In Australia we are at a crossroads in science education. We have come from a long history of adopting international curricula, through to blending international and Australian developed materials, to the present which is a thoroughly unique Australian curriculum in science. This paper documents Australia’s journey over the past 200 years, as we prepare for the implementation of our first truly Australian National Curriculum. One of the unique aspects of this curriculum is the emphasis on practical work and inquiry-based learning. This paper identifies seven forms of practical work currently used in Australian schools and the purposes aligned with each form by 138 pre-service and experienced in-service teachers. The paper explores the question ‘What does the impending national curriculum, with its emphasis on practical inquiry mean to the teachers now - are they ready?’ The study suggests that practical work in Australian schools is multifaceted, and the teacher-aligned purposes are dependent not only upon the age of the student, but also on the type of practical work being undertaken. It was found that most teachers are not ready to teach using inquiry-based pedagogy and cite lack of content knowledge, behaviour management, lack of physical resources and availability of classroom space as key issues which will hinder their implementation of the inquiry component of Australia’s pending curriculum in science.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.