Science - Teaching and Learning Science






Teachers are encouraged to use and review a variety of teaching methods and learning activities that are predominantly based on a variety of approaches to engage and motivate learners to learn. 



The concept of globalization has introduced rapid changes in social structures, communities, and society. Teachers are required to not only to cater the individual needs of students but also to prepare them to cope with increasingly changing global society. The 21st century learning skills are vital skills required to prepare the learner for the global society and can be practiced naturally in science lessons across all age groups. These skills encompass a comprehensive set of behavioral learning, knowledge, and attitudes that can be attained by all stakeholders including students, teachers, school leadership and policy leaders. These skills are elaborated below:



In science lessons critical thinking can be developed through focussed learning activities. These skills can be developed by engaging students in scientific enquiry including:

  1. Identifying a problem and asking questions about that problem.

  2. Selecting information to respond to the problem and evaluating it.

  3. Drawing conclusions from the evidence.




Creative thinking is the ability to look at things in a different way and discover the new solutions of problems. This ability enables the students to use imagination to develop new ideas and create something new. 


Communicating is the clear exchange of information and ideas between student-student and student-teachers.   Science lesson planning should have opportunities for students to interact and communicate with each other a number of times so that any misconceptions regarding scientific concepts can be addressed.


The classroom of global citizens is being driven by the idea of fostering a collaborative culture to encourage students to work together to solve problems. The 21st century classrooms are designed with flexibility of seating so that students rearrange seats to re-group, other ways for collaboration could be through online groups, video conferencing, Google meet, Google hangouts etc.





Active Learning is an important feature of the science curriculum. Teachers are encouraged to use and review a variety of teaching methods and learning activities that are predominantly based on active teaching approaches to engage and motivate learners to learn. 

Active learning describes a classroom approach which acknowledges that learners are active in the learning process, building knowledge and understanding in response to learning opportunities provided by their teacher. In practice, active learning refers to activities that are introduced in the classroom. This contrasts with a model of instructions whereby knowledge is imparted or transmitted from the teacher to the learner. Active learning means that learners take increasing responsibility for their learning, and that teachers are enablers and activators of learning. 

Active learning is based on a theory of learning called constructivism, which emphasizes the fact that learners construct or build their own understanding.  Learners replace or adapt their existing knowledge and understanding (based on their prior knowledge) with deeper and more skilled levels of understanding. Skilled teaching is active, providing learning environments, opportunities, interactions, tasks and instructions that foster deep learning. 

Another aspect of constructivism is the theory of social constructivism, which says that learning happens primarily through social interaction with others, such as a teacher or a learner’s peers. One prominent social constructivist, Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934), described the zone of proximal development (ZPD). This is the area where learning activities should be focused, lying between what the learners could achieve independently and what the learner can achieve with the teacher’s expert guidance. By scaffolding tasks, providing guidance and support that challenges the learner based on their current ability, and providing rich feedback through assessment for learning, the teacher actively helps learners develop deeper levels of understanding. 

Active learning is an active, dynamic process in which connections (between different facts, ideas and processes) are constantly changing. Such connections are encouraged through dialogue between teachers and learners, and between learners and their peers. 

Theoretical frameworks underpinning Active learning

Active learning is a concept used as a general term to combine various learning theories into a pedagogic approach. It has been a common theme evident in the work of many educators, such as Dewy, Piaget and Vygotsky.


It is difficult to provide an internationally accepted definition of all of the terms associated with active learning, however below there are some generally accepted terms and their descriptions: 


Terms associated with active learning

Collaborative learning

Cooperative learning

In this approach, learners work in groups of two or more towards a common goal. It focuses on assessing the contribution of individuals within the group and of the performance of the group as a whole.


In collaborative learning situations, learners are not simply understanding the information, but are working together to create something new. 

This approach is similar to collaborative learning, though it is a more structured form of group work where learners pursue common goals while being assessed individually. 

Problem-based learning 

Experiential learning 

In this approach, relevant problems are introduced and used to provide the context and motivation for the learning that follows. It is usually collaborative and cooperative and involves significant amounts of self-directed learning on the part of the learners. 

In this approach, learning involves learning from experience. Learners are encouraged to predict, discover, create and relate to and interact with things around them. Reflection is the key practice during all the phases of the experiential learning cycle.

What is Experiential Learning? | Office of Experiential Learning



Active Learning strategies

There is a varied range of methods which teachers can integrate into their daily teaching and learning activities in order to foster an active approach: 

Paired/group discussion 

Designing questions leading to investigations

Model making/ prototypes to represent a scientific concept 


Role play 

Collaborative Group work

Concept cartoons

Concept maps/ mind maps

KWL charts

Choice boards/ playlists

Use of graphic organizers 

T-charts for mapping cause and effect 

Scientific enquiry research using secondary sources

Game based learning

Experimentation following scientific process

Compare and contrast

Planning fair tests

Making documentaries or videos 


Below are some features of active learning in the classroom. 


