An investigation of pupils and teachers at the point of transition from primary to post primary school: issues in the teaching and learning of science.
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This research was undertaken to investigate the issues arising among pupils and teachers in the transition from primary to post-primary science education. The study involved an investigation of pupils‟ attitudes to and experiences of learning science before and after transition to post-primary school. The study was also concerned with an enquiry into primary and post-primary teachers‟ attitudes to the teaching of science across the transition. A multi-method approach was adopted wherein pupil and teacher questionnaires and pupil interviews formed the construct of this research. The research was conducted over a one-year period, between June 2010 and May 2011, with a group of twenty three pupils and their respective teachers. Data was collected from the twenty three pupils first in their sixth class of primary school and subsequently at the end of their first year post-primary school. Thus, the collection and analysis of data from the pupils‟ perspective was grounded in these two strands of investigation. Results from both pupils and teachers produced data based on the attitudes to and experiences of science in the transition from primary to post-primary school. The evidence from the data indicated that primary pupils hold extremely high expectations of post-primary science and these expectations are often not realised following transition. Pupils at both levels are generally enthusiastic about science education but interest and pupil enjoyment in certain aspects of learning science can decrease following transition to post-primary school. Findings also indicate that pupils experience discontinuity in science curricula and in learning experiences of science across the transition. A crucial sub-theme that pervaded the data was that, by not having a science degree, primary teachers unsurprisingly feel significantly less confident in their teaching of science than their post-primary counterparts. This can lead to issues for pupil learning in particular areas of science prior to and upon transition to post-primary school. Inconsistencies however did emerge where despite high levels of confidence by post-primary teachers, the number of pupils at post-primary level who are stated as enjoying science, who look forward to studying science and who stated that science is their favourite subject decreased. Data also showed there to be no significant communication between junior cycle post-primary teachers and their primary teacher counterparts regarding pupils‟ previous experiences of learning science. In essence, the findings of this research reinforce the view that there are numerous issues and concerns arising among pupils and teachers within the transition from primary to post-primary science. These issues, in turn, may lead to a lack of interest and engagement in a continued study of science by pupils once at post-primary school.