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Teaching about science teaching and learning through an experimental inquiry approach.

This study investigates the effect of a science teaching approach--the experimental inquiry approach--on preservice student teachers understanding of the teaching and learning of science in primary schools. This understanding might be influenced by their prior science learning experiences in schools and in teacher education. In this study, the experimental inquiry approach was implemented in the teaching of two exemplary science units in a teacher education module. Pre-tests and post-tests about their views of the teaching and learning of science were conducted and analysed. Their views, expectations and limitations of teaching science in primary schools in ways congruent to the experimental inquiry approach were also probed, as was the feasibility of implementing the experimental inquiry approach in primary schools during their teaching practicum.

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I started my career in education as a science teacher in the mid 1970s in Hong Kong. From early on as science teacher to the present as science teacher educator at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, my teaching has been driven by an imperative derived from the question: How can I help my students become better learners? This question has, at its root, similarities with the catalyst for self-study described by Whitehead (1993) where he asks, 'How can I better help my students to learn?' and 'How do I live up to my values more fully in my practice?'. However, in contrast to Whitehead, my work is firmly based in the teaching and learning of science. Therefore, for me, one way of resolving this question has been to develop teaching strategies and procedures that facilitate learners' approaches to constructing science knowledge personally and effectively. This paper examines how I have attempted to influence my student-teachers' understanding of, and approaches to, science teaching through challenging the traditional approach to primary science teaching so prevalent in Hong Kong and so often inadvertently reinforced through approaches to teaching in teacher education programs.

Context of primary science teacher education in Hong Kong

Most primary school teachers in Hong Kong are graduates of either the former colleges of education (before 1994) that were run by the Hong Kong Education Department or the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) that was established in 1994 to replace the colleges of education. These teachers mostly graduated with a Certificate in Education (CE) but, from 2001, the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree from the HKIEd became the major primary school teaching qualification. In either the Certificate in Education (Primary) program or the Bachelor of Education (Primary) program offered by HKIEd, science was not offered as an elective or as a major or minor subject in the curriculum frameworks. Science was not taught as an independent subject in local primary schools, but only as a component subject in the General Studies curriculum which is an integrated subject comprising science, social studies and health education (Education Commission, 1990).

In effect, there was only one compulsory module, entitled 'Science for Primary Education' for all students of the Certificate in Education (Primary) program. There was also only one compulsory module, entitled 'Foundation Science' before 2002, and one optional module, entitled 'Exploring Science' after 2002 in the Bachelor of Education (Primary) program. Those students who took General Studies as an elective (CE) or major or minor (B.Ed) studied more science modules; but non General Studies students, who are the majority of the student population, take either one of the above modules. Moreover a majority of the students in HKIEd are Arts-stream students, who have studied science only up to the level of (high school) Secondary 3. Therefore most of the HKIEd students who become prospective teachers in primary schools do not receive any intensive training in teaching science.

With the well-documented difficulties associated with primary teachers' lack of confidence in science content knowledge (Appleton & Symington, 1996; Jeans & Farnsworth, 1992; Skamp, 1991, 1992) and skills in conducting scientific investigations, teaching science topics in General Studies is inevitably a difficult task for many students of HKIEd in their teaching practice. Therefore it is not surprising that a general practice in Hong Kong primary schools is that teachers rely on textbooks and deliver the subject matter literally to children. There are usually no (or at best very few) experiments conducted to support learning.
 Teachers of upper primary classes often used 'teacher's explication'
 and 'daily application' in teaching science ... The strategies
 seldom used by teachers are 'role play', 'pupils' group
 experiments', 'simulations' and 'pupils' individual experiments'.
 (So, Tang, & Ng, 2000, pp. 510--511)


So, Tang and Ng's (2000) conclusion is in accord with those reported by Holbrook (1990) who noted that 'in the main, primary school teachers reported they favored whole class teaching using "lecturing" and "question and answer" rather than small group or individualized teaching" (p. 82), and Leung and Law (1997) who found that 'teaching in science classrooms tends to be teacher-centered and didactic. At primary level, teaching is conducted by teacher presentations ... Teaching frequently follows the textbook very closely' (p. 167).

