Evidence from classrooms was analysed to find out how teaching, learning and assessment seek to foster young children’s learning, interest and motivation in science and mathematics. There were many examples of children observing and making connections, for example drawing on prior experiences. Children’s questioning was also present, but less well recognised by teachers. There was greater evidence of children engaging in the social dimensions of inquiry, explaining evidence and communicating explanations, than was expected.
Explicit examples of children developing a wider understanding of the nature of science were limited, though there were some starting points. Children’s inquiry skills and understanding were interconnected with evidence of creative attributes. For example, children’s motivation, curiosity and abilities to come up with something new were evidenced in raising questions and in their active pursuit of explorations and investigations. There were many examples of children’s sense of initiative and growing abilities to collaborate in deciding what to do in carrying out investigations. Children showed imagination, ability to make connections and thinking skills in offering explanations.
The teachers indicated they had not previously thought about how their approaches might support inquiry or creativity, it was only through involvement in the research project that they were prompted to reflect. Many emphasised the need to foster motivation and collaboration and provide a rich environment with space and time for exploration and problem-based learning, underlining key roles for teachers in encouraging reflection and making connections to promote children’s conceptual understanding and the application of ideas in varied settings.
This resulted in the project calling for teacher education to address: