Creative pedagogies in early years science: thematic planning and sustained scientific dialogues

Kendra McMahon, Alan Howe, Dan Davies, Christopher Collier, Sarah Earle

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter in a published conference proceeding

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This paper draws on the ‘See the Science’ Project funded by the Primary Science Teaching Trust that took place in South West England in 2012-13. It aims to illuminate the process of transforming a curriculum document into a valuable learning experience for children through the use of classroom talk. The project was grounded in concerns that the increased use of thematic, ‘creative’ curricula in England was leading to a loss of scientific learning for children in the early years (five to seven year olds). It presents our findings that in the context of the twelve primary schools with which we worked, the type of curriculum used (e.g. thematic, cross-curricular) had less impact on teaching than we anticipated, whereas the teacher’s immediate responsiveness to children’s ideas and interests and their development of a repertoire of different forms of talk for different purposes in learning science was crucial. A
framework emerged to characterise the form of talk we aimed to develop; sustained scientific dialogues, encompassing the essence of sustained, shared thinking in the early years (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2008) with a science focus and drawing on characteristics of dialogic talk (Mortimer and Scott 2003; Alexander, 2008).Through the development of case studies using qualitative approaches including transcription and analysis of classroom talk we examine how teachers developed their practice and we argue that sustained scientific dialogues play a key role in the development of creative pedagogies. Three cases presented here are representative of the typical project findings: one inexperienced teacher developed talk that was more sustained and two experienced teachers developed talk that was more dialogic, the latter exemplifying how this maintained a strong science focus. The fourth case shows how an early years teacher with a strong dialogic pedagogy expanded his repertoire to include more authoritative episodes focussed on scientific knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScience education research: Engaging learners for a sustainable future
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of ESERA 2015
EditorsJ Lavonen, K Juuti, J Lampiselkä, A Uitto, K Hahl
Place of PublicationHelsinki
PublisherUniversity of Helsinki
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)978-951-51-1541-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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