The Science Continuum F-10

The Science Continuum, F-10, is an integrated set of more than 50 science ‘focus ideas’ organized as a web based curriculum resource. It was progressively developed over 3 years by extensive collaboration between Monash SERG members and project representatives from the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD). A significant innovation is the common format developed for each focus idea and the explicit and extensive evidence research base.

The science Continuum F-10 is designed to assist science teachers to support student progress through the AusVELS Standards. The Science Continuum F-10 provides teaching approaches that support students to achieve a sound understanding of key scientific concepts. Linking expert practice and research, the Continuum explores students’ ideas based on their everyday experiences, the age-appropriate scientific view, critical teaching ideas and teaching activities.

Effective science teaching relies on understanding students’ pre-existing ideas about science concepts and supporting students to develop more accurate scientific understandings. The Science Continuum F-10 identifies focus ideas at each level of the AusVELS for Science.

Linking expert practice and research, it explains:

  • the students’ ideas and understandings most likely formed from their everyday experiences
  • the age-appropriate scientific view &
  • critical teaching ideas and activities useful for key topics.

The Science Continuum F-10 is best seen as a a work in progress which presently addresses many of the ‘big ideas’ of living things, matter, forces and motion and the Earth and space for students progressing towards Achievement Standards Levels from Foundation to Level 10. Within each ‘big idea’, the continuum identifies focus ideas. The focus ideas represent those ideas that are considered important in student conceptual development, and will support students in meeting the AusVELS Achievement Standards.

Each focus idea explores a number of areas: firstly, student everyday experiences are identified and linked to common alternate conceptions. Secondly, the currently accepted, age-appropriate scientific view is provided; encouraging contrast of these two, sometimes conflicting, views. Critical teaching ideas are then identified; these are specific ideas that are interconnected and considered important for student conceptual development.

The critical teaching ideas are supported by purposeful teaching activities that scaffold student conceptual development. These are built around the key idea that expert science teachers recognise as important for working from students’ existing understandings. These can then be used to build rich understandings of the currently accepted scientific view. The teaching activities have been designed to support conceptual understanding; they do not represent a unit plan, rather they are a selection of exemplars.

It is important to recognise that each focus idea has been designed to be read sequentially; the purposeful teaching activities are strongly reflective of earlier sections and will be most effective when read in this context.

In developing understandings about science, the knowledge and skills that students learn in different year levels (topics and even different domains) depend on and support one another. Student ideas do not develop in isolation; instead they are strongly interconnected, and important ideas often only really coalesce when students have made sufficient connections to realise the usefulness of the idea. For this reason, each critical concept recognises connections between ideas within the science domain and also suggests links to the broader range of student experience. Some of this complexity is also captured in the science concept development maps (See AAAS Science literacy maps – Project 2061) which can be see on the AAAS website or the DEECD Science Continuum F-10 website.

The activities in the Science Continuum F-10 have been designed to support teachers to work from students’ existing ideas to build rich understandings of currently accepted science. They are titled according to the ‘pedagogical purpose’ they support.

The Science Continuum F-10 identifies activities as having several different pedagogical purposes:

    • Bring out students’ existing ideas
      Bringing out students’ existing ideas is important to develop insights into students’ understandings. Some examples of activities where identifying students’ ideas is the main intent are: asking students to complete a written survey or to draw pictures representing their ideas.

 

    • Open discussion via a shared experience
      Opening up discussion via a shared experience refers to activities where class discussion may begin with discussion of a shared experience, but then may move into encouraging students to rethink or extend their initial ideas. The ‘shared experience’ may help to focus class discussion, but may also involve exposing students to previously unfamiliar phenomena such as placing dry ice in a sealed balloon.

 

    • Provide an open problem to be explored via play or through problem solving
      Exploration via play can be an important pedagogy at lower/middle primary that can be used to bring out students’ ideas. Using play should not be confused with open-ended problem solving activities that can be used at higher levels. In using play, the teacher is much less concerned about the final destination or answer, rather s/he wants the students to observe, investigate and experiment with an engaging new environment.

 

    • Promote reflection on and clarification of existing ideas
      Activities with any of the above purposes can lead to a need to promote reflection and clarification of existing ideas. There is much evidence to show that the views that students build for the world around them are often tacit, strongly held and not easily changed. If students are to be encouraged to restructure their understandings, it is important that they are initially clear on exactly what these are, why they hold them and also to become aware of alternative views. In achieving this, it is often helpful for the teacher to ‘delay judgement’ – not reveal his or her own views and not correct students ‘wrong’ ideas (at an early stage) but rather encourage students to articulate and clarify their existing thinking and secondly to build an understanding of the range of views in the class.

