Which teaches science knowledge and skills better to
our students: mandated curriculum or f lexible program?
Our Alberta education system
has always had a mandated
curriculum. The science
knowledge and skills are listed in
outcomes with “Specific Learner
Expectations”. These outcomes
are an outlined of what needs be
taught to our students as seen on
the right. When the students
have learned the outcomes the
teacher “checks” it off as
Specific Learner Expectations
1. Identify colours in a variety of natural
and manufactured objects.
2. Compare and contrast colours, using
terms such as lighter than, darker than,
more blue, brighter than.
3. Order a group of coloured objects,
based on a given colour criterion.
4. Predict and describe changes in colour
that result from the mixing of primary
colours and from mixing a primary colour
with white or with black.
Alberta Education. (1995-2012). Government of Alberta.
Retrieved November 11, 2013, from Program of Studies:
However, not all education
systems are this way, in
Australia and Finland the
curriculum is flexible. The
student/child are the center
of the program and they
influence the science
knowledge and skills, which
are to be taught in the
Rosen, Len . 2012. 21st century tech blog's human resolutions for lifeboat earth in 2013.
[Web Image]. Retrieved from http://www.wfs.org/blogs/len-rosen/21st-century-techblogs-human-resolutions-for-lifeboat-earth-2013
Alberta teachers are making a shift to teach more 21st
Century learning skills. But there is a debate that this
might not teach the science knowledge our students need.
Alberta Education. 2011. Framework for student learning. [Web Image]. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/aisi/themes/21-century.aspx
accountable and gives
consistency to our
teachers know what
Science material is being
taught and there is
professional develop and
classroom supplies ready
to support it
confined to the
unable to teach a
By having a mandated science curriculum there are
mandated standards our teachers need to teach to. All
teachers are teaching the same material and there is no
question whether or not students learned ‘something’
(Ahlquist, 2003). Mandated curriculum ensures the
materials are organized in a logical sequence “based
upon well-articulated teaching objectives, reasoned representations of content taught, and considerations of
what students have learned and what they are going to
learn” (Wang & Paine, 2003, pg. 91).
Teachers are always looking for professional
development to support their teaching. Professional
development should “influence teachers’ teaching,
provides specific standards, suggestions, and resources for instruction” (Wang & Paine, 2003, pg. 91).
The hope is that by providing teachers with
professional development consistency among teachers
is built “between the guidance, teaching materials, and
assessment” (Wang & Paine, 2003, pg. 91).
When teachers are confined to the science curriculum
we are unable to teach our student’s interests
Teachers who teach solely the curriculum become deskilled technicians, where the only goal is to teach the
content (Ahlquist, 2003).
Limiting teachers to only teaching the curriculum ties
teachers into teaching “to the lowest common
denominator, the standardized tests” (Ahlquist, 2003,
Audio of my personal thoughts on mandated curriculum
allows students to
influence their learning,
because students are able
to learn about science
topics that interest them
allows for Science inquiry
projects in order to
develop 21st century
there is no
insurance that the
and skills students
need to learn will be
taught with flexible
among teachers or
If the program is flexible students are able to learn
more about things that interest them. Students can
form questions that they have wondered, “set personal
goals, monitor and reflect on their performance
processes and outcomes, and make adjustments to
manage independent projects” (Moote, William, &
Students are engaged by learning more about their
passions and take their learning into their own hands
(Moote, William, & Sproule, 2013)
The curriculum in Australia is more flexible, allowing
students and teachers to build the curriculum together by
emphasizing on the science inquiry (Aubusson, 2011).
The focus in the Australian curriculum is more
“representation of inquiry approaches and quite a bit of
contemporary thinking about investigative skills and
notions of inquiry” (Aubusson, 2011. pg. 234).
The strands most frequently described “contributing to a
scientifically literate Australia were the 'Science as a
Human Endeavour' and 'Science Inquiry' rather than the
'Science Understanding' strand” (Aubusson, 2011. pg.235).
Flexible curriculum allows for inquiry projects, which
develops 21st Century skills, such as critical thinking,
problem solving, collaboration, self-direction.
