The real world of elementary science

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Youngward, Wayne Milford
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education, 1990
Science as an elementary school subject is often unsatisfactory from both the teachers' and the students' perspectives. This paper outlines a year-long qualitative study of two grade four classrooms in a rural Alberta school district, using classroom observation, interviews with teachers and students, and participation by the researcher in student activities and in teaching. The study attempted to understand in a deep sense the real world of elementary science as experienced by both teachers and students, with a view to projecting how the teaching/learning situation could be improved. From the data collected, four "surface" (easilydiscerned) factors interfering with the teaching/learning situation emerged. They were that (a) teachers typically had inadequate background knowledge and experience with science, (b) teachers had scant understanding of appropriate pedagogy for teaching the subject, (c) teachers were unsure of student needs, abilities, and interests vis-a-vis the subject, and (d) materials and supplies were woefully inadequate. Pervading these factors was the problem of inadequate teacher time for preparation and presentation of good science lessons. Two deeper themes emerged from the data as well. There was a fundamental misunderstanding among teachers regarding the nature of science as a way of knowing and discovering rather than a fixed body of knowledge. Teachers also felt a deep fear of science, both as a school subject and as a general area. The data also revealed that students did not like or dislike science per se, because they did not view science as being differentiated from other subjects. Rather, they liked or disliked whatever specific activities they were engaged in. They enjoyed process-oriented science because it tended to be more activity-based. The study's major recommendation is that teacher inservice in science be structured so that teachers have an opportunity to do science process activities themselves, so that they can develop their own meanings of the material.
167 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm. --
Science -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- Alberta