In recent time, there is more to teaching than just delivering syllabus; therefore Teachers are more concerned about how to develop a good learning environment. Teaching process is now focused on how to tackle issues such as the type of questions to be asked, who should answer them in Class, about when to get involved in discussions, when and how to encourage and reprimand students and also when to stir or slow down. These questions are various and the list could go on and on. Teachers are also aware of the differences in classes with each class developing its own unique learning environment. Therefore when teachers teach two classes in the same year level with the same course, the class needs varies as a result of their differences
A relationship exists between Students and Teacher as a result of the Learning environment. In given time norms of conduct are established, both on the part of the teacher as well as by the students, as values and expectations on both sides become clear. A behavioral pattern results from this based on the knowledge that students have of their teacher and vice versa. Thus resulting in a learning environment which may either be a very encouraging one where students enjoy their work and feel respected or be discouraging if the work ethos and satisfactory relationships are absent.
According to a Research into classroom learning environments by Fraser1994,and Wubbels & Levy, 1993 which is based upon students' perceptions of their learning environment it is established that students' learning behavior in class will be largely determined by the way in which they perceive their learning environment. This can be further substantiated, by another study carried out by Brekelmans, Wubbels & Creton, 1990 which also indicate that students' perceptions of their teacher's interpersonal behavior accounted for more variance in student outcomes than did the introduction of a new physics curriculum. Also, Brekelmans, Wubbels & Levy, 1993 also illustrated that students' perceptions of their teacher's interpersonal behavior accounted for variance of a full assessment grade (e.g. A, B, C etc.).
The conceptual framework of this research is aimed towards defining the 'ideal' picture of quality in science teaching and learning, to find out the 'actual' picture of what is happening in schools, and lastly, to develop effective recommendations to move towards closing the gap between the actual and ideal.
Goodlum Hackling and Rennie 2000, made significant effort in identifying the actual and ideal picture therefore they carried out a study that was set in both national and international contexts, especially in regard to science curriculum experiences in the United States and the United Kingdom, and to collect a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data from major Australian stakeholders, including teachers, students, scientists and members of the community. In this way, the study builds on previous national and international studies, as well as students' and teachers' perceptions of the teaching and learning of science in Australian schools.
The ideal and actual picture is thus described by Goodlum hackling and Rennie (2000) in the following themes:
- The science curriculum is relevant to the needs, concerns and personal experiences of students.
- Teaching and learning of science is centered on inquiry. Students investigate, construct and test ideas and explanations about the natural world.
- Assessment serves the purpose of learning and is consistent with and complementary to good teaching.
- The teaching-learning environment is characterized by enjoyment, fulfillment, ownership of and engagement in learning, and mutual respect between the teacher and students.
- Teachers are life-long learners who are supported, nurtured and resourced to Build the understandings and competencies required of contemporary best Practice.
- Teachers of science have a recognized career path based on sound professional Standards endorsed by the profession.
- Excellent facilities, equipment and resources support teaching and learning.
- Class sizes make it possible to employ a range of teaching strategies and provide Opportunities for the teacher to get to know each child as a learner and give Feedback to individuals.
- Science and science education are valued by the community, have high priority the school curriculum, and science teaching is perceived as exciting and valuable, Contributing significantly to the development of persons and to the economic and social well-being of the nation.
The actual picture of science teaching and learning is one of great unevenness but, on Average, the picture is poor. Goodlum hackling and Rennie(2000),explained that curriculum statements generally" provide a framework for a science curriculum focused ondeveloping scientific literacy and helping students progress toward achieving the stated outcomes, the actual curriculum implemented in most schools is different from the intended curriculum".
In some cases some primary schools do not teach science at all therefore students lack the scientific background and where it is taught on a regular basis, all activities are centered towards the student , ensuing a high level of student satisfaction therefore creating a room to embrace science . Many of the students on getting to the high school feel greatly disappointed, because the science they are taught is neither significant nor appealing and does not seem relevant with their interests and experiences. The new learning environment characterized with the Traditional chalk-and-talk Teaching process, copying of notes, and practical lessons which the students are now experiencing gives little challenge and no room for excitement.
Many of the science teachers feel undervalue, with no adequate resource and overloaded with n on teaching duties
The education systems are now moving towards achieving the ideal picture whereas some of the teachers are opting out of teaching career.
