Aiming Higher: Improving Science Education in Victorian Schools

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With the Victorian Government recently announcing free places for prospective teachers in tertiary education and training courses, it’s clear there’s a crisis in this essential profession that warrants special measures. Certainly, participation and completion rates in secondary schooling for students in science subjects have been declining for many years, along with numbers of science-trained teachers. The social malaise reported by a generation of young scholars emerging from the pandemic years certainly isn’t helping.

We can all imagine the professional pressures that come with being a teacher, and that asking a young graduate – or a mature-aged worker changing careers – to ‘step up’ is a big ask. Our science teachers must balance delivery of the Victorian Curriculum with the spontaneity and spark of student-led modes of inquiry to maintain their engagement, questioning and persistence. It’s a tough gig, particularly if stretching to teach science “out of field”, and even more so when engaging students who are experiencing any form of socioeconomic disadvantage or poor mental health.

But are we truly addressing the full picture? What do teachers need to feel supported and valued in sustaining their practice, and what do our primary and secondary students need from teachers to feel engaged and inspired by the challenges of the science curriculum? Join two leaders in pedagogical research to explore opportunities to improve both student outcomes and the status of science teaching in Victoria.

About the Speakers

A joint presentation by the Royal Society of Victoria, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, and the Science Teachers Association of Victoria, with the support of the Inspiring Victoria program.

Amanda Berry is a professor of STEM Education, and Associate Dean Research & Innovation in the School of Education at RMIT University. Amanda’s research focuses on how science teachers develop and refine their professional knowledge and how that knowledge can be communicated in ways that build a strong future science teaching workforce and inspire students’ interest, engagement and success in science. Amanda has led numerous projects at state, national and international levels focusing on innovations in science teaching and learning and the development of teacher knowledge and practice.

Jan van Driel is a professor of Science Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne. He is co-leading the Mathematics, Science & Technology Education Group (MSTEG). His research is on the intersection of science education and teacher education. Based on the notion that teachers have a strong influence on students’ performance and aspirations, he aims to understand how science teachers’ practices are shaped by their professional knowledge and beliefs, and how these practices impact on students. Specifically, he is interested in how science teachers adapt their teaching to address different learning needs and interests among their students.

About the Panellists

Ms Alexandra Abela is the Assistant Principal and Head of Staff Development at Marian College Ararat and the President of the Science Teachers Association of Victoria, which represents the collective voice of teachers in all matters relating to the teaching of science in our state.

Dr Brendan Rigby is the Director of the Tech Schools program at the Victorian Department of Education, leading the state’s most innovative teaching and learning initiative to provide every Victorian student with access to 18 STEM centres of excellence, and designing and developing digitally-enabled teaching and learning. Brendan is passionate about embedding student voice and perspectives in education policy.