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On the other hand,
some topics or scientific concepts are very difficult or nearly impossible to
embed with or relate to particular vocational courses or units. During subject
staff meetings, lecturers  from the
different vocational institutes frequently share such concerns – “How can I
relate Newton’s Laws of motion and electricity to vocational aspects for
students following a Diploma in Business studies?”

Similarly
a science lecturer at the Institute of Engineering and Transport asks how s/he
can integrate topics from biology like cells and DNA with vocational units
offered by this institute.

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From
students’ perspectives, those following a particular course might find some
topics interesting and relevant to their field of study – while other topics
are regarded as difficult, boring or even useless. For example, students
following the Diploma in Hairdressing might engage with concepts from the field
of biology such as  DNA, cells, skin
tissue and body organs; but then struggle all the way to calculate and solve mechanical
problems or explain how current and electrons flow in an electric circuit –
regarding the latter as useless and irrelevant to their future career.

 

As
argued by Bulgarelli et. al. (2010), plenty of research shows that most
VET-systems are still considered too ‘academic’ and not ‘realistic’ – being
stuck with school-based approaches and very much similar to the traditional
academic system. One solution around these problems could be to follow other
international researchers in this field, such as Lavonen, J.  et. al. (2005); Manninen, A. et. al. (2005);
Anderson, I.K. (2006); Jenkins, E.W. & Pell, R.G. (2006); Matthews, P.
(2007); Jidesjo et. al. (2009); Oscarsson et. al. (2009); Sjoberg, S. &
Schreiner, C. (2010); Azizollah, A.S. (2012) – and start listening to “student
voice”, especially when restructuring or designing new subject curricula and
syllabi.

 

 

Research Questions

 

With
reference to the current Science and Technology unit at level 2 and 3 within
the institute of ICT – MCAST Malta, this thesis will address the following
research questions:

 

–      
How relevant is the current
Science and Technology syllabus for our ICT students at MCAST ?

–      
Which topics are students
considering irrelevant and thus would prefer to eliminate from the current
syllabus ?

–      
Are there any other topics
which the students would like to learn instead ?

–       Can
we re-design and provide a new Science and Technology syllabus tailor-made for
ICT students ?

–       If
so, what will this new syllabus be like ?

 

 

Collection of Data & Analysis

 

This thesis project
is going to be based on a larger international comparative study called the
ROSE (Relevance of Science Education) project. The study will investigate the
affective factors students perceive might be of relevance for the learning of
science and technology using the standard ROSE survey questionnaire (see
Appendix). This questionnaire will be distributed amongst the cohort of
students following a course in ICT, at level 2 and 3 (MCAST), who follow the
Science and Technology Keyskills unit on a compulsory basis.

 

The gathered data
will be inputted in an excel sheet for analysation by means of the Statistical Package for the Social Science
(SPSS) software. This will provide percentages for instance of the amount of
students who would prefer to learn about optical drives or other IT related
equipment and technology instead of human biological facts. This particular
students’ preference is just my assumption, SPSS statistics might reveal other
preferences for the learning of science and technology concepts within the
institute of ICT. Through the use of SPSS, one would also be able to reveal
different preferences, if any, between male or female students; or even other
factors like age, cultural difference or nationality.

 

What matters most for
this research project is the driving force behind ROSE, which should enable
vocational institutions like MCAST “put more weight on the voice and the views
of the learners when curricula are made and when pedagogy is implemented”  (Schreiner & Sjøberg, 2004, p.5).

 

The ROSE master
questionnaire has nine major sections, alphabetically labelled from A to I.
These sections can be interpreted as having six interrelated issues (Anderson,
2006), which provide:

–        information on the students’ interest profiles
in some topics in science and technology;

–       students’
general perspectives about environmental challenges;

–        information on students’ attitudes towards
school science;

–       significance
of science and technology in society;

–       Students’
views of some important qualities they attach to future jobs; and

–       Students’
out-of-school experiences that might have bearing on science learning.

 

The data gathered
through ROSE and the information generated by SPSS will then form part of an
empirical basis for local adaptation of the science curriculum within the
institute of ICT.

 

 

Why
ROSE and not  TIMMS or PISA ?

 

ROSE differs from other
surveys and publications on science education – 
it listens to the ‘student voice’

(Matthews, 2007, p. 1)

 

As explained by the
experts behind ROSE, this instrument hugely differs from the aims and
means  of TIMMS and PISA. The latter
large-scale comparative studies (TIMMS and PISA) focus on measuring students’
mastery of science contents. In contrast, the ROSE instrument is not a test for
conceptual understanding of science contents. It is meant to gather information
of emotional and attitudinal nature held by the students. “We focus on aspects
that may be of importance for how students engage with and relate to S in
schools and in life in general. More explicitly, the ROSE instrument tries to
describe the S-related experiences that students have, the kinds of
interests they have for S related contents and what views and attitudes
they have towards S in society” (Sjøberg, & Schreiner, 2004, p.5). In
fewer words, ROSE is highly student-centred and strongly supports my stand that
“the S curriculum should be adapted to the needs of the learners, which
may vary between countries and between groups of learners in each country”
(Sjøberg, & Schreiner, 2004, p.5) and also between groups of learners in
different learning institutions or vocational paths.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Once  students’ thoughts and feedback about the
S&T syllabi of MCAST’s level 2 and 3 are analysed through the information
generated by SPSS, one will start focusing on the last two research questions
mentioned earlier on, i.e:

 

–      
Can we re-design and provide
a new Science and Technology syllabus tailor-made for ICT students ?

–      
If so, what will this new
syllabus be like ?

 

Once
these two syllabi are re-designed according to the “students’ voice” a copy
(together with prior research findings) will be presented  to the Director of IICT and another copy to
the Director of Curriculum, MCAST, for their kind perusal. An analytical and
feedback report will be gently request from both directors which will then
serve for a concluding discussion for this thesis.

 

MCAST
might approve and start to implement the new S&T syllabi for level 2 and
3  at the institute of ICT. The complete
project might serve as a framework process for updating the S&T syllabi in
other institutes so as to make it more adaptable, appealing and relevant to
groups students following different vocational courses.

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