MEANING AND IMPORTANCE OF SCIENTIFIC LITERACY.
Science is an element of the human search for understanding and wisdom and reflects human curiosity about the world. Obtaining an insight to what scientific literacy is, will ensure that we acknowledge its importance as it is fundamental to quality teaching and learning in science.
Scientific literacy is defined clearly in the NSES (NSC, 1996). Briefly, it is 'the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity' (p.22).
Scientific literacy has a wide meaning from allowing a person to ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences.- the ability of a person to describe, explain, and predict natural Phenomenon. .Therefore allowing Individuals to display their scientific literacy in different ways, such as using technical terms in the appropriate ways, or in scientific concepts applications and processes. Also creating the avenue for individuals to often have differences in literacy in different domains, such as more understanding of life-science concepts and words, and less understanding of physical-science concepts and words.
Scientific literacy has diverse forms and degrees which lasts over a lifetime, it widens and deepens, and not limited to years in school. But It therefore follow on the attitudes and Values that has been established toward science during the early years and then shape a person's growth of scientific literacy as an adult.
Layton et al. (1994) grouped science and technology together, revealing the way that the two are commonly spoken or written about in analysis of scientific literacy.
The link between science and technology is disputable, this explains the reason they are separated in some school curricula or placed together at different education level in the National Curriculum. While some aspects of technology, and its definition when perceived in terms of making or designing, might be distinguished from science, there lies the fact that science cannot be split up from technology and up to this time will remain significant to the world of students and the wider human race.
Jenkins (1992) makes a case that science has changed in the latter parts of the 20th century in that it has become more commercialized and industrialized and more integrated with technology.
Although a the future citizens students 'should know something of the great intellectual achievements of science their lives will be affected more directly, personally and, sometimes, adversely, by the ways in which scientific knowledge is deployed through a range of technologies ranging from medicine, transport and communication to employment, design and manufacturing? . According to Jenkins, it is arguable 'that the science to be taught in schools should be relocated within these contexts, rather than, as at present, be concerned with the grammar and syntax of the scientific disciplines'.
Teaching and Learning in Science
A social constructivist perspective is the predominant view of learning in science.
Driver, Asoko, Leach, Mortimer, & Scott, 1994 wrote that fundamentally this means" that learners construct their own knowledge and understandings based on what they already know and the socio-cultural context in which they find themselves".
Learning is an effective procedure in which learners adopt making sense of their understandings about the world. However this is required of everyone so as to be able to function in the world around them. Learning either in science classrooms or any environment, from any source occurs in similar ways. Learners build knowledge and ideas in science which logical to them by linking the new information acquired to their existing conceptual frameworks. Significantly, the additional information is intergrated into existing mental framework in ways that are meaningful to the learner. Thus, learners' previous knowledge and experiences are important in identifying what their new knowledge and understanding will be like.
Accountability of how students learn can be measured through Effective teaching. In another sense, good teachers know a great deal more than the subject matter they teach.
Darling Hammond (1997) points out that Research confirms that teacher knowledge of subject matter, student learning and development, and teaching methods are all important elements of teacher effectiveness. The recent reviews of more than two hundred studies contradict the long time established myths which indicates that anyone can take up teaching and that so called teachers are born and not made. Because learners and contexts differ, there is no single best approach for teaching of science. Instead, in achieving effective learning in science various approaches are needed to make a specific aspect of science available to each specific group of learners. Clearly, substantial reflection and understanding is essential on the part of the science teacher although this requires time and experience but its possession should not be undervalued. Shulman (1986) explained pedagogical content knowledge to be a quality which involves careful planning in amalgamating the knowledge of the subject and knowledge of the learner.
Lemke 1990 demonstrated that Teachers must foster the use and development of language skills in science as it is a subject which require the use of language in particular ways when describing scientific concepts. For example, Words such as energy and work have specific meanings in science that are fairly different to everyday meanings. .Student also need to be capable of using appropriate language in conveying and clarifying their thinking and to communicate their understanding of science concepts in a range of forms, including diagrams, tables, words, graphs and symbols.
RESEARCH APPROACH /METHODOLOGY.
