While this curriculum document was handed down by the Minister of Education and
Training in March 1998, the similarity with any other curriculum documents developed in
recent years ends there.
This curriculum was developed over a two-year period by over 300 teachers in 17 boards
co-ordinated by project staff at York Universitys faculty of education. It was one
of the products of the Assessment of Science and Technology Project (ASAP) that began in
1995 and was completed this summer. The aims of ASAP were to provide teachers with clear
statements of expectations for science and technology and assessment materials linked to
The curriculum was developed through a process that combined research on science and
technology curricula from around the world, The Pan-Canadian Common Framework of Science
Learning Outcomes and the experience of 300 teachers.
In the research phase of the project, we analyzed science and technology curricula in
our partner-boards, in other provinces, and in other countries of the English-speaking
world and discovered that our past expectations of Ontario children in the areas of
science and technology had fallen much below those of other nations and provinces. But the
research also shows that the new Ontario curriculum will now be as up-to-date and
progressive as any in Canada or internationally.
Marietta Bloch was both the principal author of the Ontario curriculum and a member of
the Pan-Canadian development team, so the ASAP work contributed to the Pan-Canadian
project as much as the other way around.
TEACHERS THE KEY
However valuable this analysis of external resources was, the main part of the
curriculum development came directly from teachers.
During the 199596 school year, teachers from the partner-boards attended over 40
workshops. They discussed ideas for appropriate curriculum for each grade, synthesized and
reported, and discussed again.
After a year of these deliberations, a draft document was produced in September 1996
for a further full years review both by the teachers and by other interested
organizations. At this stage, for example, the technology components of the curriculum
were significantly strengthened by the work of a specially created Technology Advisory
Group and the environmental aspects were reviewed by the Ontario Learning for
Sustainability Partnership. Finally, the York Forum on School Science in May of 1997
brought together a wide variety of stakeholders, from students and parents to teachers and
even members of the "quality education" movement, to advise on the directions we
It is this unique and heavy involvement of teachers at every stage that sustains our
confidence in the capacity of all students and teachers to meet the expectations of this
Finally, in September 1997, the completely rewritten curriculum was delivered to the
ministry, which had joined the project in March 1997, for review, editing and translation.
A number of changes were made at this stage. Some were improvements, although a number of
compromises were also made, reflecting the essentially political character that curriculum
development always has. Nonetheless, we as authors of the original document
believe that the integrity of what is truly a teachers curriculum has been
REINFORCES BASIC PRINCIPLES
The new curriculum has much in common with what many teachers are already teaching and
reinforces and builds on many of the basic principles of good pedagogy. The curriculum
does not call on teachers to "un-learn" what they have been doing already.
For example, the concept of "expectations" is essentially the same as that of
the "outcomes" introduced in the Common Curriculum. The focus still remains
results-based and assessment still focuses on evidence of student achievement of the
The focus on the environment is still very much a part of the new curriculum, as is the
need to integrate science and technology with mathematics, language and other curriculum
areas. Even the technology sections, which may appear to be very new, build on the sorts
of activity found in many primary classrooms, such as designing and building with Lego.
However, the new curriculum is grade-by-grade specific rather than by grade grouping,
which is what many teachers were asking for. There is also much that is new. In
particular, four aspects call for a significant new focus for professional development.
The first three relate to the three goals of the curriculum the heart of the new
document and the fourth concerns assessment, which is gaining importance both
provincially and for teaching and learning in the classroom.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Many teachers are finding the science and technology content knowledge that is called
for the most intimidating aspect of the new curriculum. While much of this is new, it also
draws heavily on what many teachers have taught in the past.
There is already expertise among teachers that has often not been shared. One of the
easiest ways to get started on professional development in this area is to increase the
sharing of knowledge among teachers in a school or family of schools. Elementary schools
can also draw on the subject matter knowledge of teachers in the secondary panel.
We recommend that teachers start by implementing the content areas they are most
familiar with, while they learn about the newer areas for introduction later in the
INQUIRY AND DESIGN
It is critical that science and technology be taught in a way that combines
understanding of the concepts and the development of the skills of scientific inquiry and
technological design. Science and technology are essentially subjects that emphasize
process, as well as content, and teachers need to enjoy the experience of investigations
and explorations with their students.
The beauty of this approach is that teachers are not setting themselves up as the
experts but as learners along with the students, as both seek to find reasonable answers
to authentic problems. Inquiry and design-based learning also provides many opportunities
for integrating essential skills from language and mathematics into science and
THE WORLD BEYOND THE SCHOOL
The third goal of the science and technology curriculum relating science and
technology to the world beyond the school presents the most exciting challenge and
encourages teachers to be creative. It is based on the idea that science and technology
exist in the world around us in many forms and that students should learn to relate what
they learn inside the classroom to the world outside.
This can be taught in many ways, from bringing newspaper and magazine articles into the
classroom to drawing on the experiences of students, their families and members of the
community, to assigning problems for family investigations at home and designing tools and
structures to meet real needs. Again, this should be integrated with the teaching of
concepts rather than be treated as an add-on.
When a teacher begins a lesson with a real-world problem and then proceeds to
investigate it or find a solution for it in class, students have a real answer to their
perennial question, "Why am I learning this stuff?"
ASSESSING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
The key to successful achievement of the expectations is in assessment that truly
matches the goals of the curriculum. Performance assessment where students
demonstrate what they know through completion of authentic tasks or projects can be
a valuable tool for teachers as both learning coaches and achievement reporters.
Research suggests that it is classroom assessment, much more than large-scale
assessment, that contributes directly to improved student achievement, but this is an area
that has been sadly neglected in Ontario over the past few years. ASAP has developed a
collection of classroom-tested assessment resources linked to each goal, grade and strand
of the new curriculum that will be available shortly. However, teachers need to develop
their own skills at designing and using appropriate assessment tasks that truly emphasize
the full range of expectations in the curriculum.
Over the next few years many organizations such as faculties of education,
teachers federations, the Science Teachers Association of Ontario (STAO),
Lets Talk Science a non-profit organization based at the University of
Western Ontario as well as commercial publishers, will be offering special short
courses in specific science and technology program areas. Conferences such as STAO98
in November will also be featuring workshops on many specific content areas.
The key to using these to their best advantage is first, to plan for the long term. We
estimate that full implementation of this curriculum will require three to five years and
second, to develop a systematic plan for all the teachers within a school.
The new Ontario curriculum gives teachers and students a great opportunity to move
forward in science and technology. However, a curriculum is only a start. Resources are
being designed to support the implementation of the program and for the professional
development of teachers. The ministry, school boards and schools must now show the
leadership required to ensure that curriculum development becomes a real opportunity for
renewal of science and technology education.
Teachers must see the new curriculum as an opportunity both for personal growth and for
their students to excel. And parents and the community need to accept their own
responsibility to support the schools in meeting the challenge of change.
Graham Orpwood is a professor of science education at York Universitys
faculty of education and director of the Assessment of Science and Technology Achievement
Project (ASAP). Marietta Bloch is a teacher with the Toronto District School Board who was
seconded to York from 1995 to 1998 as research associate for ASAP.
The science and technology curriculum is available at the Ministry of Education and
Trainings web site. The address is http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/curricul/scientec/scientec.html