A range of teaching and learning approaches are used.

Learners should experience a wide range of learning and teaching approaches. Tasks are challenging, creative and investigative. Learners engage confidently in activities and are prepared to take risks. 

Learning is made relevant and meaningful to pupils.

Explanations of new topics should make appropriate links with previous learning and be relevant to the context of the learner. Learners are encouraged to explain key ideas and concepts in their own words. Curriculum topics are linked to real-life situations and are made meaningful. 

Learning outcomes are understood.

Teachers’ questions focus on key learning aims and outcomes and they invite learners to think about them. Learners understand and can describe these aims and success criteria. 

Active participation of learners in activities. 

Tasks and activities involve learners in learning through thinking and doing, rather than by rote such as conducting interviews, going for field trips and group studies. Learning can be applied in new situations. Learners can work well independently and as part of a group. 

Class discussions are interactive. 

Class discussions are interactive and involve an appropriate range of learners within the class. All learners understand that their individual responses will be valued. Learners as well as teachers ask each other questions. Those who are not involved in discussion participate actively by listening, thinking and reflecting. Learning should not be limited to textbooks rather than out of book questions should be encouraged. 

Learners lead their own learning. 

Teachers adopt approaches which ensure learners are leaders in their own learning. Learners have independent learning skills and can reflect on their own learning. They draw their own informed conclusions. They know what they are trying to achieve and seek help at appropriate times. Learners have choices in their learning.  Cramming at any stage should be discouraged. Understanding of the lesson and its concepts should be encouraged. 

Use of technology

Computers and related technology help to engage and challenge students. It is a very important resource for learning the concepts and processes of science through simulations, graphics, pod casting, data manipulation, and model building through various websites and soft-wares available.

Values and attitudes in classroom

Science teaching also highlights areas which support and cater to the development, reinforcement, and extension of attitudes that also support scientific inquiry such as open- mindedness and respect for evidence, initiative and perseverance, and creativity and inventiveness.

Home assignments

It extends the opportunity for learners to think scientifically so that they contribute in personal growth self-discipline and learning responsibility. It reinforces the ideas and skill processes so that the learner feels confident in their ability to work without help and reflect their understanding.


Teacher’s Role in an active learning environment

In an active classroom environment, the role of a teacher is often that of a facilitator that promotes learner centered approach. It should enable learners to build knowledge through talking, reading and writing, with use of dialogue, discussion and group work important in fostering whole-class understanding. Teachers will set their teaching in real-world contexts, and they will find out learners’ starting point of understanding before they plan how to enable them to learn. Because of this, a learner-centered approach will focus on differentiation, and will use strategies associated with assessment for learning, including: 

  • effective questioning 

  • sharing of assessment criteria 

  • provision of feedback 

  • provision of peer assessment and self-assessment 

  • using assessment information to adapt their teaching 


Teacher-centered classroom

Learner-centered classroom

Product-centered learning

Process-centered learning

Teacher as a transmitter of knowledge                    

Teacher as an organizer of knowledge

Teacher as a ‘doer’ for learners

Teacher as an ‘enabler’

Subject-specific focus   

Teacher as an ‘enabler’


Student’s role in an active learning environment

The active class room environment engages students to become inquirers and independent learners.

Being passive recipients of knowledge                      

Active and participatory learners

Answering questions

Asking questions

Being ‘spoon-fed’

Taking responsibility for their own learning

Competing with other learners

Collaborating with other learners

Learners of individual subjects

Connecting their learning



The flipped classroom approach is a pedagogical model which aims to shift the focus from passive to active learning. As defined by Bergmann and Sams in 2007 “Flipped learning is the pedagogical approach in which direct instructions shifts from group learning space to individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic learning environment, where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively with the subject matter.”

The flipped classroom encourages:

  • independent learning as learners take more responsibility for their own learning and explore core content (individually or in groups, at home or at school) and then apply knowledge and skills to a range of activities in their classroom using higher-order thinking.

  • learner-centered learning as teachers can guide student learning in the classroom, correcting misunderstandings and providing timely feedback using a variety of pedagogical strategies.

  • Flexible environment and learning modes as students have a flexible learning space beyond their classroom.

  • Learner centered classroom culture as a greater focus on concept exploration in-depth, meaning-making and demonstration of knowledge while in the classroom, naturally shifting away from didactic teaching.

Technological advancements have also enabled teachers to experiment more with this model, enabling learners to access materials (for example, instructional videos and audio recordings) beyond the classroom. 


