First things first... Every term, the whole school designs their junior courses around one of eight whole school concepts. These eight concepts were pulled out from an analysis of the New Zealand Curriculum. Since our year nine and ten courses are combined, these whole school concepts go through a two-year cycle.
Each term, we have matched the whole school concept with a science capability based on the literature in TKI and the work of Ally Bull and Rose Hipkins. Every science course bases their learning and assessment around the selected science capability for the term. From here, we then developed learning objectives to further unpack the science capabilities. Each learning objective has a corresponding rubric which is used for tracking and reporting.
Our science capability informed learning objectives
Gather and Interpret dataFinally, we decide on the context of the course. For example, we might decide to focus on astrobiology. Students might learn about current theories about aliens and their locations, and then critique representations of aliens based on their new knowledge. Or, students might learn to design investigations to better understand the organisms in their local environment. We might have a civil engineering context where students might analyse and interpret data about the properties of materials. They might then use these to make recommendations for building a bridge. My personal favourite learning objective is "to generate by responding to a socio-scientific issue." We have redeveloped this learning objective for project-based learning, ensuring that at least once a year, students will immerse themself in a socio-scientific issue, synthesise key science ideas about their chosen issue, and then take appropriate action.
- To explore by investigating to provide evidence for [key concept] in [context].
Using evidence to make meaning
- To make sense by analysing and interpreting data to provide evidence for [key concept] in [context].
- To make sense by analysing scientific evidence for [key concept] in [context].
- To generate by constructing scientific explanations for [key concept] in [context].
Interpret models and representations
- To evaluate by critiquing scientific explanations for [key concepts] in [context].
- To generate by constructing a representation or model for [key concept] in [context].
Combination of skills to support science, technology and society
- To evaluate by critiquing representations or models for [key concepts] in [context].
- To generate by responding to a socio-scientific issue.
The video below was made by a group of students that were learning to model and represent forces in a circus context. (Thanks to The Dust Palace in Auckland for teaching us to use the equipment!).
A few key things to note
- These rubrics, learning objectives, etc. are not perfect. We are constantly adjusting and refining them to ensure that students gain the necessary skills and knowledge to be informed citizens and capable of success in senior science. Given the pace at which science is advancing, however, I would argue that evolving assessment and learning is the way to go...
- You will notice that our focus in science is not on students learning about. Instead, there is a much greater focus on students learning to. This is in part as a result of the science capabilities that make some attempt at reconciling the perceived gap between skills and knowledge in the curriculum.
- The work of developing learning objectives and progressions is just as important, if not more so, than having a completed rubric. This is a difficult, sticky and usually confronting process. However, this process is a fundamental building block of shifting assessment away from historical modes of end of topic tests. It requires us learning to use the curriculum rather than achievement standards to dictate what and how we teach our students. It requires us to really ask 'what is science?', if it is not a unit on atoms and another on electricity.
- Many secondary school teachers know that there is never enough time and that we are in a constant race to 'cover all the content'. The only way of getting out of this content rat race is to let things go. If you just try to fit in more 'stuff', you end up doing more things, but worse. Instead, we are trying to do less, better. We have chosen the science capabilities because we believe they offer both access to the niche-specific knowledge of senior science, as well as providing life worthy, relevant learning for all students living in our modern world of exponential technology. Many science teachers might be alarmed that our school does not provide the stock standard introduction to the periodic table unit, and not all students will have learnt about parallel and series circuits. However, all our students will have had to explore and analyse a socio-scientific issue, and designed and prototyped an action accordingly. All students will have to use scientific evidence in some way, and be able to distinguish between what makes something scientific or not.
- The students in our class come from culturally and socially diverse backgrounds. They learn new skills from MOOCs and YouTube, and communicate using augmented reality (think IG filters!). The science capabilities offer enough flexibility that we can design courses around student interest while maintaining the integrity of science as a discipline.
- We have been using this system/process for about four years now. In 2020, our plan is to extend our rubrics to include senior science courses.
Any questions? Comment below!
PS: If you are planning on redoing your science progressions, I highly recommend first reading the following: