Teaching Biology or Teaching to the Test? How High Stakes Examinations Affect the Way Biology Is Taught.

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In many countries the curriculum mandates secondary biology teachers to teach with an increased emphasis on developing methods of inquiry that characterize the process of science in the field. Providing opportunities to students to appreciate the Nature of Science through inquiry-based learning seems like a logical focus of the science classroom. Unfortunately, with an increased focus on high stake examinations (diploma examinations in Alberta, Canada or State examinations in the United States) teachers increasingly feel caught between wanting to teach science in an inquiry-based classroom and restricted to get content-heavy curriculum across to satisfy the standardized tests which reduces the students' learning to the memorization of facts. Through a presentation of the literature and an open discussion, the purpose of this workshop will be to provide an opportunity for teachers to explore the question, “what is the lived experience for teachers in this disconnect between the “shoulds” of how science should be versus the constraints of high stakes examinations?” Teachers are doing excellent work despite these constraints, so how can we tap into this wealth of knowledge? The participants will hopefully leave the workshop with some great ideas on how people engage students in interesting ways and an opportunity to discuss how this disconnect impacts their teaching practice.


Keywords: Secondary Biology, High Stakes Examinations, Curriculum and Pedagogy, Inquiry-Focused
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: , Teaching Biology or Teaching to the Test?


Sharon Pelech

University Associate, Teacher Preparation
Faculty of Education, University of Calgary

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Sharon Macpherson is presently a University Associate for the Division of Teacher Preparation at the University of Calgary. She received her BED in Secondary Education from the University of Alberta and her MEd in Counselling Psychology from the University of Lethbridge. Sharon has taught in a variety of settings in Alberta and the NWT, the last 11 years in a Calgary High School as a Biology Teacher and Guidance Counsellor. She is presently on a 2 year secondment with the University of Calgary and has taught Field Classes as well as Secondary Science Curriculum.

Ref: L09P0878