Blurring the Boundary Between the Classroom and the Community: Challenges for Teachers’ Professional Knowledge

  • Léonie J. Rennie


Today arguments mount for a science education that students find engaging. Thus attention has turned towards curriculum that places more focus on the world outside school, on the reasonable view that if students are to operate as informed citizens then the science curriculum they experience at school has to be sufficiently meaningful and relevant for them to perceive links with what they experience outside the school doors. However, the science that is enacted beyond the classroom is not immediately discernible in the issues and problems in which it resides, because it is melded immutably with knowledge and understanding in a range of other subjects—mathematics, geography and economics—and also is imbued with social, cultural and political values. Teaching science that includes interaction with significant issues beyond the classroom demands of teachers a different knowledge base than the discipline-specific perspective. Instead, teachers need to work in interdisciplinary ways and integrate at least some parts of the curriculum. Significantly, curriculum integration is a contested concept in science education, reflecting the tension that exists between the powerful knowledge attributed to disciplines and the arguably more worthwhile, but less powerful, interdisciplinary knowledge available from an integrated curriculum. Thus for quality teaching that deals with issues beyond the classroom, a different interpretation of pedagogical content knowledge is required. In this chapter, the curriculum forces that underlie this tension are explored and an argument made for a more balanced view of science curriculum which can serve both the need for disciplinary knowledge and the need for students to be able to apply their learning outside of school.


Content Knowledge Pedagogical Content Knowledge Science Curriculum Disciplinary Knowledge Community Community 
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.


  1. Aikenhead, G. (2006). Science education for everyday life. New York: Teachers’ College Press.Google Scholar
  2. Australian Science Teachers Association. (2005). SCIps school industry partnerships in science: Final report. Canberra: Department of Education, Science and Training. (Available at Scholar
  3. Bartholomew, H., Osborne, J., & Ratcliffe, M. (2004). Teaching students “ideas-about-science”: Five dimensions of effective practice. Science Education, 88, 655–682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bell, P., Lewenstein, B., Shouse, A. W., & Feder M. A. (Eds.). (2009). Learning science in informal environments: People, places, and pursuits. Washington: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bernstein, B. (1971). On classification and framing of educational knowledge. In M. F. D. Young (Ed.), Knowledge and control: New directions for the sociology of education. London: The Open University.Google Scholar
  6. Braund, M., & Reiss, M. (Eds.). (2004). Learning science outside the classroom. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  7. Corrigan, D., Dillon, J., & Gunstone, R. (Eds.). (2007). The re-emergence of values in science education. Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  8. Duschl, R. (2008). Science education in three-part harmony: Balancing conceptual, epistemic, and social learning goals. In G. J. Kelly, A. Luke, & J. Green (Eds.), What counts as knowledge in educational settings, disciplinary knowledge, assessment, and curriculum. Review of Research in Education, 32, 268–291.Google Scholar
  9. European Commission. (2007). Science education now: A renewed pedagogy for the future of Europe. Brussels: European Commission, Directorate-General for Research.Google Scholar
  10. Fensham, P. J. (1985). Science for all: A reflective essay. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 17, 415–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fensham, P. J. (2008). Science education policy-making: Eleven emerging issues. A report commissioned by UNESCO, Section for Science, Technical and Vocational Education. Accessed 10 Oct 2008.Google Scholar
  12. Fensham, P. J. (2009). The link between policy and practice in science education: The role of research. Science Education, 93, 1076–1095.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gardner, P. L. (Ed.). (1975). Science and the structure of knowledge. In P. L. Gardner (Ed.), The structure of science education (pp. 1–40). Hawthorn: Longman.Google Scholar
  14. Goodrum, D., Hackling, M., & Rennie, L. (2001). The status and quality of teaching and learning of science in Australian schools: A research report. Canberra: Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.Google Scholar
  15. Jenkins, E. (2007). School science: A questionable construct? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 39(3), 265–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Layton, D., Jenkins, E., Macgill, S., & Davey, A. (1993). Inarticulate science? Perspectives on the public understanding of science and some implications for science education. Nafferton: Studies in Education Ltd.Google Scholar
  17. Levinson, R., & Turner, S. (2001). Valuable lessons: Engaging with the social context of science in schools. London: The Wellcome Trust.Google Scholar
  18. National Science Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  19. Osborne, J. (2007). Science education for the twenty first century. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 3(3), 173–184.Google Scholar
  20. Osborne, J., & Dillon, J. (2008). Science education in Europe: Critical reflections. London: The Nuffield Foundation.Google Scholar
  21. Osborne, J., Duschl, R., & Fairbrother, R. (2002). Breaking the mould? Teaching science for public understanding (a report commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation). London: The Nuffield Foundation. (Available at
  22. Ratcliffe, M., & Grace, M. (2003). Science education for citizenship. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Rennie, L. J. (2006, August). The community’s contribution to science learning: Making it count. Plenary address to the ACER Research Conference 2006, “Boosting science learning—What will it take,” Canberra. Accessed 13 March 2007.
  24. Rennie, L. J. (2007). Learning science outside of school. In S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 125–167). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  25. Rennie, L. J., & Howitt, C. (2009). “Science has changed my life!” Evaluation of the scientists in schools project. A report of its evaluation. Accessed 15 April 2009.
  26. Rennie, L. J., & The Australian Science Teachers Association. (2003). The ASTA science awareness raising model: An evaluation report prepared for the Department of Education Science and Training. Canberra: ASTA. (Available at Scholar
  27. Rennie, L. J., Venville, G., & Wallace, J. (2010). Learning science in an integrated classroom: Finding balance through theoretical triangulation. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 1–24. First published on: 02 December 2010 (iFirst).Google Scholar
  28. Roberts, D. (2007). Scientific literacy/science literacy. In S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 729–780). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  29. Ryder, J. (2001). Identifying science understanding for functional scientific literacy. Studies in Science Education, 36, 1–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Saunders, K. (2010). Engaging with bioethics: A professional learning programme for science teachers. In A. Jones, A. McKim, & M. Reiss, (Eds.), Ethics in the science and technology classroom: A new approach to teaching and learning (pp. 103–128). Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  31. Schreiner, C., & Sjøberg, S. (2007). Science education and youth’s identity construction—two incompatible projects. In D. Corrigan, J. Dillon, & R. Gunstone (Eds.), The re-emergence of values in science education (pp. 231–247). Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  32. Stocklmayer, S. M., Rennie, L. J., & Gilbert, J. K. (2010). The roles of the formal and informal sectors in the provision of effective science education. Studies in Science Education, 46, 1–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tytler, R., Symington, D., Smith, C., & Rodrigues, S. (2008). An innovation framework based on best practice exemplars from the Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics (ASISTM) Project. Canberra, Australia. Accessed 1 June 2009.
  34. Venville, G., Rennie, L., & Wallace, J. (2004). Decision making and sources of knowledge: How students tackle integrated tasks in science, technology and mathematics. Research in Science Education, 31(2), 115–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Venville, G., Rennie, L. J., & Wallace, J. (in press). Curriculum integration: Challenging the assumption of school science as powerful knowledge. In B. J. Fraser, K. Tobin, & C. McRobbie (Eds.), Second international handbook of science education. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  36. Venville, G., Sheffield, R., Rennie, L., & Wallace, J. (2008). The writing on the classroom wall: The effect of school context on learning in integrated, community-based science projects. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(8), 857–880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Venville, G., Wallace, J., Rennie, L. J., & Malone, J. (2002). Curriculum integration: Eroding the high ground of science as a school subject. Studies in Science Education, 37, 43–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Léonie J. Rennie
    • 1
  1. 1.Curtin University of TechnologyPerthAustralia

Personalised recommendations