Advertisement

Research in Science Education

, 27:323 | Cite as

Primary teachers' understanding in science and its impact in the classroom

  • Wynne HarlenEmail author
Article

Abstract

Research carried out over a period of two years into primary teachers' understanding of concepts in science and technology provided information about teachers' confidence in teaching science, their understanding of a range of key ideas and their background of science in their own education. The early part of the paper describes how these data were collected, noting that the method of interviewing used to explore teachers' understanding served as an opportunity for the advancement of their understanding. The relationships among the variables of confidence, understanding and background in science are then explored. Although teachers expressed low confidence in teaching science, which was linked to a lack of understanding of scientific ideas, they also claimed not to find great difficulty in using certain teaching skills required for science, including those which would appear to demand content knowledge. This apparent anomaly is discussed and linked to the strategies used by teachers to cope with low confidence and understanding. The paper ends by considering briefly the role of content knowledge in teaching science.

Keywords

Teaching Science Content Knowledge Pedagogic Content Knowledge National Curriculum Science Subject 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Bennett, S. N., Wragg, E. C., Carré, C. G., & Carter, D. S. G. (1992). A longitudinal study of primary teachers' perceived competence in, and concerns about, national curriculum implementation.Research Papers in Education, 7(1) 53–78.Google Scholar
  2. Boyes, E., & Stanisstreet, M. (1993). The “Greenhouse Effect”: Children's perceptions of causes, consequences and cures.International Journal of Science Education, 15(5), 531–552.Google Scholar
  3. Carré, C., & Carter, D. (1990). Primary teachers' self-perceptions concerning implementation of the national curriculum for science in the UK.International Journal of Science Education, 12(4), 327–431.Google Scholar
  4. Carré, C., & Carter, D. (1993). Primary teachers' self-perceptions concerning implementation of the national curriculum for science in the UK-revisited.International Journal of Science Education, 15(4), 457–470.Google Scholar
  5. Department of Education and Science (DES). (1978).Primary education in England: A survey by HM inspectors of schools. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  6. Gooday, M., Payne, F., & Wilson, J. (1993).Primary student teachers' scientific knowledge and their attitudes towards science. Aberdeen and Dundee: Northern College.Google Scholar
  7. Harlen, W., Holroyd, C., & Byrne, M. (1995).Confidence and understanding in teaching science and technology in primary schools. Edinburgh: Scottish Council for Research in Education.Google Scholar
  8. Jones, B. (1991).Pre-service elementary teachers' explanations of diurnal, seasonal and lunar phenomena. Hobart, TAS: School of Education, University of Tasmania, Australia.Google Scholar
  9. Kruger, C., & Summers, M. (1989). An investigation of some primary teachers' understanding of changes in materials.School Science Review, 71, 17–27.Google Scholar
  10. Kruger, C., Palacio, D., & Summers, M. (1990). A survey of primary school teachers' conceptions of force and motion.Educational Research, 32, 83–95.Google Scholar
  11. Malcolm, H., & Schlapp, U. (1997).Report of the continued evaluation of the implementation of the 5–14 guidelines in primary schools, 1994–6. Edinburgh: Scottish Council for Research in Education.Google Scholar
  12. Mant, J., & Summers, M. (1993). Some primary school teachers' understanding of the Earth's place in the universe.Research Papers in Education, 8(1), 101–129.Google Scholar
  13. Noce, G., Torosantucci, G., & Vicenti, V. (1988). The floating of objects on the Moon: Prediction from a theory or experimental fact?International Journal of Science Education, 10, 61–70.Google Scholar
  14. Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). (1994).Primary matters. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  15. Scottish Education Department (SED). (1980).Learning and teaching in primary 4 and primary 7. Edinburgh: HMSO.Google Scholar
  16. Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. HarvardEducational Review, 7(1), 1–22.Google Scholar
  17. Smith, R., & Peacock, G. (1992). Tackling contradictions in teachers' understanding of gravity and air resistance. In L. Newton (Ed.),Primary science: The challenge of the 1990s. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  18. Scottish Office Education Department (SOED). (1993).Environmental studies 5–14: National guidelines. Edinburgh: Scottish Office Education Department.Google Scholar
  19. Scottish Office Education Department (SOED). (1994).Effective learning and teaching in Scottish secondary schools. The Sciences. A report by HM inspectors of schools. Edinburgh: Scottish Office Education Department.Google Scholar
  20. Summers, M., & Kruger, C. (1992). Research into English primary school teachers' understanding of the concept of energy.Evaluation and Research in Education, 6, 95–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Summers, M., & Kruger, C. (1993).A longitudinal study of primary school teachers' understanding of force and energy (Working paper 18, PSTS Project). Oxford: Oxford University Department of Educational Studies and Westminster College.Google Scholar
  22. Targan, D. (1987). A study of conceptual change in the content domain of the lunar phases.Proceeding of the Second International Seminar on Misconceptions and Educational Strategies in Science and Mathematics (pp. 499–511). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Webb, P. (1992). Primary science teachers' understandings of electric current.International Journal of Science Education, 14, 423–429.Google Scholar
  24. Whittaker, M. (1980). They're only playing: The problem of primary science.School Science Review, 61(216), 566–650.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Australian Science Research Association 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Scottish Council for Research in EducationEdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations