Evidence-based teaching program.
I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with Dr Jennifer Donovan and Dr Carole Haeusler from the University of Southern Queensland, who designed research and collected data from Year 3 and Year 4 Brisbane primary schools during an intervention which introduced Atomic Theory. In particular, they were interested in finding out whether students could understand Atomic Structure- that is, how atoms are composed of protons, electrons and neutrons- and whether they could meaningfully apply their understanding to macroscopic world.
“Firstly, primary school children aged 8 and 9 years can understand Atomic Theory at a surprisingly high level. In about 10 hours of instruction, they gain understandings more robust than those reported in the literature for 14-year-old children (when atomic theory is in the curriculum) and several boasted they helped their Year 9 siblings with their chemistry homework!
Secondly, they love it. Particularly the Periodic Table of the Elements, they are passionate about it and one even said ‘It’s the alphabet of the Universe’. Wow, that amazed us.
Thirdly, in every school we found at least one little bright spark who already knew a LOT about Atomic Theory that they had found out all by themselves. The depth and breadth of this knowledge also amazed us and their questions put us on the spot to answer them. Teachers, we need to encourage these minds and all the others too. Even children with learning difficulties enjoyed the program and learned a lot.
Fourthly, we have done research with a generalist primary teacher who decided she wanted to teach this for herself. We did one morning of PD for all the teachers at the school, helped her obtain the resources from Ian, and provided minimal extra support (this website didn’t exist then). Our recent findings, about to be published, show that for the sections of the program that she taught, her results were just as good as those obtained when Ian taught them. That was a wonderful breakthrough as we cannot clone Ian and send him to every school (much as we’d like to). So teachers, you CAN do it. All it takes is enthusiasm, and working with the resources here. Your children can benefit from the mind-stretching that learning about Atomic Theory offers. They’ll love it! ”
Dr Donovan’s and Dr Haeusler’s research papers
Haeusler, C. & Donovan, J. (2017). Challenging the science curriculum paradigm: Teaching primary children atomic-molecular theory. Research in Science Education. doi 10.1007/s11165-017-9679-2 (winner of publication award, 2018)
Donovan, J., & Haeusler, C. (2015). Developing scientific literacy: Introducing primary aged children to atomic-molecular theory. In E. de Silva (Ed.), Cases on research-based teaching methods in science education. (pp. 30-63). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Donovan, J., Haeusler, C., & Venville, G. (2015) Making meaning with models. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 2(2), available at http://www.virginiaresearchinstitute.org/international-journal-of-multidisciplinary-research-journal-papers/
Further research is under way and the data and analysis is currently undergoing publication.