Teaching and learning in a context-based chemistry classroom

King, Donna Therese (2009) Teaching and learning in a context-based chemistry classroom. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Many current chemistry programs privilege de-contextualised conceptual learning, often limited by a narrow selection of pedagogies that too often ignore the realities of studentse own lives and interests (e.g., Tytler, 2007). One new approach that offers hope for improving studentse engagement in learning chemistry and perceived relevance of chemistry is the context-based approach. This study investigated how teaching and learning occurred in one year 11 context-based chemistry classroom. Through an interpretive methodology using a case study design, the teaching and learning that occurred during one term (ten weeks) of a unit on Water Quality are described. The researcher was a participant observer in the study who co-designed the unit of work with the teacher. The research questions explored the structure and implementation of the context-based approach, the circumstances by which students connected concepts and context in the context-based classroom and the outcome of the approach for the students and the teacher. A dialectical sociocultural theoretical framework using the dialectics of structure | agency and agency | passivity was used as a lens to explore the interactions between learners in different fields, such as the field of the classroom and the field of the local community. The findings of this study highlight the difficulties teachers face when implementing a new pedagogical approach. Time constraints and opportunities for students to demonstrate a level of conceptual understanding that satisfied the teacher, hindered a full implementation of the approach. The study found that for high (above average) and sound (average) achieving students, connections between sanctioned science content of school curriculum and the studentse out-of-school worlds were realised when students actively engaged in fields that contextualised inquiry and gave them purpose for learning. Fluid transitions or the toing and froing between concepts and contexts occurred when structures in the classroom afforded students the agency to connect concepts and contexts. The implications for teaching by a context-based approach suggest that keeping the context central, by teaching content on a "need-to-know" basis, contextualises the chemistry for students. Also, if teachers provide opportunities for student-student interactions and written work student learning can improve.

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ID Code: 31231
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Ritchie, Stephen & McRobbie, Campbell
Keywords: agency/passivity, context-based learning, context-based teaching, chemistry education, fields, fluid transitions, high school science, sociocultural theoretical perspectives, structure/agency
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 09 Mar 2010 03:07
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:55

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