A sample of 490 students in 23 Year 9 mathematics classes in Adelaide, South Australia, was surveyed. Year 9 students were chosen in this survey considering that they are of the age where the teacher plays a crucial role in their classroom. During the year 8, which is the first year of the secondary school, there is a building block of newness and freshness about schooling, whilst in senior years students often have a motivational factor about their future employment or tertiary study. Also, Year 9 generally contains common mathematics across the year group, which eliminates the divisions of business and applied mathematics present in some Year 10 cohorts. Year 9 also is known to be a complex year for students, and as a result one where the teacher has an central role in the founding of an proper classroom learning environment.
Two instruments were used to obtain the data from students.
- A modification of What is Happening in this Classroom' (WHIC) was used to determine the perceptions of students about their classroom learning environment
- The Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI) was used to determine students' perceptions of their teacher's interpersonal behavior in the classroom. A selection of students also were interviewed to provide qualitative data to help explain and amplify the findings of the instruments.
The version of the WHICH instument used in this study has been recently developed for measuring students' perceptions of their classroom learning environment. The instrument contains 64 statements, measuring students' perceptions based on eight scales. These 8 scales measure students' perceptions of the amount of (1) Student Cohesion, (2)Teacher Support,(3) Involvement/Negotiation(4), Investigation,(5) Cooperation,(6) Task Orientation, (7)Equity, and(8) Emphasis on Understanding in the classroom.
An example of the statements in the instrument based on teacher support that the students were asked to answer was (a)"The teacher takes a personal interest in students", and (b) "The teacher considers students' feelings?. Given the following option for them to choose 'Almost Never Happens', 'Seldom Happens', 'Sometimes Happens', 'Often Happens' or 'Almost Always Happens'. To determine the situation going on in the classrooms. After which Students? perceptions of their classroom learning environments are then profiled according to the class item mean score for each scale
The instrument which was developed in two forms consist of a Personal form and a Class form , both of which are identical but the emphasis in the Personal form is based on student's perceptions of his or her personal interaction with the classroom environment while, on the Class form each item focuses on students' perceptions of the class's interactions with the classroom environment. For example on the Personal form the first two items are, "I make friendships among students in this class" and "I get to know other students in this class well". These items have a personal focus. The same items in the Class form have a class focus: "Friendships are made among students in this class"; and "Students in this class get to know each other well?. The instrument has been shown to be reliable, with acceptable discriminate validity and to satisfactorily discriminate between classes. These data have been reported elsewhere (Fraser, Fisher & McRobbie, 1996; Rawnsley & Fisher, 1997a
The second instrument used in the survey was the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI). This is a 48-item instrument which measures students' perceptions of their teacher's interpersonal behaviour in the classroom. It is based on the Leary (1957) model of interpersonal behaviour and measures students' perceptions of the degree of dominance/submission and cooperation/opposition in the teacher's behaviour in the classroom.
Brekelmans, Wubbels & Creton, 1990 attest to Its reliability and validity and it has been well documented for studies in The Netherlands.
Interpersonal behaviour by the teacher scores highly on the Leadership scale and this is primarily the dominant behaviour in the classroom. Wubbles,Creton,Levy &Hooymayers,1993 explained that with a second characteristic of cooperation , that such teacher will "notice what's happening, lead, organize, set tasks, determine procedures, structure the classroom situation, explain, hold attention" .
The Table below shows the primary and secondary characteristics and sample items from each of the eight dimensions of the QTI. When the class is surveyed, the class item mean for each dimension can then be mapped to show the profile of students' perceptions of their teacher's interpersonal behaviour in the classroom.
The result obtained showed that there is high correlation between the represented behaviour in the scales of the WHIC and students' attitude towards their learning of mathematics. The result is both evident on the Personal and Class forms . In learning mathematics a more positive result were found in classes where students experience cohesion among themselves and fair treatment , and where investigative work was carried out by students, and obtained a clear orientation of their task .Based on the study it was observed that students appreciate a little amount of competition rather than emphasizing cooperation. In classes where there was a strong emphasis on students understanding of their work a high level of cognitive achievements were found.
The QTI examines the interpersonal behaviour between teachers and students, as perceived by students.
