The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results has predictably triggered a round of national soul-searching as the realisation dawns that in both mathematics and science we are increasingly falling behind countries traditionally regarded as our inferiors.
Matthew Knott, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 9, 2014
The traditional role of the primary school teacher as a jack-of-all trades should be scrapped because too many teachers have deficient mathematics and science skills, one education body says.
Reform in Science Education and Science Teacher Learning – Are We There Yet?
Jenny Pesina, ReMSTEP Educational Designer, July 22nd, 2015
On July 21st, 2015 the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and the Reconceptualising Mathematics and Science Teacher Education Programs (ReMSTEP) project team had a pleasure of co-hosting a visit of Professor Jan H. Van Driel, Professor of Science Education and Director of ICLON (Leiden University Graduate School of Teaching).
Professor Van Driel gave a seminar at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education on the topic of “Reform in Science Education and Science Teacher Learning”.
A number of key issues, relating to the historical and current challenges in science education reform and science teacher learning were discussed; among these were the notion of the overloaded science curriculum, conceptual learning problems and misconceptions relating to learning of science at schools. The dominance of traditional teaching methods and decrease in students’ attitudes and interest, especially in secondary education were also highlighted. Professor Van Driel commented on the way “science is still taught as there is always one right answer”.
science is still taught as there is always one right answer
Among the ways of addressing these issues were curriculum-based innovations, such as the introduction of new subjects and innovations inside the classrooms. These innovations require science teachers to further develop their knowledge, beliefs and practice. Van Driel presented a few research-based examples of how science teachers can be engaged to implement innovations successfully.
The issues Professor Van Driel raised are very familiar to the ReMSTEP project team. ReMSTEP is embarking on these challenges by introducing science and mathematics specialist pathways in the Master of Teaching (Primary) at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education as well as a number of innovatively taught science and mathematics electives.
Deakin and Melbourne Universities are working with Specialist Science Centres and cultural institutions like Museum Victoria to expose the pre-service teachers to the context-rich learning and teaching.
At La Trobe University, ReMSTEP team is working with Australian Maths and Science Partnership, College of Science Health and Engineering as well as developing illustrations of practice in inquiry science.
Monash University is planning for a new schools outreach program “Monash Science Team” for 2016 and are delivering two new science units, jointly devloped by the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Education, in Semseter 2 2015.
ReMSTEP team hopes that the pre-service teachers will, in turn, introduce their students to the rich learning experiences they are currently being exposed to themselves. After all, it is all part of the pre-service teachers’ ability “to make sense of innovations and implement them in their practice” (Van Driel, J.H., 2015).
Periodic project updates
2016 is a year for consolidating our existing learning and evaluating the impact of the ReMSTEP activities. As the ReMSTEP activities come to a close, we are following our dissemination plan and publishing more and more resources onto the ReMSTEP website.
We are focusing on supplying impact statements for the ReMSTEP Conference on 7th of November 2017, creating the final project report for the Department of Education in February 2017, finalizing the ReMSTEP website for March 2017, and supplying the evaluative material needed for the eventual ReMSTEP publication after the project conclusion.
The University of Melbourne
The University of Melbourne has continued its fruitful collaborations from 2015 with Museum Victoria and the Gene Technology Access Centre, including the Science in Schools activity. We have also initiated new collaborations with the Victorian Space Science Education Centre for our primary pre-service science elective in 2016, and are exploring a partnership with the Melbourne School of Engineering for pre-service teachers to develop their capacity to create problem-based mathematics lessons. We are re-running the successful Back to School maths camp from 2015.
In addition to the many resources from the GTAC collaboration, we are also planning to publish the processes of our other activities, so that other pre-service teacher educators who wish to examine, learn from and even implement our processes. They will be able to do so via the ReMSTEP website. We are also collaborating with other ETMST projects to establish whether the existing network of math and science educators can continue to collaborate after the life of the ReMSTEP project.
The main focus of the Deakin initiatives has been to explore models through which PSTs interact with STEM researchers and educators to generate teaching material focused on contemporary STEM practice. We are collaborating with the Deakin Institute of Frontier Materials, with specialist centers GTAC and the Melbourne Museum (in collaboration with the University of Melbourne), and increasingly with schools in which PSTs interact with teachers and STEM researchers and professionals.
