The progression and continuity of learning science from primary to secondary school has been an ongoing issue in Education not only in Australia but in other countries as well. Although recent improvement in the education curriculum has focused more on “bridging the gap“, not all students are quite happy with their learning experience.
Over the last century, the traditional approach of Science education has remained largely unchanged.
Most often teaching methods in primary science is lacking focus and not taking advantage of children’s natural curiosity and their eagerness to understand their surroundings. On the other hand, secondary science is most of the time textbook-centred. Although, hands on activities on laboratory experiments are introduced, it does not necessarily engage student participation.
With this in mind, how can we assure that the transition of learning is not disjointed when students transfer to a different programme of instruction?
Does the current curriculum in New South Wales prepare primary students for Science studies in the Secondary years?
There is much to be learned from other curriculum approaches in regard to Science education in our schools. While Science and Technology is one of the major Key Learning Areas, it can be argued that in most schools, the hands on pursuit of scientific investigation is sadly lacking for our younger learners.
Students should be allowed to perform science as they construct meaning and acquire understanding. That is why a combination of hands-on and minds-on science activities are encouraged in primary schools where students are engaged in real life investigations and experiments. Here they gain an understanding for the different areas of Science and are therefore more readily prepared for Secondary School.
A hands on approach invites students to engage in multi sensory learning. All the senses become involved in the learning process which encourages comprehension at all levels as the students’ comprehension of concepts is deepened as they learn and use information simultaneously.
When a multi sensory approach is employed, students are more likely to retain important information gained from the learning experience as they are more fully engaged in the process. Experimentation, practice and doing ensure a deeper understanding for new concepts and makes it much more likely that new information will be retained.
An approach which focuses on discussions, investigations in books and via Google research has its place in Science education, but a more tactile approach ensures the student makes a personal investment in their learning as they have to make decisions, become self reliant on their own abilities all which in turn build confidence in the learner.
If worksheets and pen and paper tests are the main mediums to assess student’s knowledge in Science they are not given the opportunity to investigate. It must be kept in mind that knowledge in itself is not good practice in Science education as the process of learning is about experimentation. Experimenting means that students are allowed to make mistakes and try again thus teasing out different ways of forming hypotheses and ideas. Is this not what Science is all about?