Prepared by David Vannier, August 2012
with funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy
David Vannier is a Consultant at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Office of Science Education in Bethesda, Maryland. He develops resources that bring the latest biomedical discoveries into the classroom. He also analyzes education policies to inform NIH programs and leadership.
Since 1998, David has worked to make science more relevant and engaging for students and teachers across the US. Originally trained as a molecular biologist, Davis conducted research on brain development at the University of Washington in Seattle and earned his PhD from Columbia University in New York City. He was born in Washington, DC and lives nearby again with his wife and three children.
During David’s Ian Axford Fellowship exchange to New Zealand he was based at the Ministry of Education, where he researched policies and practices that lead to effective science instruction in New Zealand primary and secondary schools.
In 2006 and again in 2009, Aotearoa New Zealand students caught the world’s attention with their outstanding performance on international science assessments from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. These 15-year olds appear to be on track to tackling complex societal challenges, such as global warming and pollution. While this highlights the education system’s strength, there is growing evidence that too many are not doing well in science and do not have access to effective instruction, especially in primary school. This inequity is compounded by the observations that lower achieving students tend to be of Māori or Pasifika descent and from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Educators and scientists are calling for increased attention to science instruction. Their concern extends beyond preparing future scientists to enabling each child to succeed in today’s knowledge-based society.
This report aims to connect the dots between education policy, successful science programmes, student and teacher engagement with professional scientists, research from the past fifteen years, and realities in the classroom. Personal interviews with stakeholders and a case study of primary schools engaged in highly-effective science instruction are presented along with current education data. The findings point to strategies for improving science education for all children.
Recommendations and Conclusion
Appendix 1: Interview Protocol for Principals for School Case Study
Appendix 2: Interview Protocol for Teachers for School Case Study
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