In many parts of the world, science education occupies a comparatively
insignificant place in primary-school education and unfortunately what
actually happens in the classroom under the label of science is often
totally inadequate. Teacher training, both pre-service and in-service, is
one of the keys to this problem. Starting from the premise that this
training should be carried out in ways more closely related to the active
methods which teachers are expected to use in their schools, this
sourcebook provides a variety of materials for use in training workshops
for primary-school teachers which can be used both in group-work and
by individual teachers for independent study.
Dr. Wynne Harlen, OBE, 1s Director of the Scottish Council for
Research in Education. She has broad expenence of science teaching in
schools and colleges of education. Formerly Professor of Education at
the University of Livefpool, she has also held academic appointments at
the Universities of Bristol, Reading and London. Dr Harlen is well-
known in the United Kingdom and intemationally for her work in
primary-school science education, a field in which she has directed a
number of important projects, particularly in relation to assessment of
pupil achievement and teacher education. This has included close co-
operation with UNESCO in development of its programme in the field of
primary-school science education.
Jos Elstgeest is Science Education Co-ordinator of the Regional
Pedagogic Centre, Zeeland, in the Netherlands. Before this he worked at
the Morogoro Teacher-Training Centre in the United Republic of
Tanzania. He has been deeply involved with the African Primary Science
Programme and the Science Education Programme for Africa. His work
has involved close contact with UNESCO's programme in science
education and he has served as a UNESCO expert at the University of
Lesotho. He is particularly known internationally for his innovative
approach to primary-school learning and the training of teachers.
Many international organizations and individual science educators from different parts of the world have contributed in one way or another to the production of this book. It might be said to have begun in the establishment by the
Committee on the Teaching of Science of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU-CTS) of a Sub-committee on Elementary Science (SES) in
the early 1980s. Jos Elstgeest and Wynne Harlen were for many years the surviving and active members of this sub-committee, whose discussions as to how
to improve primary/elementary school science education led to the conclusion
that our very limited efforts were best directed at teacher educators, since
primary-school teacher-training programmes were generally lacking in providing effective preparation for teaching active and relevant science.
With the support of UNESCO the SES prepared The Training of Primary
Science Educators - A Workshop Approach. A further activity was a brief Inter-
national Workshop on Primary Science held immediately after the ICSU-
sponsored Conference on Science and Technology Education held in Bangalore, India, in 1985, with support from UNESCO and the International Council of Associations for Science Education (ICASE) and the British Council.
Then the Commonwealth Secretariat and UNESCO proposed to co-operate in
taking the work further by launching a project whose aims were: in the short
term, to bring together a small group of educators with expertise in primary-
- school science to plan a training workshop for teacher trainers and prepare
draft materials; in the medium term, to bring together teacher trainers, mostly
from Third World countries, for workshops using the approach exemplified in
the materials; and in the long term, to collect together and develop further
- workshop materials for use in pre-service and in-service courses and make
them available to teachers and to those providing courses for teachers.
The first of these aims was achieved through a small international seminar
convened in Liverpool in December 1986. The second was achieved initially
through an international seminar held in Barbados in 1987 and attended by
twenty-six participants from seventeen countries. The seminar was organized
by the Commonwealth Secretariat and UNESCO, supported by ICSU-CTS,
ICASE and the British Council and co-directed by Professor Wynne Harlen,
then of Liverpool University, and Dr Winston King, of the University of the
West Indies. The aim of the seminar was that participants would subsequently
run national and regional workshops along similar lines, using the ideas and
materials generated and used in Barbados. The realization of this aim took the
form of two workshops in the Caribbean (one in Uganda and one in Malaysia),
a South-East Asia regional seminar held in Western Samoa in 1989 and an
African regional workshop held in Nigeria in 1990.
The value of the workshop materials has been evident in supporting these
activities and the purpose of this volume, which is the achievement of the
long-term aim of the Commonwealth Secretariat/UNESCO project, is to
extend this help more widely. The present book is therefore intended for use
in teacher-education courses — pre-service or in-service; it is best used when
the activities suggested can be carried out and discussed by students or teachers in groups. However, the needs of the individual teacher, without access to
in-service courses, have been borne in mind and the book can also be used for
In preparing this volume to cover more ground than was possible in the
project seminars and workshops, it has been necessary to produce a consider-
able amount of new material. Many of the participants at the Barbados seminar
will recognize their contributions, particularly Kamaia Peiris and Sheila Jelly,
whose work 1s acknowledged with great gratitude. However, the bulk of Part
One of the book has been written by Wynne Harlen and of Part Two by Jos
Elstgeest; Wynne Harlen brought it together as overall editor.
