Meeting Two: “Beyond 2000″

For our sec­ond meet­ing, on Tues­day 19th July at 19:30, we’ll be dis­cussing the Beyond 2000 report edited by Robin Mil­lar and Jonathan Osborne (Down­load .PDF 142kB).

The report set out to answer four questions:

  • What are the suc­cesses and fail­ures of sci­ence edu­ca­tion to date?
  • What sci­ence edu­ca­tion is needed by young peo­ple today?
  • What might be the con­tent and struc­ture of a suit­able model for a sci­ence cur­ricu­lum for all young people?
  • What prob­lems and issues would be raised by the imple­men­ta­tion of such a cur­ricu­lum, and how might these be addressed?

The report also made ten rec­om­men­da­tions which were hugely influ­en­tial in shap­ing the cur­rent National Cur­ricu­lum for Sci­ence and way we teach sci­ence in the UK — many of the rec­om­men­da­tions listed below were adopted in the changes to the National Cur­ricu­lum for Sci­ence made in 2006 and in the GCSE courses that were devel­oped fol­low­ing these changes.

  1. The sci­ence cur­ricu­lum from 5 to 16 should be seen pri­mar­ily as a course to enhance gen­eral ‘sci­en­tific literacy’.
  2. At Key Stage 4, the struc­ture of the sci­ence cur­ricu­lum needs to dif­fer­en­ti­ate more explic­itly between those ele­ments designed to enhance ‘sci­en­tific lit­er­acy’, and those designed as the early stages of a spe­cial­ist train­ing in sci­ence, so that the require­ment for the lat­ter does not come to dis­tort the former.
  3. The cur­ricu­lum needs to be pre­sented clearly and sim­ply, and its con­tent needs to be seen to fol­low from the state­ment of aims (above). Sci­en­tific knowl­edge can best be pre­sented in the cur­ricu­lum as a num­ber of key ‘explana­tory sto­ries’. In addi­tion, the cur­ricu­lum should intro­duce young peo­ple to a num­ber of impor­tant ideas-about-science.
  4. The sci­ence cur­ricu­lum needs to con­tain a clear state­ment of its aims – mak­ing clear why we con­sider it valu­able for all our young peo­ple to study sci­ence, and what we would wish them to gain from the expe­ri­ence. These aims need to be clear, and eas­ily under­stood by teach­ers, pupils and par­ents. They also need to be real­is­tic and achievable.
  5. Work should be under­taken to explore how aspects of tech­nol­ogy and the appli­ca­tions of sci­ence cur­rently omit­ted could be incor­po­rated within a sci­ence cur­ricu­lum designed to enhance ‘sci­en­tific literacy’.
  6. The sci­ence cur­ricu­lum should pro­vide young peo­ple with an under­stand­ing of some key ideas-about-science, that is, ideas about the ways in which reli­able knowl­edge of the nat­ural world has been, and is being, obtained.
  7. The sci­ence cur­ricu­lum should encour­age the use of a wide vari­ety of teach­ing meth­ods and approaches. There should be vari­a­tion in the pace at which new ideas are intro­duced. In par­tic­u­lar, case-studies of his­tor­i­cal and cur­rent issues should be used to con­sol­i­date under­stand­ing of the ‘explana­tory sto­ries’, and of key ideas-about-science, and to make it eas­ier for teach­ers to match work to the needs and inter­ests of learners.
  8. The assess­ment approaches used to report on pupils’ per­for­mance should encour­age teach­ers to focus on pupils’ abil­ity to under­stand and inter­pret sci­en­tific infor­ma­tion, and to dis­cuss con­tro­ver­sial issues, as well as on their knowl­edge and under­stand­ing of sci­en­tific ideas.
  9. In the short term: The aims of the exist­ing sci­ence National Cur­ricu­lum should be clearly stated with an indi­ca­tion how the pro­posed con­tent is seen as appro­pri­ate for achiev­ing those aims. Those aspects of the gen­eral require­ments which deal with the nature of sci­ence and with sys­tem­atic inquiry in sci­ence should be incor­po­rated into the first Attain­ment Tar­get ‘Exper­i­men­tal and Inves­tiga­tive Sci­ence’ to give more stress to the teach­ing of ideas-about– sci­ence; and new forms of assess­ment need to be devel­oped to reflect such an emphasis.
  10. In the medium to long term: A for­mal pro­ce­dure should be estab­lished whereby inno­v­a­tive approaches in sci­ence edu­ca­tion are tri­alled on a restricted scale in a rep­re­sen­ta­tive range of schools for a fixed period. Such inno­va­tions are then eval­u­ated and the out­comes used to inform sub­se­quent changes at national level. No sig­nif­i­cant changes should be made to the National Cur­ricu­lum or its assess­ment unless they have been pre­vi­ously piloted in this way.

Dis­cus­sion points:

  • What bits of the report do you agree / dis­agree with most strongly?
  • Why do you think this report was so influential?
  • Are the argu­ments still valid today? Could the same cri­tique be mounted again?
  • What does the report fail to say? (What would you include in the report if you were writ­ing it today?)

We’ll be start­ing our dis­cus­sion on Tues­day 19th July at 1930 using the @SciTeachJC account and the #SciTeachJC hashtag.

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