This report evaluates a teaching resource called "Entering the debate on Genetic Modification by developing a critical thinking response" (also known as "Time for critical thought"). Designed for students at Year 10 level, the resource focuses on the controversy surrounding the introduction of genetically modified crops. It aims to encourage students and their teachers to engage in critical thinking, dialogue, and learning around this socio-scientific issue.
The resource was funded by Agcarm Inc., the Royal Society of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Association of Science Educators. In 2004 copies of the resource were sent to all secondary schools in New Zealand.
NZCER’s evaluation of the uptake, use, and effectiveness of the resource included:
- a survey of 58 teachers who attended regional workshops about the resource,
- a case study of the use of the resource with four Year 10 classes in one secondary school; and
- interviews with a workshop facilitator and two science HODs who were familiar with the resource but were not using it with Year 10 students.
This evaluation demonstrates the considerable challenges that face developers of innovative resources which aim to support change in science teaching practice. Teachers who were surveyed or interviewed liked the idea of taking critical thinking skills approach in science, and thought GM was a relevant topic for Year 10 science teaching. However, uptake of the resource in schools was low. Many teachers felt the resource was too complex for Year 10 students and would need to be adapted or modified before it could be used. Teachers were also uncertain about how to fit a unit on GM into their existing Year 10 departmental teaching schemes.
The evaluation suggests more support and professional development will be needed if teachers are to make the many changes necessary to accommodate a forward-looking resource such as "Time for critical thought " in their teaching programmes. School-level changes to timetabling and curriculum and assessment structures would also help to allow "Time for critical thought" in Year 10 science classes.