A variety of multimedia resources and associated activities have been or are being developed including the production of open source online modules, videos and school activities with a strong curriculum focus on science and engineering inquiry skills and science as a human endeavor. There has been increasing collaboration between Education and Science academics, and embedding of REMSTEP activities and assessment into units
In conjunction with Deakin education academics and scientists, PSTs have produced videos and activities for secondary school science classes around key science concepts, including Stem Cells, Geology and Chemistry. These activities are being made available to schools, PSTs and other teacher educators via the REMSTEP website.
IFM (Burwood): Deakin pre-service chemistry teachers have collaborated with research scientists to develop teaching resources suitable for secondary chemistry students.
IFM (Geelong): The ReMSTEP team have formulated and tested a model for PSTs to work with the IFM research scientists in developing resources and trialing them in their classes.
Communicating Science: IFM research scientists are giving short presentations of their work to 1st and 2nd year Communicating Science students. These (predominantly pre-service) students then re-present the scientists work by developing an activity or resource to be used in year 7/8 secondary science classrooms or developing a profile of the scientist that reflects the process of their work.
Stem cell teaching sequence Master of Teaching students at Deakin University have produced stem cell teaching sequences for VCE Biology in collaboration with a stem cell scientist and education academic. As part of this, a STEM Cell drama has been created by Dr Peta White and her students for use at year
Gene Technology Access Centre (GTAC): Pre-service teachers have worked with GTAC educators and scientists (including PhD research scholars) to produce educative resources that interpret the cutting edge science involved for both pre-service teacher education programs and schools.
Melbourne Museum: Students from Deakin University and University of Melbourne have attended study days at the Melbourne Museum where they have learnt about various elements of rocks. Using go-pros bought specifically for the purpose, the students produced a visual report and discussion of their experiences.
Contemporary science schools project: Under the tutelage of Dr Peta White, pre-service teachers attended 4 primary schools as volunteers in a series of science week activities. Ongoing PST involvement will be linked to a student science and sustainability club at Deakin.
Contemporary biology and environmental science in education: Pre-service biology education students interacted with contemporary science and scientists to develop multimedia resources (including the production of video resources featuring Deakin scientists and their work) linked to the school biology curriculum.
La Trobe University
La Trobe University has been collaborating with two currently funded AMSPP projects, In2Science and Growing Tall Poppies, to include PSTs in the running of the Growing Tall Poppies to give them an experience of the immersion program that is conducted at La Trobe University. La Trobe has also been working with the Discovery Science and Technology Centre in Bendigo in delivering a program to 2nd year PSTs designed to enhance the teaching of science at a primary school level.
Increasing numbers of science methods secondary school PSTs are coming this year through the Growing Tall Poppies program. They are able to observe and interact with the students of the program. 147 PSTs from LaTrobe University participated in the program at the Discovery Science and Technology Centre in which 875 primary school students came through the program. The primary school PSTs have now a better identity with science and a handful of PSTs deciding to change their specialty method to science.
La Trobe helped designing and developing the program in Bendigo so that the program can continue on after ReMSTEP finishes. We are currently in the process of implementing a new seminar series with senior researchers from La Trobe University talking to PSTs at La Trobe University which is open to the other partner universities and the public, commencing this August. The resources that will be created from the seminars will be kept in a repository to be determined for future students to access.
Monash University’s collaboration has mainly been internal between the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Science with an emphasis on developing skills in communicating science and increased knowledge of contemporary practices in science. The work has involved: the joint development of two new tertiary units (SCI3910, EDF5674); production of 3 videos about the ‘beauty of maths’; and a website, ‘science squad’ to encourage primary school students to be involved in science activities beyond the classroom. Besides the academics from the 2 faculties, the project has involved collaboration with and between: science undergraduates, PSTs, scientists, primary school teachers and students. In second semester 2015, PSTs undertook a short placement at 15 cutting edge research laboratories and groups at Monash and an external partner (Melbourne Museum); 60 science undergraduate students were hosted by 12 primary schools to develop and run science activities for students in years 4-6. As a result, the science squad initiative was developed, the website is currently being designed and coordinated by current and past students of SCI3910.
The outcomes we have had so far this year are:
Schools Science project (SCI3910) unit has been further developed to reflect student and schools’ feedback from research completed in 2015. In addition to developing important employability skills, students get the chance to taste teaching as a possible career pathway. The research findings suggest a positive impact on these students’ interests in teaching as a future career. In semester two 2016, this unit has students enrolled for the second iteration.
Engaging with practices of contemporary science (EDF5674) unit has been further developed to reflect student and scientists’ feedback from research completed in 2015. In semester two 2016, this unit has students enrolled for the second iteration. Preliminary findings suggest that teachers were surprised how diverse the views of nature of science can be. These views can directly impact on ways of communicating contemporary science practices.
