27 SES 09 C, Cultural Traditions in Teaching and Learning
What is considered to be important science teaching in school has changed historically and has been described as a struggle for what in the selection of content and methods to be included, and what thereby gets excluded (Roberts, 2011). Different positions suggest that science education either should introduce students to the world of science and the work of scientists alternatively stress that teaching should focus on giving students functional scientific knowledge, knowledge they can use in everyday life. Fensham (1988) calls these two approaches ‘Induction into science’ and ‘Learning from science’. Accordingly, what is considered ‘good‘ science teaching has not got one single answer, it depends on who we aim to educate and what we are educating for. We can regard the question of what is considered as ´good´ science teaching as a question about different social and ideological purposes as well as a question of collective and individual values of different kinds. Focusing on the continuous aspects of teacher practice, we use the concept of teaching traditions to describe different purposes in science education, as historically formed patterns of inclusion and exclusion of content, which teachers relate to in their teaching practice (cf Lidar, Karlberg, Lundqvist, Almqvist and Östman, 2017).
In this study we are interested in finding out what teachers perceive as important content in science teaching, how this teaching should be performed and how they motivate the choices. A previous survey study investigating Swedish science teachers’ teaching traditions showed that different groups of teachers emphasize different teaching objectives; scientific facts and concept, laboratory work, everyday knowledge, and political and moral questions, even though the groups had a lot of similarities (Lidar, Engström, Lundqvist and Almqvist, submitted). This was also confirmed in interviews with Swedish science teachers (Lidar, Lundqvist, Ryder and Östman, 2017). In order to find variation and nuances in teaching traditions, in this study we look at statements about science teaching from teachers in three different countries. The curricula in the different countries are not the same, but rather differ in which teaching traditions they emphasize (Marty, Venturini and Almqvist, 2017) and additionally, in the teaching process, teachers need to interpret and transform the content included in respective curricula. In other words, teachers process what is to become the offered teaching content in their classroom. Base on this background, our ambition in so contribute with comparisons of what science teachers with varied background, including different countries, value in their teaching. This selection of teachers might show different approaches to teaching, which can create conditions for discerning aspects that might otherwise have been taken for granted. It might for example enable knowledge-making about what are the specific and generic features of teaching science.
In order to find out what teachers consider being most important in science teaching we have situated the study in a context of policy reforms as a way to focus on continuity and change in science education. Generally, previous research about educational reform and the effects on teaching find that teachers’ views of science are fairly stable and that it is hard to change teachers’ practices (Gather-Thurler, 2000). Aikenhead (2006) compile 27 reasons that science teachers found for not implementing a specific curriculum change. Meanwhile studies also find that teachers respond to reforms on a continuum from strong support to resistance (Datnow & Castanello, 2000).
In the light of curriculum reform the overarching aim in this study is to discern nuances in science teachers’ teaching in order to better understand teaching traditions, how they are constituted and maintained.
Interviews were made with 15 teachers teaching Science Education, five in each of the countries Sweden, England and France. The study has its background in a larger research project concerning Swedish Science Education in Y6, where the data set is considerably larger. The interviews from England and France are collected in order to put the responses from Swedish teachers in perspective and contrast teaching traditions found in the Swedish data. The selection of teachers are not to be thought of as a representative sample, instead our sample is purposive in terms of opening up for variation in responses. The teachers were selected based on that they sometime in their teaching cycle taught students at their last year of a cycle, which occurs between the age of 10-12 years. All teachers were teaching science in their ordinary service, they were all well established at their schools and had a proper experience from teaching and enacting educational reform. Most of the teachers are generalist teachers, which mean that they in addition to science teach many other of the subjects in the curriculum. The interview questions covered what the teachers considered to be characteristic in science teaching, how they select teaching content and ways of assessing. In addition we asked questions about how different reforms have had impact on their privileging of teaching content and methods. This was done in order to get the teachers to reflect on their privileging of teaching content and methods, in other words, their valuations of what is most important in their science teaching. The interviews were made in the respondents’ native language and lasted between 35-60 minutes. All the interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim by a professional transcriber, and translated into English to enable a joint analysis in the research group. The analyzing process included reading thoroughly all of the interviews, focusing on the following questions: - What knowledge content do science teachers talk about as privileged in their teaching? - In what ways do science education reforms influence teachers’ teaching and assessment practices? - What are the consequences of different local prerequisites for science teachers’ privileging of teaching content?
The preliminary results show that all but one of the teachers emphasize the importance of using laboratory experiments in science teaching. However, what is expressed as the aim of the experiment varies. A common view is that scientific investigations contribute to making science interesting, fun and to stimulate curiosity (cf. Högström, Ottander and Benckert, 2006). Another common aim in the responses is that teachers find investigative work useful in teaching about the scientific process. Though there are opposite positions: one alternative is to not value practical work as central, with the motive that we put too much faith in practical work. Concerning questions about how to teach about political and moral aspects of science, there were major differences among the responses. On one hand there were expressions about that these issues are not specific for science education, thus it is a shared responsibility. Other teachers thought of these questions as the most important content in science. The uncertainty that many of the teachers express when talking about these issues is expressed in different ways, for example in one way of responding is that bringing these questions into science classroom risks mixing up with religion, which could mean stepping into a minated area. In the light of curriculum reform several of the teachers cross the borders have experienced that due to recent reforms they have to be more specific about what to be taught which can lead to less imaginative science. The choices teachers make in their professional activities can appear as self-evident, and thus difficult to detect, change or question. To highlight teaching traditions shape an awareness of different options in teaching, e.g. the generic and specific features of teaching science. This knowledge can be informative e.g. in the planning of new reforms.
Aikenhead, G. S. (2006). Science education for everyday life. New York: Teachers College Press. Datnow, A., & Castellano, M. (2000). Teachers’ response to Success for All: How beliefs, experiences, and adaptations shape implementation. American Educational Research Journal, 37(3), 775–799. Fensham, P.J. (1988). Familiar but Different: Some Dilemmas and New Directions in Science Education. In Fensham, P. J. (Ed). Development and Dilemmas in Science Education, 1-26. Philadelphia: The Falmer Press. Gather-Thurler M. (2000.) Une innovation négociée : une porte étroite (Negociated innovations: a narrow door). Revue Française de Pédagogie, 130, 29-42 Högström, P., Ottander, C. & Benckert, S. (2006). Lärares mål med laborativt arbete: utveckla förståelse och intresse. Nordina, 5, 54-66. Lidar, M., Engström, S., Lundqvist, E., Almqvist, J. (submitted). Teaching traditions in Science Education in compulsory school and its relation to educational reform in Science Education in year 6. Nordina. Lidar, M., Karlberg, M., Almqvist, J., Östman, L. & Lundqvist, E. (2017).Teaching Traditions in Science Teachers’ Practices and the Introduction of National Testing. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. doi: 10.1080/00313831.2017.1306802 Lidar, M., Lundqvist, E., Ryder, J. & Östman, L. (2017). Transformation of teaching habits in relation to the introduction of grading and national testing in Sweden. Research in Science Education, First Online. 10.1007/s11165-017-9684-5 Marty, L., Venturini, P. & Almqvist, J. (2018). Teaching traditions in science education in Switzerland, Sweden and France: A comparative analysis of three curricula. European Educational Research Journal, Vol. 17(1) 51-70. 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 (red): Exploring the landscape of scientific literacy (p. 11-27). New York: Routledge.
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