improving Learning Outcomes (Hill & Crevola, 1999; Hill et al., 2000). The major features of the strategy relate also to the Concerns Based Adoption Model of Hall and Hord (2001).
The SiS Strategy provides flexibility for schools and teachers to plan and implement initiatives based on the particular needs of the school, within an overall framework provided by the SiS Components. The Strategy supports school science teams to identify and capitalise on their strengths and experience, and to channel the enthusiasm many students and their families have for science. In 2000 the project team worked with 27 schools to develop, refine and validate the strategy and the SiS Components. In 2001 we have worked with 126 Victorian primary and secondary schools, and the number will rise to 225 schools in 2002. In each school involved in the project, a 'SiS Coordinator' (larger schools support more than one coordinator) is provided with time release to plan, to work with teachers in developing ideas and materials or in classrooms, to manage the change process, and to work with the Project Team to implement a testing and monitoring program. Each school has access to funds to provide teachers of science with time release to plan, monitor and refine strategies, and to participate in professional development. The SiS Coordinator in each school is supported by a Consultant who visits regularly, provides input on a negotiated basis, and is in regular email contact. A website (www.scienceinschools.org) delivers support material. Currently, a professional development program is being devised to explicitly support the project, and also a training program for coordinators.
This paper will focus on the research methods by which the SiS Components were developed and the different senses in which they are being validated.
Copyright (C) 2001 HKIEd APFSLT. Volume 2, Issue 2, Article 2 (Dec., 2001)