Science Investigation in New Zealand Secondary Schools: Exploring the Links between Learning, Motivation and Internal Assessment in Year 11
Science investigation is one of the three aspects of science learning, along with scientific knowledge and an understanding of the nature of science, within the constructivist science curriculum statement of the New Zealand Curriculum Framework. Year 11 students in New Zealand secondary schools who learn to investigate in science are assessed internally for National Certificate of Educational Achievement credits and grades. The purpose of this research was to gain an understanding of the phenomenon of student learning and motivation to learn in year 11 science investigation and how the recent systemic change to formal assessment in New Zealand secondary education is related to teaching and learning of science investigation in year 11. This research, which adopted a case study approach, investigated the phenomenon of science investigation at a regional level through a survey of all year 11 science teachers in the Wellington region and an in-depth study of science investigation in one coeducational, medium size, state, secondary school and one year 11 science class in that school. The data were collected through surveys, classroom observations, teacher and student interviews and document analysis. Findings suggest that the introduction of internal assessment of science investigation led to change in teacher practice. The narrow fair testing type of investigation required for internal assessment and experienced by the students encouraged a surface approach to learning rather than deep learning for understanding. Students set performance goals and were motivated to achieve credits and grades in the assessment.