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Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

Students make progress when they can demonstrate greater capability in making scientifically meaningful observation and carrying out systematic data gathering. For this to happen they need to encounter tasks that stretch them, yet are achievable. A mix of the aspects in the task design will determine its overall difficulty level for students. The table contrasts features more typical of Level 1 and 2 tasks with those students might encounter at level 5. Level 3 and 4 tasks/contexts will combine some easier and some more demanding features. 

Aspect of task at level 1/2 Aspect of task at level 5

Framing of task

The task has been shaped to eliminate ambiguity: what is displayed directs attention to what needs to be observed: e.g. a simple clear line drawing, a very carefully framed photograph, a purposefully selected simple object, a very simple identification key.

The sense(s) and observation tools involved  are clearly identified for the students.

The task involves use of simple familiar language to talk about the act of observing and making meaning: e.g. “I see…, I think.., I wonder…”


Framing of task

The task is open to interpretation because it is not self-evident what the focus of the observation/data gathering should be, or why: e.g. a ‘busy’ photograph, a compound image with a number of different elements, a real thing with many different features, a complex identification key.

The task may require students to make choices about observation methods and tools.

The task requires students to explicitly differentiate between when they (or scientists) are shaping an observation and when they are making an inference. 

Some tasks will challenge students to shape testable hypotheses from their inferences.

Some tasks might provide opportunities to explore instances where indirect observations must be made because more direct methods cannot be used.

Choice of context

The context is likely to be familiar or easily associated with something that is already familiar to many students.

The context can be readily accessed.

Choice of context

A wider range of contexts will be used: some familiar, some less so.

The context might present an unexpected or surprising aspect of something so familiar that it tends to be taken for granted.

Prior science knowledge

The task uses everyday ideas and language, or very simple and familiar science ideas, to give meaning to the observation focus.

Prior science knowledge

The task draws on students’ prior science knowledge of relevant concepts. These act as a guide to what it might be important to observe, or what data might be relevant to gather.

Metacognitive awareness

Tasks encourage students to talk about the thinking they do as they make observations or gather data. In this way they build awareness of when they are being careful observers and meaning-makers.

Metacognitive awareness

The task provides opportunities for students to talk about instances when inferences are central to meaning-making (either their own and that of others, including scientists).