We are in the production stage of creating an interactive website for participant schools for ‘science squad’. Two events are also in the planning stages for these students to attend for this project. One is a science event developed by Monash students enrolled or past graduates in the SC13910 unit as volunteers. The other is an end of project celebratory event for the schools’ students with their families who engaged with this online Science Squad to receive an award to acknowledge their extent of participation.
Two of the three maths videos have been produced. These videos will be trialed with PSTs in second semester 2016.
The resources that have been produced are:
An elective unit for Masters of Teaching PSTs ‘EDF5674 Engaging with the practices of contemporary science’.
An elective unit for B.Sci 3rd year students ‘SCI3910 School science project’.
Three maths videos are in production at the stages of editing which will then undergo peer review. The topics of the videos are; parabolas, knots, and fractals. They will also be made available on the ReMSTEP website.
An interactive website for or participant schools where the students and their teachers can select educational Science activities, programs, and events to participate in and then record their experiences to be awarded points.
The first half of 2015 has been the most active period so far for the ReMSTEP project. The focus of this year has been to put into practice the courses and activities that were designed in 2014, with an eye to seeing how these activities can be improved in the years to come. A number of critical milestones were progressed during this period, continuing the development of collaborative relationships and the incorporation of cutting edge science practices in the educational experience of our pre-service teachers. More information about each ReMSTEP initiative can be found in the activity updates, provided below.
Key events and dissemination activities in 2015 have so far included:
Annual Evaluation and Dissemination Workshop for the Enhancing the Training of Mathematics and Science Teachers Program (ETMST) – March 27th, 2015. Professor Dinham and key ReMSTEP investigators gave an update on the project goals and activities on behalf of the project team and took away valuable feedback from the other project teams of the ETMST Program.
Invitations to register for the first ReMSTEP Annual Conference – November 13th, 2015. The registration page for the site went live at the start of July. Planning is in place to make the ReMSTEP Conference an exciting opportunity to both showcase the work we have done so far, and to seek feedback on the work that still lies ahead of us.
Professor Van Driel seminar at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education – July 22nd, 2015. Professor Van Driel, of Leiden University Graduate School of Teaching, gave a seminar at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education on the topic of “Reform in Science Education and Science Teacher Learning". Read more here.
Event for National Science Week – August 18th, 2015. Monash Faculty of Science and Faculty of Education are co-hosting a joint 'Science Stories' event called STEM Talks for National Science Week 2015. ARC Laureate and Future fellows will present stories from their research. The purpose of the stories is to present the nature of science as an inquiry led, un-predictable discipline. These stories will be crafted in collaboration with the Science Education Research Group and will be filmed to a broadcast standard for an audience of aspiring and practicing science teachers.
At the Gene Technology Access Centre (GTAC), pre-service teachers from Deakin University and University of Melbourne have been working with GTAC educators and scientists (including PhD research scholars) to produce educative resources that interpret the cutting edge science involved for both pre-service teacher education programs and schools. The three project topics include: Bionic eye, Stem Cell, and Adaptation. The aim for 2015 is to design the activities for the drafted curriculum and trial these activities in teacher education programs and in school classrooms.
At the Melbourne Museum, pre-service teachers from Deakin University and University of Melbourne have attended study days at the Melbourne Museum where they have learnt about various elements of rocks. These study days were run by the Museum staff including the resident head geologist and Manager of Natural Science Collections, Dermot Henry, and comprised seeing the work the research scientists do behind the scenes. The students were then taken on a field trip to Phillip Island where they explored rock outcrops and unconformities at Kitty Miller Bay, Pyramid Rock and the Colonnades; and using go-pros bought specifically for the purpose, produced a visual report and discussion of their experiences.
Deakin Burwood campus pre-service chemistry teachers have collaborated with research scientists from the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) to develop teaching resources suitable for secondary chemistry students. The resources the pre-service teachers have developed have been obtained and (with IFM’s input) the most appropriate of these will be selected for addition to the ReMSTEP website as a resource.
An IFM research scientist has also been funded to work with the Deakin University ReMSTEP team to produce educational and promotional videos and activities about their work for pre-service teacher education programs and primary and secondary classrooms. The ReMSTEP team are working together to formulate and test a model for pre-service teachers to work with the IFM research scientists in developing resources and trialling them in their classes. Once this model is operational it will be applied to other IFM scientists work.