 

    • Challenge some existing ideas
      Activities with any of the above purposes can lead to a need to promote reflection and clarification of existing ideas. There is much evidence to show that the views that students build for the world around them are often tacit, strongly held and not easily changed. If students are to be encouraged to restructure their understandings, it is important that they are initially clear on exactly what these are, why they hold them and also to become aware of alternative views. In achieving this, it is often helpful for the teacher to ‘delay judgement’ – not reveal his or her own views and not correct students ‘wrong’ ideas (at an early stage) but rather encourage students to articulate and clarify their existing thinking and secondly to build an understanding of the range of views in the class.

 

    • Shared intellectual control
      Shared intellectual control involves students feeling that ideas and suggestions are valued and useful. This builds students’ willingness to engage in what is often seen by many students as risky behaviours such as publicly offering and defending different points of view. Another benefit of sharing intellectual control with students is that the classroom better reflects aspects of how science works in the real world. Having said all this, there are occasions where the teacher will need to introduce a challenge to students’ existing ideas in ways that reveal his or her view – this is often the case, for example, when introducing a particulate view of matter and challenging a continuous view.

 

    • Promote reflection on how students’ ideas have changed
      Classroom research has shown that demonstrating that one view (such as the view that all moving objects are experiencing a net force in the direction of motion) is incorrect in one situation will not necessarily result in students restructuring their ideas in all other relevant situations. Their reflection needs stimulation as well as supportive discussion of the process of rethinking one’s understandings in order to keep them consistent. Hence there is a need to promote reflection on how students’ ideas have changed . One approach is to capture and document students’ original ideas and later return to them to reflect on their original ideas. Another approach is to raise a new situation for analysis and, in a supportive way, ask students whether or not they have used their original ideas in developing their explanation. This kind of metacognitive (knowing about knowing) reflection is an important part of both the Thinking Processes and Personal Learning VELS domains.

 

    • Focus students’ attention on overlooked detail
      A key difference between experts and novices is that experts know what is important to pay attention to when observing phenomena where they have expertise. Hence the need to sometimes focus students’ attention on over looked detail – the detail that experts have identified as important. Biologists, for example, know the importance of structure and function when observing animals and plants. Focusing students’ attention on, say, the feet or eye position of animals can be important for clarifying and challenging existing ideas and can also generate interest in what had appeared to be unimportant detail during exploration by play or in open-ended (practical) problems or challenges. It can also be a useful way of using a shared experience to stimulate a class discussion.

 

    • Practise using and building the perceived usefulness of scientific models
      While it is often a powerful pedagogy, not all science concepts can be developed from classroom testing of competing students’ ideas. Sometimes students must be introduced to the way scientists have found most useful to explain phenomena. The notions of atoms and molecules as well as the construct of energy having many different forms are good examples of scientists’ ideas that are beyond discovery in the classroom. For students, the advantages of these ways of thinking will be built gradually and teachers should take every opportunity to practise using and building the perceived usefulness of these scientific models.It is beneficial to revisit ideas in topics where they may not be the main focus as it will encourage students to see links between content which they may otherwise overlook. The topic of digestion, for example, is an area where student understanding can often be limited to the processes which occur in the stomach and intestines without seeing how these organs are connected to other body systems. They may overlook that macromolecules need to be broken down into smaller molecules before they can pass through the walls of capillaries to become useful for cellular function.

 

    • Encouraging students to identify phenomena not explained by the (currently presented) scientific model or idea
      Encouraging students to identify phenomena not explained by the (currently presented) scientific model or idea is another way of building rich meaning for science concepts. This aspect of metacognition requires students to reflect on a scientific model such as the particle model and link it to their experiences of, for example, the behaviour and properties of solids, liquids and gases. This process can generate in students a need for the model to be explained in greater detail and can also reveal meanings that the students have constructed that are different from what the teacher intended. For example, a challenging question such as, ‘If there are small gaps between the particles in a solid, why doesn’t water in a cup drip through these holes?’ reveals much about the students’ thinking about the molecular structure of liquids.

