Tuesday, 15 Aug 2006

MEDIA RELEASE For release Tuesday 15 August 2006 Crisis of interest in science needs humanistic approach A humanistic approach to curriculum is urgently required in order to address the current crisis of interest in science. Despite an apparently rich set of positive options for increasing student interest in science a number of constraints imposed by science teachers, academic science and competing systemic demands stand in the way of implementing them. Professor Peter Fensham of Queensland University of Technology will tell delegates at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) annual conference in Canberra today that students are not enjoying studying science. Most have concluded that post-compulsory science studies should be avoided unless needed for some career purpose. International research suggests that students’ interest in science could be heightened if curricula and assessment requirements made it possible for students to learn science as a story involving people, situations and actions, real world situations that students can engage with Professor Fensham says. This requires clearly presented science related to issues of personal and social significance, with personally engaging open problems for investigation. “Informal investigations with science teachers in Australia, have made me aware that, however weak or strong their background in science studies, many of them are seriously deficient in having any science stories to tell, in communicating within and from science, in knowing science as a way of thinking, and in applying science in real-world applications,” Professor Fensham says. None of these desirable aspects of science as a human endeavour had been emphasised in teachers’ school or undergraduate science studies as academic science has been primarily introductory to careers in scientific research, leaving graduates for other careers such as school teaching deficient in aspects other than foundational conceptual knowledge. Professor Fensham argues that a more humanistic approach to science learning is further constrained by the different curriculum scenarios currently being played out in Australia. “Neither the curriculum scenario based around ‘essentials’ found in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland, nor the Federal Government’s National Consistency Project has taken seriously into account the crisis of interest in science,” Professor Fensham says. “Rather than promoting humanistic contextual learning of science – our best understanding of how to engage more students enthusiastically with science – it seems likely that in their own way they may cement in place the view of science that I am arguing needs to be replaced.” Peter Fensham is Emeritus Professor of Science Education at Monash University where he established a leading international research group in the teaching and learning of science. Currently he is an adjunct professor at Queensland University of Technology. Professor Fensham will deliver is conference address at 11.00am today (15 August) at the Hyatt Hotel, Canberra. ACER Research Conference 2006, Boosting science learning – what will it take? Concludes today. ****************ENDS*************