Inquiry-based projects provide students with the
opportunity to work through the learning process of
questioning, researching, and assessing the
information (Moote, William, & Sproule, 2013).
Projects stimulate active engagement in students as
they learn (Moote, William, & Sproule, 2013)
Here is a video from New
of Education about
21st Century education.
Principals, policy makers, and educators find that
flexible curriculum can affect the accountability of
teachers. There is also a fear that the professional
development would not be strong for a beginning
teacher, allowing teacher evaluations to be equal
(Lasswell, Pace, & Reed, 2008).
In Australia, the concern is if a child moves, it can
become “awkward for them if the curriculum is not
lined up” (Aubusson, 2011. pg. 232)
Audio of my personal thoughts on flexible programing
using relevant issues and/current issues in the world
would make a lesson more interesting, this would also
help with creating that family connection as if it is a
current issue it is probably talked about around the
supper table (Sumrall & Shillinger, 2004).
we are in a place right now where there is a rapid
change; therefore, “academic programs must
experiment and evolve in order to keep pace with
advances in knowledge, changes in professional
practice, and shifting conditions in society” (Baldwin
& Baumann, 2005, 89).
Alberta’s education system needs to change. It needs to
incorporate more 21st century skills as seen on this video
I believe that our Alberta curriculum needs to change.
We need to be given more freedom in the set curriculum
for classroom teachers to work with students on topics of
interests. We need to allow our students the chance to
learn about what interests them by supporting our
students to form scientific questions (Moote, Williams,
& Sproule, 2013). When we have students included in
the process of their own learning, where they are
deciding what will be taught, students are developing an
awareness to particular topics and the importance of
learning them and understanding them (Sumrall &
Shillinger, 2004). I also believe that if our curriculum
was not so heavy, current topics in the media could be
Following a student’s interest is different then actual
inquiry. Our students need to learn how to form a
good inquiry question. Alberta Education has created
‘Asking Powerful Questions’ in Social Studies. Here are
the links: the first is a set of lesson plans and the other
shows some excellent short video examples of
implementing these lessons into the classroom.
• Alberta Education developed a model for inquiry for
teachers. Here is the link:
Edmonton Catholic’s district is working with Lee
Crockett on the 21st century fluencies, which we are
implementing into how we teach the Alberta
Curriculum, his book is
Literacy is not Enough
After watching the Did You Know
Did you know
Which teaches science
skills better to our
Ahiquist, Roberta. 2003. Challenges to academic freedom: California teacher educators mobilize to resist statemandated control of the curriculum. Teacher Education Quarterly. 30.1. pg. 57
Alberta Education. 2011. Framework for student learning. [Web Image]. Retrieved
Alberta Education. (1995-2012). Government of alberta. Retrieved http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/program.aspx
Aubusson, R. 2011. An Australian science curriculum: competition, advances and retreats. Australian Journal of
Education. 55.3. pg. 229-244
Baldwin, R. & Baumann, M. 2005. Options for change: a flexible vehicle for curriculum evolution and reform.
Innovative Higher Education. 30.2.
Lasswell, T., Pace, N., Reed, G. 2008. Weighing in: rural Iowa principals’ perceptions of state-mandated teaching
evaluation standards. The Rural Educator 29.3. page 40-44
Moote, J., William, J. & Sproule J. 2013. When students take control: investigating the impact of the CREST inquirybased learning program on self-regulated processes and related motivations in young science students. Journal of
Congnitive Education and Psychology, suppl. Special issue on Fostering Self-regulated learning. 12.2 pg. 178-196
Rosen, Len . 2012. 21st century tech blog's human resolutions for lifeboat earth in 2013. [Web Image]. Retrieved
Sumrall, W. & Schillinger D. 2004. A student-directed model for designing a science/social studies curriculum. The
social studies. 95.1 pg 5-10
Wang, J. & Paine L. 2003. Learning to teach with mandated curriculum and public examination of teaching as contexts.
Teaching and Teacher Education 19. pg. 75-94.