Developing Wonder-full Primary Science Teaching, Learning & Assessment Seminar


Seminar 2012


On Saturday the 28th January, the Maltese Association of Science Educators (MASE) has organized the first activity for 2012: a seminar for all Primary teachers titled 'Developing Wonder-full Primary Science Teaching, Learning & Assessment'. This seminar was conducted by two speakers: Dr. Lynne Bianchi and Ms. Penny Thompson from Sheffield Hallam University in the UK and was aimed at preparing primary teachers for the challenges ahead as proposed by the National Curriculum Framework.


The seminar was very well attended by an audience of more than 110 participants, consisting mainly of primary teachers from Government, Church and Independent schools together with students who are specializing in Primary education in the B.Ed (Hons) course offered by the University of Malta.


During the first session of the seminar Dr Lynne Bianchi and Ms. Penny Thompson explored the reasons for a contemporary primary science curriculum, and how such an entitlement can be made 'wonder-full' by engaging the students at a very young age. Children need to sense awe and wonder in learning and Lynne provided insight into key strategies using a context rich, activity rich and response rich approach. Teachers mainly explored the notion of enquiry - allowing students to ask questions, helping them to investigate one or more of their own questions and finally reviewing the results.  Particular emphasis was made on making and testing predictions and planning for a fair test.


The second session of the seminar involved a practical exploration of approaches to scientific enquiry and subject knowledge development using a range of contemporary resources, including concept cartoons, Smart Science, the post-it note approach to scientific enquiry and more. The participants through a hands-on approach were made familiar with different types of scientific enquiry such as fair-testing, pattern seeking, classifying and identifying, exploring, making things/solving problems and making and applying models.


Finally, the seminar explored the major issue of how to assess children's learning in primary science. It focused heavily on strategies of Assessment for Learning and how to encourage children's rich responses to learning. Dr. Lynne emphasised how talk (teacher-pupil, pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil) should be the basis of Assessment for Learning.


The two speakers managed to conduct the seminar in a very interactive manner. Teachers were given the opportunity to carry out various investigations using materials commonly found in the primary classroom such as hoola hoops, different types of balls and ships made out of foil, but also sang and made the largest ever human electric circuit! Teachers gave very good feedback and words of praise on the seminar. Thus, it can be said that the seminar managed to achieve its aims very effectively: those to inspire and motivate teachers about the relevance and wonder of science in the primary school, to explore the notion of inquiry-based learning in a practical sense and to consider the role of assessment for learning.


Certificates of participation were distributed to all participants. The seminar was kept free of charge thanks to a generous contribution from the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education. Other contributors include the Diplomat hotel, the British Council and CopyQuick.


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