Working Alongside Scientists

Science & Education 26 (3-4):271-298 (2017)
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Abstract

Current curriculum demands require primary teachers to teach about the Nature of Science; yet, few primary teachers have had opportunity to learn about science as a discipline. Prior schooling and vicarious experiences of science may shape their beliefs about science and, as a result, their science teaching. This qualitative study describes the impact on teacher beliefs about science and science education of a programme where 26 New Zealand primary teachers worked fulltime for 6 months alongside scientists, experiencing the nature of work in scientific research institutes. During the 6 months, teachers were supported, through a series of targeted professional development days, to make connections between their experiences working with scientists, the curriculum and the classroom. Data for the study consisted of mid- and end-of-programme written teacher reports and open-ended questionnaires collected at three points, prior to and following 6 months with the science host and after 6 to 12 months back in school. A shift in many teachers’ beliefs was observed after the 6 months of working with scientists in combination with curriculum development days; for many, these changes were sustained 6 to 12 months after returning to school. Beliefs about the aims of science education became more closely aligned with the New Zealand curriculum and its goal of developing science for citizenship. Responses show greater appreciation of the value of scientific ways of thinking, deeper understanding about the nature of scientists’ work and the ways in which science and society influence each other.

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