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Answered by the Essential Science authors - Declan Kennedy, Rose Lawlor and Sean Finn
The old syllabus was introduced in 2003. It was felt that it needs updating to (a) include more interesting material such as Earth and Space (astronomy), more about what science is all about (Nature of Science) and some topical issues such as Sustainability and (b) to introduce more of an investigative approach to teaching and learning science.
No. There is no mention of the word ‘portfolio’ anywhere in the final draft of the syllabus.
The SEC Component of the Assessment involves a written examination and a short assessment task, which would probably be completed in a pro forma booklet supplied by the SEC.The Classroom-Based Assessments give complete choice over how students present their projects to the teacher, e.g. a PowerPoint presentation, poster, exhibition at a science fair, etc.
The final draft of the syllabus has clarified the nature of the Assessment, which will be divided into two components.
1. State Examinations Commission (SEC) Component
This component (page 23 of the final draft of the syllabus) will consist of two parts:
(a) Written Examination. A two-hour written examination at a common level will take place at the end of third year. This written exam will be marked by the SEC and will be worth 90% of the overall grade awarded by the SEC.
(b) Assessment Task. Students will also carry out an Assessment Task, which will be completed during class time and sent to the SEC for marking. This Assessment Task will be worth 10% of the overall grade awarded by the SEC and will be related to the learning outcomes of the ‘Science in Society Investigation’ that will be part of the Classroom-Based Assessment.
2. Classroom-Based Assessment Component.
The Classroom-Based Assessment (page 22 of the final draft of the syllabus) will consist of two parts:
(a) Extended Experimental Investigation. Over a three-week period, students will carry out an investigation that involves the use of the scientific method. It will take place at the end of second year. The report on the investigation can be presented in a wide variety of formats.
(b) Science in Society Investigation. Over a three-week period, students will research a socio-scientific issue. It will be carried out in third year (end of first term or beginning of second term). The report may be presented in a wide variety of formats.
On page 23 of the final draft of the syllabus, the following is stated: ‘The presentation formats for each of the above Classroom-Based Assessments can include the following (this is not an exhaustive list):
Regarding the above, the syllabus also states, ‘It is also acceptable, and in some respects encouraged, that the evidence of learning presented for the Classroom-Based Assessment could be used as part of a student’s entry to a local or national science fair.’
The Essential Science teaching package covers absolutely everything that is needed for the assessment carried out by the SEC. It also provides the foundation to enable students to carry out whatever is required in the area of classroom-based assessment.
The main differences are in terms of (i) Structure and (ii) Content of the syllabus.
(i) Structure. The old syllabus was divided into three parts (physics, chemistry and biology). The new syllabus is divided into five sections called strands: Nature of Science, Biological World, Chemical World, Physical World and Earth and Space.
In addition, there are certain integrating themes running through all the strands. These themes are Energy, Sustainability, Building Blocks and Systems and Interactions.
(ii) Content. Some items have been removed from the old syllabus and some new items have been introduced. Some of these are summarised in the following list.
Examples of items removed from the old syllabus
New items on the new syllabus
In addition to the two completely new sections (Nature of Science and Earth and Space), a number of new topics appear on the new syllabus.
There are two new major sections in the new specification. The new sections are the Nature of Science and Earth and Space.
In addition to the above areas, new topics have also been introduced, as listed in the answer to question 4 above.
The new syllabus does not specify a list of mandatory experiments, as in the old syllabus. However, it is clear from the learning outcomes specified that practical work is necessary in order to achieve many of the learning outcomes. In addition, practical work is necessary in order to illustrate the theory and in order to give students a good understanding of key points relating to the theory.
Also, practical work is necessary to enable students to develop the key practical skills to carry out the Extended Experimental Investigation that will be part of the Classroom-Based Assessments, as specified on page 22 of the final draft of the syllabus.
Finally, practical work is necessary in order to promote the investigative/inquiry-based approach to science teaching as recommended in the Introduction to the syllabus. The Essential Science Lab Notebook promotes an investigative approach to teaching science, as each experiment has lots of questions to test the students’ understanding as they go about carrying out the various practical activities.
This is addressed in a number of ways in the Essential Science teaching package.
1. The detailed Laboratory Practical Work (Student Experiments) included in the textbook and Laboratory Notebook help the students to build up the basic laboratory skills needed to carry out investigative work on their own.
2. The videos specifically produced for the new syllabus help students to appreciate all the practical laboratory skills that students will require for investigative work. In addition, the ClipBank videos cover the area of scientific investigations in great detail.
3. The steps needed to carry out investigative/inquiry-based activities are covered in Chapter 1: Nature of Science. Example 1.1 in the textbook shows students how to carry out and write up their own investigations in a step-by-step approach.
4. The Teachers Resource Book contains a complete list of all Investigations set by the State Examinations Commission that may be used by teachers to give to students.
How does the Essential Science teaching package cover the area of group work and pair work?
How does the Essential Science teaching package cover the area of self-reflection on learning?
This is an important part of the Essential Science teaching package and it is covered in a number of ways.
In the Essential Science textbook, literacy is addressed at the beginning of each chapter by highlighting the key terms that will be encountered by students in that chapter on yellow ‘Post-it’ notes. In addition, simple language is used throughout the textbook, with lots of bullet points to help present the material in ‘bite-size’ quantities for students.
Numeracy is addressed by the many worked examples showing the students how to perform calculations throughout the textbook. Due to the heavy emphasis on graphical interpretation in the sample assessment items, a specific chapter (Chapter 2) has been devoted to helping students gain the necessary skills to answer questions involving graphs.
Scientific literacy is addressed throughout the textbook by the many references to science in our everyday lives and by showing the strong relationship between science and society, e.g. in the biographical notes of famous scientists.
It would be very helpful to review the Essential Science teaching package. Contact your Folens representative to order an evaluation copy: www.folens.ie/reps
It would also be helpful to study the full, final draft of the syllabus, which is available at: http://curriculumonline.ie/Junior-cycle/Junior-Cycle-Subjects/Science