Capable science teaching for Years 5 to 8

Capable science teaching in this study was characterised by the following:

  • high quality planning, including strategies for identifying and responding to students’ prior knowledge, and for teaching students the significant scientific concepts (or big ideas);
  • flexible approaches that took advantage of students’ curiosity and were able to meet the diverse needs of students;
  • an emphasis on the quality of thinking, or conceptual development, undertaken by students;
  • high quality investigations, reflection and discussions that helped students develop their understanding of scientific knowledge and scientific processes;
  • engaging practical activities that allowed students to investigate their own ideas as well as those of others – these activities were collaborative, relevant, and drew on local context as well the interests of students;
  • the use of literacy strategies to support scientific learning and, in some cases, to provide additional context for reinforcing literacy skills;
  • the careful integration of numeracy and literacy teaching so that science activities were not lost;
  • teachers’ sensitivity to the religious and cultural background of students;
  • links to careers that directly or indirectly used scientific understanding; and
  • high quality assessment and feedback that let students know how well they were achieving in science, that informed classroom teaching and learning, and was used as the basis of meaningful reports to the board and parents.

This evaluation also found that high quality science teaching throughout a school requires effective school leadership and good equipment and resources. If science is to prosper in a school it should be given status by the principal and supported by an effective science leader. Teachers do not need to have a science qualification to be effective science teachers, but they do need to have a good understanding of scientific ideas along with the confidence to teach science well. Principals and science leaders need to provide teachers with professional support so that they develop the knowledge and skills required to sustain high quality science teaching as a regular part of the school programme.

The board of trustees should get information from school leaders about the achievement of students in science as part of their self-review reports. This can lead to the development of particular goals for science learning, reflected in strategic planning and reporting, and in school operations.