 

    • Helping students work out some of the ‘scientific’ explanations for themselves
      Helping students work out some of the ‘scientific’ explanation for themselves has been a part of many teacher’s classrooms for a long time; if set up appropriately, it is a very effective pedagogy – it is always better to work something out for yourself rather than to be told it. However, ‘discovering’ the science can sometimes be reduced to a simple recipe approach where the teacher provides the aim and method to students and then formulates an appropriate conclusion. Providing students with genuine choices and decisions to make about the design of practical activities leads students to being much more purposeful, reflective and analytical in their approach; similarly, the valuing of student ideas and sharing intellectual control also increases engagement and makes practical activities aim to test or extend students’ ideas much more effective and authentic. This can take a little more time, but the outcomes are worth it.Working out part of the science may involve classroom practical activities, but it can also involve inferring from information presented or researched, such as proposing explanations for changes in vegetation across a coastal habitat.In some areas, students can work out most or even all of the relevant science from practical activities – the properties of magnets would be an example, however it is important to recognize that this will often not be able to be done in any authentic way. Students, for example, would need to be told that capillaries have very thin walls, however armed with this information, they may be quite capable of then working out for themselves how the body uses the bloodstream to transport oxygen from the lungs to muscle (and other) cells. In other words, a useful question for teachers when planning is ‘What parts of the science might students be able to work out for themselves and what would they need to be able to do so?’

 

    • Collecting evidence/data for analysis
      Collecting evidence/data for analysis has also been a part of many teachers’ classrooms for a long time. Data here is often data from classroom experiments, but it may also be out of classroom data such as when the moon is and is not visible at sunset as it moves through it’s cycle of phases. Once again engagement is maximised if the data is perceived as having a genuine role in answering a question and working out part of the science, not merely illustrating a pre-determined right answer. This means, among other things, allowing adequate time for reflection and analysis of the significance of the data, providing, where possible, opportunities for choice and decision making in both what is explored and how and responding positively to student’s ideas for extension activities that explore an issue further.

 

  • Clarifying and consolidating ideas for communication to others
    One reason why teachers usually have a much richer understanding than their students about the ideas they are teaching is that they have thought about them in many more ways and contexts than their students. Rich understandings are built over time and encouraging students to identify phenomena not explained by the current model, building the perceived usefulness of models and promoting reflection on how ideas have changed all involve students in revisiting ideas in multiple ways.Clarifying and consolidating ideas for communication to others is another way of doing this. All teachers know how much they learn about an idea when they have to teach it to others and the same applies to students – provided the ‘teaching’ or communicating involves more than merely reading other people’s words. Hence encouraging creativity and variety in the communication has deeper purposes than just livening up the presentation. It involves students in thinking much more carefully about what they want to say and identifying and practising different ways of saying it.

The achievement standards of Science describe the quality of learning that would likely indicate that the student is well placed to commence the learning at the next higher level of achievement.

The three strands of the Science AusVELS curriculum (Understanding, Science Inquiry Skills and Science as a Human Endeavour) are interrelated and their content is taught in an integrated way. The Science Continuum F-10 focus ideas are organised within each of the AusVELS levels and will support the teaching across the science content areas indicated.

A

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B

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C

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D

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    • De Vos, W & Verdonk, A (1987) ‘A New Road to Reaction: Part 4, The substances and its molecules,’ Journal of Chemical Education 64 pp 692-695.
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    • Dotger, S (2008) ‘Using Simple Machines to Leverage Learning’ Science and Children, 45(7) pp 22-27.
    • Dove, J (1998) ‘Students’ alternate conceptions in Earth science: a review of research and the implications for teaching and learning’ Research Papers in Education, 13(2) pp 183-201.
    • Driver, R (1985) ‘Beyond appearances: The conservation of matter under physical and chemical transformations.’ In R Driver, E Guesne, & A Tiberghien (Eds) Children’s Ideas in Science, Milton Keynes, UK : Open University Press, pp 145-169.
    • Driver, R, Squires, A, Rushworth, P & Wood-Robinson, V (1994) Making Sense of Secondary Science: Research into children’s ideas, New York: Routledge.
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    • Driver, R & Millar, R (Eds) (1986) Energy matters. Leeds: Centre for Science and Mathematics Education, University of Leeds.
    • Duit, R & Haeussler, P (1994) ‘Learning and teaching energy’ In P Fensham, R Gunstone & R White (Eds) The content of science: A constructivist approach to its teaching and learning, London: The Falmer Press, pp 185-200.
    • Duit, R (1985) ‘The meaning of current and voltage in everyday language and its consequences for understanding the physical concepts of the electric circuit’ In R Duit, W Jung & C von Rhöeneck Aspects of understanding electricity, Kiel: Schmidt & Klaunig: pp 205-214.
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E

    • Erikson, G (1994) ‘Pupils’ understanding of magnetism in practical assessment context: The relationship between content, process and progression’. In P Fensham, R Gunstone & R White (Eds) The Content of Science:A constructivist approach to its teaching and learning, London: The Falmer Press, pp 80-97.
    • Eshach H & Schwartz JL (2006) ‘Sound Stuff? Naive materialism in middle-school students’ conceptions of sound’ International Journal of Science Education 28(7), pp 733 – 764.