In the Certificate in Education program, students who completed the Science for Primary Education module (1999-2000, n = 124) answered a Science Teaching and Learning Questionnaire (extensively documented in Ma, 2004). One overwhelming response from these student teachers about their experiences of school science teaching and learning was of teacher-centred explication of textbook content. For example, an indicative response to this was:
 ID 181: In primary school time, teachers only taught science
 knowledge, there were no experiments at all. The most was to read
 some experiment diagrams in the textbooks. In secondary school time,
 there were experiments. The experiments followed the textbook
 contents. I only memorized the textbook contents, and did not care
 how to do the experiments or their results as examination emphasized
 on textbook contents only. (Ma, 2004, p. 183)


Further to this, Chan and Kwok's (1999) study on Primary Teachers' Confidence in Teaching Science and Technology highlighted teachers' lack of confidence in teaching physical science topics, due to their poor science background and their lack of skills in physical science investigations. Therefore, the overwhelming response is perhaps not so surprising. In many ways, it could be well argued that these student teachers could very easily end up replicating in their science teaching what they had learnt through their 'apprenticeship of observation' (Lortie, 1975).

Science teacher preparation

As the above background establishes, primary teachers in Hong Kong seldom appear to adopt inquiry approaches to teaching science. As highlighted in previous research (Ma & Loughran, 2000, 2001, 2002), there are many reasons given by primary teachers for not conducting experiments, or not using an inquiry approach in teaching primary science. These include:

1 insufficient science background knowledge which leads teachers to avoid conducting experiments;

2 insufficient resources in primary schools for carrying out experimental work;

3 teachers being too busy and therefore not having sufficient extra time for preparing experiments;

4 conducting experiments is time consuming and so there is not sufficient time to teach the subject content covered in the textbooks; and

5 conducting experiments in the classroom is not always safe and it is difficult to maintain 'good order' in the class as children see it as a chance to play around and generally be disruptive.

As preservice student teachers are the primary science teachers of the future and they form one group that might begin to challenge the status quo, one response I have adopted has been to introduce investigative approaches in teaching science under the General Studies subject at the HKIEd. As a consequence, I have developed experimental investigations that I have purposefully used in my teaching about primary science. I have developed this approach as a means of making experimental investigation more engaging for my student teachers as learners of science, and to model the type of teaching that might help to deal with the problems listed above.

Experimental inquiry approach

The experimental inquiry approach (EIA) is organised in such a way as to require student teachers to participate in designing simple experiments that would be suitable to conduct in a primary classroom. In other words, the modules create experiences of learning science through inquiry that hopefully provide the participants with insights into using such an experimental inquiry approach in their teaching of primary science. In so doing, I clearly hope that these student teachers will then teach primary science in a way that reflects these experiences of how they have learned in their teacher education program.

Participants and method

The participants in this research comprised a sample of preservice student teachers in the two-year full-time Certificate in Education program offered by the Hong Kong Institute of Education. They studied a core module, Science for Primary Education, in their first year of study. This core module was compulsory for all student teachers in that cohort, who were drawn for a diversity of backgrounds in science ranging from Secondary 3 to tertiary. An overwhelming majority were school leavers who had finished the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination, which meant they had studied up to Secondary 7 (Table 1 illustrates the composition of the sample that participated in this research).

I was a member of the teaching team for this module and was responsible for teaching two units, 'Water' and 'Air' to five classes, out of a total of seven classes. The research was implemented through the teaching of these two science units and all of the student teachers in these five classes were invited to participate.

At the start of the first lesson, I informed the students that I would be conducting research during my lessons. They were encouraged to participate in this research on a voluntary basis. Completion of the questionnaire was conducted during class time so that involvement in the study did not adversely add to the time they needed to make available. To avoid the possibility of ill-feeling of being biased or perceived threats of being penalised for non-participation in this research, I informed them that I would not mark their written assignments of this module and that double marking of the answer scripts by two lecturing staff for the module would be carried out. (The assessment on this module is by a group written assignment and examination.) Moreover, according to institute regulations, students do not write their names on the examination answer scripts, only their student numbers. So there would hopefully be no fear that they could be unfairly treated if they did not participate in this research.

They did not have to indicate whether they were willing to participate in the research at the beginning of the lessons. If they were willing to do so, they simply needed to complete and return the questionnaire during class time--clearly then, students could choose not to complete the questionnaire and hand in a blank copy if they so desired. Of the total cohort (N = 179) in these five classes, completion and returns were high (n = 148), representing a sample size of 83 per cent.

