Science investigation

Beyond play: Learning through science investigation

Science-project
Team members: Azra Moeed (Project Leader), Craig Rofe, Dayle Anderson, Rex Bartholomew (pictured left to right).

Project description:

This project explores how students and teachers from two primary, one intermediate, and two secondary schools, and one wharekura conceptualise the educational role and purpose of investigative work in the context of science teaching and learning. Based on these findings, this project will develop responsive teaching approaches with a view to improving students’ learning from and about science investigation. The efficacy of these approaches will be evaluated.

This project is funded by a Teaching and Learning Research Initiative(TLRI) grant. The work began in January 2014 and is due to be completed in February 2016.

Project aim:

The central aim of the proposed project is to explore how investigative work is currently implemented within the NZ science curriculum, and how its use might be improved to enable it to achieve more effectively the learning goals of the NZ curriculum. To achieve this, we propose to investigate and document the perceptions of both teachers and students of the educational role and purpose of investigative work in the context of science teaching and learning. This will then provide the basis for focused reflection involving teachers, researchers and others on current practices and how these might be modified or developed to become more effective in achieving agreed learning goals. In the third phase of the project, we plan to implement some specific ideas that emerge from this reflection and to evaluate their effectiveness in promoting science learning and encouraging students’ active and creative engagement with science.

Why is this project important?

The science learning area of the New Zealand Curriculum requires students to learn about “features of scientific knowledge and the processes by which it is developed” and “carry out science investigations using a variety of approaches”. Evidence suggests, however, that students’ experience of science investigations is limited.

This project examines how participating primary and secondary school teachers and their students conceptualise science investigations and how these conceptualisations develop following a negotiated intervention. It is important to find ways of increasing students’ experience of and learning from science investigation which may require change in teacher practice to better meet the intentions of the curriculum concerning scientific literacy. The project aims to do this through working collaboratively and supporting teachers.

What we plan to do:

The project is a two-year, cross sectional, multiple case study involving primary, intermediate, wharekura and secondary schools and will be undertaken by four academic researchers, nine teachers and their classes from five schools. Data is being collected through: individual teacher interviews; student focus group interviews; classroom observations; pre and post-tests; and document analysis. Pre and post tests used will be constructed from Assessment Resource Banks and National Education Monitoring Project items; science capabilities (Bull, 2013) will inform the data analysis.

Current status of the project:

At present the project is in the data collection and analysis phase for the first year. At the end of this year, we will share the emerging findings with our collaborating teachers and negotiate interventions that the teachers wish to make to enhance learning through science investigation in their classes. The second data collection phase is planned for trimester one 2015.

Our Project advisors:

  • Professor Robin Millar, University of York, United Kingdom.
  • Professor Carmen Dalli, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Mr Toni Waho, Principal, Manatamariki School
  • Mr Robert Anderson, Deputy Principal, Wellington College

For more information contact: