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Time for critical thinking in secondary science?

Rachel Bolstad and Rosemary Hipkins

Teaching approaches which support the development of students’ “critical thinking” skills, and the use of socioscientific contexts for learning, have both been advocated as necessary and desirable directions for secondary school science education.

In 2004 we were asked to evaluate a teaching resource, distributed to all New Zealand secondary schools, which aimed to support both these approaches at Year 10 level.

We found low levels of uptake and use of the resource (called Entering the debate on Genetic Modification by developing a critical thinking response) in schools.

In this paper we reflect on the evaluation findings, and other research evidence about senior secondary science education in New Zealand. We put forward the proposition that there is a mismatch between the espoused “big picture” goals of science education, and the three “message systems” of schooling: curriculum, assessment, and pedagogy.

Drawing on recent developments from the current New Zealand Curriculum/Marautanga Project, we consider how opportunities are opening up to begin to reframe school science education to align it visibly with the big picture goals and aims that it is intended to achieve.

Paper presented at the Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA) conference, University of Waikato, 6–9 July 2005.

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Conference paper
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