Rethinking The Newly Reformed Science And Mathematics Curricula Considering Constructivist Theory (Grade Nine Science). An Application Of Quantitative Content Analysis Method As An Evaluation Lens

Academic Paper, 2013

34 Pages


Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. Review Literature

3. Methodological Approach



The main objective of this study is to evaluate Science and Mathematics curricula in light of the theory and principles of constructivism. The sample of this study will be the Grade Nine Science (i.e., Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and Mathematics text books. To analyze the data (in this case the selected documents), quantitative content analysis method will be employed. Meanwhile, results will be provided to further improve the reformed curricula.

1. Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

The beginning of modern education in Ethiopia is directly related to the advent of foreign missionaries in the 19th C (UNESCO, 2004). Latter a limited secular education was introduced by Emperor Menelik on the eve of the 20th C. Along with this history, various curriculum reforms have been made in the school systems. During the post-war, the first schools were opened in 1942, and there was extreme shortage of teachers and textbooks, although some British staff from the British Council was available to the government (UNESCO, 2004). These problems, caused for establishing a study that was considered essential to address the alleged problems, and as a follow-up education sector review was conducted in 1970-71 (Tekeste, 2006).

During the Derge regime, following the change of social values, faith, and philosophy, the educational infrastructure was also changed drastically (MOE, 2008). The structure and organization of educational activities were changed alongside the objectives of the communist government. In the National Democratic Revolution Program of the Ethiopian Government (April, 1976), Educational Guideline was issued, which states “There will be an educational program that will provide free education, step by step, to the broad masses’’(UNESCO, 2004). In the program, it was stated that education will intensify the struggle against feudalism, imperialism, and bureaucratic capitalism. Under this new socialist state, Ethiopia's educational system was changed dramatically (MOE, 2008). One of the changes that occurred was the government’s aims of education in Ethiopia. The government's newly stated goals for education were (1) education for production, (2) education for scientific consciousness, and (3) education for political consciousness.

These educational reforms were influenced mostly by the Soviet Union which had similar systems in their country (MOE, 2008). Soviet educational advisors entered Ethiopia soon after the revolution to make more reforms. Poly-technical education familiarized children with the important branches of production; including the manufacturing of machinery or food, and acquainting them with first-hand practical experience, was one of the Soviet's reforms in Ethiopia.

When the current government came into power, the Ethiopian education system was suffering from multifaceted problems (UNESCO, 2004). In the light of these educational problems, it has become imperative for the current Ethiopian Government to design an appropriate education and training policy that gives insight for the overall educational development and reflect the international declarations on educational issues. Within the framework stated in the Education and Training Policy and Strategy (ETPS), the government designed the Education Sector Development Programs (ESDPI-IV) that come up with various reformations. The aim of the present reform under (ESDPIV) is transforming Ethiopia within 15 years into a middle-income country. In order to realize, the vision of transforming Ethiopia to the middle-income country status by the year 2025, it demands transformation of the economy through the application of science and technology would be instruments to create wealth. In line with this, some curriculum reformations in the general education particularly in science and mathematics would have been taken place (MoE, 2002).

As stated by the policy document special attention on these subjects would enable students to effectively use the advances in Science and technology in order to modify or influence their natural surroundings. With this assumption, as part of the newly reformed curriculum, Science and Mathematics text books have been developed in the academic year of 2010/11. Education with science and mathematics as its major components determines the level of prosperity and welfare of the people and the nation (ESDP IV).

In view of this fact, new text books are developed in the substitution of the previous ones. Problems identified in the previous text books are expected to be solved in the newly developed curricula. Obviously textbooks encountered with various problems. For instance, bulky and loaded contents, poor readability/teachablity, use of overly complex languages ….were few examples identified by the study team (ESDPII). However their study was conducted on the previous curriculum which has already been changed. Similarly under (ESDPIV) lack of focus on higher order thinking, inappropriate methodological and assessment techniques of the textbooks were identified as a major problems demanding change so as to achieve the long term goal of the country. As regards conducting a study with related matters and evaluating the reformed curriculum would be helpful as it provides a comprehensive picture about the status of the various components of curricula. Moreover, the developed text books have not yet been studied. Thus, this study will attempt to analyze the development aspects of this curricula based on the light of the theory and principles of constructivism.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

In our country, there has been a tradition to copy the curriculum of various countries (Tekeste, 1996). To mention, Egypt, America, and France educational systems have been introduced in Ethiopia. Now days, in Ethiopia, curriculum reformation has been taken place due to different reasons. One of the reasons is change of government (McNeil, 1996). For instance, with the change of government, a new education and training policy has been developed and adapted in Ethiopia as of 1994 (Tekeste,1996). He further explained that the policy is acknowledged for its stress to produce individuals who are problem solvers. To make it more feasible and relevant, regions of the country have got the opportunity to adapt curricula in accordance with the particular social and economical context. Hence, it is possible to say that the country has commenced the appropriate track (Dawit, 1999).

Besides to the aforementioned reason, there have been others that commence to reform an existing curriculum. For instance, to address societal problems and to introduce new ideas through different subjects, an existing curriculum could be reformed. Science & technological computation is being a crucial one. When the nation is in Science and technological computation, it is easier to introduce programs for personal enrichment (McNeil, 1996). A case in point can be the newly reformed Grade 9 Science and Mathematics curricula.

Discussions were made on these curricula and on the way how the newly reformed curriculum is being issued with some high school teachers and professionals. My friends also have discussed a lot of points with this regard. Personal observation on science and mathematics text books was also thoroughly made. Information obtained in such ways helps me to have an insight as to evaluate these curricula by applying the quantitative content analysis method as an evaluation lens of my work. This study is then designed to evaluate the Grade 9 science (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) and mathematics curricula based on the light of the theory and principles of constructivism.

With these rationales, the study will attempt to answer the following research questions.

1. To what extent the stated objectives aligned with the theory and principles of constructivism?
2. To what extent the organized contents regarded with the theory and principles of constructivism?
3. To What extent the corresponding methodologies met with the theory and principles of constructivism?
4. Are the designed evaluation techniques of grade nine science and mathematics curricula aligned with the theory and principles of constructivism?

1.3. General Objective of the Study

The overall purpose of the study will be devoted to evaluate the Grade 9 science (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) and mathematics curricula in light of the theory and principles of constructivism by using quantitative content analysis method as a lens and thereby providing suggestions for further improvements.

Specific Objectives of the Study

The study will be designed to achieve the following specific objectives:

- Investigate the alignment of the stated objectives with the theory and principles of constructivism.
- Scrutinize the extent to which the organized contents regarded with the theory and principles of constructivism.
- Evaluate the extent to which the corresponding methodologies met with the theory and principles of constructivism.
- Examine the extent to which the designed evaluation techniques aligned with the theory and principles of constructivism.

1.4. Significance of the Study

This study will contribute in the following ways:

1. The study will identify the weaknesses and the strengths of the Grade 9 science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and mathematics curricula.
2. The study will suggest new ideas to the improvement of the Grade 9 science (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) and mathematics text books.
3. The overall finding of this study will be valuable to curriculum designers (planners), syllabus developers, policy makers, lawyers, students, and other concerned bodies.
4. Finally, the study will serve as a source for other researchers who may investigate in related fields.

1.5 Delimitation of the Study

Although, the 2010/11 reform has been taken place both on Grade 9 &10 Science (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) and Mathematics text books, this study will focus only to the Grade 9 science & Mathematics text books due to shortage of time and human resources. Thus, the findings obtained will reflect only the curriculum development aspect of the study area.

1.6. Operational Definitions

- Active learning methods: - Different learning strategies that speed up the reaction between the students and their environment, the curriculum to construct their own learning.
- Constructivist curriculum: - In the context of this study, constructivist curriculum is a curriculum that contains many principles towards student – centered learning.
- Content Integrity: - In the context of this paper, content integrity indicates the horizontal and vertical relationship of contents. Fore instance, contents found in grade 9 Biology should be related with contents found in Grade 8 and Grade 10 Biology. Besides, contents found in Grade 9 Biology should be related with subjects like Chemistry, Physics, etc.
- Constructivist theory: - In the context of this study, constructivism and Constructivist theory are used interchangeably. Constructivist theory is a theory with various principles that helps as a frame work for this study to analyze the reformed curricula (Grade 9

Science and mathematics text books).