 

F

    • Fensham, P (1994) ‘Beginning to teach Chemistry’. In P Fensham, R Gunstone, & R White (Eds) The Contents of Science: A constructivist approach to its teaching and learning, Falmer Press, pp 14-28.
    • Ferrari, M & Chi, M T H (1998) ‘The nature of naive explanations of natural selection’ International Journal of Science Education, 20, pp 1231-1256.
    • Fleer, M & Hardy, T (1996) Science for children, Sydney: Prentice-Hall.
    • Fleer, M, Jane, B & Hardy, T (2007) Science for children, 3rd edition, Sydney: Prentice-Hall.
    • Fleming, R W (1987) ‘High School Graduates’ Beliefs’ about Science-Technology-Society II: The Interaction Among Science, Technology and Society’ Science Education 71(2) pp 163-186.
    • Flick, L & Lederman, N (2006) Scientific Inquiry and Nature of Science: Implications for Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    • Ford, D (2003) ‘Sixth graders’ conceptions of rocks in their local environment’ Journal of Geosciences Education, 51 (4) pp 373-377.
    • Fullick, P & Ratcliffe, M (1996) Teaching Ethical Aspects of Science, The Bassett Press: Southampton, UK.

 

G

    • Gabel, D & Samuel, K (1987) ‘Understanding the particulate nature of matter’, Journal of Chemical Education, 64(8) pp 695-697.
    • Gabel, D (1993) ‘Use of the particle nature of matter in developing conceptual understanding’, Journal of Chemical Education, 70(3) pp 193-194.
    • Gellert, E (1962) ‘Children’s conceptions of the content and functions of the human body’, Genetic Psychology Monographs, 65 pp 293-305.
    • Geraedts, C L. & Boersma, K T (2006) ‘Reinventing natural selection’ International Journal of Science Education, 28, pp 843-870.
    • Gilbert, J & Rutherford, M (1998) ‘Models in explanations, Part 1: Horses for courses?’ International Journal of Science Education, 20, pp 83-97.
    • Gilbert, J, Boulter, C & Rutherford, M (1998) ‘Models in explanations, Part 2: Whose voice? Whose ears?’ International Journal of Science Education, 20, pp 187-203.
    • Gilbert, J K & Boulter, C J (1998) ‘Learning science through models and modelling’ In B J Fraser, & K G Tobin (Eds) International handbook of Science Education, Part 1. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Press pp 53-66.
    • Gomez, C, and Pozo, J (2004) ‘Relationships between everyday knowledge and scientific knowledge: Understanding how matter changes’, International Journal of Science Education, 26 (11) pp 1325–1344.
    • Gott, Duggan, Roberts & Hussain (1995) Research into understanding scientific evidence available at http://www.dur.ac.uk/richard.gott/Evidence/cofev.htm (Retrieved 14 May, 2008).
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    • Grosslight, L, Unger, C M, Jay, E & Smith, C L (1991) ‘Understanding models and their use in science: conceptions of middle and high school students and experts’ Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 28, pp 799-822.
    • Guisasola, J (1995) ‘The meaningful learning of the fundamental concepts of electrostatics based on a constructivist model of teaching-learning by investigation’ in D Psillos (Ed), Proceedings of the Second Ph. D. Summer School. European Science Education Research Association.
    • Gunstone, R and Mitchell, I (1998) ‘Metacognition and conceptual change’. In J J Mintzes, J H Wandersee, and J Novak (Eds) Teaching Science for Understanding: A Human Constructivist View, San Diego: CA Academic Press, pp 133-163.
    • Gunstone, R and Watts, M (1985) ‘Force and motion’. In R Driver, E Guesne and A Tiberghien (Eds) Children’s ideas in science, Milton Keynes, UK: Open University Press, pp 85-104.
    • Gunstone, R, Mulhall, P & McKittrick, B (2009) Complexities in Teaching Mechanics and Electricity. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer (in preparation).
    • Gunstone, R, McKittrick, B & Mulhall, B (200x) ‘Considering complexities in teaching mechanics and electricity’. Publication pending.

