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Level 6 courses to address diverse needs

Addressing diverse student needs

At year 11, students reach a crossroads in their science education.

Many will go on beyond year 11 to further senior science studies. They may opt to specialise at levels 7–8.

For some, year 11 is their last formal learning in science. It is extremely important these students gain sufficient scientific literacy and subject knowledge to engage confidently and competently with science materials and ideas.

Some year 11 students will need longer than 12 months to reach level 6 in science. Learning courses for these students should focus on contexts that interest them and allow for progression in their learning to build their scientific literacy through an emphasis on “science for citizenship”.

Strategies to meet diverse needs

This section includes:

Flexible courses for general science

Recognising that the “one size fits all” model cannot meet the varied needs of students, schools are moving to flexible courses that use local opportunities (such as place-based learning), whānau input, staff strengths, and students’ interests and passions.

One example is the level 6 course offered by an urban, coastal, co-educational Bay of Plenty secondary school, based on the theme “Survival at the Mount”. The course meets the needs of a wide range of students through classes that run concurrently across two timetable lines.

This course gives students an element of choice and is built around the strengths of the teaching staff. As a result, it provides both a pathway to further study at levels 7–8 and a sound, context-rich learning experience for those students who are unlikely to proceed further in science.

A modular approach

Modular courses allow students to explore a range of high-interest contexts and enjoy a range of different teaching styles by selecting from optional modules that operate simultaneously.

Students who are able to exercise choice in creating their own learning and assessment courses are more likely to be engaged and self-managing in achieving their goals.

Consider offering a series of half-year, term-long, or semester-long modules from which students can select a course.

Students will need to know what prerequisites they will require for progression beyond level 6. Provide guidance to ensure that they study an appropriate range of prerequisite topics and skills to maintain a pathway forward to levels 7–8.

Learning can be assessed through a mixture of internal and external standards. The school could develop a range of approaches for collecting and presenting evidence of learning.

The modular approach has implications for timetabling, especially if the aim is to have teachers working in their specialist area. However, the benefits for students can be significant.

Specialist level 6 courses

From year 11 on, The New Zealand Curriculum allows the specialisation of science studies. Some schools offer a range of specialist science courses from level 6 – usually in physics, chemistry and biology/human biology.

Without undermining the value of such courses, recent curriculum changes signal a shift away from narrow subject boundaries towards more integrated, cross-disciplinary learning courses that respond to local opportunities and individual student interests and needs. This guide provides several examples of such courses.

Supporting students with higher learning needs

The individual learning needs and level of maturity of students entering year 11 may mean that they are not yet ready to work at curriculum level 6. Schools have developed a variety of strategies to meet the higher needs of these students. Two examples of such strategies are:

  • a two-year level 6 programme – spreading level 6 across a longer time span maintains a meaningful pathway in science for these students. If the programme has flexible entry and exit points, students can progress to level 7 and beyond when they are ready
  • a one-year 'foundation' science course – leading to a 'full' level 6 science course the following year, and then progressing to level 7.

Teachers can select contexts that have high interest and relevance for their students and plan learning in these contexts that give their students flexible assessment opportunities.

The aligned science matrix for NCEA level 1 offers a wide range of internally and externally assessed standards set at curriculum level 6. This means that assessment can be tailored to the needs of individual students engaged in the same learning. A mix of achievement standards can be taken from different areas of the matrix.

Many students will better demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills through internal assessments, where success can be assessed incrementally as they learn, rather than as an isolated event and under the time pressures of external examinations.

For some students, NCEA level 2 or 3 in science subjects may be an unrealistic goal. However, the basic scientific knowledge, understandings, and skills which we understand as scientific literacy remain vitally important for equipping these young people to make decisions about their own well-being, health, and citizenship.

Last updated April 30, 2013