Problem-based learning is the type of classroom organization that supports a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. Guided by teachers acting as cognitive coaches, learners develop critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborative skills as they identify problems, formulate hypotheses, conduct data searches, perform experiments, formulate solutions and determine the "best fit" of solutions to the conditions of the problem. Problem-based learning will enable learners to embrace complexity, find relevance and enjoyment in their learning, and enhance their capacity for creative and responsible real-world problem solving. Teachers assume the role of cognitive coach rather than knowledge-holder and disseminator and learners are the active problem-solvers, decision-makers, and meaning-makers rather than passive listeners. To design a problem- based learning experience for the learners various sequential steps are required such as:


  • Identify a problem suitable for the age group of learners.

  • Identify the problem from the context of the learners’ world so that it presents real/authentic opportunities.

  • Organize the subject matter around the problem, not the discipline.

  • Give learners the responsibility for making choices around the learning experiences and collaboratively follow the Engineering Design Process (EDP) to reach solutions.




The science curriculum has been designed on STEAM framework which enables more creative, innovative thinkers to identify and address the needs of the society and the environment and it also validates the arts in education. 

The key component of the STEAM approach is teaching science content with behavioral objectives at   increasing levels of cognitive challenge (Bloom’s taxonomy) and following the Engineering Design Process (EDP) that leads to technological solutions. STEM/ STEAM is an interdisciplinary approach well aligned with the problems in our daily lives making it an exceptional way of learning and finding solutions.

The following illustration represents the recommended steps of the Engineering Design process.


                   Figure 1: (stem-and-ngss, 2015) 

 Reference: stem-and-ngss. (2015). Retrieved from nextgenerationscience. weebly:


  1. Essential elements of high quality STEM Curricula



When designing STEM/ STEAM challenges subject teachers need to work together involving students in exploratory learning where teacher-talk is at a minimum and students driven interaction and discovery is the focus. There are different ways of implementing STEM/ STEAM in schools.


One way to plan STEM/STEAM learning experiences is collaborative lesson planning by Mathematics, Science and Arts teachers so that desired concepts/lessons are taught across all relevant classrooms (science and mathematics) in parallel. Several STEM/ STEAM opportunities have been designed in the curriculum for teachers’ reference. 

Project based learning approach is being widely used around the world to implement STEM/STEAM. Some of the advantages of following the STEM/ STEAM approach are as follows:


  1. PBL helps students bridge thinking across disciplines

Great PBL focuses learning around real world problems, providing a clear connection between what is learned in school and how it is relevant beyond the classroom. The authentic nature of these problems and issues means they are both complex and messy, requiring students to draw on knowledge across disciplines and expertise in many areas. 

     2. PBL promotes deeper connections to content

The goal of project-based learning isn’t to cover; it’s to uncover. Project-based learning is an inquiry approach that requires time for students to make connections between the problems they are facing, to think about what they already know, and to develop lines of inquiry for new content they “need to know.” This specific context and need to know helps them not only identify and avoid misconceptions, but connect facts and information as they apply knowledge to solve, evaluate, and reflect on specific situations.

    3. PBL fosters the inquiry skills necessary for success in STEM

The open-ended nature of a project-based approach, one that isn’t looking for a correct answer, fosters both the analytical and creative thinking necessary for innovation. Great questions for project-based learning don’t lead to students jumping into answers; they lead to even more questions.

For example, a project-based approach to learning might ask students to consider: “How do we make cafeteria lunch healthier?” In response, students may ask, “Do you mean healthier for students or do you mean healthier for the planet?” Even if students only focused on healthier for students, they need ask:

  • What is the calorie and vitamin content of existing meals?

  • Which lunches are favorites?

  • How much of any lunch do students eat?

  • What types of food get thrown away?

Teachers can support their questioning skills with graphic organizers, like KWL charts and 5 Whys organizers.

As a result of their questioning, students work may focus on finding ways to make existing lunch options healthier or their work may focus on developing new options entirely. The real world problems and challenges used in a project-based approach, don’t provide the content and ask for an expected response, they require intensive questioning as well as the analytical thinking and creative problem solving needed for success in STEM.

4. PBL fosters reflection and metacognition

“We don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.“
John Dewey

The process of project-based learning is recursive and requires extensive reflection for successful solution development. As student work to develop ideas and implement them, they are constantly asking questions like:

  • What do we know? What do we need to know?

  • What do we think will happen? Why?

  • What really happened? Where did our thinking going wrong?

  • What worked? What didn’t work?

  • What really happened? Where did our thinking going wrong?

  • What worked? What didn’t work?

The reflective nature of the project-based process helps students make connections between content they are learning and how it impacts their thinking and problem solving. How well they can find and utilize that knowledge helps them better understand not only what they are learning but how they are learning.

Taking a project-based approach to STEM learning can help students form deeper connections to content, connect ideas across disciplines, and build the questioning, thinking, and metacognitive skills necessary for success in today’s rapidly-changing world.