An overview of Primary Connections stage 3 research outcomes 2006-2008
Australian Academy of Science
Place of Publication
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of Education
It is essential that young people’s interest in science is captured and maintained through schooling so that they become scientifically literate and more students continue with their studies of science at university level in order to address the strong need for science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills. The purpose of science in primary schools is to provide opportunities for students to know science as a body of knowledge, as a way to know the world and as a human endeavour, and to develop students’ scientific literacy (MCEETYA, 2006). The Australian Academy of Science recognised the need to support primary teachers to teach science in ways that engage students. The Academy gained the support of all states and territories and the Australian government to develop a teacher professional learning program supported with curriculum resources designed to improve science teaching in primary schools. The main activities of Stage 3 (2006 – 2008) included: (1) the development of professional learning resources and the training of professional learning facilitators, curriculum leaders and tertiary pre-service teacher science educators (teacher educators) (2) the development, trial, revision and publication of curriculum resources, and (3) the provision of ongoing support to trial teachers. Research studies in Stage 3 (2006 – 2008) focused on: (1) evaluating the professional learning provided for teacher educators, professional learning facilitators and curriculum leaders (2) monitoring the activities of professional learning facilitators and the implementation of Primary Connections in trial schools, and (3) a major study of the impact of Primary Connections on students’ learning. This report provides an overview of 17 research studies conducted during Stage 3 of the Primary Connections program, summarises the research findings and identifies implications for further action. The research and evaluation studies undertaken for Stage 3 have established that Primary Connections has had positive impacts on schools, teachers and students. Principals of trial schools have reported that the program has enhanced the status of science in their schools, improved teachers’ confidence with teaching science and has enhanced students’ attitudes towards science. Where Primary Connections has been implemented on a whole-of-school basis this has led to a more collegial approach to professional learning and science and literacy teaching, and an increased amount of science has been taught. The program has had positive impacts on teachers’ confidence with science and literacy teaching, enhanced teachers’ beliefs in their self-efficacy, the amount of time devoted to science teaching and their teaching practice, and consequently has increased students’ opportunities for learning science. Primary Connections has had a substantial positive impact on students’ development of conceptual understandings, science processes, literacies of science and attitudes towards science - the key components of scientific literacy. The training of professional learning facilitators, curriculum leaders and teacher educators has given Australia a substantially increased capacity to provide high quality science professional learning for primary school teachers. The high quality professional learning and innovative curriculum resources of Primary Connections have the potential to make a significant contribution to developing the scientifically literate community needed by Australia.