The Grades 1-9 Science Curriculum is predicated upon the constructivist approach to learning in that it creates ‘hands on’ experiential opportunities for exploring, catering to multiple intelligences and, in the early years (Grades 1-3),makes the most of the pedagogy of play. Learning is promoted through the integration and application of scientific concepts, principles and innovation which leads to the acquisition of the science process skills that will enable students to engage in scientific enquiry. By allowing learners to use the scientific principles from the early years, the foundation is set for further application at advanced levels. The curriculum has also taken into consideration the twenty first century desired outcomes of education for our students as well as the national strategic objectives in education.
Based on the National Standards Curriculum (NSC) Framework, the curriculum emphasizes the need for balance between the acquisition of scientific knowledge, as against the learning process and attitudes. In addition, where applicable, the technological applications, social implications and the value aspects of science are also considered. It emphasizes the broad coverage of fundamental concepts in the natural and physical worlds. Students should understand and communicate about the physical, biological and technological worlds and understand and value the processes that sustain life on our planet. Science in the curriculum also adequately equips students to choose careers by making them knowledgeable about the diverse branches of science and technology.
The Role of a Science Education
Science education should expose students to methodical approaches to investigation and problem solving, as the basis for evidence- based conclusions. Students will encounter the need for fair test and veracity in data derived through experimentation. They will build personal integrity and develop personal qualities such as perseverance, ingenuity, respect for the opinions of others and tolerance for diversity of opinions even when they contradict their personal beliefs. Acquisition of these qualities, along with the understanding of scientific principles and applications, when transferred to life beyond school, will not only produce astute scientists but will also impact the social, economic and political lives of graduates.
many of which have not yet been created. In the NSC, science is linked with other subject areas such as Social Studies, Geography, Mathematics, Resource and Technology and the Arts within the context of integration through STEM. This interdisciplinary approach helps students recognize the relevance of each subject and that everything in our world is interconnected.
Introduction to the Science Curriculum
The New Standards Curriculum (NSC) is predicated on the science process skills and science practices. It is designed so that students develop these skills while learning the prescribed content. The process skills and science practices are addressed each year, with a particular focus at each grade level. Students use the process skills and practices of science to develop an understanding of the scientific concepts (see figure 1). The scientific attitudes and practices enable students to work like scientists.
The NSC design is based on education of the whole child and provides a well-rounded and enriching experience. Since science is about asking questions and finding answers to questions, the Process skills are actually the same skills that we all use in our daily lives as we try to figure out everyday questions. These skills include:
When we teach students to use these skills in science, we are also teaching them skills that they will use in the future in every area of their lives.
Content is easy to forget but the process skills remain forever/for longer periods.
Scientific competences do not develop incidentally – they must be deliberately and systematically included in students’ educational experiences. Laboratory/practical activities positively influence the development of process skills.
The NSC emphasizes the teaching of science using process/inquiry skills in order that students:
- acquire content
- develop the ability to recognise problems
- think critically about how to solve problems
- follow logical, sequential and analytical steps in arriving at solutions
These are achieved in the NSC through the use of student-centred approaches such as inquiry-based, project-based, and problem-based learning, which are utilised in the integrative STEM/STEAM approach. From these, the science and engineering practices are fostered. The science and engineering practices, as identified by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), are:
- Asking Questions or Defining Problems
- Developing and Using Models
- Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
- Analysing and Interpreting Data
- Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
- Constructing Explanations or Designing Solutions
- Engaging in Argument From Evidence
- Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Activities in the NSC are investigative in nature and encourage the exploration of the natural environment. Emphases on real-world applications foster the development of the key 21st century skills commonly called the 4Cs (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication) as well as scientific attitudes such as curiosity, objectivity, critical mindedness, open mindedness, inventiveness, intellectual honesty, humility and perseverance.
Assessment in the Science Curriculum
In the science learner-centred classroom, assessment is done by the teachers and students. The key aim of science at this stage, in addition to garnering knowledge and understanding about certain science phenomena considered crucial for students at this level, is to enable children to develop twenty-first century competencies through active and real life experiences which train them to ‘work scientifically’ and solve problems through inquiry and the engineering design process. Such an aim cannot be effectively achieved by the administration of external written tests.
Explicit links between what is intended to be learned and what is assessed have been created in the science teaching and learning units. Each science unit within a grade level outlines the assessment criteria to be used in determining the skills, knowledge and understanding students are expected to achieve, after their learning encounters within that unit. However, the teacher has the liberty to select the learner-centred assessment strategies and tools that will be most effective in measuring the targeted learning outcomes. Scientific vocabulary and factual knowledge can be assessed by using well-structured short open-ended and multiple choice tests or quizzes given at appropriate times.
Assessment of students’ achievements gathered within the school is used for two main purposes.
- Formative assessment (assessment for learning – to assist learning). These assessment activities are:
- aligned with the learning objectives of the science curriculum;
- realistic and manageable for pupils and teachers, with cited time demands;
- for ascertaining and reporting the achievement of individual pupils, information is gathered by use of a variety of learner-centred strategies and tools; and
- promote the active engagement of pupils in their learning and its assessment.
2. Summative assessment (assessment of learning – to summarize and report on what has been learned, at the end of each unit or at the end of each term).
Assessment should not be an after-thought, but is an integral part of the delivery of instruction.