Questionnaire

This questionnaire (see Appendix) served to probe student teachers' general views of science and teaching and learning of science. It comprised 15 items, 5 of them (Items 1, 4, 5, 7 and 13) concerning the nature of science and 10 (Items 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 15) about teaching and learning of science. The questionnaire used a Likert Scale along a continuum from Strongly agree to Strongly disagree. Responses were translated into a 4-point numerical scale increasing from 1 for Strongly agree to 4 for Strongly disagree (the item that referred to no response was not used as a measure in analysis, hence the resultant 4-point scale).The questionnaire was administered twice, once before and once after the teaching of the two science units in which the EIA was used as the form of instruction. Comparison of the responses on individual items from before to after the units provided information on changes in participants' views of teaching and learning of science as a consequence of the implementation of the EIA.

In addition to this questionnaire, an open-ended survey was also completed at the post-test in which a number of aspects of participants' views were sought in relation to their intentions about their use of the EIA in their future teaching. For this paper, the follow-up questions (Will you use the inquiry approach in teaching the science units of General Studies in your teaching in future? Why/Why not? and What factors will influence your decision in using this inquiry approach in teaching primary science units in future? Why are they important to you?) are included in the results. In addition to these open-ended questions, a number of volunteers (n = 31) were interviewed about their experiences of learning science through the EIA and the possible implications for their future teaching. Two of these questions are also included in the analysis of results in this paper (How will the primary school students you will teach build their science knowledge? and How will you teach your students science to help them build their science knowledge?).

Case studies

Four student teachers participating in this research volunteered to be observed during their primary school teaching practicum (March-April three months after the teaching of the science module). These student teachers taught different science units under the General Studies syllabus. They prepared their lessons and I then discussed with them their plans and observed and video-taped their teaching and interviewed them afterwards. This data source was used to construct case studies about these participants' approaches to, and reflections on, implementing the EIA in primary classrooms. In this paper, one of these case studies offers insight into how the EIA might be implemented as a result of the teaching and learning experiences in teacher preparation.

Results

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the influence of the EIA on student teachers' understanding of teaching and learning of primary science. The study therefore explores two research questions: What are (these) student teachers' views of teaching and learning primary science? and How does experiencing the EIA influence (these) student-teachers' views and expectations of their teaching and of their students' learning?

Student teachers' views on teaching and learning science

The responses to 10 (Items 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 15) out of a total of 15 items in the Questionnaire on views of science and teaching and learning of science (see Appendix) provided information about the student teachers' views on teaching and learning of science. Responses to individual items between the pretest and post-test provide information about changes in participants' views as a consequence of learning science through the EIA. In order to offer an overview of the outcomes from the questionnaire, a selection of responses to some of these items in the pre-test and the post-test are displayed using cross-tabulation tables (see Tables 2-9).

Comment

The data in Tables 2-9 illustrate that these student teachers held prior conceptions about some specific features of teaching and learning science. For example, they believed that children have their own ideas about how things happen and this influences their learning of science (Item 3), and that hands-on and minds-on experimental investigations are an essential process in learning and teaching science (Item 15), and so on. There was not a uniform shift in views across the items with the exception of the few who changed their views from a more didactic viewpoint towards a more investigative viewpoint after they had experienced learning science through the EIA. However Item 8 does show a marked change (30 respondents changed their views from the agree to disagree side for 'Children understand science knowledge by memorising the facts described in the textbook'), as does Item 10 (24 respondents changed their views from the disagree to the agree side for 'Children understand science knowledge through doing experimental investigations'). Generally participants clung to the prior views despite their experiences of the EIA. For example, in Item 2, the learning of science through the EIA did not change their view that 'science teaching should emphasise teaching the scientific facts'. A majority agreed with this view even though they had experienced learning science through the EIA (which emphasises exploring knowledge rather than the teaching of facts). Responses to Item 9 also indicate that these student teachers believed that the provision of a good structured set of notes is important in teaching science. Hence the majority of these student teachers carried contradictory views and ideas about the nature of science teaching and learning as a result of their own school--and now pre-service--science learning experiences.

Expectations of teaching and learning primary science

In order to investigate the impact of these views on participants' understanding of the EIA for primary teaching, responses to the open-ended question, 'Will you use the inquiry approach in teaching the science units of General Studies in your teaching in future? Why/Why not?', are now considered.

All respondents (N = 148) stated that they thought they would use the EIA in their teaching of science in General Studies in the future--which is interesting considering the responses to the questionnaire. Their responses are summarised in Table 10. However some student teachers gave more than one reason when responding to this item and so the total counts are more than the total number of student teachers.

Some indicative responses include:
 ID 19: Yes, because the inquiry approach is interesting. Children
 will be motivated to learn. It requires children to think and this
 leads to a better understanding of the knowledge learned.

