Coral Campbell and Simone White- 2008

Promoting Effective Small Schools' Science: Maximising Student and Teacher Learning

The main aim of this project is to investigate a particular model of teacher education for small school rural communties to examine science learning for childrena nd professional development outcomes for teachers and teacher educators. This project builds on the Leading Across Effective Small Schools Project - a funded initiative by DEECD 2007-2009 between Centre for Educational Leadership and Renewal, Deakin and Country Education Project. The 5 schools identified in this project have already identified as their 2008 focus a Learning Science project and identified each of their schools as a specific learning science hub.

The research project has a number of purposes which are inter-linked:

  • It is anticipated to rejuvenate interest in science through the completion of a range of science experiences;
  • It is expected that strong links will be forged between school communities, teachers and students that will provide ongoing support for the pursuit of science in the area;
  • It will provide an opportunity for children to develop skills of scientific investigation and to share scientific discoveries;
  • It will enable teachers and teacher educators the opportunity to share their understandings of science and develop professionally from the interchange of ideas and strategies;
  • It will enable Deakin undergraduate students who are studying science education to become involved 'at the coal face' and to develop a stronger understanding of the many aspects of teaching in rural schools.

Background

Productive, vibrant and resilient rural communities are vital for Australia's social well-being and economic growth. Strategically, it makes sense to improve the economic and social performance of non-metropolitan communities, so that the wealth and competitiveness of Australia as a whole will be maximised (ABS,2005). The provision of high quality education for children of rural families is central to this concern. Nationally, however, there is a crisis in attracting and retaining teachers and other professionals to rural areas (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 2000). According to the Australian Council of Deans (1999) current supply and demand projections for teachers and other professionals, suggest an expected national shortfall for rural schools and communities. If Australia is to increase the chances of competing in a global market then an increased focus on improving the educational experiences and opportunities of rural communities and on making rural teaching an attractive and long term career option is vital.

Coupled with the issue of rural education provision, teacher shortage and professional learning opportunities is the national focus on teaching science effectively. In the Federal Government's paper Backing Australia's Ability- Building our Future through Science and Innovation, recommendations included moving away from more traditional modes of delivery so that stduents are inspired by science. Rural schools, often lacking in resources, are grappling with the issue of providing valid science learning experiences for children that motivate and inspire students. Hopefully in undertaking this project, we can assist the school staff to develop strong learning teams which support each other to deliver science.


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