- Domains of objectives:

- Affective domain: Objectives in the affective domain are concerned with emotional development. Thus, the affective domain deals with attitudes, feelings, and emotions and they vary according to the degree of internationalization sought.
- Cognitive domain: Objectives in this domain mainly concerned of the learning and remembering of basic facts, concepts, generalizations, and theories.
- The primary focus of this domain is intellectual development and its concern mainly with subject matter content students are expected to learn.
- Psychomotor domain: Objectives in the psychomotor domain are deals with manipulative, or skill development and expressed through acting or doing. It generally, involves the development of mental and physical skills, techniques and abilities of the learner.

- Process evaluation: - an evaluation technique that is used to evaluate the students progress throughout their learning.
- Product evaluation: - an evaluation technique that is used to evaluate the students performance at the end of the program.
- Reformed Curriculum: - A curriculum which has been already changed based on the previous curriculum. In the context of this study, the reformed curriculum represents the newly developed Grade 9 Science (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) and mathematics text books which is being implemented since 2010/11 academic year.

2. Review Literature

2.1 Curriculum Requires Theories

Curriculum does not yet have matured theories that shape school curricula (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2004). Contrary to this, Klein (1992) deliberates on the issue by explaining that there are also scholars who argue that curriculum does not need solid theories as theory should be subservient to practice when it comes to the curriculum field. Others contend that construction of curriculum theories is an important foundation for conceptualizing curriculum (Shiundu and Omulando, 1992). Be this as it may, there is not a consensus among with scholars on the importance of curriculum theories for shaping school curricula. The issue is more explained in Dawit’s educational Module. The Module depicts the idea; …the absence of common agreement as how the curriculum field should be conceptualized is a cause of concern not only to philosophers and theoreticians, but also to all those responsible for and affected by practical decision making on the curriculum. At a time when, all over the world, there is massive intervention on the part of governments in the shaping of school curricula, questions of how we conceptualize curriculum tasks assume a special importance: intervention is never a theoretical; it always implies some view of what the curriculum is and what type of theories should guide its planning and development (Dawit, 2008 P.125).

Viewed from this vantage point, curriculum theory has a profound and worldwide influence on the nature of curriculum planning and development. One of the scholars who argue that theory is not a viable foundation for inquiry into curriculum is Schwab though he does not propose curriculum should be theoretical. According to Schwab (1969), the role of theory had achieved an exaggerated status in the context of the practical, leading to the pursuit of overreaching principles and procedures of curriculum development. The problem was in the way that these theoretical formulations overwhelmed and overlooked the emergent quality of the situational or practical context. He believed that curriculum theory had to be diverted from the kind of theoretical pursuits that led to the formulation of universal rules and other invariant instructional elements.

On other hand, Scholars like Beauchamp forcefully argued that sound curriculum theory can be useful both to scholars and practitioners. He added that curriculum theory can provide a set of conceptual tools for analyzing curriculum proposals, for illuminating practice, and for guiding educational reform. In view of this fact, this study adapts a constructivist theory as a guiding theory to provide a conceptual framework for analyzing a newly reformed curriculum.

2.2 Theory and principles of constructivism

2.2.1 Constructivist Theory

According to Burns, Heath, and Dimock (2000) Constructivism is both a philosophy and a theory of learning. The key concept of constructivism is that learning is an active process of creating, rather than acquiring, knowledge. For the same writers following are principles that provide a general framework of constructivism and its relevance for instruction.

- Learners bring unique prior knowledge and beliefs to a learning situation.
- Knowledge is constructed uniquely and individually, in multiple ways, through a variety of tools, resources, and contexts.
- Learning is both an active and reflective process.
- Learning is developmental.
- We make sense of our world by assimilating, accommodating, or rejecting new information.
- Social interaction introduces multiple perspectives on learning.
- Learning is internally controlled and mediated by the learner.

