IASSEE Annual Conference 2003

A number of papers were presented at this conference, abstracts of which can be read by clicking on the titles below.

The World and the Universe as a Source for Teacher Thinking through SESE

Philomena Donnelly, Ph D Student, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra

This paper will explore children’s natural curiosity abuot the world, the stars, the clouds, the moon, how they change and move and why they exist at all. Children also have an interest in how it all began, how time started, which country was made first and how the first people lived. All of these matters relate to history, geography and science. They are also the source of much of early Western philosophy. It is the natural philosophers who lived in ancient Greece from 600 BC onwards who represent the beginning of critical thinking.

This paper will explain and reflect on the pedagogical approach of thinking time as a means of encouraging critical thinking through philosophical dialogue.

Science with Special Needs

Sinead O’Reilly,M Ed Student,St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra

Sensory Integration is the innate process whereby sensory stimuli initiate mechanisms to successfully manage the immense range of type and extent of stimuli that impact on the human being in everyday life. Although every child is born with this capacity, he must develop sensory integration by wholeheartedly interacting with the world and adapting his body and brain to many physical challenges during childhood. The greatest development of sensory integration occurs during an ‘adaptive response.’ This adaptive response is a purposeful, goal-directed response to a sensory experience. As well as mastering a challenge, the formation of this adaptive response helps the brain to develop and organise itself. Dysfunction in this process leads to one or more of a whole range of deficiencies in managing specific sensory stimuli with secondary problems arising from subsequent reduction in motivation (to learn), self-esteem and the likelihood of emotional and/or behavioural difficulties. Children with sensory integration dysfunction are often thought and termed to be ‘slow’ (referring to the acquisition of landmark skills such as shoelace tying) or ‘clumsy-clots.’ One such dysfunction is termed tactile defensiveness. This causes the child to ‘react negatively and emotionally to touch sensations.’ (Ayres, 1979;p107), thus interfering with the learning process. Disorders involving the vestibular system, language processing, and deficits in motor planning are some of the other major areas of concern to educators. Science is a hands-on domain of learning that may entail sensory stimulation in relation to various stimuli and phenomena. Occupational Therapy is a hands-on therapy that also entails purposeful sensory stimulation for children with sensory integrative problems. This study aims to elucidate these relevant stimuli through classroom-based research and develop or adapt science practical work that encourages sensory integration in a child having difficulties in this domain.

Citizenship and the Northern Ireland History Curriculum

John McCombe, UNESCO Research Student, University of Ulster

History teachers in Northern Ireland have an impressive tradition of seeking to respond to the divided society and conflict in which they work. Educationalists have sought to promote greater awareness and tolerance between children from the two communities through the teaching of local history (examples of this include The Schools Cultural Studies and Inter School Links projects). History was also an important vehicle for the delivery of the cross-curricular themes of Education for Mutual Understanding and Cultural Heritage introduced in the Education Reform (NI) Order of 1989. This paper aims to outline the role History could play in promoting the most recent response of the Northern Ireland education system to the conflict, namely a programme of Local and Global Citizenship. The author suggests that the two subjects could, with coherent planning and originality of thought by educationalists and teachers, complement each other in promoting critical thinking, tolerance and active participation amongst the young people of Northern Ireland.

Concept Mapping of Concrete Concepts

Tom McCloughlin, Ph D Student, Trinity College, Dublin

Concepts give structure and order to the world around us. However many learners are impeded by the perceived difficulty of concepts presented to them, and in the mode of presentation. It may be assumed that wherever concretistic, personal role or process concepts are attempted to be taught, then learners will engage these with reference to their previous experience or constructions of similar concepts. Much research has also been focused on establishing the nature of students’ alternative conceptions, particularly in science. Students’ conceptual structures should be studied in all curricular areas in the hope of remediating such impediments to learning. Concept mapping has been stated as an appropriate assessment procedure in science (but not history or geography) in the revised curriculum that is due to be introduced in Ireland in September 2003. The literature extolling the virtues of concept mapping as a learning, teaching and assessment tool (and in science education in particular) is vast. However, the existence of a large literature is not justification in itself and problems with concept mapping are often ‘conveniently overlooked’. This work will address such problems e.g.: quantification and scoring of concept mapping; comparison of concept maps between students or between studens and educators is possible and suggest means of overcoming them. The revised Irish curriculum for primary schooling may state that concept mapping is an appropriate form of assessment in science but it does not give guidance on how concept mapping is to done, or indeed what sort should be employed. Certainly, much more research needs to be done in techniques for eliciting conceptual frameworks and their implications and applications in curricular research have yet to be fully explored.

DIY ICT using Microsoft Word; encouraging students to design ‘on-screen worksheets’ for use with Primary pupils – examples from Geography and History

Richard Greenwood, Stranmillis University College

For the last two years, during Curriculum Studies classes, I have been encouraging students to design their own “on-screen worksheets” (or “interactive worksheets” or “electronic worksheets.”) Like paper worksheets, these are simply designed using MS Word, with pictures, clipart, scanned material as well as text, but the tasks they set out are meant to be completed by pupils at the computer, developing not just good subject knowledge and concepts, but also good ICT skills. I have demonstrated examples of such worksheets to Year 2 BEd pupils in Curriculum Studies classes, and have set Year 3 students the task of designing their own on-screen worksheet, on a primary Geography topic of their choice, and showing it to their classmates using a data projector. I have kept copies of all the students’ work and store them in a publicly accessible area on the Stranmillis server so that any student can access, copy, amend and use them. Students seem to have appreciated the ideas and the resources, and I have seen evidence during school experience that many are designing and using on-screen worksheets for use by the pupils that they are teaching.

Online Surveys; a case study

Julian Greenwood, Stranmillis University College

During school experience in spring 2002 students were invited to participate in a ‘Science Year’ funded project. The result was that nearly 5000 children participated in the day. All the background information regarding the event was web-based: students were able to obtain on-screen instructions and data recording forms. Data were sent online to a dedicated site where they were entered automatically on to Access. Within a few days, summary tables of results were available online: children could then compare their own data with those across Northern Ireland. And the context for the project? That will be revealed on 19th June!

Teaching Early Years History: the Northern Ireland Curriculum a decade on

George Beale , Stranmillis University College

The inclusion of Early Years History as a statutory requirement of th Northern Ireland Curriculum since 1991 has enhanced the profile of the subject in the first four years of primary education. Until that date, History was taught in the early years of schooling in a piecemeal fashion, if at all. This paper examines the teaching of History at Key Stage 1 (ages 4 to 8 years) in Northern Ireland schools during the past decade. It compares the present situation with findings reported by the Department of Education’s Inspectorate a decade before the introduction of the Northern Ireland Curriculum, focusing on the concepts and skills of History which have now become key features of good practice in the primary school. Methodology included questionnaires/audits completed during school-based work by a sample of third and fourth year BEd students whose specialist subject is History. Findings suggest positive attitudes among both pupils and practitioners alike regarding the teaching of History in the early years of the primary school.

Children Learning about Science and the Environment

Colette Murphy, Graduate School of Education

This talk will focus on various aspects of how children learn about science and their environment. It will look critically at some of the research carried out in the area. Participants will be invited to engage in activities similar to those which have been used in studies with children. The outcome of these activities might lead us to conclude that children and adulst respond to critical stimuli in very similar ways. The talk will consider the activities in terms of theories of learning and ask questions about how much we, as educators, can learn from the research.