Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 6, Issue 1, Foreword (Jun., 2005)
Promoting Science Teacher Ownership through STL Teaching
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STL Teaching

Scientific and technological literacy (STL) has been defined as the skill to use science knowledge in solving everyday problems, making reasoned decisions and considering values of society (Holbrook & Rannikmäe, 2002). Promoting STL among students has become a major target of science teaching over the last decade. Teaching for STL has been linked with a paradigm shift and a re-think of science education. Therefore this current foreword makes reference to a previous foreword (Holbrook, 2004) describing explicitly the philosophy of STL and its relationship to the rethink and relevance in science education.

Different countries have been approaching the process of promoting scientific literacy from their own viewpoint, but it has been obvious that teaching facts, or even guiding students to acquire isolated scientific concepts, was not enough. The focus of school programmes has been to move beyond acquisition of knowledge and focus more on the development of learning skills, values and ideas. The target of science teaching has been to help students gain the total range of educational objectives put forward for schooling at a certain age level. Bybee (1993) divided these educational objectives and, by modifying his ideas slightly, four major areas can be put forward - empirical knowledge, scientific method, personal development of students including career awareness and social development, or achieving the aspiration of society.

Achieving these objectives is not an easy task for teachers. Research has shown, that there are big gaps between students wishes and traditional teaching, heavily influenced by teachers’ attitudes (Yager, 2000, Rannikmäe 1998, Hofstein, 2000, Fortus, 2005), lack of teaching skills to assess against wider goals of science education and the need for in-service guidance for better understanding about the socially oriented goals for teaching science (Holbrook, 1999). In post Soviet countries, there appears also to be a lack of interdisciplinary knowledge among science teachers (Rannikmäe, 1998).

Teachers are afraid of change – teacher try to avoid change especially change where their expertise may be undermined and therefore they need to be guided through the various teaching stages (Aikenhead, 1997). Teachers in research projects had concerns about doing something different in the classroom (Bell & Gilbert 1994). These concerns include fear of losing control in the classroom, covering the curriculum, meeting assessment requirements, etc. At the same time, we know that teachers are excellent learners who are interested in enhancing their teaching methods. But after attending in-service courses they still feel unable to use the new teaching activities, curriculum materials or content knowledge to improve the learning of their students (Bell, 1998). More recent studies have discussed the balance of teachers’ pedagogical and subject content knowledge, showing the first as the leading power towards relevant science teaching for students (Bond-Robinson, 2005).

Teacher change is linked with teacher beliefs. Previous studies have showed that perceptions and beliefs of teachers are strongly connected with their practice and behaviour. Teachers and their beliefs play a major role in science education reform, since teacher beliefs lead to actions, and these actions ultimately impact on students (Lumpe, 1998). These beliefs and perceptions are part of the teachers' professional ownership of, and greater control over, their own work. The importance of teacher ownership of their work has been valued since the Nuffield curriculum projects of the 1960 and 1970 (Jenkins, 2000). Jenkins also noted that teachers have not been using the maximum freedom of choice to choose teaching materials and methods and kept ignoring new ideas and resources. Science teachers’ ownership of their own work imposes limits on the power of external agencies to effect change.

Teachers assimilate new content better and use varied teaching methods when they are actively participating in the development of teaching or evaluation methods - this has been shown long time ago (Sabar & Shafriri, 1982), or when they cooperate in the framework of a teacher team in planning their work (Oakland, 1995). However – so far there is little literature, which describes models and case studies that can help in building an educationally effective framework for the professional development of teachers. Current research has considered outcomes documented in the Iowa Project (Yager, 2000), Learning Science Project (Teacher Development) (Bell, 1998) and Science - an Ever Developing Entity Project (Mamlok, 1998).

For teaching STL (Holbrook & Rannikmäe, 2002; Holbrook, 2004), it is obvious that teachers should be equipped with new types of teaching materials (Holbrook & Rannikmäe, 1997) that will motivate students' learning and take school science away from purely subject oriented textbook based teaching. However, simply using new types of teaching materials, which include also a teaching strategy, does not give the expected outcomes. It appears there is also a need for special in-service programmes to help teachers understand and acknowledge the importance of socially oriented, student centred, approaches and the need for assessing all components of science education. Without the special in-service programmes, teachers only adopt teaching materials against their traditional teaching and continue assessing only subject knowledge (Rannikmäe, 1998).

Here I do not introduce so called new type of materials (Rannikmäe, 2001), nor criteria for developing those (Holbrook & Rannikmäe, 1997) – but show how the process of developing materials by teachers will help to meet and reach the ownership on teaching towards needs for the 21st century- very much called STL teaching (Holbrook, 2004).

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