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.
- The science curriculum from 5 to 16 should be seen primarily as a course to enhance general ‘scientific literacy’.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?)