From curriculum to classroom in upper second level science
Walshe, Anna (2015) From curriculum to classroom in upper second level science. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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Education in Ireland has gone through a significant period of change since the 1980s. Upper second level education has been the subject of extensive consultation and review, and revised specifications for Leaving Certificate biology, chemistry and physics were developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment during the period 2006- 2014. The revised specifications are written as learning outcomes in which the key skills of information processing, being personally effective, working with others, communicating and critical and creative thinking are embedded. Curriculum development in Ireland reflects international practice, where development of key competences/skills is a fundamental theme underpinning recently developed curricula. Whilst knowledge and understanding of science concepts and theories is as important as ever, what learners are able to do with that knowledge and understanding is equally, and increasingly, important. Although curriculum development in Ireland is in line with curriculum development internationally, this study focuses on the local issues associated with curricular change, in particular the translation and communication of learning outcomes.
The construction of learning outcomes is a complex, non-linear, interacting system which teachers will need to deconstruct in order to fully understand them. Building on key literature, this study develops two organising frameworks that facilitate analysis of learning outcomes and of assessment items. Understanding the kinds of learning experiences that develop skills in students will contribute to curricular coherence, without the need for curriculum control.
The study describes two design based research projects in which teachers and students actively contributed to the process of curriculum development. The teachers worked at the interface between policy and research, and brought their experience and knowledge to the curriculum design process. The first project was concerned with pedagogy, the second with assessment. The outcomes of both projects informed the development of the upper second level science curricula in Ireland, and have set the scene for further developmental work.
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