Author Identifier

ORCID: 0000-0003-1196-8351

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education

First Supervisor

Associate Professor Paula Mildenhall

Second Supervisor

Professor Mark Hackling


There is an emerging interest in the development of STEM capabilities to drive Australia’s future economy and workforce. As a consequence, the focus on the teaching of higher order thinking and scientific reasoning has intensified. Despite these efforts, Australia’s level of achievement on international benchmarking tests has not improved.

The aim of this PhD research was to investigate how exemplary teachers develop higher order thinking and scientific reasoning in primary science. The study drew on video data from the EQUALPRIME international research project, which explored quality primary science education in different cultures (ARC Discovery Project DP110101500).

This qualitative research examined how Year 4 teachers in two contextually different schools scaffolded, supported and created opportunities for higher order thinking and scientific reasoning during the teaching of a physical science topic. Teacher beliefs, pedagogical strategies and contextual factors were viewed through the multiple theoretical lenses of social constructivism, sociocultural theory and social semiotic theory. The central data source was video which was subjected to micro-ethnographic analysis. These data were supplemented with interviews and classroom artefacts, and from these, case studies were compiled. Using a cross-case analysis and an interpretivist approach, assertions were drawn from which the research questions were answered.

The study identified that the teaching of these skills was a complex multifaceted process influenced by the combination of teacher beliefs and contextual factors. Based on safe and supportive learning cultures, the teachers employed inquiry-based approaches and a combination of language- and body-based pedagogies that built students’ thinking and reasoning in parallel with conceptual development, across the unit. Outcomes of the research will contribute to new and deeper understanding of effective scaffolding, support and promotion of higher order thinking and reasoning in primary science which can inform enhancements to pre‐service and in‐service teacher professional learning.

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