STANSW response to the Draft Science Syllabuses
Overview of STANSW Response to the BOSTES Draft Stage 6 Science Syllabuses & the draft directions for K-6 Science & Technology
Consultation 21 July - 31 August 2016
Many thanks go to all the STANSW members who contributed to our response to BOSTES regarding the draft Stage 6 Syllabus and the K-6 direction paper for Science & Technology. Your comments were important and we value your input. This report provides a brief overview of the detailed report sent to BOSTES.
STANSW Council support the BOSTES consultation and the opportunity to provide input into the development of the draft Stage 6 Science syllabuses for Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science, Investigating Science and Science Life Skills. STANSW welcomes a revitalisation to the existing syllabuses.
Whilst some feedback identified areas that were satisfactory, the majority of input received by STANSW identified a range of issues and concerns in relation to all of the draft syllabuses, the assessment requirements and HSC examination specifications. The feedback identified that across all the draft syllabuses, revisions are required. STANSW requested that with the level of change required, teachers are given the opportunity to consider the changes in an additional consultation before the Stage 6 Science syllabuses are released for implementation.
STANSW consultation feedback identified the following points as a summary of the full Stage 6 report:
Level of rigour of courses
1.) The discipline-based courses and the Investigating Science course would not provide the opportunities for the current range of students to study a science course in Years 11 and /or 12. The draft syllabus are best suited to higher achieving students. The inclusion of the proposed Science Extension course further targets this group of students.
2.) In all courses, the increase in the amount and level of demand of the knowledge/understanding content is an issue that needs to be resolved. The balance between the basic knowledge of science and the opportunity for teachers to engage students in contemporary science has not been addressed. The lack of integration of the SHE/PFA and STEM across all of the discipline-based courses is of concern.The draft syllabuses will not meet the interests and/or needs of the diversity of students that currently study at least one Science course in their Preliminary and/or HSC subject selection. It was identified that this will directly impact on the number of student continuing with Science in Years 11 and 12 in all schools. Specific concerns were raised in relation to the implications for smaller and rural/remote schools in terms of running some Science courses as well as retaining teachers qualified in these same courses.
Examination specifications and school based assessments
3.) The HSC examination specification do not provide adequate information. The structure of the courses has been significantly changed and the specification do not clearly identify how this will be addressed in the HSC. The lack of clarity in the content descriptions of the scope and depth of learning that is required will result in a return to the situation where the HSC examination drives teaching and learning.
4.) STANSW applauds the effort to support schools in reducing the number of formal assessment tasks however further clarification about the details is required. The information provided for the school-based assessment for the course, including the depth study lack clarity and further detail is required.
5.) Further information is required outlining the maximum units of science courses that students can study and the flexibility of courses in linking to Investigating Science.
6.) The depth study has the potential to allow for higher order thinking and deep understanding whilst engaging students if it is done correctly. In principle, STANSW consultation supported the inclusion of depth studies. However, the draft syllabus requirements are not clear enough. There is insufficient guidance and clarity provided for teachers. There is also concern about finding time to fit it in as there is too much knowledge/understanding content in all courses.
7.) Further focus on building a clear and reasonable continuum of the Working Scientifically skills from Stage 5 and across Stage 6 is required.
8.) Investigating Science has lots of freedom for teachers. However, elaboration is required in order to prepare students for an HSC exam and there needs clarity about the course purpose, contexts, weightings, depth study hours etc . A new name is recommended.
9.) The Science Life Skills course based on the Investigating Science syllabus was supported.
10.) The removal of the values and attitude outcomes limits the opportunities for teachers to contextualise units of work and integrate learning across the curriculum priorities eg sustainability and some general capabilities. A number of outcomes need rephrasing to decrease ambiguity.
11.) The use of keywords (verbs) would clearly identify what students are expected to know and/or be able to do.
12.) That in all courses a manageable number of mandatory practical experiences are specified and the description clearly identifies a range of types of first-hand investigations and the scope of the practicals.
Pre-requisite information for Year 11
13.) Pre-requisite information for the year 11 courses is essential for teachers in order to draw links to the Stage 5 Science outcomes and content.
14.) It was identified that the inquiry questions were not helpful as organisers of the module content and should be replaced with a statement that describe concepts/ideas to be developed by the content.The low level of the Inquiry questions is not appropriate as questions for scientific inquiry.
15.) There were numerous concerns about the incorrect definitions (validity, accuracy, analyse), lack of comparability across all courses and lack of enough definitions (e.g. derive, validity and reliability for secondary sources).
STANSW's full response to the Draft Stage 6 Syllabuses can be viewed here
STANSW consultation feedback identified the following points as a summary of the full K-6 report:
STANSW notes the positive move to integrate design and digital technologies in a more active way than it is done in the current syllabus; however, STANSW opposes the directions for syllabus development as outlined in this draft document.
The anthropocentric view of Science as outlined is an inaccurate and outdated view of both the study and processes of science. This philosophy limits student appreciation and exploration of phenomena, as this document focuses on the utilitarianism of Science rather than its ability to engage students in the more creative aspects of observation, testing, analysis and ultimate discovery which are so intrinsic to any study of science.
While curiosity, wonder and exploration are referred to in the beginning sections of the document, they do not seem to be present in the objectives, outcomes and suggested content statements.
It is of concern that the only reference to scientific skills which were well expressed in the current syllabus (even if too elaborate) is the word "inquiry". There is no reference to scientific method or the development of fair testing. There is no detail provided on the development of observational skills and measurement. There is no mention of students learning how to design and carry out investigations. STANSW believes that even the most basic science course needs to address these skills.
If students are exposed to the philosophy and content expressed in this draft document, they will have little idea of what science is and they will not have the skills and understanding that are required of successful, engaged students in Stage 4 and thus we will lose those students to any further study of science.
Scientific endeavour is an exciting and engaging process, but it does not seem to be clear and present in this draft. STANSW believe that the directions indicated in this draft will relegate the study of science to a dry and inactive corner of the K-6 curriculum.
The full K-6 report can be viewed here
The STANSW Exec can be contacted for comment, via the following emails :
Maree Woods firstname.lastname@example.org
Margaret Shepherd email@example.com
Olivia Belshaw firstname.lastname@example.org