Strategic command;Reviews;Science Books

27th February 1998 at 00:00
TEACHING SCIENCE IN THE PRIMARY SCHOOL: Book One, A Practical Source Book of Teaching Strategies. Edited by Alan Cross and Gill Peat. Northcote House. pound;12.99.

This book has a reassuring feel. It addresses current issues, such as literacy, assessment and information technology, and is written in teacherly language, with plenty of examples, frameworks and illustrations. Trainees and new teachers should find it attractive, but I have reservations.

By giving comforting solutions to current practical concerns, it may make new teachers feel secure, but it won't make them question the content or methods of science teaching. The book emphasises the importance of starting with pupil's science ideas. However, there is no clear distinction between teaching methods and learning theory, and the importance of discussion and teacher mediation isn't given serious attention.

There is a strong emphasis on planning, progression and differentiation and investigation skills and practical science is dealt with succinctly, but the language and learning theme is less impressive. The book focuses on difficulties children experience with vocabulary and concepts, but makes no reference to matters such as second-language learners, the (difficult) language of science texts and schemes, or the importance of practical science as a vehicle for language development. The line taken in many chapters is to review current thinking on concerns such as early years science, monitoring and assessment, and the issues of being a co-ordinator dealing with Ofsted.

There are valuable messages: the book provides an antidote to the increasing mechanisation of assessment by focusing on the assessment of skills and attitudes as well as content knowledge. But the literature referred to is thinner than it might have been. For example, the section on cross-curricular links makes no reference to the abundance of valuable work on using the environment. I was also sceptical about the chapter on IT in science: if this is "essential", why are computers absent from primary classrooms in most of the rest of Europe?

With so many questions to be asked about the primary curriculum and with Ofsted's Worlds Apart report pressing us to address what other countries do, we must surely try to look beyond the national curriculum.

* Alan Peacock is senior lecturer in primary science education at the University of Exeter

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