Saturday, 26 July 2014

Teaching science in a fake real world context

Or action research into a contextual science unit...

At my school we ran a science unit at year eight, looking to provide a real-world context for students who were learning physics. They were to design and build a model house, and attempt to solve the problem of inefficient housing, in terms of heat loss. The AusVELS curriculum for level eight physical sciences states:

Energy appears in different forms including movement (kinetic energy), heat and potential energy, and causes change within systems

The focus with the project was to have students using this context to deepen their understanding of energy transfers, of efficiency, of energy types by using a project which was hopefully student-led. This project was an offshoot of a pilot we ran in year ten chemistry/physics called Future Energies and Sustainability which had a similar focus. Both projects were designed to have a real world context and focus, and then use this to help students learn about the particular physical science concepts that were mandated by the relevant curricula.

For this year eight project I was interested in knowing: is there a benefit to a contextual science unit in the St Joseph’s Science Curriculum in terms of teaching and learning, and student attitudes?
Student attitudes towards science were surveyed before and after the unit. 11 different categories were ranked on a four-point Likert scale from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. They were also asked to describe what happens in their science class, and what it felt like to be in their science class.

These are the results:

Prior to contextual unit - What happens in your science class?

After contextual unit - What happens in your science class?

Prior to contextual unit - What does your science class feel like?

After contextual unit - What does your science class feel like?

The survey results on attitudes

I am going to leave it at that for now and will follow up with what I read from these results....