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Understanding Teachers' Perspectives on the Purpose and Importance of Science Education

The focus of this thesis is to identify teachers’ perspectives on the purpose and importance of science education. This focus is twofold. It is concerned with finding out what teachers understand the purpose of science education to be, that is, why they believe science is taught in schools and how learning science benefits students in their daily lives. It is also concerned with understanding how important science education is to teachers – how much teachers value science as a learning area, and how this value is reflected within their teaching practice. This work determines firstly teachers’ perceptions of science education practice. It examines how teachers perceive the science planning process; how much involvement and control they feel they have throughout the planning stage, including perceived control over teaching pedagogies and planning material. Simply put, how much do the teachers feel is up to them, and how much do they feel is mandated from management. Secondly, the work focuses on personal perspectives about science education. It seeks to examine teachers’ opinions and views on the purpose of science education, why science is taught and what they believe students stand to gain through science education. A major element of understanding teachers’ perspectives is to understand what importance teachers place on the teaching of science, specifically the nature of science – what does the nature of science (NoS) mean to them and how do they show this through planning and teaching? NoS is a key element of science education, recognised both internationally and within New Zealand, because it promotes scientifically-literate students. NoS is described as being a critical component of scientific literacy: understanding NoS through scientific practice develops scientific dispositions in students. This study is interested in gaining teachers’ understandings of NoS and the importance teachers place on NoS in relation to these global understandings. The data for this research was collected through interviews with four teachers in two different schools. The study offered the teachers the opportunity to explore their personal perspectives. The findings reveal teachers’ understanding of the science curriculum was underdeveloped. The teachers appear to lack understanding of the science curriculum area, including NoS, and this was reflected in their pedagogical approaches and planning. The analysis identified four key themes impacting on teachers’ level of understanding: limited science training and professional development, the low status of science education in primary schools, lack of knowledge and experience with current teaching approaches in science, and limited understanding about the purpose of science education. These themes are supported by research demonstrating that they are global and have been acknowledged for many years now. The first theme in this study was identified as the likely root cause of the existence of the other three themes. This finding reveals the nature of teacher training and professional development as a potentially fundamental and critical issue to address in science education. Further research is needed to confirm consistency in these results across New Zealand schools. If consistency is found, this outcome may then raise the issue to one of national importance for science education, demanding attention from government policy-makers, pre-service training institutions and professional development facilitators.
Type of thesis
Ryan, H. E. (2016). Understanding Teachers’ Perspectives on the Purpose and Importance of Science Education (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10634
University of Waikato
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