This is a pithy article on science education in Australia and beyond.
Disciplinary versus Integrated Curriculum
The impending Australian national school curriculum leads to important questions about what knowledge should and shouldn’t be included in a curriculum and how the included knowledge should be arranged. Dominant modes of curriculum in the twenty first century suggest there is established, canonical knowledge that is included in school curricula within disciplines such as physics, mathematics, history and literature, and that the disciplines themselves almost always provide the structure of the school day (Scott, 2008)1. This is widely referred to as a disciplinary, or traditional, approach to curriculum. Current, education-based debates, however, question the assumption that there is a corpus of disciplinary received wisdom that is beyond criticism (Kelly, Luke, & Green, 2008)2. Disciplinary knowledge is translated in curriculum documents throughout the world into key criteria, standards, or educational outcomes that are narrowly focused on what is readily measurable, or amenable to standardized achievement testing. As more and more attention in schools turns to the issue of preparing students for high-stakes tests, there is a real risk of reducing the opportunities for students to engage in more contextual, issue-based and applied learning that does not fit within the boundaries of the traditional disciplines. The problem is acute in science where there is considerable evidence that students are disengaged with the way it is currently taught in Australia and other western countries.