Online resources can increase the range of materials teachers have access to for planning, and the ‘just in time’ (Wilson & Stacey, 2003, p. 546) sourcing of online resources can provide support for teachers’ activities including their planning. The Science Learning Hub (SLH) provides teachers with access to a range of quality-assured resources, but their impact in the classroom relies on a teacher’s expertise.
Shulman’s (1987) notion of pedagogical content knowledge comes into play here. Teachers require sound pedagogical content knowledge to know how to plan and teach specific disciplinary ideas and skills to particular students. Student learning is also affected by how teaching gives continuity and coherency of meaning (Mercer, 2008). Science topics are often made up of a series of activities, and so planning with attention to pedagogical link-making (Scott, Mortimer & Ametller, 2011) is essential if students are to experience their learning as connected and cumulative.
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 – one year 3–4 teacher, one year 4, one year 5–6, two year 7–8 and one year 9–10. Two teachers were specialist science teachers.
The project was initiated with a 2-day teacher workshop when the teachers planned a science topic using SLH resources. Data was collected from audiotapes, observations, field notes, interviews and teaching materials.
The focus of this research brief is on the processes teachers used to incorporate the SLH resources into their science planning.
When planning lessons, the project teachers worked iteratively between different facets of planning to develop and maintain coherency. First, they came to the project workshop with a topic in mind. This served as their science focus. Then they sourced the big idea that fitted their topic using Harlen (2010). Choosing an overarching big idea helped confirm the science focus and provided an overview for their planning and the unit activities. Next, the teachers consulted Science in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) to identify and develop the science ideas/learning intentions that nested within their big idea. They also checked that their planning was at the relevant level(s).
At the same time as crafting learning goals, the teachers planned the unit science activities. They designed these as a connected sequence intended to scaffold their students towards their learning intentions and the unit big idea. They considered how they would link activities in a cohesive manner, mindful that they would be guiding student learning. Finally, the teachers moved to the SLH and searched for supporting resources and detailed New Zealand-based information. They slotted the SLH materials into the activity sequence and adapted the materials to suit their students. Throughout this process, teachers kept in mind all the facets of the planning process. They juggled each aspect to develop a coherent plan driven by the big idea and the related learning intentions. They were able to do this because they had formed an overview of their unit idea and sequence and they knew their students.
It was excellent having that SLH base and all the background information to build my programme around.
Using the SLH
The SLH played a support role in planning. For example, teachers sourced learning intentions, associated activities and materials that would fit their topic including videos, animations and images. Teachers used the SLH throughout the 2-day workshop to research and learn more about the science they would be teaching, to check their science understandings and to refine their plans. As one teacher commented, “It was excellent having that SLH base and all the background information to build my programme around.” Discussions about SLH materials and activities that had already worked for other teachers were beneficial.
Having a topic in mind helps to focus teacher planning as does iteratively moving between the big idea, the intended learning outcomes and associated activities. A coherent plan is formed when teachers nestle and weave all aspects together. The SLH can support teacher planning as it is a source of science ideas for teaching and it provides examples that have worked for other teachers. Pedagogical content knowledge comes into play as teachers use the SLH to make decisions about how to craft a unit tailored to specific subject ideas and to their students. Pedagogical linkmaking skills are also required, as the different facets of the SLH are not necessarily linked. An extended time for planning, along with a focus on science, contributes to teachers creating effective plans.
Harlen, W. (2010). Principles and big ideas of science education. Hatfield, Herts: Association for Science Education.
Mercer, N. (1995). Guided construction of knowledge: Talk amongst teachers and students. United Kingdom: Multilingual Matters.
Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington, NZ: Learning Media.
Scott, P., Mortimer, E. & Ametller, J. (2011). Pedagogical link-making: A fundamental aspect of teaching and learning scientific conceptual knowledge. Studies in Science Education, 47(1), 3–36.
Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1–22.
Wilson, G. & Stacey, E. (2003). Online interaction impacts on learning: Teaching the teachers to teach online. In G. Crisp, D. Thiele, I. Scholten, S. Baker & J. Baron (Eds.), Interact, integrate, impact: Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE), Adelaide, SA, 7–10 December, 541–551.