Following the publication of the updated 3-18 Curriculum Impact Report for Sciences in October 2013, Education Scotland hosted a series of conversation days to engage stakeholders in discussions around the findings of the report and to collectively identify priorities for action to secure improvements in science education nationally.
The fourth conversation day took place in Bucksburn Academy, Aberdeen, on 12th December 2013 and brought together around 40 participants from the local authority, Satrosphere Science Centre, Aberdeen University and representatives from industry, universities and schools. Delegates heard presentations from Kittybrewster Primary School, Bucksburn Academy, Glaxo Smith Kline and the University of Aberdeen.
Following the welcome presentation participants split into small discussion groups to identify the key priorities for improving science education. Discussions focussed on three themes:
- Priorities for sciences education
- Identifying partnerships that work
- What does great learning in the sciences look like?
Priorities for sciences education
- initiatives have been undertaken to address the gap in attainment however more was required to ensure those from the most deprived backgrounds are not disadvantaged further by their educational experience
- the importance of support at home which had to be encouraged through good communication between parents and staff
- developing good numeracy and literacy skills in primary helped access the sciences curriculum. This did not appear to be continuing at secondary, why?
- local authorities should lead and coordinate science in all sectors. They should be providing early years and primary teachers with high quality, sustained science CPD opportunities
- every primary school should have a science coordinator/nominated teacher with responsibility for science.
- Delegates highlighted the lack of confidence in science knowledge and expertise which can affect learning and teaching in the primary sector.
- Practitioners are fully aware of the importance of bringing the real world into the classroom to motivate and engage learners and believe this can be achieved if they have access to relevant, high quality CPD and are given time to commit to CPD.
- Authorities should provide financial support to assist practitioners in accessing resources to facilitate and support their teaching.
- In the primary sector qualified teachers in the STEM subjects would be advantageous
- Delegates viewed that early years, primary and secondary colleagues should work as a team and there should be greater use of cross – sector links e.g. primary pupils should be invited to the secondary science club
Learners attending the conversation day highlighted the areas they regarded as being the key priorities in sciences education:
- key to accessing the sciences curriculum is the relationship between learner and teacher and good communication – they needed to feel confident about asking for help
- active learning in the sciences should be a priority
- Practical activities helped engage learners and develop higher order thinking skills
- homework should be relevant to the learning at the time and coordinated better between departments to avoid overloading learners
- learning through real life contexts is extremely important
- practitioners had to address the variety of learning styles and offer a variety of teaching experiences to engage and motivate pupils.
Delegates highlighted a number of concerns relating to the secondary sector which they viewed as being key priorities in teaching the sciences:
- inadequate amount of time to deliver content within the new CfE qualifications – the issue of pace in learning and teaching has to be addressed to avoid putting learners under pressure
- sequencing of teaching is a concern
- Timescales for publishing of guidance documentation, support materials and resources has to be brought forward
- Examples of assessments and tracking for the broad general education would be helpful
- Difficulties of teaching N4 and N5 in the same class
- Clarification is still required with regards to some aspects of assessment within the new national qualifications
- Can universities help with the added value units?
- Address gender bias within subjects – must address the image of women in the sciences to get more girls to take physics.
Education Scotland is keen to hear your views. Click on the title of this blog post to leave a comment.