 ID 46: Yes, because this learning will make the lessons more
 interesting. It can motivate children to learn. Children's
 participation in experiments makes them better learn science. This
 mode of learning is better than teachers' talk or teach of the
 subject knowledge.

 ID 129: Yes, because this inquiry approach leads children better to
 understand the knowledge learned. It also inspires them to think and
 to investigate and this makes the lessons become more interesting.

 ID 180: Yes, because the experiments designed are simple,
 practicable and interesting. Children can do them by themselves.


Comment

Generally respondents concluded that the EIA was effective in promoting primary pupils' understanding of the science knowledge learned, and that the learning process and/or designing experiments was interesting and therefore capable of motivating pupils to think and stimulate them to inquire. It seems fair to assert that these student teachers understood the positive impact of the EIA on learners' knowledge and attitude development and that they might therefore have an inclination to apply this inquiry approach in their future teaching of primary science in schools.

The student teachers' inclination towards using the EIA in their teaching and their expectation of their primary school pupils in learning science in General Studies was further explored through interview. Two of the interview questions are interesting to consider.

The first, 'How will the primary school students you will teach build their science knowledge?', resulted in all 31 interviewees stating that an effective way was by doing experiments, followed by thinking about the results, and then making generalisations. Their view apparently was that pupils need a chance to think and investigate the subject knowledge. The following is an indicative response.
 ID 144: The primary school pupils will build their science knowledge
 through experimental investigation. They should not just follow
 teachers' instruction in doing the experiments. They have to do
 experiments, or think about why to do the experiments and how to do
 the experiments. By this way, they will understand the science
 knowledge learned, and not just memorise by rote the knowledge
 learned.


The second interview question, How will you teach your students science to help them build their science knowledge?, resulted in all 31 interviewees stating that they would use the inquiry approach as it was important to 'let pupils be involved in the process of learning'. For example,
 ID 151: I will use the inquiry approach that I have experienced in
 your [the researcher] lessons to teach the primary school pupils.
 That means I will teach them science through experimentation. First,
 I will discuss with them the problems. Let them think about the
 problems. For simple experiments, I will let them do the experiments.
 I will let them participate through the experimental work, for
 example, let them think about why and how to do the experiments,
 help them understand the steps of doing the experiments. Let them
 observe the results and find out the true pictures by themselves.


Overview

The student teachers being interviewed experienced the EIA in learning science and the data indicate that they understood its positive effect on their knowledge, skill and attitude development. As a consequence, it seems reasonable to suggest that they could see the link between how they themselves had come to construct knowledge and how their own pupils could similarly construct knowledge through experimental investigations. There was a clear indication that participants had a strong inclination towards teaching primary science by using an approach congruent to the way they had experienced learning science--that is the Experimental Inquiry Approach.

Constraining factors of using EIA in teaching primary science

The student teachers indicated a strong tendency to teach primary science in a way congruent to the Experimental Inquiry Approach. However they raised concerns or factors that they considered might restrain them from using the EIA.

The open-ended questions, 'What factors will influence your decision in using this inquiry approach in teaching primary science units in future? Why are they important to you?', led to a large number of responses. A frequency count of these responses is shown in Table 11. As some student teachers gave more than one reason, the total number of responses is greater than the total number of respondents to this question.

Some indicative responses are shown below:
 ID 8: The resources of the school and the lesson time. It is because
 if there are no resources, it is difficult to use interactive and
 activity-oriented approach to teach. Moreover this inquiry approach
 takes more time than that of the traditional transmission approach.

 ID 25: Lesson time. To do experiments needs time and the time for
 experiment is not short. To do experiments will lead to the fact
 that there is not enough time to complete the teaching of the
 subject within the scheduled lessons.

 ID 140: The system (policy) of the school. If the school requires
 teaching subject knowledge and does not care whether the lesson is
 interesting or not, I will not be allowed to use inquiry approach to
 teach.

 ID 190: The teaching resources, lesson time, syllabus content to be
 taught as required by the school and parents' views.


Comment

Various factors were suggested by the respondents which help to account for possible difficulties or concerns with teaching using an EIA. Most prominent was the concern about the availability of resources for conducting experiments. Another concern was that conducting experiments was perceived as being more time consuming than direct teaching and participants who noted this were concerned that there might not be enough time to cover the General Studies syllabus or finish teaching the content in the textbook. Unexpectedly respondents' concern about the school heads' or other teachers' objections or opinions in using an inquiry approach was quite prominent. The concern about pupils' acceptance of an inquiry approach is also an interesting restraining factor.