 

H

    • Helman, H (1998) Great Feuds in Science – Ten of the liveliest disputes ever. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
    • Hapkiewicz, A (1992) ‘Finding a List of Science Misconceptions’ The Michigan Science Teachers Association Journal 38 pp 11-14.
    • Happs, J (1980) Particles: A Working Paper of the Learning in Science project, Hamilton, NZ: University of Waikoto.
    • Happs, J (1982) Rocks and minerals: A Working Paper of the Learning in Science Project, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.
    • Harlen, W (1993) Teaching and Learning Primary Science, London: Paul Chapman Publishing.
    • Harlen W (2000) ‘There’s more to light than meets the eye!’ Primary Science Review 64, pp 20-22.
    • Harrington, R (1999) ‘Discovering the reasoning behind the words: An example from electrostatics’ American Journal of Physics 67 pp S58–S59.
    • Harrison, A & Treagust, D (2000) ‘A typology of school science models’ International Journal of Science Education, 22, pp 1011-1026.
    • Harrison , A & Treagust, D (2000) ‘Learning about atoms, molecules and chemical bonds: A case study of multiple model use in Grade 11 chemistry’, Science Education, 84 pp 352-381.
    • Harrison, A & Treagust, D (1996) ‘Secondary students’ mental models of atoms and molecules: Implications for teaching Chemistry’, Science Education, 80(5) pp 509-534.
    • Hart, C, Mulhall, P, Berry, M, Loughran, J & Gunstone, R (2000) ‘What is the purpose of this prac? Or Can students learn something from doing experiments?’ Journal of Research in Science Teaching 37, pp 655-675.
    • Haslam, F & Gunstone, RF (1996) ‘Observation in science classes: students’ beliefs about its nature and purpose’ Paper given at the conference of the National Association for Research in Science teaching, St Louis.
    • Haupt, G (2006) ‘Concepts of magnetism held by elementary school children’ Science Education, 36(3), pp 162-168.
    • Hawley, D (2002) ‘Building understanding in young scientists’ Journal of Geoscience Education, 50 (4) pp 363-371.
    • Helman, H (1998) Great Feuds in Science – Ten of the liveliest disputes ever. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
    • Henriques, L (2000) ‘Children’s misconceptions about weather: A review of the literature’. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans, LA, April 29th 2000.
    • Hickey, R & Schibeci, R (1999), ‘The attraction of magnetism’ Physics Education, 34(8), pp 383-388.
    • Hodge, D (2000) Simple Machines, Kids Can Press, Ltd,Tonawanda, New York.
    • Howe, A, Davies, D, McMahon, K, Tower, L and Scott, T (2005) Science 5-11 a Guide for Teachers, Primary, David Fulton Publishers.
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J

    • Jimenez-Aleixandre, M P (1992) ‘Thinking about theories or thinking with theories?: A classroom study with natural selection’ International Journal of Science Education, 14, pp 51-61.
    • Jimenez-Aleixandre, M P (1994) ‘Teaching evolution and natural selection: A look at textbooks and teachers’ Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31, pp 519-535.
    • Johnson, P (2002) ‘ Children’s understanding of substances, Part 2: Explaining chemical change’, International Journal of Science Education, 24(10) pp 1037-1054.
    • Jones, B (1984) ‘How solid is a solid?’ Research in Science Education, 14 pp 104-113.
    • Jones, P (1998) Student Achievement in Natural and Processed Materials, Department of Education Western Australia.

 

K

    • Keil, F (1989) Concepts, Kinds, and Cognitive Development, Cambridge, MA : MIT Press.
    • Kerr, K, Beggs, J, Murphy, C (2006) ‘Comparing children’s and student teachers’ ideas about science concepts’, Irish Educational Studies, 25(3) pp 289-302.
    • Krnel, D, Watson, R, and Glazar, S (1998) ‘Survey of research related to the development of the concept of “matter”’, International Journal of Science Education, 20 pp 257-289.
    • Kusnick, J (2002) ‘Growing pebbles and conceptual prisms – understanding the source of student misconceptions about rock formation’. Journal for Geological Education, 50(1) pp 31-39.
    • Kyle, W, Desmond, L, Family, E, Shymansky, A (1989) ‘ Enhancing learning through conceptual change teaching’, Research Matters–to the Science Teacher, 8902, National Association for Research in Science Teaching.

 

L

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