Stuck what to say about the Draft Earth and Environmental Science Syllabus for NSW? – here are my views

If you care about the future of English, science, mathematics or history education in NSW, you’ll make your views heard. Here is where you can do that before August 31.

Read more for selected comments I made on the Draft HSC Earth Syllabus for NSW. *Caution, emotive language used.

3.The objectives define the intended learning and the knowledge, understanding, skills, values and attitudes to be developed through study of the course.

  •  Yes – because there is a greater focus on working scientifically. They are a progression of the level of skills we should require of students

6.The course structure and requirements are clear, manageable and appropriate.

  • It is confusing to have such a big range for the indicative hours

10.The requirements for the assessment of a depth study are clear.

  • I would have liked some guidance as to whether the Depth Study can be marked progressively? For example, the plan marked at one point, then the journal documenting the progress, then the presentation of findings at the end. Would this be counted as three separate assessment tasks or could it be all part of the one depth study assessment
  • Also, how can we ensure students don’t double up on depth studies in various science courses. I know that students have to choose a content statement, but sometimes these overlap.
  • Finally, the fact that this is a range of indicative hours is also confusing. It means that the quality of DS can vary significantly

11. Please comment on the HSC examination specifications.

  • This is very unclear! It is extremely frustrating to have so much change and uncertainty in a new syllabus, and no indication of how the exam will change to reflect it.
  •  I would have been much more comfortable in knowing that the exam is going to also put a 60% focus on practical investigations rather than knowledge – as that is what we are going to focus our teaching and learning activities around.
  • Also, it would be good to know how ambiguous content statements such as “may include” are going to be assessed.

12.The content describes the scope and depth of learning.

  • The terms “develop knowledge and understanding” are vague in terms of the level of detail required. The previous syllabus knowledge outcomes were more prescriptive
  •  The content does not describe the depth required with content statements such as (page 43) “investigate the role of gravity and heat in tectonic plate movements including:”. Does this mean students will ONLY be examined on the content specifically stated in the syllabus and anything done extra is for interest sake only?
  • This terminology as well as “for example” is repeated another 7 times in one module alone.
  • The depth of learning is therefore not adequately communicated
  1. The balance of Geology and Environmental Science is appropriate.
  •  The areas regarding environmental science has moved away from “biology” in terms of evolution. Which is good. It focuses more on conservation.
  • There is less of a focus on biodiversity though…which can be used as an argument for conservation
  1. Sufficient time has been allocated to cover the course outcomes and content for each module.
  • Difficult to assess as content statements do not give a clear indication of depth of knowledge required. It appears as though there is less content, however, difficult to tell because no exam to see to what level students are expected to answer to.
  • Particularly with the depth study – this can be used as a great method of differentiating the curriculum
  1. Provide comments about the glossary and additional terms for consideration.

 URGENT ATTENTION – they are incorrect as they currently stand

  •  Theory: The use “proven hypothesis” in the definition of theory. Scientists do not prove hypotheses, they support them. They might “provide evidence in support of” them. This definition of theory suggests that it has less evidence than a law, rather than they are totally separate entities. From Berkley undsci website: Theories are deep explanations that apply to a broad range of phenomena and that may integrate many hypotheses and laws.
  • Validity: should NOT include a mention of accuracy. These are totally different ideas and students already have enough difficulty separating the two! The definition of validity should stop at “an extent to which tests measure what was intended”. If you want to put in something about “ensuring it is a fair test, having controlled variables” that would be okay, but please (PLEASE PLEASE) separate accuracy and validity.
  • Accuracy: After consultation with faculty members, this is incoherent and is a direct quote of the current verb list regarding “anlayse”. Accuracy as defined by our faculty would be related to using the most appropriate equipment for measurement, and/ or, a “true” measurement. E.g. a measurement of 9.8m/s2 for gravity is accurate.

 POSSIBLE CHANGES – to make them better

  • Conclusion: in the definition there should be something about relating dependent and independent variables.
  • Contrast: incorrectly defined, it should be differences only.
  • Environment: should include the terms biotic and abiotic.
  • Hypothesis: should include an indication of the fact that it should predict the relationship between a dependent and independent variable.
  • Law: include known to be universally true and is observable and usually having a mathematical association


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