The nature of the experiments was another concern. However this response is congruent with previous research and therefore to be expected. It clear that experiments to be conducted need to be simple, safe, manageable and easy to perform and they can he completed within a short time interval--a 35-minute single lesson. If an inquiry approach is to be used and the experiments take too long to complete, the student teachers may be concerned that their lessons will not run smoothly, and so the lesson arrangement clearly becomes another concern for the respondents. It is reasonable to expect that these prospective teachers would be concerned about classroom management as the EIA is activity-centred and changes the normal classroom dynamics. Preparation time for the lessons or for the experiments was another concern that these participants anticipated as they were aware that teachers are usually very busy and have a heavy workload in Hong Kong. They also noted that parents may object to new or unfamiliar teaching approaches. Interestingly only two respondents were concerned about their own competence or ability in doing or designing experiments.

Case studies

Teaching Practice is a compulsory component of the full-time 2-year Certificate in Education program. For the first-year students, the cohort who participated in this research, their Teaching Practice was scheduled from early April to the end of May. This followed the teaching of the module, Science for Primary Education, through which this research was conducted. During the Teaching Practice, each student teacher had to teach three subjects (Chinese Language, Mathematics and General Studies) for 12 to 16 lessons per week and that meant they had to teach the General Studies subject for approximately 4 to 6 lessons a week.

As General Studies is an integrated subject of social studies, science and health education, some of the student teachers were likely to teach primary science units in their Teaching Practice. There was also the chance that some might teach social studies or health education units instead of primary science during this Teaching Practice. The teaching schedule for individual student teachers was arranged by the primary school in which the Teaching Practice was to be conducted and there was no control in this matter by HKIEd.

For the purpose of further studying the practical implementation of the EIA in teaching primary science in schools, four student teachers participated in what would eventually become case studies (all of which are elaborated in detail in Ma (2004)). These student teachers were Wai (pseudonym) a science-stream student teacher who had studied science up to the level of Secondary 7 in schools and who took General Studies as an elective subject in his Certificate in Education program. The other three student teachers (Chor, Shan and Hoi) were all art-stream students. They had studied science in school up to the level of Secondary 3 only. Moreover they did not take General Studies as an elective subject in their teacher-preparation program and thus the module, Science for Primary Education, was the only science module they had attended at HKIEd. It is reasonable to assume that Wai had a stronger science background than his three female colleagues, whose science background was rather weak but commensurate with what could he regarded as the average of the population of primary student teachers in the HKIEd.

The four student teachers joined into the process that entailed what would become case studies of their teaching practice on a voluntary basis. However, in order to avoid a conflict of interest and to gather reliable data with the least intrusion from the power relationship of teacher and student, it was important to find student teachers for the case studies, whom I would not be supervising during their teaching practice. Thus I would not be assessing their teaching performance and this would then hopefully minimise the impact of my role in observing their teaching during the practicum.

During the teaching practice, I visited each of the participants in a science lesson which was organised by him/her. Before the start of the teaching practice, they sent me their teaching schedules and we came to an agreement about which lessons would be possible for me to observe. Again, due to my other responsibilities and their own preferences, I could not randomly select lessons for observation. The lessons that I observed were assigned by them and coincided with time that I had to visit them for lesson observation.

With the participants' agreement and with permission from the school heads, I video-taped lessons for later analysis and as a visual prompt for conducting post-lesson discussion.

Case study: Hoi

Hoi taught in an urban primary school during her teaching practice and her class was Primary 1. The pupils were described as being of average ability in comparison with the population of pupils in Hong Kong. The topic of the observed lesson was tided 'Magnets are interesting'. The learning objective for the lesson was that pupils should come to know that a magnet can attract iron items and that this will persist even when something is placed between the magnet and the item, but the attraction will become weaker. Hoi did not send me her lesson plan beforehand and this topic was not covered in a textbook; she designed and prepared all the learning activities (experiments) for this lesson.

In her lesson, Hoi let her pupils explore magnets and how iron items are attracted to them, even when something is placed between the bar magnet and the item. She asked pupils to insert paper between the bar magnet and the clip. They could see the clip being attracted by the magnet even though there was paper between them. When the number of pieces of paper increased to a certain amount (approximately 50 sheets), the attraction of the clip to the magnet ceased. She then allowed her pupils to try putting different things between the bar magnet and the iron clip. The things her students tried included plastic stoppers, glass cups, books and so on. The pupils found out that the clip was still attracted by the magnet.

