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The Ideas for Teaching Science: Years P–8 materials (print, CD-ROM and website) describe activities that focus on major science ideas appropriate for the primary and early secondary school years. They have been developed over many years’ experience with Deakin University science methods units, and have been used by students to plan activity sequences that explore and engage students’ conceptions in a range of topic areas.
The activities are organised around conceptual themes and are broadly ordered from early years to middle years conceptions. The intention is that you can use these activities to explore students’ prior ideas and challenge students to reflect on and engage with scientific ways of explaining phenomena. The sequencing is intended to encourage the idea, made explicit in conceptual change teaching approaches, that a learning sequence should consist of graded activities that are clustered around a coherent set of science ideas. Only in this way will students be supported to engage with science concepts and extend their use of them in different contexts.
The activities are not intended to be part of a predefined order. Nor is any activity intended to be useful only for a particular year level. The same activity might serve as an end point in an early years sequence, or an introductory exploratory activity in a middle years sequence. The same activity will of course look very different run in a Prep classroom than it will in a Year 7 classroom. Many of the open-ended activities might well be appropriate for any year level in the range.
In addition to providing sequenced activities as the basis for constructing units of work based around science concepts, the topics attempt to make explicit the science ideas underpinning the activities as well as the challenges students face in approaching these. Thus, the explanations and commentaries deal with science content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (being knowledge of issues in students’ learning of particular concepts, and ways of supporting this learning). The topics are thus designed as a support document for primary teachers who do not have a strong science background.
The presumption underpinning these activities is that both primary and early secondary years science should focus on conceptual learning as a priority. Therefore the relationship of activities to conceptions is critical in planning sequences. This is not to say at all that science conceptual knowledge is the only outcome that is appropriate. Higher order thinking, understandings about the nature of science, and the development of skills and attitudes are all important in planning sequences. Thus, in any science-based topic, these activities will inevitably be supplemented and extended to include open-ended project work, explorations arising out of student interest and questions, activities aimed at refining students’ scientific literacies such as report writing and diagrammatic, graphical, multimedia and other representational forms. Support for asking questions, observation, and so on, is also an integral part of supporting students to develop capabilities in and responses to science. Particularly in integrated units, the activities will sit within a wider context and will be extended into other areas.
The topics covered in these materials are: