Advertisement

Research in Science Education

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 415–438 | Cite as

I’d rather they did Experiments with us…. Than just Talking: Irish Children’s Views of Primary School Science

  • Clíona MurphyEmail author
  • Janet Varley
  • Órlaith Veale
Article

Abstract

This paper reports on a national study that explored primary pupils’ attitudes towards and experiences of school science in the Republic of Ireland. The study focussed on collecting data from children and in doing so recognises the importance of children’s views as an essential part of reviewing curriculum implementation. The findings of this large-scale study are based on an analysis of data gathered from observations of 15 primary classrooms, 1,149 children’s questionnaires and 11 group interviews. In this paper the findings regarding the extent to which the children appear to be engaging in ‘deductive’ (didactic) and ‘inductive’ (inquiry-based) approaches in their science classes, and their attitudes towards school science are presented. Encouragingly, evidence from all parts of the study revealed that in general Irish children are very positive towards learning science in school and are being provided with some opportunities to engage in hands-on inquiry in science, commonly via group work. However, there were also indications that, for some pupils, hands-on science experiences were infrequent, and for a few did not appear to be happening at all. It was not especially evident that pupils were being afforded opportunities to lead their own scientific investigations. Teacher explanation, teacher demonstration, reading and writing featured frequently in pupils’ responses and while the pupils expressed mixed feelings about these methodologies, one thing was apparent: hands-on inquiry based approaches to science had far greater appeal to the children. The significance of the findings of this study are considered in light of the findings and recommendations from recent national and international reports on inquiry-based approaches in science education.

Keywords

Primary science Inquiry-based science education Deductive methodologies Children’s views 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research study was funded by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

References

  1. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy: A Project 2061 report. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Australian Science, Technology and Engineering Council (ASTEC). (1997). Foundations for Australia’s future: Science and technology in primary schools. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.Google Scholar
  3. Bianchini, J. A., & Colburn, A. (2000). Teaching the nature of science through inquiry to prospective elementary teachers: A tale of tow researchers. Journal of research in science teaching, 37, 177–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cavendish, S., Galton, M., Hargreaves, L., & Harlen, W. (1990). Assessing science in the primary classroom: Observing activities. London: Chapman Publishing.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2000). Research methods in education (5th ed.). London: Routledge Falmer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dawson, C. (2000). Upper primary boys’ and girls’ interests in science: have they changed since 1980? International Journal of Science Education, 22(6), 557–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. De Boo, M., & Randall, A. (2001). Celebrating a century of primary science. Association of Science Education (ASE): Hatfield.Google Scholar
  8. Denscombe, M. (2003). The good research guide (2nd ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Department for Education and Employment (DEEE)/Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). (1999). The national curriculum: Handbook for primary teachers in England, Key stages 1 and 2. London: DEEE/QCA.Google Scholar
  10. Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) (2002). A survey of the science and technology area of study in a sample of Northern Ireland primary schools, 2000–2001. Bangor, Co. Down: DENI.Google Scholar
  11. Department of Education and Science (DES). (1971). Curaclam na bunscoile—primary school curriculum—teachers’ handbooks (2 volumes). Dublin: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  12. Department of Education and Science (DES). (1999a). Primary school curriculum: Science. Dublin: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  13. Department of Education and Science (DES). (1999b). Primary school curriculum: Science—Teacher guidelines. Dublin: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  14. Driver, R., Guesne, E., & Tiberghien, A. (1985). Children’s ideas in science. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Driver, R., Leach, J., Millar, R., & Scott, P. (1996). Young people’s images of science. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  17. Goodrum, D., Hackling, M., & Rennie, L. (2000). The status and quality of teaching and learning of science in Australian schools: A research report. Canberra: DETYA.Google Scholar
  18. Goodrum, D., & Rennie, L. (2007). Australian School Science Education: National Action Plan 2008–2012, Volume 1. The National Action Plan. Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Canberra.Google Scholar
  19. Hackling, M., Peers, S., & Prain, V. (2007). Primary Connections: Reforming science teaching in Australian primary schools. Teaching Science, 53(3), 12–16.Google Scholar
  20. Hammer, D. (2004). The variablitliy of student reasoning, lecture 1: Case studies of children’s inquiries, proceedings of the Enrico Fermi Summer School in physics, http://www2.physics.umd.edu/~davidham/varenna1.pdf, downloaded 6th September 2010
  21. Harlen, W. (2000). Teaching and Learning Primary Science. Paul Chapman Publishing.Google Scholar
  22. Hipkins, R., Barker, M., & Bolstad, R. (2005). Teaching the ‘nature of science’: modest adaptations or radical reconceptions. International Journal of Science Education, 27(2), 243–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jarvis, T., & Pell, A. (2004). Primary teachers’ changing attitudes and cognition during a two-year science in-service programme and their effect on pupils. International Journal of Science Education, 26(14), 1787–1811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kind, P., Jones, K., & Barmby, P. (2007). Developing attitudes towards science measures. International Journal of Science Education, 29(7), 871–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krogh, L. B., & Thomsen, P. V. (2005). Studying students’ attitudes towards science from a cultural perspective but with a quantitative methodology: border crossing into the physics classroom. International Journal of Science Education, 27(3), 281–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lewis, S., & Lewis, J. (2008). Seeking effectiveness and equity in a large college chemistry course: An HLM investigation of peer-led guided inquiry. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(7), 794–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Linn, M. C., Davis, E. A., & Bell, P. (2004). Inquiry and technology. In M. C. Linn, E. A. Davis, & P. Bell (Eds.), Internet environments for science education (pp. 3–27). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  28. Minner, D., Levy, A. & Century, J. (2009) Inquiry-based science instruction—what is it and does it matter? Results from a research synthesis years 1984–2002, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 1–24.Google Scholar
  29. Murphy, C., & Beggs, J. (2002). Ten years of National Curriculum primary science in Northern Ireland: A study of children’s attitudes. Irish Educational Studies, 21(2), 13–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Murphy, C., Murphy, C., & Kilfeather, P. (2010). Children making sense of science, Journal of Research in Science Education, Springer Science + Business Media B.V, March 2010.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11165-010-9165-6
  31. Novak, J. D., & Gowin, D. B. (1984). Learning how to learn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington: National Academic Press.Google Scholar
  33. Reid, N. (2003). Gender and physics. International Journal of Science Education, 25(4), 509–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Peers, S. (2006). Making a difference: Primary Connections Stage 3. Project Brief. Canberra: Australian Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  35. Robson, C. (2002). Real world research (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  36. Roccard, M., Csermely, P., Jorde, D., Lenzen, D., Walberg-Henriksson, H., Hemmo, V. (2007). Science education now—a renewed pedagogy for the future of Europe, Luxemburg, Office for Official Publications of the European CommissionGoogle Scholar
  37. Schwartz, R. S., Lederman, H. G., & Crawford, B. (2000). Making connections between the nature of science and scientific inquiry: A science research internship for preservice teachers’. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Education of teachers in science, Akron, OH.Google Scholar
  38. Stark, R., & Gray, D. (1999). Gender preferences in learning science. International Journal of Science Education, 21(6), 633–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wells, C. G. (1999). Dialogic inquiry: towards a sociocultural practice and theory of education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics teaching and Learning (CASTeL)St. Patrick’s CollegeDublin 9Ireland

Personalised recommendations