IFM research scientists are also giving short presentations of their work to 1st and 2nd year ‘Communicating Science’ students. These (predominantly pre-service) students then re-present the scientists’ work by developing an activity or resource to be used in year 7/8 secondary science classrooms.
At La Trobe University, ReMSTEP is working in partnership with the faculty of education to develop a topic on 'Inquiry Science' that will be offered as a topic in the newly developed M.Teach course. The Inquiry Science topic will be an option in the Practitioner Research Project that is undertaken in the second year of the M.Teach. This gives PSTs the opportunity to link research into approaches to teaching science through inquiry-based pedagogy with their professional experience placement. ReMSTEP at La Trobe is developing a series of illustrations of practice in inquiry science that can be presented as resource materials for this M.Teach topic.
La Trobe University is also partnering with the Australian Maths and Science Partnership Projects to enhance the ways in which undergraduate and post graduate science students can engage with schools. The major ASMPP projects conducted through La Trobe are 'In2Science' and 'Growing Tall Poppies'. The aim of this partnership is to develop a basis for these opportunities for engagement to continue beyond the life of the ReMSTEP project.
ReMSTEP is continuing to build its partnership with Quantum Victoria as a major collaboration with specialist science centres. Quantum will play a major role in supporting the development of the illustrations of practice materials.
ReMSTEP is negotiating with the newly established College of Science Health and Engineering (SHE) at La Trobe University to recruit maths and science students into teaching careers. The PVC of SHE has agreed in principle for two new subjects to be developed for offering in undergraduate science subjects to address this issue, one with a general focus on science communication and second with a specific focus on science career pathways. ReMSTEP is working with the DPVC Academic for SHE to plan the details for developing and implementing these subjects.
At Monash University, The Faculty of Science and Faculty of Education have jointly developed two new units for first delivery in Semester 2 2015 – Schools Science project (SCI3910) and Engaging with practices of contemporary science (EDF5674). Unit content has been collaboratively developed between the two faculties and is in the final stages of preparation. Both units involve student placements. Fifteen cutting edge research laboratories and groups at Monash and an external partner (Melbourne Museum) will host students for a short placement in August 2015. Over 30 primary schools in the SE Melbourne metropolitan area have agreed to host 60+ students. Placement arrangements are now in the process of being finalised.
The Maths Learning Centre and the Science Education Research Group at Monash are collaborating to produce a series of short videos for pre-service and in-service maths teachers. The aim of the videos is to improve Mathematics content knowledge and pedagogical skills in maths teachers, both in and out of field. The project is currently in the pre-production phase, with the first outputs scheduled for November 2015.
At the University of Melbourne, New Science and Maths specialist pathways have been introduced in 2014 within the MTeach (Primary). The major impact will be the graduation of a select group of Masters teachers with specialised knowledge in Maths and Science teaching, pedagogy, curriculum, skills and resources to lead change in schools. Two new maths subjects have been accepted by the APC and LMS Community Sites have been created separately for each specialisation.
New MTeach (Primary) Science and Maths units of study will to be offered as an elective as part of the MTeach (Primary) Science and Math specialist pathways. The development of a science and maths focused MTeach elective at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education brings together science, maths and education staff, collaborating with pre-service candidates and the existing teaching profession. Core to the new MTeach science and maths elective are the introduction of new science and maths content and pedagogy as well as building of collaborative relationships across faculties. The key outcome of this elective is an informed cohort of graduate primary teachers, better equipped to integrate not just an awareness of contemporary maths and science concepts but aspects of actual mathematical and scientific practice into their classroom pedagogy.
In November of 2015, Undergraduate Maths students and Master of Teaching students from University of Melbourne will visit schools to participate in a day of school experiences including lesson observation and teaching.
We've had a very busy and productive year on the ReMSTEP project. The focus of Year One has been on co-design of potential courses and activities to support ReMSTEP goals and objectives, across the science, mathematics and education faculties. A number of critical milestones have been met, including the development of collaborative relationships and the design of learning resources incorporating cutting edge science practices. Approximately seventy students took part in ReMSTEP activities and pilots across partner universities. More information can be found in partner updates, provided below.
Key events and dissemination activities in 2014 included:
Project Launch – March 24th, 2014. Over fifty guests from the STEM community, government, and education sector, attended the Launch. For example, stakeholders from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Independent Schools Victoria, maths and science teachers associations, the Office for Learning and Teaching and partner centres were in attendance. The project launch presentations are available on our website.
