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Well designed curriculum materials have been shown to support the development of teacher knowledge through the way they represent subject concepts, tasks, procedures and teaching approaches (Ball & Cohen, 1996). The Science Learning Hub (SLH) may be regarded as such a resource. However, for SLH materials to be most effective, teachers sometimes adapt them so that the materials work for them and fit their students.

In order to adapt materials, teachers need ‘adaptive expertise’ (Crawford et al., 2005) to innovate new solutions and approaches as new tools become available and contexts and needs change. To “build expertise, it is also important to be able and inclined to ‘jump the tracks’ of routine and efficiency when appropriate, to be alert to novelty, nuance, and to seek out interesting problems, and to apply the abilities, dispositions, and skills that enable one to learn through tackling the ordinary – and extraordinary – problems of practice” (Crawford et al., 2005, p.10).

The research

This project was undertaken over one term to investigate how teachers at different levels of schooling used and adapted SLH resources for their science teaching. The project involved six teachers from four schools comprising year levels 3 to 10. Two teachers were specialist science teachers. Data was collected through videotapes, audiotapes, observations, field notes, interviews, student work and teaching materials.

This research brief provides an overview of the adaptations six teachers made to SLH resources so they were suitable for their students.

I had all the background information to build my programme around and the base [the activity to adapt] from the SLH.

Findings

Teachers had a sound knowledge of the students they were teaching. They chose their topic, the big idea and many of the learning intentions and possible activities with the science and their students in mind. They explored the SLH individually and together to see what they might use more specifically in their teaching and how they would change SLH materials to best suit their teaching and students. Advice from those who had already used some of the materials was welcomed and highly sought after. As Mary commented, “It was nice to know that there was someone you could ask a question since they’d done it before.”

The teachers’ adaptations included altering the number of steps in the activity, changing the communication means from written to oral and/or drawing, varying the sequence of activities and changing the social configurations (whole class, group or individual).

Adaptation

Associated article

Altering the aims and learning intentions

Adapting SLH activities: altering the aims and learning intentions

Adapting SLH activities: adjustments for younger students

Adapting activities for younger students

Adding extra investigative steps

Adapting SLH activities: incorporating prediction opportunities

Adding emphasis to essential scientific vocabulary

Adapting SLH activities: focusing on scientific language

Changing the activity to suit younger children

Adapting SLH activities: adjustments for younger students

Integrating other resources

Supplementing SLH activities with other artefacts

Changing the topic and the accompanying scenarios

Adapting SLH activities: changing the topic

Providing another context to transfer ideas

Adapting SLH activities: providing another context

Teachers successfully incorporated the adapted SLH materials into their planning because they had made decisions about their topic, unit, big idea, learning intentions and lesson sequence and they understood their students. Mila commented, “I had all the background information to build my programme around and the base [the activity to adapt] from the SLH.”

Concluding comment

The SLH can support teachers planning through the way it represents subject concepts, tasks, procedures and teaching approaches. However, for SLH materials to be most effective, teachers sometimes need to adapt the materials so that the materials work for them and fit their students. For teachers to adapt successfully, they require adaptive expertise and the courage to make an adaptation. Recommendations from other teachers about what worked for them in their classrooms can help with adapting resources on the SLH. When teachers explore the SLH over time and with others, they build their knowledge of the materials, gain confidence in using the materials and change the materials to suit their purposes.

References

Ball, D. & Cohen, D. (1996). Reform by the book: What is – or might be – the role of curriculum materials in teacher learning and instructional reform? Educational Researcher, 25(9), 6–8, 14.

Crawford, V., Schlager, M., Toyama, Y., Riel, M. & Vahey, P. (2005). Characterizing adaptive expertise in Science teaching. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada, 11–15 April.

 

    Published 1 September 2014