Catholic Education Melbourne, in partnership with teachers from primary and secondary schools, aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning of science within the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
The Strategy is designed to enhance the capacity of science teachers and leaders in Catholic schools to develop scientific literacy for all students, and to support schools through the implementation of the national curriculum in science.
The Strategy is built upon the three guiding principles of connecting, supporting and extending. The Strategy seeks to:
This strategy will be implemented and managed by the Curriculum and Innovation Group through Catholic Education Melbourne's Science Team. The Team will be responsible for forming relationships with schools to support the leadership, implementation, connection, and communication of science programs in schools.
Strategic partnerships will be formed with a number of educational service providers including Placed Teacher organisations who will be responsible for the development and delivery of professional learning initiatives.
Science is an identified component of the Learning Centred Schools, a Sacred Landscape: Learning and Teaching strategy, and as such Catholic Education Melbourne's Science Strategy 2010–2013 has been developed to ensure alignment with its strategic aims and goals.
We exist at a time when many developed nations are re-examining the effectiveness of their science education (Dillon 2009).
Underpinning this movement is a concern that science education frequently benefits the minority of students who go on to become scientists at the cost of those who do not.
Most people are unlikely ever to be producers of new scientific knowledge. But we all need to be informed users and consumers of scientific knowledge, whether or not we use science in our work (Twenty First Century Science 2008).
Science increasingly drives and shapes life in the 21st Century. Complex current issues involving biotechnology, energy, drought, medicine, nanotechnology, and climate change, for example, have science at their core. This scenario, coupled with the massive amounts of information now available through information and communication technologies, exposes the demands that are being placed on individuals to understand and critically engage with science and its outcomes.
A focus in science education on equipping students with the skills and capacities for this reality is important. The Goodrum et al. 2001 report into the status and quality of science education in Australian schools concluded that scientific literacy should be the aim of school science education – one which cultivates students who have the capacity ‘to be interested in and understand the world around them, to engage in the discourses of and about science, to be sceptical and questioning of claims made by others about scientific matters, to be able to identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions, and to make informed decisions about the environment and their own health and well being’.
Despite a lack of clarity, scientific literacy is now the focus of curriculum standards in many countries and is at the heart of international comparisons of student attainment (and thus of education systems). Indeed, the term has become so common that McEneaney (2003) has described it as having ‘worldwide cachet’.
The OECD’s PISA study defines scientific literacy as ‘the extent to which an individual’:
(OECD 2007, p.12)
In early 2009, Catholic Education Melbourne established the Science Reference Group, which has met frequently to provide direction and advice for the development of Catholic Education Melbourne's Science Strategy. The Reference Group is made up of key Catholic Education Melbourne staff, primary and secondary principals, leading teachers, placed teachers, and academics.
As a result of the Science Research Strategy and feedback from the Science Reference Group, Catholic Education Melbourne established a vision for learning in science in the 21st Century. The vision articulates ten desired outcomes for students from a Catholic science education. The clearly articulated vision around desired outcomes of science education follows a recommendation from the Science Research Strategy and Science Reference Group for education systems to clearly define the outcomes for their own students based upon the values of the system itself.
The outcomes desired for students from a (Catholic) science education are, that all students:
1. Are bold and confident participants in a constantly changing 21st century world
Students possess knowledge and skills in science which assists in creating resilience to frequent change and emboldens individuals to take action where appropriate. Students are open to change and take measured risks with creativity, open-mindedness, and independent thinking.
2. Appreciate science as a way of knowing about the world
Students appreciate and use science as a way of learning acting, knowing and thinking. They can compare science as a way of knowing with other forms of knowing including religion, history, art, etc. and recognize the value of different cultural and indigenous perspectives of knowing about the world. They possess the skills to investigate interesting questions about their world.
3. Possess a sense of awe and fascination about the world
Students possess a continuing sense of awe and fascination about the mystery and beauty of the world in which they live. Students have an appreciation of the complexity of the world around them, and have an ongoing interest in and curiosity about the world and its scientific makeup.
4. Understand the impact of science on society
Students have an appreciation and understanding of the impact of science and technology on everyday life. This includes the incredibly positive outcomes for society which science engenders, but also the negative. Students have a sensitivity to, and awareness of, the place and role of science in different cultural contexts.
5. Are savvy consumers of science
Students are critical of, and sceptical about science and, the ways it is communicated, such as in the media. Students are able to, and have the confidence to, determine what they need to know in science, critically assess information they encounter and critically evaluate how trustworthy is this information. They are able to determine how they will access accurate information and make informed decisions about what will be useful to them in future decision making. They can communicate their understandings, ideas, and beliefs about science to others in meaningful ways.
6. Understand the nature of science and science concepts that are relevant and useful to their lives
Students have an appreciation of the changing nature of science and that its basis of science knowledge, science inquiry and science as a human endeavour will shift, grow and or change over time. With such changes, students will need to constantly reassess how their basic understanding of science concepts actually influences their changing world.
7. Accept a responsibility towards the natural environment.
Students accept a care for God’s creation. Students understand that their decisions and actions have consequences for the environment, both positive and negative.
8. Understand science as being value-laden.
Students recognize that science is not wholly objective, but instead a human construction to explain our natural world and therefore laden with the values which different people bring to it. Accepted scientific views are a result of scientists reaching a consensus about science explanations. Similarly, students need to participate in informed debate about science explanations and their associated moral and ethical issues associated. Students need to appreciate why moral and ethical considerations are taken into account in such decision making.
9. Engage with science as accessible and achievable
Students are intrinsically motivated to take on the challenges of science. They have an appreciation of science as achievable and accessible to them. They have the skills to investigate interesting questions about their world.
10. See the potential for science to contribute to the common good
Students see themselves as global citizens, and the potential role that science plays in contributing to the common good. Students are empowered to enrich the world with direction, meaning, purpose and hope.
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