Teaching Science

  • John P. Keeves
  • I Gusti Ngurah Darmawan

The teaching of science in schools in most countries changed markedly during the last four decades of the twentieth century. The first 60 years of that century gave rise to many remarkable advances in science, not only with respect to basic scientific principles, but also in the applications of science to technology for military purposes and the growth and development of living organisms. This led to major changes in an understanding of scientific processes, the rejection of positivism and greater recognition of the contribution of science to economic and technological development. Consequently, in the late 1950s it was widely recognized that the teaching of science in schools must also change. The major changes that occurred were: (a) the teaching of biology in schools with an ecological focus to replace the teaching of botany, zoology and physiology largely to girls, (b) the teaching of science related to the earth, the solar system, the universe and the environment, (c) the teaching of an integrated science during the early years of secondary schooling, rather than the teaching of only physics and chemistry as the basic sciences, (d) the teaching of elementary science during the primary school years, replacing the study of nature, and (e) a greater emphasis on inquiry and investigation in the learning of science. Unfortunately, the applications of science both in everyday life, in technology and in conservation of the environment were often overlooked in the new courses that were introduced. However, after 20 years of intense activity world-wide, the movement for change in the teaching of science lost momentum in many countries of the Western world. This was at a time when the developing countries were searching for leadership and for advances in the teaching of science to support their economic and technological development that involved the uses and applications of scientific knowledge and the processes involved in scientific inquiry.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century the teaching of science can be said to be in a state of crisis. This situation has arisen from a growing shortage of science teachers in the physical sciences and mathematics, that has resulted both from the retirement of teachers who were educated during the peak years of reform in science teaching and who were attracted to the teaching profession, as well as from the higher financial rewards that were available in the fields of technology and commerce which had become oriented to science-based development. Furthermore, today the teaching and learning of science is too often seen as a field that involves only what takes place in a classroom and is thus divorced from a world that is changing rapidly as a consequence of continuing growth and development in the fields of science and technology. The authors adopt the view that it is both incomplete and inadequate to consider the learning of science as involving only those practices associated with the teaching of science in classrooms and laboratories. The media, the internet, peer group activities, investigation centres, field displays and museums all have a central role in the teaching and learning of science by children and by adults throughout their lives, because the fields of science are advancing at a rapid rate. The learning of science in schools is critical for all that follows outside the classroom and at later stages of life and that is related to scientific and technological development.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • John P. Keeves
    • 1
  • I Gusti Ngurah Darmawan
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EducationThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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