Quality Learning and Teaching in Primary Science and Technology

In 2015, AISNSW released an in-depth literature review that aimed to address the broad research question: What characterises quality teaching and learning in primary science and technology? The literature review, Quality Learning and Teaching in Primary Science and Technology, covered a range of focus areas including:

  • broad context of science and technology education in Australia
  • relationship between science and technology in the NSW Syllabus for the Australian curriculum Science K-10 (incorporating Technology K-6)
  • factors that influence effective teaching and learning of primary science and technology.

A number of changes to the Science and Technology curriculum have taken place since its 2015 release. This has led to the development of the Quality Learning and Teaching in Primary Science and Technology: 2020 Supplement, which is available here for download.”


The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) provides a separate Foundation to Year 10 learning framework for Science, and for Technologies (including Design and Technology, and Digital Technologies). Kindergarten to Year 6 Science and Technology forms part of this broader continuum of learning.  The latest revision to the Australian Curriculum Science and Australian Curriculum Technologies syllabus by ACARA took place in 2017.

In New South Wales (NSW), the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is responsible for the development of syllabuses for schools, which include content descriptions and achievement standards from the Australian Curriculum. In NSW, the syllabus documents are designed using an ‘adopt and adapt’ approach – the Australian Curriculum is adopted, with adaptations to suit the NSW contexts. Subsequent to the review of the Australian Curriculum, the NSW Syllabus was reviewed and updated to reflect the newly developed Australian Curriculum Band Descriptions for Digital Technology. Design and Production replaced Working Technologically as one of the two key skills areas, while Working Scientifically was retained.

The organisation of content in the NSW syllabus highlights an integration of knowledge and understanding, skills, and the learning continuum across the curriculum. Teachers are expected to program units of work that reflect real world and engagement with both nature and the built environment. The NSW syllabus provides guidance about the scope of learning to aid in the interpretation of the syllabus outcomes.

Organisation of Content
Science and Technology K-6 Syllabus (NESA, 2017 p23)

The study of Science and Technology in K–6 enables students to explore scientific and technological concepts and develop knowledge and understanding of the world; enabling them to inquire, plan, investigate and develop solutions to problems. Through the application of Working Scientifically, and Design and Production skills, students develop an interest in and an enthusiasm for understanding nature, phenomena and the built environment.

- NSW Science and Technology K-6 Syllabus (NESA, 2017 p 14)

Teaching Models and Approaches

Research supports student inquiry as an effective pedagogical tool for the teaching of science and technology. There are numerous models available to educators, and it is recommended that any being considered are carefully assessed for relevance to each unique classroom and school context. Student needs, ways of learning, and syllabus outcomes should remain the key factors influencing an educators’ choice of model for use in the classroom.

NSW teachers are increasingly engaging with a broad range of frameworks in support of teaching in an inquiry based way. Four approaches in particular have gained traction over recent years that may be of interest to teachers of science and technology. These are outlined in the supplement and include:

  • Design Thinking
  • Project Based Learning
  • Guided Inquiry Design
  • Murdoch’s Phases of Inquiry

The five models highlighted in the original version of Quality Learning and Teaching in Primary Science and Technology are briefly outlined below. More detailed information about each, and their orientation and use, can be accessed by downloading the full 2015 literature review.

The 5Es Instructional Model

A widely applied research-based learning cycle based on five phases: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate (Bybee, 1997, 2014). The 5Es model of inquiry-based learning recognises that students need time and opportunities to develop concepts and abilities.

“The most worthwhile and meaningful lessons in Science and Technology have been when I allow my students to be curious and promote their autonomy. This supports students to become active participants in their inquiries and develop scientific literacy and skills.”

- Madeleine Smith 
Head of Curriculum, 
Hunter Valley Grammar School

Representational Intensive Pedagogy 

Scaffolding of learning through the use of multiple modes of representation.

Students learn when they are encouraged to create and defend their own representations of ideas.

The Generative Learning Model

Guided by the fundamental premise that perceptions and meanings consistent with students’ prior learning are generated by students in the learning environment (Osborne & Wittrock, 1985). This means that teaching needs to encourage learners to generate firm links between constructed meanings and their existing knowledge.

Science in Schools (SIS) Model

Outlines eight components of effective science teaching and learning (Tytler, 2001, 2009). 

This model builds on those other existing frameworks, adding context, relevance and relationships in order to reflect the characteristics of effective teaching practice.

The Learners’ Questions Model 

Supports the provision of learning conditions that encourage children to ask and investigate questions (Faire & Cosgrove, 1988). Learners’ Questions outlines a series of connected steps within which the teachers’ role is as a resource provider, a motivator, a challenger, a developer of learners’ ideas and a communicator of different ideas. In this approach, the teacher learns with the students.