Our Australian partner institution University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is known for its innovative approaches to teaching the Natural and Physical Sciences. Taking advantage of professional development opportunities available to her at the University of Teacher Education Lucerne, Professor Dorothee Brovelli traveled to Australia where she had a very productive exchange of ideas with her UTS School of Education colleagues who specialize in Science Education. She also had a chance to visit several classrooms in the Sydney metropolitan area, observe the diversity of students served by these schools, and make comparisons with the Swiss school system. She reports:
“During my sabbatical leave I had the opportunity to visit UTS School of Education for three weeks. Because my background is in science education I was particularly interested in learning about Science Teacher education and Science secondary education in Australia. To that end I observed several Science Methods classes, visited two high schools as well as several Science related informal learning environments and talked to Science Education faculty and teachers.
With science being a core subject, there seems to be a strong emphasis on Science teaching in schools, but also a large focus on assessment (HSC), unlike in Switzerland where two foreign languages are mandatory and there are no national assessments. Because in Switzerland students are split up according to their abilities and intentions of career paths after primary school, there seems to be a greater need for differentiated instruction in Australia. Teacher education on the secondary level starts at the undergraduate level in Switzerland, while at UTS the students enter with a Bachelor’s degree in Science. Therefore at the University of Teacher Education Lucerne we teach a combination of Science content knowledge and Science Education in classes. In both countries various attempts are made to strengthen inquiry skills in science learning. A more thorough comparison of the approaches and outcomes at both the university and the primary and secondary levels would be worthwhile. I am very grateful for the opportunities offered to me at the School of Education and like to thank everyone who was involved in making my stay a rewarding and pleasant experience.”
Professor Brovelli is planning to give a Brown Bag Seminar about her Australian experience. Particulars to be announced shortly.