The tyranny of the textbook : despite a new syllabus the science textbook still dominates teacher planning and pedagogy
This study was initiated to investigate the ways middle school science teachers planned, implemented and assessed units of work developed for a curriculum underpinned by inquiry and outcomes. Our goal was to identify the planning needs and professional support that teachers required to move from an emphasis on content delivery to a curriculum focused on conceptual outcomes. To achieve this, we worked with a group of teachers to plan and implement a unit of science work written for the new curriculum. The teachers set out to plan from the outcomes-based syllabus, implement an inquiry-based unit of science, and assess it using an open-ended task. During planning and implement-ation, the teachers were faced with challenges that they needed to resolve to meet the school's expectations forr assessing and reporting. The school reporting structure was designed to provide an overall achievement in science and this was calculated from numerical grades. Thus, the teachers felt constrained to teach from the textbook and use assessment practices that assessed the textbook content. We claim that inquiry and outcomes-based units of science work need to have learning experiences, and assessment and reporting structures that harmonise with each other. A more critical approach to the textbook and greater confidence with open-ended assessment may have produced pedagogy and assessment more congruent with the new curriculum.