This theory is typically contrasted with a transmissionist (or objectivist) model of learning. That is, instead of focusing on learning objects which are transmitted from one person to another, students and teachers are engaged in a community in which learning is the result of interactions, reflections, and experiences (Howard et al, 2000) Cited in (Thompson 2004).

On the other hand, people like Piaget (1966) in Gray (2000) forcefully argued that learning happens when individuals interact with objects in their environment (which can be material things, names for things, concepts, relationships, etc.) to “build” and refine constructs of knowledge in their heads. Individuals sometimes assimilate new objects of knowledge by incorporating them into their personal internal network of knowledge constructs (Gray, 2000). Other times individuals accommodate, by altering these constructs when confronting new experiences that may contradict their past knowledge. The important issue is that each individual is active in the learning process, not passively absorbing whatever happens, and each person may construct very different understandings after interacting with the same objects in the same environment. This notion challenged ideas of knowledge as a body of information created by scientists and experts, existing outside of individuals, and “learning” as a process of ingesting these others’ knowledge.

Baker, McGaw, and Peterson (2007) deliberated on the issue by saying that there are also educators like Vygotsky (1978) who believed that the outcome and objective of learning was the development of individual consciousness, experiencing self mastery, through a process of reflection (what he called “inner speech”) as well as interaction with people and objects in the external world. He emphasized the role of individuals’ interactions with their socio cultural environment in this process of constructing knowledge. Schon (1983) strongly argued that peoples live in a world of uncertainty, instability, complexity, and value conflict, where they often must deal with problems for which no existing rules or theories learned through formal training or past experience can apply. He was most interested in how reflection, and particularly critical reflection, plays out in the ongoing learning of peoples in their practice. He proposed that peoples learn by noticing and framing problems of interest to them in particular ways, then inquiring and experimenting with solutions. When they experience surprise or discomfort in their everyday activity, this reflective process begins. Their knowledge is constructed through reflection during and after some experimental action on the ill-defined and messy problems of practice.

Other scholars also understand the constructivist theory from different perspectives. Brookfield (1995) and Mezirow (1994) cited in (Sert, 2008) considered constructivist views of learning by theorizing how critical reflection interrupts and reconstructs human beliefs. In support of this Brookfield (1995) suggested that when we reflect on our experience with skeptical questioning and imaginative speculation, we can refine, deepen, or correct our knowledge constructions. He describes three stages in the process of reflecting critically: “(1) identifying the assumptions that underlie our thought sand actions; (2) scrutinizing the accuracy and validity of these in terms of how they connect to, or are discrepant with, our experience of reality; and (3) reconstituting these assumptions to make them more inclusive and integrative”. In context, the varying and argued views to constructivism share one central premise: learners are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction rather than passively receiving information. Learning is something done by the learner, not something that is imposed on the learner.

2.2.2 Principles and Major Areas of Constructivist curriculum

Firstly, as far as objectives are concerned, objectives in the constructivist curriculum are the most critical elements that regulate other proceeding steps. Program goals or objectives are glasses through which we see where we want to go or what the end product would look like (Amare, 2000). Accordingly Tyler (1949) reclaimed that in the case of projects that seek to reconstruct the total school curriculum, the selection and definition of the learning objectives will commonly be attacked first. He further stated:

If an educational program is to be planned and if efforts for continued improvement are to be made, it is very necessary to have some conception of the goals that are being aimed at. These educational objectives become the criteria by which materials are served, contents are out lined instructional procedures are developed and tests and examinations are prepared (Tyler, 1949:3).


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Rethinking The Newly Reformed Science And Mathematics Curricula Considering Constructivist Theory (Grade Nine Science). An Application Of Quantitative Content Analysis Method As An Evaluation Lens
Bahir Dar University
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analysis, science, rethinking, reformed, quantitative, nine, newly, method, mathematics, lens, grade, evaluation, curricula, content, constructivist, considering, application, theory
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Jerusalem Yibeltal Yizengaw (Author), 2013, Rethinking The Newly Reformed Science And Mathematics Curricula Considering Constructivist Theory (Grade Nine Science). An Application Of Quantitative Content Analysis Method As An Evaluation Lens, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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