Inaugural Annual Evaluation and Dissemination Workshop for the Enhancing the Training of Mathematics and Science Teachers Program (ETMST) – March 28th, 2014. Professor Dinham gave an overview of the project goals and planned activities, on behalf of the project team. This was the first opportunity for the project team to network with other projects within ETMST Program.
Project’s first external Reference Group meeting – November 5th, 2014. In the morning there were scheduled presentations to inform the reference group about project activities. In the afternoon two workshops were facilitated by the project team: STEM Innovative Pedagogies and Project Evaluation Case Study. It was a productive meeting overall, with a strong focus on sustainable models of change and authentic collaborations that will exist beyond the life of the project.
Deakin has been extremely active in seeking to enrich student learning experiences through access to specialist science and maths centres. At the Institute for Frontier Materials Deakin pre-service teachers (Chemistry) are engaged in one on one engagements with researchers to develop a teaching resource that addresses key criteria, including identifying the practices used by the scientists’ to develop knowledge, and identifying links to Chemistry in curriculum.
At the Gene Technology Access Centre, Deakin (and University of Melbourne) pre-service students, GTAC staff, scientists and teacher educators are collaborating to produce educative resources that interpret cutting edge science for both pre-service teacher education programs and schools.
Components for three topics of study (stem cells, the bionic eye and adaptations) will be developed by the three core working teams with representation from GTAC, teacher educators, primary / secondary school education students and industry-based experts. A management team, comprising of ReMSTEP and GTAC representatives will oversee the overall process.
Discussions are underway with the Melbourne Museum in identifying ways Deakin can access the Museum’s collections and research scientists as part of its education programs.
As part of its SPIEs focus - Scientists as Partners In Education – pre-service teachers at La Trobe (both Primary and Secondary) are working in partnership with science researchers (Future Fellows) to gain a personal experience of contemporary science. The students are taking on, as an aspect of this experience, the development of a learning activity that they will trial with a class in their upcoming teaching practicum. Activities will include: profiling the nature of the work of scientists through personal stories (Science as Human Endeavour), providing contemporary examples of the way scientists work (Science Inquiry) and integrating new areas of science into the curriculum.
LaTrobe has established a partnership with Quantum Victoria, and discussions are underway around involving science students to work in partnership with Quantum program developers and enabling pre-service teachers to engage with innovative areas of science and the explicit pedagogy of science inquiry.
At Monash University the Education and Science faculties are working together to develop new units of study for their Masters of Teaching and Bachelor of Science programs. The benefit will be to enhance student understanding of contemporary science, scientific processes, and science communication. Planning is also underway to potentially introduce a vertical double degree at Monash in 2016.
The Schools Science project (SCI3910) is a new elective being offered in Semester 2, 2015 to undegraduate Science students. It provides an opportunity for science students to develop and deliver teaching activities in a primary or secondary school.
The Engaging with practices of contemporary science (EDF5674) is a new elective being offered in Semester 2, 2015 to Master of Teaching/Master of Education students. It provides an opportunity for students to experience science as it is actually practiced in contemporary scientific settings, and understand how to translate such practices into their classroom teaching.
University of Melbourne
At the University of Melbourne the Masters of Teaching (Primary) program is introducing new Science and Maths specialist pathways to its overall structure. The major impact will be the graduation of a select group of teachers with specialised knowledge in Maths and Science teaching, pedagogy, curriculum, skills and resources. The course structure has been designed in collaboration with faculties of science, maths and education.
The first Science and Maths elective was offered in July 2014 at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and brought together science, maths and education staff in a collaborative relationship with pre-service candidates and the existing teaching profession.
The University of Melbourne, with Deakin, are currently collaborating with the Gene Technology Access Centre in the development, trialling and evaluation three new topics of study.
Also at the University of Melbourne, faculties of Science and Education are coming together to design a ‘School as Breadth’ experience for undergraduate science students. This initiative will provide the opportunity to Masters of Science students to gain school experience to promote teaching as a career. The plan will work towards engagements with specialist science and maths centres.
Discussions are also underway with the Melbourne Museum in identifying ways the University of Melbourne can access the Museum’s collections and research scientists as part of its education programs.
The ReMSTEP Launch was held at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, 234 Queensberry St, Carlton on the 24th of March 2014.
Representatives from the Australian Government Office for Teaching and Learning; the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development; Science, Mathematics and Education faculties of each participating Unversity; and specialist centres were in attendance.
Video of the presentations and the presentation slides are available here for your perusal below.