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MERN Abstract id=6
Source : MERN Forum 1, Concurrent Session 3B
Date: 11/21/2003
Author: Brian Lewthwaite (UM)
Title : It’s More Than Knowing the Science
Text : This research exercise, employing an action research model for school-wide science curriculum improvement, explores the factors influencing science program delivery in a multicultural elementary school in Northwestern Canada. Using a validated science program delivery evaluation tool, the Science Curriculum Implementation Questionnaire (SCIQ), as a foundation for data collection, staff discussion and collaborative decision-making, an urban elementary school with a predominantly First Nation population embarks on a self-review process to, first of all, identify factors influencing science program delivery and, secondly, identify strategies for improvement of science delivery. The SCIQ is a 7-scale, forty-nine-item questionnaire that provides accurate information concerning the factors influencing science program delivery at the classroom and school level in schools where the teaching of science is a regular part of a teacher’s teaching duties. The scales have been developed with the intent of gauging staff perceptions on a 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree) scale in areas that are identified as major impediments to science program delivery. Four of the scales pertain to the school environment. These environmental or extrinsic scales include Resource Adequacy; Time; School Ethos; and Professional Support. The remaining three scales relate to teacher personal attributes. These intrinsic factors include Professional Science Knowledge; Professional Adequacy; and Professional Interest and Motivation. Although commonly cited personal attribute factors such as science teaching self-efficacy and science teaching interest and motivation are commonly cited impediments to primary science delivery, teachers at Northwest School identified through this study that the multidimensional nature of professional science knowledge as further a critical dimension in the improved delivery of the science program. Teachers acknowledged that they required a complex knowledge base for teaching that consisted of a knowledge of effective science strategies, curriculum intentions, subject matter knowledge and, as well, a knowledge of learners, especially within the multicultural context of the school. Although this study affirms that various extrinsic factors associated with the school environment, in particular those relating to the role of the principal as an instructional leader, are major influences on effective science program delivery, intrinsic factors such as the complex teacher knowledge base, beliefs and attitudes teachers possess, also compound the complexity of the delivery process. As well, it shows that the systematic analysis of factors influencing curriculum delivery can be conducted through the use of measurement instruments. Understanding the context in which change is to occur is at the heart of school development. This understanding is established through the gathering of high-quality information that provides insight into the forces at work within the school. For schools not wishing to invest the considerable amount of time and energy needed to complete more formalized and extensive school reviews, the use of standard instruments, such as the Science Curriculum Implementation Questionnaire, to collect foundational data when combined with narrative is advocated as a time efficient and accurate means of understanding the forces at work within the educational context and developing through collaborative discussion focused strategies for curriculum improvement.
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