By: Warren Beasley

Concept-based design

In this model, science is transmitted to students as discipline-based knowledge that has its worth (for students) in its contribution to a tertiary entrance score. Recent studies into science teaching in Australia report that “teacher talk” remains the dominant teaching strategy [5]. Transmission of scientific knowledge devoid of a meaningful framework of student experience or prior knowledge is the predominant teacher behaviour. Such a model of science teaching has resulted in the application of scientific theory as an optional infrequent experience for students. When a context is introduced it is often done superficially through exercises and usually occurs at the end of an instructional sequence if time, interest or teacher knowledge permit.

This model of teaching in science classrooms can be illustrated as follows:

Figure 1. A model of teacher transmission of content in science classrooms

Context-based design

The starting point for the design of units of work by schools is the selection of an appropriate context. This context and the concept map surrounding it are expected to lead to meaningful questions that will focus student investigations and other learning experiences in the unit. This decision is only constrained by teacher interest and expertise, access to resources for investigations, the conceptual underpinning of the context, and the time required.

The design encourages teachers and students to develop an understanding of these key concepts on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. The context as initially revealed at the beginning of a unit remains central to the classroom processes and specific conceptual development becomes important when student uncertainty hinders further elucidation of meaningful knowledge and skills.

This approach requires teachers to engage students in authentic real-world experiences of the context as the starting point for student learning [6]. In doing so the model requires that initially the context be elaborated by building up a concept map about the context. At the centre of this map is the context surrounded by a circle of issues, features or events associated with the context. Further out the associated science processes, models, topics, and science concepts are represented.

These elements in the chemistry syllabus can be connected in the manner represented in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The relationship between the elements of a unit of work

Compelete paper at Unian, Italy.