Science teaching ‘stuck in groove’ academics claim

A report argues that the teaching of science is 'business and usual'. Picture: Getty
A report argues that the teaching of science is 'business and usual'. Picture: Getty
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THE teaching of science in Scotland’s schools is “stuck in a groove” and has failed to be reinvigorated by the introduction of the new curriculum, it has been claimed.

Writing in the Scottish Educational Review, academics say reforms in science teaching brought in with Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) “seem far from radical”, and have left teachers confused about how to approach the subject.

In a report by Stephen Day, of the University of the West of Scotland, and Tom Bryce, of Strathclyde University, it is argued that the teaching of science is “business and usual”, with little change since the introduction of the new curriculum in 2010, despite attempts to hand more power to teachers to help shape what is taught in class.

In the article, “Curriculum for Excellence science: vision or confusion”, the authors write: “With respect to Scottish science education, the picture is rather mixed, with many arguing that it is still backward-looking and conservative with regard to what is taught, how it is taught, the activities pursued in school laboratories and the attainment measures.”

The study suggests there is “confusion” about the purpose of science education, leaving the need for greater clarification about teachers’ priorities.

“While the Scottish reforms under the auspices of CfE are, on paper, in step with the current reform climate across Europe and have the potential to address acknowledged weaknesses, the content updating has done little to redress the balance.

“The E&Os [experiences and outcomes] bear a striking resemblance to [the previous curriculum]; no real ‘de-cluttering’ has taken place; and teaching methods seem stuck in a groove. In terms of enacted changes in practice, the CfE science reforms seem far from radical.”

Introduced in 2010, Curriculum for Excellence was designed to give teachers more power to shape their own lessons, rather than rigidly adhering to national plans. But earlier this summer, education secretary Mike Russell announced plans for a working group to reduce the “bureaucracy and unnecessary paperwork” associated with the CfE.

The Scottish Educational Review article concludes: “It is incumbent upon those in positions of leadership… to take control of the direction and orientation of CfE science.

“The present situation has many science teachers asking: Why should we change our practice? Our analysis indicates after all that, the E&Os look very much like business as usual.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Education Scotland has produced a range of support for teachers to help them make the most of the Curriculum for Excellence and this includes science teachers.”