23 SES 13 C, STEM Education
Politicians, policymakers and educators across Europe recognise that Science, as a product of human endeavour, is deeply enmeshed within all aspects of the modern world. Increasingly, they view science as an important priority within educational and economic terms. However, this increased political attention on science has intensified recently considering the results of large scale transnational assessments of student attainment such as the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) where poorer than expected results, particularly in mathematics (numeracy) and science have sparked curricular reforms. Scotland and Sweden have recently undergone extensive educational reforms where the Science curriculum has also undergone reform.
Deng (2011), citing Doyle (1992a; 1992b) suggests that curriculum making operates at three levels, the institutional, programmatic, and classroom, where each level is associated with distinct kinds of curriculum discourses. The institutional level is represented by curriculum policy at the interface between schooling, culture and society and is typified by what is desirable in socio-cultural terms and by what society deems valuable. The programmatic level is contained within curriculum documents and materials used by schools to orient classroom activities. It has suggested by Day and Bryce (2013) that the curriculum policy vision (or rationale) represents the Institutional level of curriculum making and that the documents which exemplify and outline the syllabus represent the policy image. Curriculum making at this level transforms the institutional curriculum into school subjects. As Doyle (1992b) suggests, school subjects are framed by a set of arguments that rationalise the selection and arrangement of content, in terms of knowledge, skills and dispositions and the translation of the content for school and classroom use. The programmatic curriculum embodies a theory of content that aligns with the institutional expectations and teaching activities. The classroom curriculum is characterised by the interaction of teachers with their students. However, classroom curriculum making necessarily involves teachers translating the programmatic curriculum into instructional events through a process of elaboration with the intention to make the content meaningful to students and connects with their experiences, capacities and interests.
Scientific literacy is widely accepted as the central goal of science education for the 21st century and is a major aspect of the PISA Science assessment. Indeed, Roberts (2011) has argued that scientific literacy has had a strong impact on the discourse about curriculum policy, curriculum development, and assessment in contemporary school science education. This notwithstanding, what has been debated within the science education discourse is what should constitute the content for teaching and learning for the development of scientific literacy. Curriculum policy, Roberts (2011) argues, expresses the purpose for learning. Roberts (2007) characterises the current science education landscape as being mired in a struggle between two broad “visions” of the purposes for learning school science where on the one hand there is the discipline of science itself, the products, processes, and characteristics of the scientific enterprise (which he names Vision I). On the other, there are those situations in which science demonstrably plays a role in human affairs, including, but not limited to scientific thinking and activity (which he names Vision II). Using the Vision I - Vision II broad distinction, makes it possible to discuss and analyse competing meanings of scientific literacy without becoming embroiled in the debate as to how scientific literacy is defined.
This paper aims to examine the extent to which the Scottish and Swedish Science curriculum share common features, reflect the stated aims of the curriculum, and orientate, focus and attend to the development of students as scientifically literate citizens by focusing on the institutional and programmatic level of curriculum making as outlined within major curricular documents from both countries.
A textually oriented discourse analysis of the Scottish and Swedish Science curricular policy documents relating to the primary and lower secondary school phase of education was performed. First, all the relevant science curriculum documents relating to the Scottish Broad General Education phase and the Swedish Compulsory phase of the science curriculum where identified and shared. All documents where read and analysed in English, with the Swedish curricular documents having been published in English and cross checked with the Swedish version for translational issues. Second, the authors read, identified and analysed the science documents to assess how these documents orient the science curricula. Third, the authors identified the common and contrasting features of each countries science curriculum to establish the extent to which each curriculum attended to the orienting vision for the curriculum. Fourth, the texts where analysed to establish the dominant voice projected by each curriculum document, i.e. that of the policy maker, the teacher, the student.
Analysis indicates that at the programmatic level of curriculum-making there are structural similarities between the Scottish and Swedish science curricula in terms of breadth and range of content areas. The main differences being in content detail, specificity of language and explicit orientation. Both science curricula have a clear orientation statement but the Scottish documents explicitly oriented the curriculum towards developing pupils as scientifically literate citizens with skills, competencies and knowledge whereas the Swedish curriculum is oriented more towards pupils’ accumulation of scientific knowledge. In fact, the Swedish science curriculum do not use the term scientific literacy explicitly at all. Both the Scottish and Swedish science curriculum are oriented towards a Vision I-like Scientific Literacy curriculum with elements of Vision II suggesting that at the programmatic level, each focuses heavily on science content knowledge and investigation and inquiry skills than on socio-scientific discussion. In terms of language specificity, the Swedish curriculum is more specific in its use of language, with the Scottish curriculum being more vague despite being more explicit in terms of content and advice to teachers than the Swedish curriculum. The predominant voice speaking within the Scottish Science Experiences and Outcomes is that of the pupil, with the use of terms such as “I can” “I have participated in”, whereas the Swedish Science curriculum documents are more neutral. The Swedish Science curriculum is less prescriptive, in terms of content and only indicates what the expectations for pupil attainment at different levels ought to be, with no indication of advocated pedagogy. By contrast, the Scottish Science principles and practice document – with the policy makers’ voice – details 12 developmental priorities for science teachers to focus on. The Science benchmarks sets out what pupils need to know and can do, at each level, to progress their learning within the curriculum.
Day, S. P., and Bryce, T.G.K, (2013) Curriculum for Excellence Science: Vision or Confusion? Scottish Educational Review, Doyle, W. (1992a). Curriculum and pedagogy. In P.W. Jackson (Ed.), Handbook of research on curriculum. New York: Macmillan. Doyle, W. (1992b). Constructing curriculum in the classroom. In F.K. Oser, A. Dick, & J. Patry (Eds), Effective and responsible teaching: The new syntheses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publisher. Roberts, D. A. (2007) Scientific literacy/Science literacy. In S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Roberts, D.A. (2011). Competing Visions of Scientific Literacy: The Influence of a Science Curriculum Policy Image. In C, Linder, L Östman, D.A. Roberts, P-O Wickman, G, Erickson, A MacKinnon (Eds.), Exploring the Landscape of Scientific Literacy. London: Routledge.
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