|The Education for All Teacher-Training Package - Volume 2 (UNDP - UNESCO, 1995, 124 p.)|
|Topic 9 Scientific and Technological Literacy and Numeracy|
It is well known that in many countries efforts are being made to introduce science into basic education. Unfortunately, these efforts are often seriously hampered by the inadequate background and preparation of teachers and the lack of adequate materials. It is, however, encouraging to note that, in recent years, some countries in developing regions of the world have been responding to the challenges of science and technology by attempting to relate teaching in these content areas to practical problems in the community concerned with the environment, agriculture, health and other contemporary issues of development.
It is now widely recognized that the most effective and relevant science learning takes place through the process of solving problems that occur in, or are immediately connectable to, the life of the learner, rather than in contrived situations in a classroom. For example, good science education and health education can go hand in hand. Learning in science must also be based on the pupils own knowledge and experience so that he or she can achieve real understanding; this means beginning with familiar objects and phenomena encountered in his or her own world. In basic education it is quite possible, even with minimal apparatus, to embark on a Programme of active enquiry, investigation and problem-solving which provides experience of ways of handling evidence. Children can be encouraged to observe, raise questions for further enquiry, generate hypotheses, plan their investigations, record and present results, interpret data, and so on. It is useful, whenever possible, for these activities to take place outside the classroom. Such an approach can promote the development of thinking pupils who will become thinking citizens.
The teachers role will be to help children to express and test their own ideas, to reflect on evidence and to question the way in which they carry out their investigations. The materials have a central role in providing evidence as well as arousing curiosity in the world around. Teachers should encourage children to interact both with the materials and with each other as much as possible.
The term process-based describes learning designed to be consistent with the spirit and character of scientific enquiry. Such learning consists of experiences that engage the thinking, imagination and interest of learners as well as leading them to an understanding of day-to-day concepts. Process-based learning includes starting with questions about phenomena rather than with answers to be learned. It provides learners with direct practical experiences with the relevant tools, placing a premium on their curiosity and creativity, and frequently uses a team approach to learning. In this way pupils can become actively involved with the learning process and can be helped to develop appropriate attitudes and skills.
Go through Reading 9.2, Indicators of Process Skill Use: Some Examples (page 17).
Form six groups. Each group should take one of the main categories: observing; finding patterns and relationships; hypothesizing; raising questions; devising investigations; and communicating correctly.
From your own experience discuss successful and unsuccessful attempts to encourage these skills in children.
Record your findings and report back to the group as a whole.
Reading 9.2 did not give an exhaustive list of science process skills. Others include:
predicting: going beyond the immediate evidence, using it to suggest what W1 I happen at some future time;
designing and making: using materials and scientific concepts so as to create articles and procedures for solving problems;
manipulating materials and equipment effectively: being able to put into practice the manipulation of objects with the precision required to obtain useful results;
measuring and calculating: using measuring instruments correctly and with appropriate precision as required by investigation.
One way of expressing the process skills is in the form illustrated below. The layout avoids any indication of a hierarchy or sequence in the use of process skills which, in practice, are closely linked. It also indicates that they are part of a whole, called scientific investigation, which is not listed as a separate skill - it is the amalgam of them all.
The content of science courses varies widely and it is important for each country/region/school to decide what are the key areas to be included in basic education. One such list of general headings is the following:
the diversity of living things;
the life processes and life cycles of plants and animals;
the interaction of living things with the environment;
types and uses of materials;
air, atmosphere and weather;
water and its interaction with other materials;
light, sound and music;
effects of heating and cooling;
movement and forces;
soil, rocks and the Earths resources;
the sky, solar system, planets and stars;
magnetism and electricity.
Adapted from: UNESCO Sourcebook for Science in the Primary School.
The items in this list are not intended as a framework for constructing a teaching scheme or Programme. They just represent an example of the type of science content that is appropriate for inclusion in basic education.
One major objective of science education is to inculcate appropriate attitudes in pupils. Some scientific attitudes that have been identified are: objectivity; curiosity; cooperativeness; creativeness; honesty; patience; and flexibility in thinking. Although they are of general value and not specific to science, their cultivation is central to effective science teaching (see Reading 9.3 page 19).
Reflect on your science curriculum and on your own method of teaching.
Working in small groups discuss the following:
1. Are the topics for study relevant to the pupils
Record your findings and report them to the group as a whole.
This activity is intended to help you to recognize when science is really being learned by the children.
1. In small groups, discuss the following question: if you walked into a classroom where science was being taught, how would you judge whether or not there were opportunities for useful and meaningful learning to take place?
In your groups discuss:
the indications of situations where children have the opportunity
Record your findings and report back to the group as a whole.