Tests of confidence

20th September 1996 at 01:00
EARLY EXPLORATIONS IN SCIENCE By Jane Johnston Open University Press Pounds 10.99.

Perhaps the most important idea in this book is the need for primary science teachers to focus on the quality of experience they provide, not the quantity. With this in mind, the five chapters in the book explore the role of pre-school experiences, the importance of exploration for the development of scientific skills, the development of creativity, how to foster positive attitudes to science and the role of the teacher. For most primary teachers, given the relative novelty of national curriculum science, such offerings that help to make sense of the experience must be welcomed.

This book sets about its task by attempting to answer a large number of questions, such as: What is science? What is the role of early experiences in helping to develop an understanding of science? What skills and processes should science be developing in the young child? It deliberately, and rightly avoids the current dominant problem in primary science - teacher subject knowledge - choosing instead to improve the reader's knowledge of strategies and approaches for teaching primary science. And to develop that other essential ingredient necessary for effective teaching - confidence. Trainee teachers, in particular, will find this book useful in increasing awareness of the complexities and issues raised by the teaching of primary science.

The book is written in an easily accessible style by someone who has extensive classroom experience. Jane Johnston also communicates a sense of effervescent enthusiasm for teaching and science, and her treatment is comprehensive.

There are good suggestions for investigations, ideas to engage children's curiosity and wonder, ways of projecting science, planning and organising its teaching and delivery in the school, involving parents, using information technology, addressing the interests of girls, and much more. All of this is presented from a stance which sees teachers more as facilitators of learning than instructors.

The book's weakness is a failure to heed its own message - that is it attempts to cover too much too quickly and does not give sufficient help to enable the reader to see the wood clearly for the trees. Teachers and prospective teachers will find this book useful, but they will need to provide their own strategies to find a way through the forest of ideas and thoughts it stimulates.

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