The material here is designed for use in workshops for teachers in either pre-
service or in-service contexts. The word ‘workshop’ is used to convey a particular active approach to teacher education which the authors feel is essential.
The idea of active learning involves both physical and mental activity. Participation in the creation of ideas (even if others have already arrived at them) is essential to learning with understanding at all levels. This way of learning
promotes the important feature of ‘ownership’ of ideas and is relevant to all
learners, not just to children.
A workshop is merely a shorthand way of indicating a learning experience
in which the learner creates meaning or understanding through his or her own
mental and physical activity. What is provided as a basis for this artion can be
objects or materials to investigate or use, or problems to solve, or evidence to
examine and discuss. The outcome may be an artefact, a solution to a problem,
a plan, the recognition of a new relationship between things, a critique or a set
of criteria. Perhaps the most important product, however, is a greater under-
standing of how to achieve such outcomes.
For teachers to understand fully the meaning of active learning it is important for them to have experienced it for themselves and so this is one reason
for advocating a large element of workshop activity in a teacher-education
course. To help children learn in this way it is necessary to understand, not just
at an intellectual level, but in terms of practice, what it means to carry out
observation, to hypothesize, to make a prediction, to plan an investigation, and
so on. This is a tall order for those who may never in their own education have
had opportunity to create and test a hypothesis based on their own ideas.
Further, not only do teachers and intending teachers need to experience
these things for themselves but to do so in a context where discussion can turn
to analysing the role of process skills and concepts in their learning, to reflecting on the sorts of activities which encourage use of these skills and concepts,
to considering the teacher’s role in these activities and to identifying the range
of class organizations, strategies and resources which are required.
This way of learning does not have to be restricted to developing personal
knowledge of science. It can and should be applied to all the learning experiences in a teacher-education course. It means starting from the ideas which
are already present and working with the learner, making use of evidence
(from previous experience and logical argument as well as direct observation,
since we are dealing with adults) to change them. Working in this way has a
double benefit in bringing about understanding relating to the nature of learn-
ing and at the same time being the most effective way for teachers to learn the
skills and abilities required for effective science teaching.
This UNESCO sourcebook has been prepared as a supplement to the Unesco
Handbook fer Science Teachers' and the New Unesco Source Book for Science
Teaching.’ It is part of UNESCO’s contribution to the efforts by various organizations and Member States to improve science teaching, especially at the
The origins of this book go back to the early 1980s when the Committee
on the Teaching of Science of the International Council of Scientific Unions
(ICSU-CTS) set up a Sub-committee on Elementary Science (SES). This sub-
committee’s discussions as to how to improve primary/elementary school
science education led to the conclusion that primary-school science-teachers’
training programmes as a whole did not provide effective preparation for
teaching active and relevant science. In view of the priority that Unesco is
placing on basic education, its limited resources would appear to be best
directed to teacher educators.
The authors of this book, Jos Elstgeest and Wynne Harlen, were for many
years the surviving and active members of SES. In the early 1980s the latter put
together The Training of Primary Science Educators - A Workshop Approach?
written by three SES members: herself, Jos Elstgeest and Dr Juan-Manuel
Gutierrez-Vazquez of Mexico.
This book is divided into two parts: Part One, by Wynne Harlen, Director
of the Scottish Council for Research in Education, deals with methods of
teaching relating to a view of active learning in science; Part Two, by Jos
Elstgeest, a specialist in in-service primary-school science-teacher training in
the Netherlands, provides exemplary materials for classroom activities. The
two parts are intended to be used together, not in sequence; their style 1s direct
and aimed to encourage teachers to try the ideas suggested.
This publication is designed for use in workshops for teachers in either
pre-service or in-service contexts. The word ‘workshop’ is used here as a short-
hand way of indicating an active learning experience in which the learner
creates meaning and understanding through his or her own mental and physical activity.
In preparing this publication, the authors have made considerable use of
ideas and materials generated through national, regional and international
seminars sponsored largely by UNESCO, the Commonwealth Secretariat and
ICSU-CTS. However, the authors are responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained in this book and for the opinions expressed
therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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