Teaching practices for the development of the problem solving skills of gr 9 natural sciences learners
Vicente, Ann Elizabeth
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A goal of Natural Sciences education is to ensure that learners become scientifically literate. Scientific literacy refers to learners‟ ability to solve problems that relate to policies and practices that affect the natural world. To achieve this goal, teachers need to ensure that their learners become effective problem solvers. This study explored the nature of teaching and assessment practices for the development of the problem solving skills of Gr 9 Natural Sciences learners and makes recommendations to support teachers in this regard. Quantitative, descriptive, survey research was conducted, by means of a structured questionnaire, with Gr 9 Natural Sciences teachers in the Sedibeng West District (D8) of Gauteng, South Africa. The findings of the study show there is a need for improving teaching and assessment practices for the development of the problem solving skills of Gr 9 Natural Sciences learners. Scientific Inquiry is a process known to develop the problem solving skills of learners. This process requires that learners employ critical and creative thinking as well as Science process skills as they make observations, pose questions, perform research and support the process with experimental evidence obtained from a Scientific Investigation as they search for solutions to problems. Although teachers acknowledge that Scientific Inquiry assists in developing the problem solving skills of learners they appear to have a limited view of the implementation thereof. Instead of using Scientific Inquiry to help learners build scientific theories and models when addressing problems, teachers‟ appear to favour the traditional Scientific Method. This method supports the notion that “doing Science means doing experiments” and problem solving becomes reduced to a sequence of steps performed to reinforce Natural Sciences concept and content objectives. Other problems associated with the implementation of Scientific Inquiry include limited classroom discussions surrounding Scientific Investigations as well as teachers favouring demonstrations instead of learners performing their own Scientific Investigations. Also, resources for Scientific Investigations appear to be in short supply and teachers experience difficulty in managing large class sizes during Scientific Investigations. Gr 9 Natural Sciences teachers invest time and effort in their learners‟ development and show dedication to the task of imparting their Natural Sciences knowledge and skills to their learners. If such teachers were to align their teaching and assessment practices with the process of Scientific Inquiry then a high degree of success would be achieved in developing the problem solving skills of Gr 9 Natural Sciences learners.
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