The scales of Leadership, Helping/Friendly, Understanding and Student Responsibility/Freedom each had positive correlations with students' attitudes towards the mathematics class. Conversely the remaining four scales of Uncertain, Dissatisfied, Admonishing and Strict interpersonal behaviour each had negative correlations.
In classes where students view their teacher as mostly showing high levels of Leadership, Helping/Friendly, and Understanding behaviour, and give high levels of Student Responsibility and Freedom, students have much healthier attitudes towards their class and enjoy their lessons more than in classes when the other side of teacher behaviour is common. Where teachers show high levels of Strict, Admonishing, Dissatisfied and Uncertain behaviour, students do not enjoy their classes as much and develop more negative attitudes towards the subject.
Consequently, the use of the QTI in this study, showed a strong correlation between students' perceptions of their teacher's interpersonal behaviour and their attitudes towards the mathematics class. .This study confirms the importance of interpersonal behaviour which shows strong leadership, coupled with helpful, friendly and understanding behaviour.
There is general agreement that scientific literacy is a high priority for all citizens, helping them to be interested in and understand the world around them, to engage in the discourses of and about science, to be sceptical and questioning of claims made by others about scientific matters, to be able to identify questions and draw evidence based conclusions, and to make informed decisions about the environment and their own health and well-being.
Osborne and Collins? (2000) assertion that a vital component of any science course is to allow exploration of aspects of contemporary science such an element is essential to providing a connecting thread between school science and the ?real? world of adults, endowing the subject with a relevance that no other mechanism can. Whilst pupils will accept a curriculum diet which consists largely of the received wisdom of uncontested and pre established knowledge, contemporary science offers a glimpse into the world of here and now, not the world of yesteryear. This is a world of science-in-the-making, of future possibility and uncertainty where their views can Begin .Teacher change is the basis of educational innovation, reform and improvement. The research findings presented in this report emphasize repeatedly that the most important factor in improving learning is the teacher. Efforts to close the gap must focus on helping teachers recognize the gap between students? real needs in science and what is offered in the actual curriculum
Changes to teachers? professional practice involve significant shifts in beliefs and professional knowledge, and consequently, take considerable time, resources and effort. A teaching style that emphasizes an inquiry-oriented, student-centred, outcomes-focused approach requires more refined teaching skills than those associated with traditional didactic methods
Teachers working alone in their classroom can make small steps towards change. Teachers working jointly can make larger strides. Schools collaborating make a greater impact still. But quality science education curriculum and professional development resources are very expensive and require the very best expertise to develop. Collaborative ventures that pool the financial and human resources from a number of jurisdictions have the potential to produce the world-class materials that are required for a contemporary, relevant and engaging science education for all students.
Improving the scientific literacy of students is the main purpose of school science education.
Scientifically literate persons are interested in and understand the world around them, are sceptical and questioning of claims made by others about scientific matters, participate in the discourses of and about science, identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions, and make informed decisions about the environment and their own health and well-being. Such persons will be able to contribute to both the social and economic well-being of Australia.
Australian educational jurisdictions have developed modern and progressive curriculum frameworks for school science, however, there is a considerable gap between the ideal or intended curriculum and the actual or implemented curriculum. There is great variability between schools in the quality of science education. In primary schools, where science is taught, it is generally student-centred, activity-based and stimulates the curiosity of students. In the compulsory years of secondary schooling, most students find science unrelated to their interests or concerns, and in many schools science does not develop the learning outcomes that contribute to scientific literacy. The set of carefully articulated recommendations presented in this report provide the Commonwealth and educational jurisdictions with strategies that can be implemented to improve the teaching and learning of science in Australian schools. Enhancing the awareness of all stakeholders of the nature and importance of scientific literacy is the first step. This needs to be followed by building the expertise of the teaching profession through enhanced resourcing of initial teacher education, incentives to attract and retain our best young people in science teaching, and enhanced support for ongoing professional development of practicing teachers within a framework of professional standards. Skilled and knowledgeable teachers need better curriculum resources, facilities and equipment if they are to implement a quality science program. Currently the quality of science teaching and learning is limited by approaches to assessment that are not focused on outcomes that contribute to scientific literacy or on the provision of feedback to teachers and learners so that teaching and learning can be enhanced. A lack of national focus, collaboration and pooling of resources across jurisdictions currently limits the quality of the curriculum and professional development resources that are being developed.