Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This material reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Also available in:


Database of Publications

Homepage > Students’ Motivation > Database of Publications > Publication's Form


John Hennessy
Second Level Support Service (Ireland)
Web Article
School Directors, Teachers, Policy Makers
3 – 10 pages
This article is on pages 82 – 88 of Teaching and Learning: Insights from Irish Schools an Online Journal of the Second Level Support Service, Summer 2009 edition. The author was the head of the Junior Certificate Science Support Service, which comprises a team of experienced teachers, seconded from their teaching posts to provide continuous professional development activities. This service has now been replaced by PDST, with the number of trainers significantly reduced.
The author begins by arguing for science education for all: ‘There are several rationales for science education for all (Osborne, 2003). The ‘utilitarian’ considers knowledge of science to be practically useful for everyone. The ‘economic’ suggests that society requires a supply of well educated scientists to continue to develop and implement technological advances. The ‘cultural’ holds that science and technology is one of the great cultural achievements of our civilisation and everyone should be familiar with its major themes. The ‘democratic’ holds that citizens should be equipped to judge the value and limitations of scientific arguments in issues from stem cell research to global warming’.
In Ireland, unlike most EU countries, science at lower secondary level has not been compulsory, with only some 90% of schools offering the junior certificate combined science programme. There are plans to change this so that science will be mandatory at that level and so all students will have the chance to study some chemistry, physics and biology. This will hopefully lead to higher uptake of these subjects at upper secondary level and beyond.
Hennessy goes on to summarise the pedagogical approaches which are relevant to science teaching and learning, stating that these reinforce the need for an emphasis on science process skills and the major themes of science rather than specific content detail, and adding that this is reinforced by ICT advances and changes in education systems.
The article puts the place of science in Irish education in context, and looks to ways of aligning to the Bologna requirements for learning outcome descriptors, and at the same time showing ways to make the topics more attractive to students.
It also provides links for further teaching and learning ideas at and
This article neatly summarises issues with science education that need to be addressed in order to motivate more students to study science, or at least to see its value in the context of lifelong learning.
As the author contests, at all education levels, teaching for understanding with an emphasis on science process skills requires a high level of expertise and an appreciation of how science works. Changes in methodology require teacher flexibility and ongoing reflection. The article provides a number of useful pointers to change the mindset of the teacher and thereby the mindset of the students.
The document is also important in that it links to a number of aspects of science education and also supports so that the teacher can access materials that will help them in the task of motivating his/her students to study science or at least gain an appreciation of science for its own sake, process skills and literacy.
Limerick Institute of Technology

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2013.07.15

Posted by Veronika Popová (Czech Republic)

Message: The article is relevant to the topics of the project CIAA Network. It reviews recent changes in science and science education in general and in Ireland in particular. It also gives several didactic approaches and offers useful resources available.
In the theroretical first part of the article the author advocates the importance of science in general on a base of studies in the history and phylosophy of science followed by cultural and democratic rationales for science education.
On a base of science education research is stated that a change from an authoritarian, didactic and non-discursive delivery of science by teachers has developed to autonomous learning and critical reasoning by students. It opens opportunities for differentiation and reinforces the need for an emphasis on science process skills and the major themes of science rather than specific content detail.
Advances in ICT could bring a lot to science education (video analysis of motion or events, cameras in classrooms, freely available interactive simulations and models etc.) - ICT can equip students for deeper engagement in science processes and better grasp of concepts in the major themes in science.
Science process skills help to prepare students for the future where they should learn how to adapt to changing collaborative enviroments and the skills required for LLL, which sit firmly in framework of the Bologna Agreement.
The author then introduces the state and changes of science education (syllabus) in Ireland, that newly promotes practical investigative science incorporating science process skills, cooperative learning while individual student reports are required. A written exam is then intended to assess process skills as well as content knowledge.
According to the author new syllabus encourages a fresh look at the nature of the practical work involved and an impetus to simlplify practical activities in the light of technical advances.
Examples of a changed approach are given in the article which I consider usable also in other countries.
There is stated in the article that many challenges still remain in Ireland. Although ICT has been promoted consistently in science education, ICT pedagogical skills require further development, additional support and also clarification of science processes for teachers.
That is why author at the last part of the article promotes SLSS Junior Science and it´s activities on the field of science education - support for teachers and non specialists, new methodologies and usind ICT.
I consider the article and promoted support very useful.

Date: 2013.02.08

Posted by ROSITSA DIMKOVA (Bulgaria)

Message: The article considers the main reasons due to which students lose motivation to study natural sciences. An in-depth realistic analysis in relation to today\'s society and its expectations in the area of science is made.
According to the author traditional science teaching does not correspond to the present concept of science as a process and as a critical analysis of reality. This is in contradiction with the new requirements towards the working place where flexibility in teaching is needed. The above reasons are of great importance since students interest cannot be raised if the matters they study are not linked to reality. Student knowledge and skills should be related to practice thus making them useful and interesting for the learners. This is a basic prerequisite for high quality teaching.
The article summarizes the teaching/learning approaches referring to chemistry. The opinion expressed is that the advancement of ICT should support the changes in the educational system, as well as the positive changes in the way of thinking of both students and teachers.
It also views some useful experience in the motivation of students. The proposed approach involves the following: provision of greater freedom to teachers when choosing the way of delivery of the teaching materials so that higher results can be achieved; learner-centred training; use of ICT to solve problems; group work; research work on phenomena; inclusion of contemporary scientific achievements in the teaching materials, etc.
It is a very interesting publication about science education in Ireland. The emphasis is placed on Junior science, i.e. teaching in primary school.
The article is useful because it reflects the problem related to student motivation to study natural sciences in a relevant and versatile way. It could contribute to increasing the interest of students in chemistry. To a certain extent, it presents an innovative teaching approach.

