Academic journal article Science Educator

Zambian Pre-Service Chemistry Teachers' Views on Chemistry Education Goals and Challenges for Achieving Them in Schools

Academic journal article Science Educator

Zambian Pre-Service Chemistry Teachers' Views on Chemistry Education Goals and Challenges for Achieving Them in Schools

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study examined Zambian pre-service chemistry teachers' views on the goals of chemistry education, the importance of the goals, and challenges for achieving them in schools. The study sample was comprised of 59 pre-service chemistry teachers at the University of Zambia. Data were collected using a modified Likert-scale questionnaire that was initially developed by Gayon (2010). In general, teachers were positive about the goals of chemistry education in schools. However, the pre-service chemistry teachers did not rank the five goals of chemistry education equally. Instead, the pre-service chemistry teachers ranked the goals of chemistry education in the following descending order: Career awareness, Scientific method, Personal needs, Scientific knowledge, and Societal issues. A similar trend was revealed in the participants' ranking of the important goals of chemistry education in the following order of importance: Career awareness, Scientific methods, Scientific knowledge, Personal needs, and Societal issues. Teachers perceived lack of resources, and teacher preparation and development as the primary challenges for achieving the goals of chemistry education in schools. These findings have implications on chemistry teaching and learning, and teacher education.

Keywords: teacher, chemistry education, scientific literacy, perception, challenges, importance

Introduction

Scientific literacy is one of the desired outcomes of science education (Bybee, 1997; DeBoer, 2000; Chiappetta & Koballa, 2010; Loughram, Smith, & Berry, 2011). However, scientific literacy is a broad and controversial term, and no consensus has been reached on its definition (Shwartz, Ben-Zvi & Hofstein, 2005). Despite the lack of consensus on its meaning, the science education community agrees that scientific literacy involves developing a firm understanding of a range of scientific concepts and processes, as well as an awareness of the relationship between science, technology and society, and practices within and across science disciplines (Bauer, 1992; Lederman, 1992; American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1993). Current US science education reforms define a scientifically literate person as one who is able to identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed (National Research Council [NRC], 1996). Shwartz et al., (2005) state that the common dimensions associated with scientific literacy are: understanding the nature of science, such as norms and methods of science, and the nature of scientific knowledge; understanding the key scientific concepts, principles, and theories; understanding how science and technology actually work together; appreciating and understanding the impact of science and technology on society; communication competencies in scientific contexts, such as the ability to read, write, and understand systemized human knowledge; and applying some scientific knowledge and reasoning skills to daily life. As such, the goals for science teaching are to educate students who are able to; "experience the richness and excitement of knowing about and understanding the natural world; use appropriate scientific processes and principles in making personal decisions; engage intelligently in public discourse and debate about matters of scientific and technological concern; and increase their economic productivity through the use of the knowledge, understanding, and skills of the scientifically literate person in their careers" (NRC, 1996, p.13). These scientific literacy themes make up four goal clusters of science education namely: Personal Needs, Societal Issues, Academic Preparation, and Career Awareness (Pogge & Yager, 1987). Savellino and Hernandez (1996) expanded the Academic Preparation goal into two goals - Scientific Methods and Scientific Knowledge. Recently, Staver (2007) condensed the goals of science education into three broad goals, which are: prepare students to study science at higher levels of education; prepare students to enter the workforce, pursue occupations and take up careers; and prepare students to become more scientifically literate citizens. …

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