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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
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The Art of Teaching Science

Grady Venville
Vaille Dawson
The Art of Science Teaching

 

Venville, G, & Dawson, V (Eds). (2004). The Art of Teaching Science.
Sydney, Australia: Allen and Unwin. RRP $39.95.

 

Working in science education is a privileged occupation because it enables teachers to pursue their personal interests in science and, at the same time, share the exhilaration and wonder of science with young people. It is within this spirit that the book, The Art of Teaching Science, was first conceived and planned by the editors, Grady Venville and Vaille Dawson. The title of the book was deliberately selected in an attempt to capture the essence of ‘good’ science teaching. Science teaching is concerned with creativity, imagination and beauty; it involves risk-taking and should be thought-provoking. Teaching science is essentially a human endeavour and the selection of chapters within this book reflect the unique intersection between the art and the science of teaching.

Each chapter has been written by leading science educators who have been deeply involved in school-based research, teaching and teacher education. These educators have translated the latest research findings into recommendations for practice. It is written in an Australian context and addresses the full spectrum of contemporary reforms in education. It also incorporates a comprehensive, outcomes-focused, student-centred approach to science teaching as advocated in recent State and Territory curriculum documents.

The Art of Teaching Science explores some of the issues that face curriculum coordinators and senior staff involved in school science. For example, there is a chapter on curriculum integration, an approach with mixed popularity. Other chapters cover equity in the inclusive science curriculum, how best to bring up controversial issues in the science classroom, and the advantages and disadvantages of computer-based resources.

However, the book is primarily designed for an audience of prospective science teachers (secondary, middle school and K–10). Contemporary constructivist theory is presented in an easy-to-understand and engaging way that will enable student teachers to develop the background knowledge necessary to teach science successfully and to interpret the principles of the new curriculum documents.

The first section, Understanding the Art of Teaching Science, provides a theoretical base for science teaching. In the first chapter, readers become aware of the nature of scientific knowledge as tentative, empirically based, subjective and involving human inference, imagination and creativity. The second and third chapters introduce the substantial body of research on the theory of constructivism and related ideas such as students’ existing conceptions and conceptual change theory. The third chapter, in particular, links theory to practice by considering, in more detail, how recent research findings have influenced different science teaching and learning schemes.

The second section, Implementing the Art of Teaching Science, provides an overview of the fundamental aspects of effective science teaching. For example, Chapter 4 introduces a number of tried and tested teaching strategies for the classroom based around developing scientific literacy. This chapter discusses critically important approaches to questioning, student discussion, explanation and experience and cooperative group learning. Specific and effective teaching strategies such as concept mapping, brainstorming, jigsaw and predict-observe-explain are also covered.

Planning for teaching in an outcomes-focused way is a very personal and context-dependent exercise. Chapter 5, however, suggests methods of planning appropriate to an outcomes-focused paradigm and offers practical advice, as well as real examples, of how such planning may be accomplished. Another chapter addresses a range of issues related to practical work, such as the processes required to complete an investigation. The final chapter in this section explores the relationship between teaching, learning and assessment and the characteristics of quality assessment items and tasks.

The sections and chapters, while presented in a logical order, are not necessarily intended to be read chronologically. The intention is that readers will select the chapters that are most interesting and relevant to them at a particular time and visit and revisit the text during their career to help them develop and revitalise their knowledge and skills as necessary.

The book is designed to complement existing teacher education programs as a resource to which student teachers can refer during the course and in subsequent years. Although based on the findings of a large body of science education research, the book aims to be highly accessible, particularly for undergraduate and postgraduate students who are new to the art of teaching science.

Every chapter includes classroom snapshots – short excerpts and examples from real classrooms as examples of the discussion. Tables, diagrams and figures also enhance the accessibility of the content. Chapters also follow a similar format with chapter outcomes at the beginning followed by a short introduction, the body of the chapter and a summary at the end.

As active science education researchers and teachers in tertiary science education programs, the chapter authors have captured within this book a diverse and inspiring combination of readings that will stimulate reflection, discussion and debate by a new generation of science teachers.

Key Learning Areas

Science

Subject Headings

Teacher training
Professional development
Inquiry based learning
Education research
Constructivism
Science teaching
Curriculum planning