Physics and chemistry for pre-secondary students in New Zealand
Thesis DisciplineScience Education
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
In 1996 we set out to show that primary teachers could teach the new physical science curriculum with no further training if they had the right books. We searched the literature for didactics which had been shown to positively impact learning so that we could incorporate those features into any books we would make. We conducted a pilot project for which we wrote and printed 30 workbooks for one activity. Next, we sent out a book survey to find what books were available for the subject in New Zealand at that time. Simultaneously, we scoured Europe, Asia and North America for good lesson material. We found material which incorporated the didactic criteria from our literature search and adapted some of it for our study, producing about 12,000 guided workbooks for each of the last four pre-secondary years, 3000 for each age nine to twelve. The books were made available to all New Zealand schools. Two groups of about 12 teachers each formally trialled the books. One group answered questionnaires and the other kept action research journals. Both groups confirmed the principal research premise- teaching hours increased with no further training. Once good books were in hand other problems became apparent. A nationwide resources survey revealed a lack of equipment and other problems such as poor classroom design, awkward grouping of children of different ages and abilities, lack of time, dysfunctional open plan classes of 100 pupils, two-year teaching cycles, competition from free resource packs, and lack of support material such as videos. From this study it can be concluded that the books made a positive impact for teaching physical science. The books gave teachers an international standard of lessons to work from. It was shown by this study that a teacher with no background in physics or chemistry can teach primary physical science at an international standard once good books are in hand as long as poor equipment, space and facilities are not too serious a set of impediments.