Our post-lesson discussion was held immediately after the lesson. The first question I asked her was why she chose this topic. She told me that there was a science unit in the General Studies curriculum rifled 'Introduction to science' and the syllabus content of the unit included knowing about magnets. The next question I asked her was about the design of the experiments. She had used paper, plastic stoppers, glass cups and books and told me that these items were common items that could be found easily at home. She also stated that one purpose of the lesson was to arouse the children's (Primary 1 pupils, 6-7 years of age) interest towards science learning in addition to their cognitive development. She told me that her trial of design experiments came from her learning of 'water' and 'air' in the science module (that I had taught at the HKIEd). From my perspective, the class observation certainly indicated that the pupils were motivated and showed interest in the learning process.

Hoi completed and returned a follow-up questionnaire to the teaching practicum designed to explore the case-study participants' reflections on their teaching and learning of primary science during their teaching practice. There were seven items in this questionnaire. The responses to these items provided information about the teaching approaches they implemented for their science lessons, comments on the EIA, the problems being encountered in the implementation of teaching approaches in teaching practice, and ways of dealing with any difficulties or problems. Hoi's collated responses are included below.
 I let pupils in small group trial the experiments. The experiment
 was about how a magnet can attract iron items through obstacles or
 even though some things are put in between them. I hoped that they
 self experienced the process of learning and that they would learn
 through the process ... Through the use of experimental inquiry
 method, pupils will better understand what they have learned. It is
 also easier for them to grasp some abstract concepts ... You taught
 us about carrying out experiments in groups in topics such as
 'water'. Through experiments, you taught us the process of water
 treatment, such as how to filter muddy water and sterilise water for
 drinking and why fluorine is added and so on ... The approach you
 used with us is suitable for me to use in teaching primary science
 ... [but] there is [in schools] a shortage of resources for
 experiments, and my experience (of using experimental inquiry
 approach) in teaching primary science is not adequate; [I think]
 more training of teachers is required.


Conclusion

Hoi's case-study shows that these teachers could design simple experiments and respond to topics and ideas about student engagement and experimentation, and go beyond the simple delivery of textbook information. She illustrated that she understood the positive effect on knowledge construction of using experiments and teaching using an EIA. She clearly linked her use of the EIA with the teaching of the 'water' science module at the HKIEd. And it certainly appears as though that experience was sufficient to encourage her to try a similar approach in her own primary school teaching.

Hoi's case study was selected from the four possibilities because her science background could be regarded as normal for HKIEd primary student teachers. As such, she also illustrated a confidence and certainty in teaching through the EIA that was quite surprising to me and that highlighted her adoption of this approach out of the content areas that she had experienced in her science module at the HKIEd. Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that Hoi is illustrative of the fact that experiencing teaching and learning of science through the EIA can have an impact on student teachers' views, and eventually practices, of science.

Hoi is indicative of the somewhat contradictory views and perceptions of science teaching and learning that were highlighted through the questionnaire and open-ended item responses. She illustrates that, despite the many underlying issues that influence student teachers' views of teaching and learning primary science, there are real possibilities for change if preservice teachers are given the opportunity to learn science in ways different from the status quo of their school and traditional university training. This outcome is one to which science teacher educators need to give careful attention in developing their approach to teaching about science to the next generation of primary teachers in Hong Kong.

Keywords

experimental teaching inquiry learning strategies primary school science science teaching teacher education

Appendix

Questionnaire

Views of science and teaching and learning of science

This questionnaire serves to probe views about science and teaching and learning of science. It is for research use only and has no bearing on your assessment in this unit. Please answer each item by placing a TICK ([check]) in one of the boxes provided. Please note that SA = Strongly agree, A = Agree, D = Disagree, and SD = Strongly disagree.

Please circle the following as appropriate to your science background in school. Level of study of science in schools: F3 F5 F7 Tertiary
No. Item SA A D SD Unsure

1. Science provides learners with
 knowledge, understanding and
 appreciation of our world.

2. Science teaching should
 emphasize teaching the
 scientific facts.

3. Children have their own ideas
 about how things happen and
 this influences their learning
 of science.

4. Learners develop enthusiasm
 for science and wonder at the
 physical and biological world.

5. When making scientific
 observations, all observers
 will observe the same thing.

6. Science provides learners with
 general problem solving skills
 in a scientific context.

7. Science is a logical, ordered
 and exact discipline in which
 there is no place for personal
 opinions.

8. Children understand science
 knowledge, for example the
 formation of fog in air, by
 memorizing the facts described
 in the textbook.

