Sociocultural Teaching Practices and the Nature of Science: Opportunities for Learning about Science in New Zealand Primary Classrooms

By Dayle Anderson.

Published by The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning

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Sociocultural practices in science teaching have been suggested as a potentially fruitful pedagogy for teaching and learning about the nature of science. This study aimed to describe the nature, extent and effectiveness of such approaches in the science teaching of two generalist New Zealand primary teachers. Two case studies are presented of the implementation by these teachers of a unit of work in science. Data collected for each case included observations and audio-recordings of the lessons comprising the unit, whole class student questionnaires and interviews with four focus students from each class. A framework for analysis of teachers' practice for sociocultural teaching approaches was developed from the literature surrounding sociocultural theories of learning. Findings show that the sociocultural approaches identified in each teacher’s practice provided many opportunities for learning about the nature of science. Although many aspects of the nature of science were made explicit and learning outcomes regarding the nature of science assessed in both cases, students tended to recognize and describe such learning only in the case where its value to them as a learning outcome was apparent. In this case the presentation of a sound scientific investigation was expected for acceptance into a regional science competition and the nature of a successful investigation and presentation was made clear. This study contributes to research in establishing effective pedagogies for teaching and learning about the Nature of Science.

Keywords: Science Education, Nature of Science, Sociocultural Theory, Primary Science

The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp.39-51. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 354.354KB).

Dr Dayle Anderson

Senior Lecturer, School of Education Policy and Implementation, Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

Dr. Dayle Anderson is a senior lecturer in primary science and mathematics education at the Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington. Her research focuses on primary science education, in particular the nature of teacher knowledge and beliefs that support primary science, but also includes studies of pedagogy for initial teacher education and culturally responsive mathematics education.