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Science philosophy

This article is about my teaching experience in my 3rd Year science class. I did micro-teaching on the topic 'light and colour' (aimed towards Year 3 children) as part of an assignment and completed a critical self-reflection.

Skamp (2004) calls children's prior/existing knowledge 'alternative conceptions'. These alternative conceptions are held by all learners. Skamp (2004) uses the example that children are not empty vessels - rather children come to science lessons with a diverse angle of everyday or alternative ideas. I found this was a very clever way of putting it, because through researching information for a topic, I was able to distinguish my 'alternative conceptions' and how it differed to the actual explanations. Fleer and Hardy (2001) also states in an interactive approach, that children will come into class with understandings of their world and meanings for many words used in science teaching. If children's ideas are ignored in teaching it is likely that they will remain unchanged, , or changed in unexpected ways – reinforcing for instance, incorrect ideas.

Skamp (2004) explains that teachers need to check and if necessary clarify our conceptions about phenomena associated with the topic being taught. These alternative conceptions are influenced by everyday experiences, including direct observation and perception. For example, seemingly white light is actually a spectrum (or rainbow) of colour. Children see that lights are white because that is how they see it in their everyday lives. It it not until we separated the colours with a prism that they could see the link.

Instead of feeding the students in a transmission approach, I encouraged them to actively engaged with the ideas and evidence, challenged them to develop meanings understandings and link with the student's ideas/interests. I related the topic to the student's lives by questioning places they see light and the spectrum of colours, for example in a rainbow. I wanted the students the find the spectrum of colour in a hands on way, by using torches with a prism and observing colours inside a bubble. This style of teaching is influenced a 'constructionist view' – children construct rather than absorb new ideas. Skamp (2004) quotes that “learning is not the transmission of knowledge from the head of the teacher. Through my activities in the lesson, the students actively generated meaning from experiences on the basis of existing ideas. What I believe is crucial is that EACH individual has their own meaning and what we aimed to do is challenge those in our lesson and for everyone to be involved.

In the lesson the students were organised in groups of five or six. This is influenced by a collaborative learning approach. It is important for students to work in groups because they are exposed to other children's views and being required to express their own science views on which they may comment (Skamp (2004). Students who know how to monitor and control their own learning are empowered to engage in more purposeful 'meaning making'. I noticed when roaming around the different groups that students were reflecting on each others comments and challenging them. In groups of adults, no one was offended but in classrooms I have seen on practice, less dominant children 'shut down' when another child challenged their view. Reflecting on this I think it is crucial to set up a classroom that has a positive classroom environment to teach them science. It is beneficial to listen to each other and it is acceptable to challenge views because they all have different views of the world. Fleer and Hardy (2001) also agrees. In his interactive approach how important is it for students to learn from their peers. In a safe environment the children are encouraged to take risks, reflect and develop a sense of achievement as they learnt.

While I was roaming with the children, I was getting ideas, reflections and clarified student's understandings. On a couple occasions, questions arose, but I did not answer them, instead I affirmed the student's contributions and accepted their ideas. Fleer and Hardy (2001) commends these actions and states other important attributes of a role of a science teacher. When a student asked a questions when roaming, he suggested to answer their question with a question. In order to do this, support for student's learning was very important.

In our lesson we used colour songs and balloon to brighten the classroom and interest the classroom. The use of balloons as a positive behaviour reinforcement strategy, play 'pass the parcel' to music and use it as a form of assessment with reflective comments made the classroom very exciting and it was very relevant to colours. I think Year 3 children would of absolutely loved balloons in the classroom and would of changed the mood, especially if science was taught after the lunchtime period.

Through reading and analysing different approaches that affect my philosophy of science education I believe immersion is the best way to get started to motivate the children and gain/continue a high interest in a topic. In this process the children need to make connections between past and present learning experiences (5E approach reading). I can then try to determine to determine the children's prior knowledge and understanding about the topic. As well as knowing the children's alternative conceptions, teachers also need to understand their own.

Science education should be hands on and the children need to actively engage with ideas and evidence. By doing this children will feel like they have 'ownership' of the learning. I believe meaningful learning occurs when children construct rather than absorb ideas which comes from a constructivist approach. Learners actively generate meanings from experiences on the basis of of existing ideas and each individual when changing ideas need to construct their own meanings of experiences. To do this teachers need to ensure that the class has a positive classroom environment – that is supportive and children's respects each others views.

Fleer, M, Hardy, T. (2001). Science for Teaching: Developing a Personal Approach to Teaching. 2nd Edition.
Westwood, P. (1995). Current Issues in Effective Teaching and Learning. Board of Studies. New South Wales.
Dougiamas, M. (1998). A Journey into Constructivism.

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