What Makes for a Quality Science Curriculum?

By Ediger, Marlow | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2001 | Go to article overview

What Makes for a Quality Science Curriculum?


Ediger, Marlow, Journal of Instructional Psychology


The author argues that the science curriculum needs updating frequently to stress the best objectives, learning opportunities, and evaluation procedures. He further posits that there are selected parts of science instruction that need modification or change.

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What are selected parts of science instruction that need modification or change?

1. Pupils should have ample opportunities to use a hands on approach in learning. When science experiments and demonstrations are in the offing, pupils with teacher assistance should plan and implement each experiment. Scientific equipment should be available as well as pupils/teachers bringing items from home to experiment and demonstrate vital concepts and generalizations. Thus, in a thematic science unit on "Batteries and Bulbs," each committee may be given a small battery, a bulb, and a piece of copper wire. Within the committee, pupils may manipulate the three above named objects so that the bulb lights up. They need to explain what a complete circuit is. A second battery may be provided to the committee in order to determine how to make the bulb burn brighter. A hands on approach in science is used in learning.

2. Pupils should attach meaning to what is being learned. Memorization of content is not adequate. Thus, depth learning needs to be stressed. Whatever is taught must be taught well. At the same time, pupils must be willing to reach out, cooperate, and contribute. Learning opportunities are successful to the degree that both the teacher and pupils work together for the success of any lesson or unit of study. The teacher, alone, cannot be effective in teaching unless pupils are challenged and attentive. The pupil, too, must desire that teachers be successful, by not disrupting nor hindering quality teaching. Parents, also, should cooperate to see that their offspring become good citizens with ethical behavior. Meaning in learning may then accrue with depth teaching and attentive learner behavior. In the unit, then, on "Batteries and Bulbs," a variety of learning opportunities should be in the offing so that pupils truly understood viable facts, concepts, and generalizations. Perhaps, in sequence, pupils are meaningfully engaged in actual parallel and series wiring in developing a complete circuit. Thus, pupils should understand the "how" and "why" of parallel and series wiring as they are actively involved in learning by doing.

3. Pupils need to perceive purpose in learning. Purpose indicates that pupils accept reasons intrinsically for learning. If pupils are studying the concepts of "magnetism" and "electricity", can they see reasons for these learnings? The science teacher may explain in a few sentences what the purpose is. Or, he/ she might ask questions of the learner so that the latter may clarify reasons for learning about "magnetism" and "electricity." Here the pupils may use bar magnets to establish ideas pertaining to the north and south pole of a magnet.

Thus, a bar magnet may be suspended with the use of a tied string dangling in the air. A second bar magnet may be used to notice which side attracts and which repels when the opposite sides are near to the dangling bar magnet. Pupils then realize, through a series of experiments and observations that "like poles repel" whereas "opposite poles attract." Purpose for these learnings may then be emphasized through their many uses in society such as magnetic properties used to lift old cars and car bodies onto trucks for recycling.

4. Pupils need to attend to and be interested in learning. Interest is a powerful factor in learning. The science teacher needs to use learning opportunities which arouse pupil interest. Real problems using science equipment as materials of instruction plus quality methods of instruction should aid pupil interest in learning. Teaching to vital objectives can be interesting and challenging to pupils. The role of the teacher is to attempt to secure learner interest. …

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