Teaching and Assessing Classroom Science: Factors Affecting Primary School Teacher Practice

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Since 2005 there has been an increased focus on science and its role in the STEM
(Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) suite of subjects in Australia, in an
effort to build and maintain a scientifically literate population able to make decisions
about global scientific issues impacting humankind. Despite this, the longstanding crisis
in primary school science education remains. Research evidence shows: a decline in
results of Australian students in international science testing, a decrease in the number of
secondary and tertiary students choosing to adopt science-based subjects, and that
generalist primary teachers often find teaching science, challenging.
In this research a hermeneutical phenomenological approach was used to generate data
about science education in Victorian State primary schools Year 5 & 6 classrooms. Data
on curriculum selection, pedagogical approaches and assessment practices used by the
participants was generated using a semi-structured interview process. The self-reported
lived experiences became the basis for the analysis and discussion about factors affecting
participants’ science teaching and assessment practices.
Focusing on organisational and individual factors affecting participant practice, the
analysis and discussion centres around the complexities of curriculum, pedagogy and
assessment. Crowded curriculum, professional development, organisational
accountability, participant beliefs about science and their science teaching self-efficacy,
were found to impact the choices made by participants when teaching and assessing
science in their classrooms.
This research provides a local perspective that adds weight to existing national and
international research evidencing the challenges faced by primary teachers in teaching
and assessing science in their classrooms. The study problematises aspects of current
recommended practices for science teaching in primary schools, including the disconnect
between the best practice recommendations and the reality of everyday classroom
practices of using an inquiry approach for teaching science. Additionally, it questions
organisational accountability and the integrity of grading students, thus indicating
opportunities for further research.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • La Trobe University
  • Miles-Keogh, Rebecca, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • Smith, Dorothy, Co-Supervisor, External person
  • Staples, Adam, Co-Supervisor, External person
Award date19 Aug 2024
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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