How to use this toolkit

This toolkit has been designed to help teachers participating in MyScience. It particularly targets teachers who are in their first or second year of participating and want to up-skill their teaching of some aspects of the science investigation process.

The toolkit has been designed to be a flexible professional learning toolkit rather than a sequential, lock-step learning process. Here is some advice on how to use the toolkit:

  • Go to self-evaluation and open the link to the mapping tool. Note you will need to enable macros and you should ensure that it is open in ‘full screen’ view for easy viewing and use. Complete answering the four questions across each of the seven domains of teaching science investigations. Your level for each domain can be viewed at the bottom of the page as soon as you have completed the four questions or you can see your results as a graph in ‘my profile’ or highlighted cells in ‘level statements’. Save a copy of this and/or print it.

  • Identify the areas where you would like to improve (generally the domains where you achieved the lowest levels in the map) and either follow the links from the ‘level statement’ or return to home page and follow the link to ‘learning tools’.

  • Each learning tool level has a description of the entry level and then four links: Overview, Professional learning, Resources and Quick-links. The ‘Overview’ contains the outcomes for that level, an outline of the focus areas that will help you to achieve the outcomes and the relationships to other learning tools. All level one learning tools include ‘where to next’ which describes the level 2 learning tool for that domain. The ‘Professional learning’, that is contained in a PDF document or in html format, contains a variety of readings, video clips, links and activities as well as suggestions of ways to demonstrate your learning. Note the use of icons to help you locate video clips (television) in the PDF version. The headings may help you navigate to those sections you require or you may choose to work through the learning level in its entirety. You need to access the links when online, but you can print off this document to read various sections at your convenience. The ‘Resources’ contain additional useful links with brief descriptions. All of the links, video clips and online activities from the ‘Professional learning’ and ‘Resources’ sections of the learning tool are replicated under headings in ‘Quick-links’ for easy and quick reference.

  • Share your insights and queries with your peers and supervisor as this is a key part of support for participants in the early years of MyScience.

  • When you have completed the use of the learning tools, briefly re-visit the mapping tool, answer the questions afresh and note your progress.

Notes for facilitators

This section is for facilitators in schools who are leading the implementation of MyScience or trying to support teachers conducting student-driven science investigations. Following is some background information.

The ‘Professional learning’ content of this toolkit has been combined into a PDF document that can be accessed from the direct link so it can be printed off and perused. As a facilitator, it is worth being familiar with the index of contents so that you can direct participants to the appropriate sections.

Professional learning is enriched through discussion. Collaboration is an important feature of MyScience, so it is expected that time will be provided for participants to discuss their learning and learning processes as well as their progress. Just as the MyScience student participants gain much from their presentation and celebration of learning, so will the teachers. You may decide to use some of the video clips contained within the learning toolkit to promote discussion. You will locate the video and activity resources in the footer ‘assets’ for quick reference.

Following are some in-depth readings and video clips that justify the MyScience approach to conducting student-driven science investigations.

Why conduct scientific investigations?

Investigating or working scientifically is all about student engagement and learning by doing.

The developing Australian curriculum: Science emphasises Science inquiry skills

The draft Australian Curriculum: Science identifies three main areas of science teaching and learning: Science inquiry skills, Science as a human endeavour and Science understanding. It defines Science inquiry skills, as the “skills and understanding of science as a way of knowing and doing”.

Three out of the six aims of the draft Australian Curriculum are best addressed when student conduct scientific investigations. These three aims are that students develop:

  • an interest in science and a curiosity and willingness to explore, ask questions and speculate about the changing world in which they live

  • an ability to investigate questions about the world using scientific inquiry methods, including questioning, planning and conducting experiments and investigations based on ethical principles, collecting and analysing data, evaluating results, and drawing critical, evidence-based conclusions

  • an ability to communicate their scientific understandings and findings to a range of audiences, to justify their own ideas on the basis of evidence, and to evaluate and debate scientific arguments and claims whilst respecting alternative viewpoints and beliefs

What research tells us

“When students are given the opportunity to design and conduct their own experiments, they become enthused, inquisitive and creative.” This article goes on to describe how such investigations help students perceive the true cyclical nature of scientific research rather than a simple linear process.

Goodrum, Hackling and Rennie, in “The Status and Quality of Science Teaching and Learning in Australian Schools” claim “Teaching and learning of science is centred on inquiry. Students investigate, construct and test ideas and explanations about the natural world.”

Mark Hackling states: “Many science educators argue that students need the opportunity to do open investigation work if they are to develop the investigation and problem-solving skills that are at the heart of scientific literacy.” (page 3)

“Practical investigation work provides opportunities for students to practise and develop investigation skills and also gain concrete experiences of natural phenomena which provide a foundation for conceptual learning.” (page 5)

Pam Moss in the forward to the above document states:

“Investigations stimulate student interest in science and provide a vehicle through which conceptual understandings can be developed further. For students to improve their understanding of this process and their capacity to use it to test their own ideas and solve problems, they need to be provided with opportunities to plan and conduct their own investigations, process and analyse their data and reflect on their findings.”

Tytler (2007, p. 49) – students “…should be involved in investigating questions they themselves pose, reasoning and argumentation activities, and undertaking investigations that relate to societal and personal contexts”, and “Students need to be supported to develop investigative skills and knowledge, but... even young children are capable of high-level reasoning and investigation, and we should not withhold engagement with real questions and issues in science on the basis of a narrow view of a long apprenticeship in science research skills. From the earliest years, there needs to be a culture established in science classrooms concerning judgments about evidence and discussion of the reliability and validity of data, and of findings. The setting might vary from classrooms to fieldwork, to investigations involving community issues and perhaps links with community-based science researchers.”

(Some of the conclusions on page 64) “Science investigations need to be more varied, with explicit attention paid to investigative principles. Investigative design should encompass a wide range of methods and principles of evidence including sampling, modelling, field-based methods, and the use of evidence in socio-scientific issues. Investigations should frequently flow from students’ own questions. Investigations should exemplify the way ideas and evidence interact in science.”

“School science should be linked more often and more closely with local and wider communities, and science should be studied in community settings that represent contemporary science practices and concerns. Ways need to be found to embed school– community initiatives into the curriculum in sustainable ways.”

Teachers might complete this Plus/Minus/Interesting drag and drop activity to promote a discussion of the reasons for conducting science investigations.

How MyScience can help

Watch this video of a beginning teacher talk about the type of support that is offered through MyScience to support teachers when they first start science investigations.

Watch this Principal recognise the demands of MyScience for a school.