Date: 2013.02.07

Posted by Jana Žigmundová (Slovakia)

Message: A very interesting publication dealing with connection between scientific subjects and scientific education and with cultural and moral values of society and its inability to understand the system of working by scientific methods. This leads to attempts to understand processes, content and key scientific problem by scientific methods and to attempt to make this education available for everyone. The publication explains main reasons why students lose their motivation to study science through very detailed and realistic analyses which shows that traditional teaching of scientific subjects does not fit into current understanding of science as a process and critical analysis of reality any more. This approach is in a conflict with new needs in a work as flexibility and a continuous work on you. Students cannot be interested in something when they see that it is far from reality. As the author states it is needed to change teaching from authoritarian and transmissive to development of autonomous teaching and to development of critical thinking of young scientists and students and we have to find a possibility of development for students with specific educational needs. This publication is very important for me because it can help teachers from various countries to be better in gaining needed pedagogical skills and help them in achieving of continuous education of a teacher as a key person in a classroom. Also very unusual approach toward evaluating of results of education is mentioned there. It is a key that it does not only defines some key problems and causes of low motivation of students and difficulties in learning but also deals with it and proposes important steps mainly for inexperienced teachers how to motivate students. It also emphasizes continuous work at teachers themselves, high flexibility and improving in the area of ICT.

Date: 2012.10.03

Posted by Ilaria Rebella (Italy)

Message: The article is significant because it shows how science is imbued with cultural and moral values of the society in which it is inserted and how this implies the impossibility of a truly objective science and a single "scientific method." This inevitably leads to prefer science processes on the contents and understanding of the key scientific themes instead of the details of the more specific contents for science education for all.
I think the article explains the main reasons why students lose motivation in the study of science through a very thorough and realistic analysis in today's society and its expectations in science: the fact that the traditional teaching of science no longer fulfills the current conception of science as a process and as a critical analysis of reality. This goes against to new demands in the workplace, where flexibility is required and training. These causes are relevant because students can't have interest for something that is seen as detached from reality. As the author points out we have to move from one authoritarian and transmissive teaching by teachers to developing autonomous learning and the development of critical reasoning as young scientists by students and we have to find opportunities for differentiation also for students with special educational needs.
The article compared to the detailed specification of content in a traditional syllabus with the new Irish Primary School curriculum, that gives much greater freedom to teachers and students as to how the outcomes are attained, and explains how the abandonment of disciplinary teaching on the integration of different sciences, the centrality given to the child as a subject of learning and the new methodology (use of ICT, problem solving, cooperative learning, investigation of a phenomenon in real and significant context and formulation of hypotheses forecasts, ...) lead to provide to every students a scientific base built on experience, which is followed by the conceptual depth. I think the situation is transferable to my reality, because even the Italian Primary School curriculum establish goals and competencies to be achieved at the end of each school level rather than specific subject contents, emphasizing the opportunity to prefer the processes on the contents and to refer to relevant real contexts in order to understand the surrounding environment.
The article explains how this new approach to teaching science requires great flexibility and continuous updating in teachers, a great experience and a thorough knowledge of the phenomena and also somewhat of ICT. In this regard, the author thinks it is desirable to support teachers with the help of experts in technology and with the advice of experts in the disciplines. I agree with the situation described because we need flexibility to be able to pass from the figure of dispenser of knowledge to the coordinator of the learning activities in which the student is an active subject: this implies the need to develop the ability to understand the mental processes followed by the student, often different from ours, and to have fairly thorough knowledge of scientific arguments in order to be able to follow the student also on alternative routes set.
Not directly, however, guarantee everyone a basic scientific training based on the observation, manipulation and understanding of phenomena means to facilitate the understanding of increasingly complex issues.

Date: 2012.09.08

Posted by Nikolopoulos Dimitrios (Greece)

Message: This is a very interesting publication review on the science education in Ireland emphasizing on Junior Science, ie., the syllabus of Ireland at the, so called, primary level.

At the beginning, the review reports, collectively, some very important issues regarding the rational of science and technology. In a quick and sufficient manner the authors succeed in presenting perspectives of science education, in commenting positive and negative issues of the on-going science-technology improvement and in providing interesting issues regarding science process skills. The review, quickly presents deeper key information for a better grasp of the concepts of science. On the basis of information presented, the review combines successfully the case of Ireland with the existing scientific knowledge on science education.

Then, it reviews the history of the revised Junior Syllabus of Ireland and gives several information on the new educational aims and assessment methodologies. I consider this part of the review as very interesting because it may help teachers from different countries and disciplines in organizing the coursework, in acquiring the needed teaching skills and in achieving the necessary continuous evolution of the teacher as the key person of the classroom. The authors also present a very unusual approach for the evaluation of learning outcomes. They also present future trends and their framework for supporting teachers.

To my opinion, the review addresses several significant issues on causes of students’ lack of motivation, learning obstacles and problems confronted in actual situations. However, it goes one step forward; it discusses and suggests important actions for experienced and non-experienced teachers.

I strongly believe that this review is very relevant for the framework of actions of the “Chemistry is All Around Network”, viz., on issues regarding chemistry studying. The overall discussion renders successful motivations for students to study chemistry. All the issues stated can be very easily adapted to other science topics, e.g., physics or mathematics. Concluding, I believe that this review gives various didactic approaches and is, surely, very interesting.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.