Confirmation of Candidature - Donna Kleiss

Scientific literacy in primary school : developing a pragmatic framework

Standardised national and international testing of science literacy for Australian students has demonstrated no statistically measureable growth since 2012. There is general consensus that this deficit needs to be addressed at a school level in order to maintain future national economic growth and prosperity. There is substantial research describing scientific literacy, but no commonly accepted definition. The literature reveals two distinct approaches, which rarely reference each other. On the one hand, descriptions of what it means to be literate in science are based in language and linguistics. On the other, its definitions stem from social constructivism, where emphasis is placed on the socio-political nature of science and its literacies. If researchers are not clear on what constitutes scientific literacy, it is safe to assume that Australian teachers might be uncertain of its definition and unclear of how to implement effective science literacy programs in their own classrooms. If student improvements are to be made in this area, then a pragmatic framework that is readily implementable by classroom teachers should be considered. Few studies have considered scientific literacy in this dichotomous way. The proposed thesis will investigate if synthesizing these apparent discordant perspectives into a new pragmatic framework will affect primary students’ learning and outcomes in science and its literacies.

The study will follow a design-based research methodology. In its first iteration the project will collect and present multiple perspectives of what it means to be literate in science. Interviews with experienced and nationally recognised teachers, policy writers, curriculum developers and academics will be conducted. These multiple and varied voices will be compared and contrasted with the dichotomous perspectives presented in the scholarly research. From this a pragmatic and implementable framework of scientific literacy will be developed. During the second iteration of the project, the framework will be trialled in the researcher’s own Year 6 classroom. In this phase, data will be collected using interpretative case studies. During the third iteration, the project will be scaled into two different contexts. In the first instance, the context of the teacher-researcher will change from classroom teacher to specialist STEM teacher, with the focus of the interpretative case studies in lower primary school. In the final context, the researcher will work alongside other teachers to implement the scientific literacy framework into their own primary classroom. The final stage will utilise interpretative case studies, as well as interviews with participant teachers.

Date:       Wednesday 11 October 2017

Time:       12:30pm - 2pm

Location:   Room 105
                    Colin Clark Building 39  St Lucia Campus

PANEL:  Dr Rhonda Faragher (Chair), Dr Jill Fielding-Wells

Principal Advisor: Professor Robyn Gillies

Associate Advisor:  Dr Linda Willis


About HDR Confirmation Seminars

The Confirmation Seminar is the first public presentation in the UQ milestone process.

Staff and students are urged to attend to support your colleagues at this first outing of their project.