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A critical examination and evaluation of the place of science in the Irish transition year
Hayes, Sarah
The transition year is a unique year in the Irish education system, which has undergone much change since it started in 1974/5, and is now a well established part of Irish schools, being offered by three-quarters of schools, and taken by over half of the pupils. The transition year is a syllabus-free year, governed by some broad guidelines, unlike the Irish school system as a whole, which is highly standardised and examined. As a small country within the European Union, Ireland is well placed as a base for many science-based industries and science and technology have become a major focus of government policy, and hence science education is becoming increasingly important in Ireland. Like other developed nations Ireland is experiencing low numbers taking the physical sciences, but has disproportionately high numbers taking the biological sciences. The unique nature of the transition year offers schools and teachers an unprecedented opportunity to offer a relevant, interesting and innovative science programme, free from examination and curricular constraints. The purpose of this study was to examine and evaluate the place of science in the transition year. The study consisted of three phases. Phase 1 involved developing a questionnaire to find out what teachers were teaching in their transition year science classroom, and how they were teaching it. This instrument gave a valuable insight into the practices and experiences of transition year science teachers. Phase 2 expanded further on phase 1 and developed questionnaires to examine the experiences of second level pupils and teachers, and third level students. These instruments provided the quantitative data for this study. Given the complex nature of the transition year, quantitative data alone was not enough for a complete view of science and a phase 3 was developed alongside phase 2. Phase 3 used case studies in selected transition year schools to investigate further the place of science in schools that offered the year. The case studies involved interviews with both transition year science teachers and co-ordinators, and data collection on the schools. The results from the three phases have painted an interesting and complex picture of science within the transition year. Themes emerged in the areas of science provision, teaching and learning practices, attitudes towards and experiences of transition year science, teachers’ preparedness for teaching in the year, the effect of transition year on further study of science, and whole school planning and budget. These themes have been discussed fully and combined to offer a greater insight into the complexities of transition year science. The overall picture is one of traditional and conservative teaching practices. The transition year presents a unique opportunity to educators: to be innovative, to teach without the constraints of the curriculum, and to develop and prepare both future scientists and scientifically literate citizens. These approaches are currently not commonplace in transition year science, where traditional practices are predominant, with two-thirds of teachers teaching from the leaving certificate science syllabi. This study has shown that the curricular freedom that the transition year offers in science is not being utilised and thus remains a wasted opportunity to promote the teaching and learning of science.
Keyword(s): science; Irish education system; transition year
Publication Date:
2011
Type: Doctoral thesis
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Language(s): English
Institution: University of Limerick
Publisher(s): University of Limerick
Supervisor(s): Childs, Peter
First Indexed: 2014-02-12 05:25:33 Last Updated: 2015-11-04 05:40:26