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Science in primary schools: developing teacher confidence and capability

Anne BarkerScience in primary schools: developing teacher confidence and capability: Anne Barker

Te Toi Tupu science PLD programme is successfully engaging teachers and schools in science education. Schools are finding that teacher knowledge and confidence can be improved to enable powerful teaching not only in science, but in other areas of the curriculum as well. A focus on the nature of science has led to much more hands-on and minds-on science happening in our schools. Teacher and student engagement is improving and everyone is enjoying engaging in science. 

Science impact story 1Science impact story 2

Teacher confidence and capability are a big part of the concern about teaching science, so facilitators use activities and experiments that serve to challenge teacher thinking whilst adding to their kēte of ideas and pedagogical understandings about science education. 

The science PLD has two strands. One strand is the cluster workshop strand which is focused on the sharing of information about the science capabilities. The other is the in-depth strand where schools have opportunities to engage in teacher workshops, teacher only days, observe modelled lessons, discuss options for future science, review what science learning can look like, and receive online support. 

Literacy and science

The team works to uphold the Te Toi Tupu principle of mahi tahi in co-constructing the science PLD with the schools to ensure that it is a responsive plan.  Whakakite or innovation is always the name of the game as we are strongly focused on making a difference to the learning that is happening in our schools.

Teachers find that science is a great vehicle for reading, writing and maths. Students need to see these skills as purposeful and science is a powerful way of doing this.

If you want me to write, give me something to write about. (Yr 6 child)

Science and students 2

“We ask questions… and what is the scientific name? I wonder? That kind of thing. I share my ideas. I feel confident about sharing. She writes some questions and we answer them. But she gets us to think up our own questions. Sometimes we share with the whole class… explain what we did. We wanted to find out about an egg inside. We did some measuring, how long, how heavy, wide.” Priority learner: Maori and student with special education needs

“Thanks again. So many of the kids went home and told their parents about science today. I know this, because I spoke to so many parents tonight!”  (Teacher email comment)

Our results at the end of last year showed that we were making a difference. 

Science graph 1

Science data 2

At the beginning of the PLD programme nearly all students reported that they loved science, but didn’t get enough of it. After one year on the programme, students reported they are doing more science in their schools. 

Research has shown that relationships and knowledge of the learner are key to improving performance of priority learners. School data shows that over the course of the science PLD, more students feel their teachers now know what science interests them. This attention to kotahitanga, or unity, results in all students, regardless of their ethnicity, feeling included and encouraged.

At the start of the science PLD, only 19% of the schools had students engaged in science learning, and students who could articulate their progress and achievement in science. By the end of the year, this had increased to 78% of schools.

16% of schools had effective leadership practices in science at the beginning of the PLD.  By the end, this had increased to 68% of schools. 

73% of schools showed some shift or positive change in their ability to monitor and evaluate science progress and improvement.

The New Zealand Curriculum essence statement for science indicates that students should be exploring how the world and science itself works to enable their participation in this world as critical, informed and responsible citizens. Schools are now on the journey to develop these scientifically literate citizens of the future.

Science impact story 4

Science and students

Junior classes think and talk about observations. When students look closely, they can start to think and from there to wonder. This is the beginning of scientific inquiry. 

"It was the best day teaching I have ever experienced!" (teacher)

For more information on the Science professional learning and development programme, visit the Science in Primary Schools page or contact Anne Barker.