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NCEA and Excellence in Science

MEDIA RELEASE FROM

INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS OF NEW ZEALAND 29 January 2003

NCEA and Excellence in Science

“Perhaps one of NCEA’s excellent features will prove to be its ability to highlight specific areas of deficiencies in teaching and understanding”, says Joy Quigley, Executive Director of Independent Schools of New Zealand.

Analysis has already shown that there were limited “excellent’s” granted in Level 1 NCEA Science this year. Information presented at the recent UK Association for Science Education Conference may provide some answers.

Quoted in the Times Education Supplement (TES), Cherry Canovan says “It seems lack of effective training means that many Key Stage 2 (Year 5/6) teachers may be insecure when dealing with sciences, particularly physics. They may even be unsure about the answers to problems set for their pupils – such as why the stars cannot be seen during the day.”

Teachers may have difficulty with concepts in physical science such as mass, rate, volume, forces and the earth and beyond.

Stuart Naylor, Principal Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University of Education told TES, “Seemingly simple questions such as what happens to the weight of a bottle of lemonade if gas escapes causes problems. The answer is it gets lighter but some pupils think the weight remains constant, while other believe it goes up once the “buoyancy” of the gas is removed.”

But teachers are not alone according to Mr Naylor, who says intelligent adults without a science background do not typically understand most of the science in the national curriculum. Their understanding is not helped by ludicrous science blunders in films and television but these impossibilities such as Star Trek “beaming up” could help in teaching science suggested Dr Jonathan Allday from King’s School in Canterbury.

They can be used to introduce concepts such as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, helpfully explained by TES. “You cannot know a particle’s velocity and position at the same time, so the Star Trek transporter machine could not take people’s particles apart and put them together again correctly as it would not have enough knowledge to do so.”

And where do stars go during the daytime? In case you are unsure, they are still there but the sun outshines them.

If NCEA standards-based assessment highlights gaps and leads to an improvement in basic understandings of scientific principles then New Zealanders will be well served by the new system, says Joy Quigley. Contact Details: Joy Quigley Executive Director Independent Schools of New Zealand Phone: 04 471 1924 Fax: 04 472 4635

Email: joyq@isnz.org.nz

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