09 SES 02 B, Relating Student Attitudes and Teaching Practices to Science Achievement
Increasingly, science education communities have adopted the view that promoting and implementing inquiry-oriented science in the schools encourages higher science achievement, and more positive attitudes toward science (e.g., Bell, Urhahne, Schanze, & Ploetzner, 2009; Furtak, Seidel, Iverson, & Briggs, 2012; Minner, Levy, & Century, 2010; Tamir, Stavi & Ratner, 1998). Inquiry-oriented science education is commonly identified as “the method of choice” to improve both student interest and achievement (PRIMAS, 2011, p. 4) because it is seen as authentically mirroring what scientists do in the real world, and therefore conceptually and pedagogically effective for improving science learning.
The US National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996; 2012) have underscored the central role of inquiry in achieving the purposes of school science with extensive references to students “describing objects, asking questions, constructing explanations and testing explanations against current scientific knowledge” (NRC, 1996, p. 2). Further, a recent synthesis of research on inquiry-based science (Minner, Levy and Century, 2010) highlighted the substantial investments made in countries like England and Australia to “encourage teachers to use scientific inquiry in their instruction as a means to advance students’ understanding of scientific concepts and procedures” (p. 474). The science content of the Australian curriculum includes Science Inquiry Skills wherein students are “challenged to explore science, its concepts, nature and uses through clearly described inquiry processes” (see http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/science/content-structure).
Our purpose in this paper is to investigate these widely‑held understandings about relationships among science inquiry, and students’ interest (engagement) and literacy (achievement) in science. To achieve this purpose, we empirically examine the extent to which students who report high frequencies of inquiry-oriented learning activities in their high school science classes could also be characterised as having higher than average levels of science literacy and/or higher than average levels of engagement in science. In other words, we examined the common assumption that if students are frequently involved in inquiry-oriented science learning activities, they will do better in, and be more positive about science. To investigate this assertion, we used student data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. We intentionally chose these three member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) because they share similar socio-cultural roots, market‑based economies and systems of secondary education, and all three have performed strongly and consistently in science on international comparative assessments like PISA.
Specifically, the questions we posed for this retrospective analysis are:
- To what extent do 15-year-old students—in Australia, Canada and New Zealand—report experiencing high levels of inquiry oriented learning in their science classes? Conversely, to what extent do students in these countries report low levels of inquiry learning activities in science?
- For 15-year-old students who report high levels of inquiry learning activities in science, what levels or patterns of science literacy and/or engagement in science are discernible? If evident, to what extent are these consistent across three countries with similar education systems and socio-cultural histories?
- Similarly, what levels or patterns of science literacy and/or engagement in science are discernible for 15-year-old students who report low levels of inquiry learning activities in their science classrooms? If evident, to what extent are these consistent across the three countries in this study?
Bell, T., Urhahne, D., Schanze, S., & Ploetzner, R. (2009). Collaborative Inquiry Learning: Models, tools, and challenges. International Journal of Science Education, 32(3), 349-377. Furtak, E. M., Seidel, T., Iverson, H., & Briggs, D. C. (2012). Experimental and quasi-experimental studies of inquiry-based science teaching. A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 82(3), 300-329. Minner, D. D., Levy, A. J., & Century, J. (2010). Inquiry-based science instruction—what is it and does it matter? Results from a research synthesis years 1984 to 2002. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(4), 474-496. National Research Council. (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards. Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. OECD. (2009). PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do. Student performance in reading, Mathematics and science. Paris: Author. PRIMAS (2011) Promoting inquiry-based learning in mathematics and science education across Europe. IPN Kiel. Retrieved from http://www.primas-project.eu/ Tamir, P., Stavy, R., & Ratner, N. (1998). Teaching science by inquiry: Assessment and learning. Journal of Biological Education, 33(1), 27–32. Woods McConney, A., Oliver, M., McConney, A., Maor, D., & Schibeci, R. (2013). Science Engagement and Literacy: A Retrospective Analysis for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Students in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. Research in Science Education. 43: 233–252. First published on: 19 October 2011 Online First http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11165-011-9265-y Woods-McConney, A., Oliver, M. C., McConney, A., Schibeci, R., & Maor, D. (2014). Science Engagement and Literacy: A retrospective analysis for students in Canada and Australia. International Journal of Science Education. 36(10), 1588-1608. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2013.871658.
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