Supporting science teaching with new science reports

Published: 18 May 2021
Early learning

Science is important - we rely on scientific thinking in almost every endeavour in our modern society. Covid-19 has shown us how important science is and, with science-related issues such as climate change and vaccines increasingly impacting on society, it is essential that we have high quality science education. 

Local and international evidence shows New Zealand students in Years 5 to 11 are not achieving as well in science as we would like. It also shows students become less engaged in science over time, and fewer 15-year olds see value in science, compared with international peers. 

ERO wanted to understand what was happening for science teaching and learning up to Year 11; and the actions kaiako, teachers and leaders in early childhood services and schools could take to strengthen the science learning opportunities they provide.  

We shared our findings in three new reports, released in April: 

These reports for kaiako, teachers and leaders identify where services and schools are doing well, and highlight opportunities to increase the impact of science teaching and learning. They provide practical guidance and inspiration through practice examples.

Science in the Early Years: Early Childhood and Years 1-4 

In this report, we focused on three key components when exploring science teaching and learning for this age group: leadership, intentional teaching, and responsive curriculum. We found evidence of all three. For example, kaiako/teachers provided interesting contexts for children’s learning and made connections with children’s prior knowledge. 

We also found areas that could be strengthened to improve children’s opportunities for learning in science:  

  • kaiako/teachers could plan more for children’s learning and progress in science, rather than for discrete science activities 
  • many kaiako/teachers could make better use of assessment to describe and understand children’s learning and inform next steps for their learning  
  • service and school leaders could also reflect more on how well their science learning programmes support children to progress in science. The report has included questions to help leaders reflect on the science learning provided in their school or service. 

Shining a Light on Science: Good Practice in Early Childhood Services  

This report shares examples of good practice shown by eight different services across New Zealand. Examples include: 

  • leadership that encourages collaboration and improvement 
  • kaiako who are deliberate in their approach to supporting children 
  • bicultural practice 
  • learner-focused partnerships with parents, whānau and the community. 

The report also gives an example of how leaders and kaiako could do effective internal evaluation focused on the science curriculum they provide. 

Growing Curiosity: Teaching Strategies to Engage Years 5 to 11 Students in Science  

Previous ERO evaluations of science for this age group identified a need for a greater focus on the Nature of Science - the integrating strand of the science curriculum. This report sets out strategies and approaches that a selection of schools had taken to strengthen students’ engagement in science. 

In primary schools these included: 

  • a planned approach to strengthen students’ engagement in science 
  • targeting external and in-school professional learning and development 
  • increasing the breadth of science experiences offered 
  • collecting and using a variety of information for planning and evaluation. 

In secondary schools, the strategies and approaches included: 

  • reviewing science programmes across all year levels 
  • refocusing on the Nature of Science 
  • carefully structuring the development of skills and knowledge 
  • responding to learners’ interests, strengths and needs. 

The reports are accompanied by short guides for leaders, teachers, parents and whānau. These guides briefly unpack actions people can take to help strengthen science learning opportunities for the young people they work with. They are all available on ERO’s website.  

ERO is also holding a series of ‘Science’ webinars for kaiako, teachers and leaders. The webinars will go through the key findings in the reports, specific good practice examples, and will discuss what and how kaiako, teachers and leaders can do things differently. The webinars are:  

  • Primary Tuesday 18 May, 4.00-5.00pm 
  • Early childhood Wednesday 19 May, 5.00-6.00pm 
  • Secondary Thursday 20 May, 4.30-5.30pm 

If you are interested in attending one of the webinars, please RSVP to