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Mount Alvernia College

Educating young women in the Franciscan tradition

Thinking Science

Mount Alvernia College

Mount Alvernia is a Thinking Science Australia school, and students in Year 8 are currently participating in various science tasks that require them to think critically about the task in hand.

We are working with other schools and universities to develop the Thinking Science program in Queensland.

What is Thinking Science?

Thinking Science Australia is a two-year intervention program, consisting of 30 lessons designed to accelerate learners’ cognitive function.

Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) was developed in the UK, and was originally designed to accelerate students’ level of thinking so that they would be better able to cope with the demands of the science curriculum. The evidence base for Thinking Science Australia shows a noticeable improvement in students’ ability, not only in Science but in English and Mathematics also.

As well as improving cognitive performance, Thinking Science Australia allows students to gain an appreciation for the phenomena of science; a practical understanding of concrete concepts and improved confidence and participation due to its carefully planned delivery.

The Thinking Science Australia program is built around five core principles, which are embedded into each lesson as set phases:

Concrete preparation –

involves the teacher establishing a problem for the students to consider and to negotiate any associated ideas and terminology needed for the students to understand the problem.

Cognitive conflict –

a process whereby students are encouraged to think about the problem in a way that challenges their conventional ways of thinking.  Students are encouraged to consider a range of possible explanations for the problem.

Social construction –

the shared development of explanations of and understandings about the problem and potential solutions. Teachers play a role in asking probing questions of students but not offering solutions. Active participation by all students is required, as all are expected to offer explanations and solve problems.

Metacognition –

requires students to reflect on their thinking and articulate their approaches taken to problem solving. This stage enables other students to access other ways of thinking and evaluating.

Bridging –

involves the student and teacher working together to apply the ideas developed in the lesson to other problems in the real world. Associated science lessons can be used to help reinforce and remind students about the range of problem-solving strategies and ways of thinking they have developed

For more information about Thinking Science Australia, visit the University of Western Australia’s website for Thinking Science Australia.

What are the advantages of Thinking Science?

Guided by our Learning and Teaching Framework, teachers are moving away from traditional classroom instructional methods. Instead, they are challenged to facilitate and guide students through their own thinking, conversations and decision-making. Thinking Science Australia endeavours to train teachers to use cues and questioning to engage and facilitate student-based conversation and to promote intrinsic learning.

‘Critical and creative thinking’ is one of the general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum. The wider education community also supports this shift in practice and pedagogy to suit the diverse learning needs of adolescents and their desire to participate in group work, problem-solving and be influenced by challenging teaching. The Thinking Science Australia program targets these aspects while allowing evidence for these capabilities to be ascertained and collected.

Metacognition plays an integral part in the Thinking Science Australia classroom. It is essential for teachers to model for students, the skills that will allow them to understand and reflect on their own thinking, as well as to gauge their level of success in arriving at solutions. Metacognitive processes call upon the student to recognise learned thinking patterns that are essential for cognitive development.

Thinking Science Australia lessons aim to re-train teachers to instil in their students the desire to be inquisitive; questioning the physical world around them and seeking their own solutions to phenomena. The scientific method of fair tests, observations, inferences and predictions can be carefully explored in a reasonable manner when students navigate their own way through their learning process.