University of Tasmania
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Teachers' perception of science inquiry in Fijian primary schools

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posted on 2023-05-28, 10:02 authored by Chand, DD
Despite having a long history in science education, inquiry teaching, and learning remains a challenging international issue. Fiji's education system in the last decade has been undergoing various reforms to align with the international standards, and one such example is the implementation of the Fiji National Curriculum Framework [FNCF) in 2013, which advocates an inquiry approach. However, before any reform to curricula can hope to effectively influence implementation of an inquiry approach in the science learning space, it is important to understand teacher's perception of inquiry pedagogy. Hence, this study investigated the perceptions of teachers and examined their preparedness for teaching science through an inquiry approach and its impact on student learning. This study utilised an explanatory sequential mixed methods design involving collection of quantitative data through online questionnaires followed by the collection of qualitative data through semi structured interviews, learning space observation and Talanoa. A total of322 teachers and 463 students from Fijian primary schools participated in the study. The study revealed that Fijian teachers had a theoretical understanding of inquiry pedagogy. The majority of teachers agreed that inquiry promotes critical thinking and held an understanding that communication, questioning, and collaboration are fundamental elements of inquiry, however, there was a gap between enacted and in1plemented curriculum. Teachers' practices in the classroom were affected by the necessity to cover the material in the curriculum and prepare students for the examinations. The study established that students held different levels of affective engagement where around half of the students were motivated to complete the assigned task and ask questions. Teachers were aware of the importance of equipping students with science process skills, but while the use of cookbook experiments helped students to attain manipulative skills they lacked integrated skills. However, there was evidence that through the integration of cultural context and the multimodal approach within inquiry pedagogy, implementation of an inquiry approach could improve inquiry; ultimately, improving the student engagement with science. The study also revealed that positive teacher beliefs, culturally responsive curriculum, use of low-cost teaching materials, understanding of cultural knowledge and practice were enablers in in1plernenting inquiry. The misalignment of education policy and examination, unclear science curriculun1, lack of information and communication technology resources and pedagogical content knowledge, and the existence of traditional professional learning model were identified as challenges to implen1entation of science inquiry. Finally, this study identified some specific aspects of current teaching practice in a developing country context, involving use of an integrated inquiry approach. The study has tried to contribute to the limited body of knowledge about the integration of cultural context within the inquiry approach through a proposed integrated inquiry model, which could help science teachers to improve inquiry teaching; hence, enhancing students understanding of our complex world. In addition, it could be of a particular interest to policy makers, curriculum developers, educational researchers, teacher educators interested in contributing to improve science teaching.


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