9. A science teacher should
 provide children with good
 structured sets of notes on
 each topic, something they can
 take away and learn.

10. Children understand science
 knowledge, for example the
 rusting or iron, through doing
 experimental investigations.

11. To help children construct
 science knowledge, the teacher
 must provide them with
 detailed explanations of the
 content in textbooks.

12. Teachers should try to
 understand what knowledge
 children bring with them into
 the classroom.

13. Scientific knowledge may
 change. What is regarded as
 true now may be replaced by
 new findings in the future.

14. Science teaching should
 concentrate on developing
 children's understanding of
 the processes of science and
 on developing their skills in
 science.

15. Hands-on and minds-on
 experimental investigation is
 an essential process in
 learning and teaching science.


Thank you for your participation.
Table 1 Sample in this study

Level of study of science in schools

Gender Secondary 3 Secondary 5 Secondary 7 Tertiary Total

Male 14 4 9 2 29
Female 72 9 35 3 119
Total 86 13 44 5 148

Table 2 Item 2--Science teaching should emphasise teaching the
scientific facts.

 Post-test

 Strongly
 agree Agree Disagree

Pre-test Strongly agree 13 10 2
 Agree 32 57 6
 Disagree 6 11 9
 Strongly disagree 1
Total 52 78 17

 Post-test

 Strongly
 disagree Total

Pre-test Strongly agree 25
 Agree 95
 Disagree 1 27
 Strongly disagree 1
Total 1 148

Table 3 Item 3--Children have their own ideas about how things happen
and this influences their learning of science.

 Post-test

 Strongly
 agree Agree Disagree

Pre-test Strongly agree 8 13
 Agree 22 67 11
 Disagree 4 10 11
 Strongly disagree 1
Total 34 90 23

 Post-test

 Strongly
 disagree Total

Pre-test Strongly agree 21
 Agree 100
 Disagree 1 26
 Strongly disagree 1
Total 1 148

Table 4 Item 8--Children understand science knowledge, for example the
formation of fog in air, by memorising the facts described in the
textbook.

 Post-test

 Strongly
 agree Agree Disagree

Pre-test Strongly agree 1
 Agree 1 13 24
 Disagree 1 10 57
 Strongly disagree 1 4 9
Total 3 27 91

 Post-test

 Strongly
 disagree Total

Pre-test Strongly agree 1
 Agree 5 43
 Disagree 10 78
 Strongly disagree 12 26
Total 27 148

Table 5 Item 9--A science teacher should provide children with good
structured sets of notes on each topic, something they can take
away and learn.

 Post-test

 Strongly
 agree Agree Disagree

Pre-test Strongly agree 2 12 1
 Agree 8 67 16
 Disagree 2 17 17
 Strongly disagree 1 1
Total 12 97 35

 Post-test

 Strongly
 disagree Total

Pre-test Strongly agree 1 16
 Agree 91
 Disagree 2 38
 Strongly disagree 1 3
Total 4 148

Table 6 Item 10--Children understand science knowledge, for example
the rusting of iron, through doing experimental investigations.

 Post-test

 Strongly
 agree Agree Disagree

Pre-test Strongly agree 15 15 3
 Agree 18 47 10
 Disagree 5 17 15
 Strongly disagree 1 1
Total 39 80 28

 Post-test

 Strongly
 disagree Total

Pre-test Strongly agree 33
 Agree 75
 Disagree 37
 Strongly disagree 1 3
Total 1 148

Table 7 Item 11--To help children construct science knowledge, the
teacher must provide them with detailed explanations of the
content in textbooks.

 Post-test

 Strongly
 agree Agree Disagree

Pre-test Strongly agree 5 7 2
 Agree 13 64 19
 Disagree 1 12 20
 Strongly disagree 1
Total 19 83 42

 Post-test

 Strongly
 disagree Total

Pre-test Strongly agree 14
 Agree 1 97
 Disagree 2 35
 Strongly disagree 1
Total 3 147

Table 8 Item 12--Teachers should try to understand what knowledge
children bring with them into the classroom.

 Post-test

 Strongly
 agree Agree Disagree

Pre-test Strongly agree 38 25
 Agree 24 56 1
 Disagree 2 1
 Strongly disagree
Total 62 83 2

 Post-test

 Strongly
 disagree Total

Pre-test Strongly agree 1 64
 Agree 81
 Disagree 3
 Strongly disagree
Total 1 148

Table 9 Item 15--Hands-on and minds-on experimental investigation is
an essential process in learning and teaching science.

