So the other day, whilst looking through some research articles for a uni assignment, I happened upon the paper ‘Tracing Young Children’s Scientific Reasoning’. What follows is by no means a definitive recount of the (what I consider to be) interesting information discussed in that article, it’s more so my response upon reading.
I should clarify that my experience with the primary curriculum is extremely limited, even more so is my experience of teaching it. However, as a pre-service teacher and parent, these are my thoughts.
As naive as it may sound, I always kind of put Piaget in the ‘primarily relevant to preschool’ category and never really considered how his theories may have impacted the primary (particularly science) curriculum. By this I mean that science is about making observations, generating explanations, considering competing/alternative hypotheses and designing experiments to test them. With new observations you either support or refute your hypotheses and generate new, testable hypotheses and theories. However according to Piaget, children (people) aren’t capable of this kind of reasoning until adolescence.
If you adhere to this, you might design a primary science syllabus which consists of “Let’s do this experiment.” *places seedlings on the window sill* “Then we’ll jot down the results (answers), that’s science”. This kind of approach neglects a lot of the creative, exploratory aspects of science, and I know from hanging out with my eight year old son that he comes up with some rather insightful and complex explanations for some of the things he encounters, any number of which with a little discussion could quite easily evolve into testable hypotheses.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this:
a) If the Aussie primary science syllabus is predominantly based upon a Piagetian stages approach, then perhaps this should be reconsidered and
b) Introducing science to primary school students by merely showing the procedure of an ‘experiment’ disenfranchises them of the more creative questioning and exploratory aspects of science.
When I am lucky enough to introduce science to primary students, I’d like to begin with the observations, the questioning, the exploring. I’d like to spend as much time there as possible, formulating interesting hypotheses that we can later go on to test. That’s one of the coolest things about science.