Primary Connections: Stage 3: Interim research and evaluation report 14: QLD, NSW and TAS curriculum leaders workshops: October 2007-February 2008.
Australian Academy of Science
Place of Publication
Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
Data reported here indicate that the workshops were very successful on a number of measures. The sample of five workshops attracted good numbers averaging 46 participants to each workshop. Most were classroom teachers with others being in formally designated leadership positions within schools. About half had leadership experience and for the others leading the implementation of Primary Connections in their schools offered a significant opportunity for professional growth. Only 11 of 185 reported that they were currently their school’s science coordinator which may indicate that many of the workshop participants were not in a formally designated curriculum leader/science coordinator role and yet would be expected to provide leadership and coordination in science. About 10% of participants had a science specialisation and almost 30% had some undergraduate studies of science which would provide good background for the role of science curriculum leader, however, a significant number has no more than Year 12 science studies and 14% had not studied science beyond Year 10. The participants’ goals for attending the workshop were to improve their own science teaching (63%), find out about Primary Connections (28%), to help their colleagues improve their science teaching (28%) and to support the implementation of Primary Connections at their school (16%). These goals were consistent with those of the workshops which indicate that the workshops would be suitable to meet the teachers’ needs and it was pleasing to see that their goals went beyond the informational and personal stages of concern from the Concerns-Based Adoption Model of Hall and Hord (1987) to those related to supporting the professional learning of colleagues. Prior to the workshop participants believed that the purpose of primary science teaching is to achieve cognitive and affective learning outcomes and to develop scientific literacy. Following the workshop the most common response was to develop scientific literacy. Beliefs about characteristics of quality primary science teaching were also affected by the workshop with a shift from beliefs about hands-on teaching towards a more sophisticated view of inquiry-based pedagogy. These are important and positive outcomes as curriculum leaders need a clear and appropriate understanding of the purpose and characteristics of quality primary science teaching if they are to provide leadership of the learning area in their schools. There was a close alignment between the participants’ beliefs about aspects of typical primary science teaching that need to be improved and the resources, teaching and learning model and professional learning provided by Primary Connections (Table 8) which provides further corroboration of the good match between the program and the needs of schools. Beliefs about literacy teaching also matched the Primary Connections approach to explicit development of literacies with science being used to provide meaningful contexts and purpose for literacy work. Following the workshop there was a shift in beliefs towards the need for literacy work to be meaningful and purposeful. Strong alignments between the teachers’ espoused beliefs about science and literacy teaching and the Primary Connections approach suggests that the teachers’ beliefs will not act as a barrier to adoption of the program or of the teaching and learning model. The workshop had large, positive and statistically significant impacts on the participants’ confidence with science teaching, self-efficacy as a curriculum leader and confidence with facilitating professional learning which are important indicators of the success of the workshops and the potential of the participants to be effective as curriculum leaders. There was a particularly large increase in confidence with using an inquiry model to plan science units of work (from 3.07 to 4.08/5) indicating that the session on unit planning had been particularly successful and implying that these leaders may be confident in not only using the Primary Connections model for writing new units but also adapting Primary Connections units to local contexts. The number of participants with low to modest self-efficacy as a curriculum leader was reduced from 49 to 11 after the workshop which provides another indicator of the workshop empowering participants to lead and coordinate science at their schools. Following the workshop, participants had greatest confidence with facilitating professional learning related to an introduction to Primary Connections, conducting investigations and developing literacies for science which are schools main needs for professional learning. When asked about the factors likely to influence the uptake of Primary Connections at their schools and to influence their effectiveness as curriculum leaders they identified personal, school and jurisdictional factors. The most frequently mentioned potential barriers to implementation were the willingness of teachers to be involved, resources, time for professional learning and broader school curriculum issues; all issues for which a curriculum leader would need the strong support of school administration and the making of science a priority within the school. The most frequently mentioned factor likely to limit their own effectiveness as a curriculum leader was time for preparation and to facilitate professional learning. Given that most of the participants were not in formally designated science coordinator/curriculum leader positions it is likely that they may not have a time allocation for the role. The participants’ evaluations of the workshops were extremely positive with a large majority indicating that they had been Very well or Well prepared for the role and rather than making suggestions for improvements to the workshop had given praise. The correlation charts gave further corroboration of the positive evaluations. In conclusion, it can be confidently stated that the curriculum leader workshops were very successful in meeting the participants’ needs and had positive impacts on their beliefs, confidence and self-efficacy and empowered them to be effective curriculum leaders. To be effective leaders and coordinators of the science learning area they will need the strong support of their principals, particularly in ensuring they will have time provided for the role. The role of science curriculum leader provides a real opportunity for professional growth for these participants and provides a large pool of teachers who have significant knowledge and skills and could be provided with further professional learning to enable them to act as professional learning facilitators. The collaborative approach taken by DEEWR, the Academy of Science and jurisdictions has enabled large cohorts of teachers to be trained as professional learning facilitators and curriculum leaders and has provided Australia with a substantially increased capacity to meet the nation’s needs for a scientifically literate community.