Thursday, April 28, 2011

NCCA Reveals New Biology, Chemistry & Physics Syllabi

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment have revealed their new syllabi for senior biology, physics and chemistry. The concurrent release of the syllabi is no coincidence and marks a new direction for senior cycle science in Ireland, or so they promise. The NCCA have also formally opened a consultation process on the new syllabi, asking teachers, parents, students and members of the science community to comment on the content and approach outlined in their documents.

There has obviously been changes to the content of each of the syllabi but the biggest change in approach to senior cycle science is the introduction of a practical component in the assessment procedures for each of the subjects. Twenty percent of a pupils total mark in each of the subjects will be awarded based on the completion of mandatory practicals throughout the two years of study (5%) and a 90 minute practical test (15%) where pupils will be asked complete a series of three or four short set tasks, assessing their practical skills and ability to analyse data and draw conclusions. Some of the material within this practical assessment will be beyond the scope of the syllabus.

A brief look at the syllabi reveals plenty use of "copy and paste" between them (the most obvious of this is in the assessment procedures of each syllabus, which are so alike they all are entitled "ASSESSMENT IN LEAVING CERTIFICATE BIOLOGY"). The key skills targeted in each syllabus are appropriate and laudable (the key skills are identified as information processing, being personally effective, communicating, critical and creative thinking and working with others). I applaud the use of terms like "design", "apply knowledge", "interpret", "discuss" and "analyse" in the learning outcomes of each syllabus but I am concerned that the syllabi is still very teacher driven and exam orientated.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Habitat for Humanity - Miskolc 2011

I wrote recently about building social awareness in schools, specifically through the organisation Habitat for Humanity (HFH). I have been involved with HFH since 2007 and have been lucky enough to lead two Global Village (GV) teams to Hungary, most recently to Miskolc in early April. Once again I was able to see the pupils who accompanied us blossom and grow during their short stay and work so hard to achieve the goals of HFH and the GV programme. For the pupils and staff of St. Columba's College, these trips foster a deep sense of fondness for our European friends and we hope to return to Hungary again in the coming years. I have put together a montage of photos from the trip for the pupils and teachers to enjoy - I hope you enjoy it too. To find out more about our adventures in Miskolc (and the other trips to Hungary) visit the SCC Habitat Blog or follow SCC Habitat on Twitter.