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The ‘school science – working science’ continuum

… up to approximately Level 4, students investigate their own ideas about science. At higher levels they look at scientists’ ideas about science.

As their abilities and understandings develop, students progress along a ‘school science – working science’ continuum.

  • The contextual strands of Science in the New Zealand Curriculum offer activities with a range of ‘school science – working science’ ideas.
  • The curriculum levels provide reliable indications of what is appropriate to different ages/ abilities. For example, up to approximately Level 4, students investigate their own ideas about science. At higher levels they look at scientists’ ideas about science.

Theories

  1. The science student investigates personal theories, and
  2. through school science, develops increasing reference to science theories in investigations
  3. towards the understandings of a ‘working’ scientist, who investigates science theories.

Gathering data

  1. The science student uses senses to gather data, and
  2. through school science, develops increasing use of measurement and instrumentation
  3. towards the understandings of a ‘working’ scientist, who may use data gathering technologies that require theoretical interpretation (for example, DNA ‘fingerprinting’).

Cause/effect

  1. The science student investigates discrete, single instances of cause/effect, and
  2. through school science, develops increasing ability to identify and control relevant variables
  3. towards the understandings of a ‘working’ scientist, whose investigations take systematic account of interactions between multiple variables.

Critique

  1. The science student is beginning to differentiate between ‘what’ is thought and ‘why’ it is thought, and
  2. through school science, develops increasing ability to critique and justify their own and others’ reasoning
  3. towards the understandings of a ‘working’ scientist, who takes part in robust debate and critique amongst a community of experts before new theories are accepted and used.

Explanations

  1. The science student accepts personally plausible explanations (recognises when evidence confirms their own ideas), and
  2. through school science, develops a beginning recognition that more than one explanation may account for data/evidence
  3. towards the understandings of a ‘working’ scientist, who attempts to clearly differentiate theory from evidence whilst considering all possible explanations.

The nature of investigations

  1. The science student sees investigations as separate episodes, and
  2. through school science, develops a gradual ability to link chains of related investigations, in order to look for patterns
  3. towards the understandings of a ‘working’ scientist, whose investigations are complex webs of inter-related episodes using different methods, and seeking different types of evidence, to address a question.

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