The effect of the Kids’ Science State Professional Development Program on the promotion of scientific literacy
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This thesis reports a longitudinal study of the impact of the Kids’ Science Stateprofessional development program in primary schools to address the issues involvedin promoting and sustaining a scientifically literate society. The Kids’ Science Stateinitiative in Western Australia is a partnership between Scitech Discovery Centre inPerth and Rio Tinto through the Rio Tinto Western Australia Future Fund. The Kids’Science State initiative is based on the premise that scientific literacy is essential to theeconomic sustainability of Western Australia, with science education the medium foreconomic development. One of the services that the Kids’ Science State offers is a professional development program in science.The research reported in this thesis investigated the contribution of the Kids’Science State professional development program to improving primary schoolteachers’ confidence, pedagogical skills and knowledge, allowing them to plan anddeliver effective science programs that enabled the development of the skills of scientific literacy in primary school students.A mixed-method approach was used in this research. Firstly, PersonalMeaning Mapping (an interview-based technique) was employed to investigate theunderstanding of the term “scientific literacy” among primary school teachers, highschool teachers and the general public. This section of the research provided aframework about people’s perceptions of scientific literacy with which to comparethe views of a smaller sample of primary school teachers in three case study schools that were the main focus of the research.Secondly, research in the three case study schools, Fenchurch, Winchesterand Knightsbridge Primary Schools, provided information about the longer-termimpact of the professional development workshops on teachers. Data were collectedby observation of the professional development workshops, interviews withPrincipals and teachers in the case study schools, surveys of teachers, and intensiveobservation of the classes of a total of five teachers, with a focus on theirunderstanding of scientific literacy, pedagogical skills, knowledge and confidence inteaching science. Additional information from surveys and interviews with the students in the case study classes were also used to inform the research.Personal Meaning Mapping interviews were used in this research to explorepeople’s understanding of scientific literacy and to compare these understanding tothe definition of scientific literacy used in the study. This research found that onlycertain aspects of scientific literacy were understood and that the concept ofscientific literacy must be clearly understood by teachers for it to be successfullyincorporated into a working curriculum. Professional development programs need toassist teachers to incorporate scientific literacy into their regular teaching programby providing opportunities to practice all aspects of scientific literacy. Further,professional development programs should endeavour to increase teachers’confidence and expose teachers to science content knowledge, especially as itpertains to the local curriculum structure, by providing activities that increase teachers’ pedagogical skills in science.Professional development presenters must work with individual schools togain an understanding of the long term aspirations of the school staff to assist themto continue their professional learning. This should be done prior to the professionaldevelopment program to ensure the suitability of the program for the participants andtime for reflection. Finally, the findings indicate that time must be dedicated toteacher collaboration if professional development programs are to be effectively andefficiently sustained at the school level. In this context, it is clear that scienceeducation must be accorded sufficient importance by the relevant educational policymakers to ensure that science is actually taught in primary schools, and that quality professional development can be accessed frequently by primary teachers.
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