 Post-test

 Strongly
 agree Agree Disagree

Pre-test Strongly agree 25 15 1
 Agree 34 65
 Disagree 1 4 2
 Strongly disagree 1
Total 61 84 3

 Post-test

 Strongly
 disagree Total

Pre-test Strongly agree 41
 Agree 99
 Disagree 7
 Strongly disagree 1
Total 148

Table 10 Frequency counts for the reasons of using EIA in future
teaching

Reasons for using EIA in future teaching of sciencein GS Frequency

Children feel interested and the experiments motivate to
learn science. 81

Active participation leads to effective knowledge
construction. 76

Experiments are manageable and can be conducted in primary
classroom. 34

EIA develops thinking or inquiry skills, stimulates
investigation. 15

Table 11 Constraining factors for using EIA in teaching primary science

Factors Frequency

Resources for conducting experiments 59

Time for teaching the subject (Conducting experiments is
time cosuming.) 44

School policy, headmaster's/headmistress's or teachers'
objections/opinions 32

Class environment such as class size, space for experiments 29

Pupils' acceptance of or opinions on inquiry approach 25

Safety/Management of experiments 17

Lesson arrangement 13

Content of the science topics/Nature of experiments 12

Pupils' discipline/behaviour 8

Pupils' ability 8

Preparation time for lessons/experiments 5

Parents' opinions/objection 4

Teachers' competence/ability 2


References

Appleton, K. & Symington, D. (1996). Changes in primary science over the past decade: Implications for the research community. Research in Science Education, 26(3), 299-316.

Chan, M. T. & Kwok, P. W. (1999, February). Primary teachers' confidence in teaching science and technology. International Conference on Teacher Education, Hong Kong.

Curriculum Development Council. (1994). Syllabus for General Studies (Primary 1 to 6). Hong Kong: Hong Kong Government.

Curriculum Development Council. (2002). Science education: Key learning area curriculum guide (Primary 1-Secondary 3). Hong Kong: Education Department, Hong Kong

Special Administration Region.

Education Commission. (1990). Education Commission report no. 4. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Government.

Holbrook, J. (1990). Science education in Hong Kong: Achievements and determinants (Education Paper 6). Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Education.

Jeans, B. & Farnsworth, I. (1992). Primary science education: Views from three Australian states. Research in Science Education, 22, 214-223.

Leung, K. S. & Law, W. Y. (1997). Hong Kong. In D. F. Robitaille (Ed.), National contexts for mathematics and science education: An encyclopedia of the education systems participating in TIMSS (pp. 160-170). Vancouver: Pacific Educational Press.

Lortie, D. C. (1975). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Ma, H. S. (2004). Teaching and learning about science through an experimental inquiry approach in Hong Kong. Unpublished doctoral thesis. Monash University, Clayton, Victoria.

Ma, H. S. & Loughran, J. J. (2000, June). Primary school teachers as facilitators for science learners: Teaching about teaching science in Hong Kong. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Australasian Science Education Research Association, Fremantle, Western Australia.

Ma, H. S. & Loughran, J. J. (2001, July). Reflection on teaching about teaching primary science in Hong Kong: Three days' experience in a local primary school. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Australasian Science Education Research Association, Sydney, New South Wales.

Ma, H. S. & Loughran, J. J. (2002, July). Creative activities: An experimental inquiry approach for science teacher education. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Australasian Science Education Research Association, Townsville, Queensland.

National Center for Education Statistics. (1996). Third international mathematics" and science study (TIMSS). Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED401 127)

Skamp, K. (1991). Primary science and technology: How confident are teachers? Research in Science Education, 21, 290-299.

Skamp, K. (1992). Attitudes of pre-service mature age women students towards teaching primary science: An interview study. Research in Science Education, 22, 377-286.

So, W. M., Tang, K. Y., & Ng, P. H. (2000). Understanding science teaching and learning in primary classrooms. In Y. C. Cheng, K. W. Chow, & K. T. Tsui (Eds.), School curriculum change and development in Hong Kong (pp. 505-520). Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Education.

Whitehead, J. (1993). The growth of educational knowledge: Creating your own living educational theories. Bournemouth, Dorset: Hyde Publications.

Ma, Hon Suen is a Senior Lecturer in the Science Department of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, 10 Lo Ping Road, Tai Po, New Territories, Hong Kong. E-mail: hsma@ied.edu.hk
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