primary schools

Development of a cognition-priming model describing learning in a STEM classroom

Richard Lamb, Tariq Akmal and Kaylan Petrie

Successful STEM learning depends on the interaction of affect, cognition, and application of ideas. Simply put students who are unwilling to persist in STEM based endeavors do not suddenly develop into scientists, mathematicians, engineers or computer scientists, nor do they seek out STEM related courses or STEM based careers. The purpose of this study is to investigate content, cognitive, and affective outcomes related to STEM integrated curriculum within the K-5 arena. Educational and psychological literature tends to focus one aspect of the other when examining the role of affect and cognition on student outcomes. Current trends in educational measurement and psychometrics have begun to address the artificial disconnect that exists between affect, cognition, and content outcomes within the science education literature. The methods used to develop the results within this study are a mixture of quantitative methods to develop a model of learning occurring in a STEM school. Using ANOVA, structural equation modeling, and model analysis, an understanding of the problems presented becomes clear. Analysis of model fit statistics suggests adequate model fit (χ2(21) = 30.91, p = 0.075, CFI = 0.94, TLI = 0.93, RMSEA = 0.04, SRMR = 0.05). The standardized structural coefficients for the path from group to each of the constructs is statistically significant (p < 0.05) thus indicating that the two groups differ on the constructs of self-efficacy, science interest, spatial visualization, and mental rotation. An estimate of effect size of the mean group difference across the statistically significant constructs reveals self-efficacy (d = 1.27, large), science interest (d = 1.97, large), spatial visualization (d = 1.30, large), and mental rotation (d = 1.42, large). There is considerable evidence that the inclusion, STEM integrated learning at the earlier elementary level becomes critically important for the students as they progress in school.

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Preschool children’s taxonomic knowledge of animal species

Although taxonomic proficiency is a prerequisite for understanding ideas central to biology, previous research has established that learners frequently misclassify animals by not following the tenets of accepted taxonomic rubrics. This has immediate relevance with the recently revised English National Curriculum now requiring concepts of animal classification to be taught to 5–6 year-olds. The current study represents an attempt to explore how preschool children aged 3–5 years classify animals, and patterns in the ways in which their taxonomic knowledge might progress with age were sought to illuminate potential origins of naive conceptions in the early years. A quantitative approach was employed with a sample of 75 children utilising a structured interview method to determine their ideas about the taxonomic labels animal, fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, mammal and insect. Findings revealed common learning trajectories as children’s prototypes developed from 3 to 5 years. These trajectories confirmed that the preschool children held many of the same naive conceptions as those previously reported in older learners. Some of these conceptions started to dissipate with age; however, others began to emerge in the older children within the sample, representing a decline in performance with age. This decline is concerning though can be accounted for by contemporary categorization theory, giving support to the view that science misconceptions can emerge in the early years due to natural maturation (cognitive factors), as well as exposure to formal and informal learning experiences (socio-cultural factors). To supplement established conceptual change strategies, which deal with already-formed misconceptions, it is proposed that there be a fresh research emphasis towards conceptual creation where acceptable scientific ideas are seeded at the earliest years of schooling. Accordingly, the role of early years educators would become fundamental to effective science education.

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The Space Public Outreach Team (SPOT): Adapting a successful outreach programme to a new region

Kathryn Williamson, Angela Des Jardins, Irene Grimberg, Shane L. Larson, Joey Key, Michelle B. Larson, Sue Ann Heatherly, David McKenzie, Tyson B. Littenberg

The Space Public Outreach Team (SPOT) recruits and trains undergraduate ambassadors from all disciplines to deliver astronomy and space-science-themed interactive presentations. They deliver these presentations to primary and secondary schools and organisations across the state of Montana, USA. SPOT was started in 1996 by physics graduate students at Montana State University, USA, and it has grown to reach an average of 10 000 students per year for a low institutional cost of less than five dollars (four euros) per student. In the last year, the Montana SPOT model has been adopted in the state of West Virginia. The West Virginia SPOT programme also shows great potential, with eleven ambassadors trained to give two new feature presentations, reaching over 2600 students. In this paper, we describe how the Montana SPOT model works in practice and discuss how this model was adapted with new resources, and for a new audience, such that others may also adapt the programme to inspire space science interest for their own particular setting. We invite these groups to plug into the SPOT brand to broaden the impact of astronomy and space programmes and applications in their own region.

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Mosaic: re-imagining the monolingual classroom through theatre-in-education

D. Pakkar-Hull

This article is a study of ‘Mosaic’ – a piece of multilingual theatre-in-education designed to promote linguistically diverse practices in primary schools in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Focusing on the relatively uncharted territory of applied theatre as a means of promoting multilingualism, and challenging a culture of monolingual teaching and learning, the article examines how the piece enabled schools to begin to be re-imagined as places where creative, multilingual pedagogy and practice could take root. Two key theoretical concepts frame the study: (1) Postman’s view of education as a ‘counter-argument’ to the prevailing biases of dominant cultural practices and (2) Bakhtin’s concept of ‘heteroglossia’, which links multilingual practices to their social, political and historical power hierarchies. Based on data collected during the touring of ‘Mosaic’ – primarily audio recordings made of the interactions of six participating pupils – the article explores how the participatory approach adopted in ‘Mosaic’ sowed the seeds of ‘counter-argument’ not only to challenge dominant monolingual norms but also to enable children to negotiate and perform new social identities in relation to their multilingual resources. Implications for practice and future research are also discussed.

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