Addressing obstacles to success: Improving student completion, retention, and achievement in science modules in applied health programmes, with particular attention to Maori

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Waikato
Post school sector
Project start date: 
January 2006
Project end date: 
January 2008
Principal investigator(s): 
Kelly Gibson-van-Marrewijk
Research team members: 
Jane Stewart, Gudrun Dannenfeldt, Kevin Stewart, Jackie McHaffie, Rosemary Hipkins
Research partners: 
Waikato Institute of Technology, with the New Zealand Council for Educational Research

Project Description

Science education research literature suggests that the decontextualised nature of much science learning can be an obstacle to many learners. Science ideas are often expressed in formal, abstract, logico scientific modes of communication, whereas people mostly use more informal and storied narrative modes of communication (Bruner, 1986). It takes practice and careful support to learn to use these new modes, and learners may not feel the need unless they can see an identity for themselves as learners and users of science knowledge (Gilbert, Hipkins, & Cooper, 2005). To help students achieve this identity, it may be necessary to create explicit “border crossing” strategies so they are supported to make the necessary translations between science and their other world views (Aikenhead, 1996).

There is also a “border” between science theory and science-in-use in the workplace. Aikenhead (2005) found that nurses are most likely to draw on their procedural knowledge when making decisions on the job, while Nutley, Walter, and Davies (2003) point out that such procedural knowledge is likely to be tacit. They contrast this with declarative knowledge, which is more likely to be taught and assessed in science modules for midwifery and nursing. They suggest that there is a need to investigate “whether practice is more a case of ‘from doing to knowing’ (the social construction of knowledge) rather than ‘from knowing to doing’ (rational EBP1 models)” (Nutley, Walter, & Davies, 2003, p. 129).