Essential Science - More FAQ

Essential Science

Junior Cycle Science

JUNIOR CYCLE SCIENCE FAQ'S

Answered by the Essential Science authors - Declan Kennedy, Rose Lawlor and Sean Finn

Why is the course changing? 

Do students need a Portfolio?

How is Assessment changing? 

What are the main differences between the old and new specifications?

What’s new in the course?

Mandatory experiments are no longer listed in the specifications (syllabus). What are the requirements for experiments in the new course?

 In the in-service training course, emphasis is placed on the investigative/inquiry-based approach to teaching science. How can this be addressed?

There is also an emphasis on literacy, numeracy and scientific literacy. How can this be addressed?

What do teachers need to do to prepare for September?  

 

WHY IS THE COURSE CHANGING?

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.

 

DO STUDENTS NEED A PORTFOLIO?

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.

 

HOW IS ASSESSMENT CHANGING?

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):

  • A hand-written/typed report.
  • Model building.
  • Multimodal presentation.
  • Podcasts.
  • Webpage.

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.

 

WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE OLD AND NEW SPECIFICATIONS?

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

Biology

  • Demonstrate the products of aerobic respiration
  • Urinary system
  • Skin
  • Skeletal system
  • Muscular system
  • Sensory system
  • Eye
  • Plant structure
  • Transport in plants
  • The flower
  • Plant reproduction
  • Tropisms

Chemistry

  • Composition of the air
  • Properties of oxygen
  • Properties of carbon dioxide
  • Properties of water, water treatment, hardness of water
  • Electrolysis of water
  • Details of chemical bonding
  • Properties of the alkali metals

Physics

  • Moments and centre of gravity
  • Pressure
  • Reflection, refraction, the spectrum
  • Sound
  • Magnetism
  • Static electricity

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.

Biology

  • Patterns in the inheritance of and variation of genetically controlled characteristics
  • Evolution by natural selection
  • Human health – inherited and environmental factors
  • Role of microorganisms in human health
  • More emphasis on matter and energy flow through ecosystems
  • Medical, ethical and societal issues in human reproduction
  • Conservation of ecological biodiversity
  • Global food production
  • Benefits people obtain from ecosystems

Chemistry

  • Law of Conservation of Mass
  • Measurement of melting points and boiling points
  • Rates of chemical reactions
  • Exothermic and endothermic reactions
  • Activation energy
  • Energy profile diagrams
  • Sustainability

Physics

  • Research project on a technological aspect of physics and its scientific, societal and environmental impact
  • Greater emphasis on energy conservation sustainability
  • Research project on ethical and sustainability issues that arise from our generation and consumption of electricity

 

WHAT’S NEW IN THE COURSE?

There are two new major sections in the new specification. The new sections are the Nature of Science and Earth and Space.

  • The Nature of Science strand deals with the area of the Scientific Method, How Scientists Work, How to carry out Investigations in science, Communicating in Science and the relationship between Science and Society. The key points of this strand are covered in Chapter 1 (written by D. Kennedy) and various aspects of this strand are also embedded in other chapters throughout the textbook.
  • The Earth and Space strand deals with topics such as planets, stars, solar systems, the origin of the universe and various other topics in the area of astronomy. It also covers topics such as the water cycle and carbon cycle as well as interesting topics such as space exploration and future energy needs of the Earth. This strand has been written by S. Finn and is covered in Chapters 36–39 of the textbook.

In addition to the above areas, new topics have also been introduced, as listed in the answer to question 4 above.

 

MANDATORY EXPERIMENTS ARE NO LONGER LISTED IN THE SPECIFICATIONS (SYLLABUS).

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR EXPERIMENTS IN THE NEW COURSE?

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.

 

IN THE IN-SERVICE TRAINING COURSE, EMPHASIS IS PLACED ON THE INVESTIGATIVE/INQUIRY-BASED APPROACH TO TEACHING SCIENCE.

HOW CAN THIS BE ADDRESSED?

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?

  • Group work and pair work are emphasised from Chapter 1, where students are shown carrying out investigations in groups as they use the scientific method.
  • The student experiments in the textbook and Lab Notebook promote group work and collaboration between students throughout the course.
  • Group work and pair work can also be promoted in the Workbook, where students could be asked to discuss and choose the correct answer for the Standardised Science Test items.

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.

  • The Objectives at the beginning of each chapter point out what the teacher expects each student to achieve.
  • The Learning Outcomes at the end of each chapter provide a useful checklist for the students to reflect on what they can do at the end of the chapter.
  • The ‘Test Yourself’ signposts throughout the textbook help students to monitor their progress and reflect on their learning.
  • The large number of questions in the textbook and workbook give the students plenty of practice in reflecting on their learning.
  • The online questions on each experiment in the Student Laboratory Notebook help students to test their knowledge and understanding of each experiment as they progress through each strand of the syllabus.

 

THERE IS ALSO AN EMPHASIS ON LITERACY, NUMERACY AND SCIENTIFIC LITERACY. HOW CAN THIS BE ADDRESSED?

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.

 

WHAT DO TEACHERS NEED TO DO TO PREPARE FOR SEPTEMBER?

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

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