Education Research Centre of University of Lisbon (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Page: 7320
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
The challenge of education in science today is to develop scientifically literate citizens. The debate is old, but difficulties remain. Nowadays, many authors argue for the development of strategies for critical teaching in challenging learning environments that promote self-regulated learning based on problem solving and decision making.

Studies show that learning experiences that are authentic, meaningful, challenging, and based on choice and agency of the students not only increase the intrinsic motivation of students to learn science, but also improve attitudes toward science and learning. In this framework, inquiry-based teaching has emerged as a highly valued strategy of education.

In Portugal, the science curriculum has been redesigned in order to take these ideas into account. However, such change is not easy to put into practice. A number of teacher related factors obstruct change, namely teachers’ education, as well as prior notions about science and science education. In some cases, teachers make changes in peripheral aspects of their practices, without introducing real innovation; even so, they believe they have implemented significant changes and expect a clear impact on student involvement and performance. Besides, changes made by teachers to improve their classes may not be perceived as such by students. In fact, studies show a lack of coherence between teacher perception of their own practices, on the one hand, and student perceptions about those teacher practices, on the other. However, perception of teaching activities may be decisive molding students’ motivation and attitudes towards learning science. So it is important to know students perceptions of teachers’ practices.

The study we present is part of a broader project, the objective of which is to monitor the changes made by teachers in their practice and to understand how students perceive these changes and what kind of impact it has on their motivation, attitudes towards science and learning. In particular, in this study, we identify students’ perceptions of newly taught, evidence-based teacher practices. Two low achieving, secondary-level science classes were studied. In order to increase the involvement of students in science lessons, and their performance, the teachers began to develop a more student centered teaching practice through the use of classroom investigations. But how would the students perceive the new teacher practice? Would the new practice be associated with motivation for and performance in sciences? These are the questions guiding the present study. We used three questionnaires (School Motivation Questionnaire, School Integration Questionnaire and Students’ Perceptions of Chemical and Physics Lessons Questionnaire) to measure students’ perceptions about the teaching of science and about their own motivation and school integration. In addition, we collected information on the students’ academic success. Our preliminary results show that, although students perceive teacher’s role as facilitator and perceive the use of laboratory work, such perceptions are unrelated to academic achievement.