Today I was assigned to proctor a 2 hour final exam for science 10. Several years ago a science department restructured the curriculum for 9th and 10th grades. In the past, the sequence was biology in the 9th and chemistry in the 10th. The change created two years of integrated science covering biology, chemistry and physics.
Enter my proctoring experience. As usual, the last minute cramming was taking place. Several students were having a discussion about mitosis (process of chromosome duplication in preparation for cell division). I was struck by the nature of the conversation. The focus was on how to identify the stages of mitosis but there seemed to be no discussion related to why this process worked or the significance of the process. In fact, the discussion illustrated a lack of understanding about the function of the process.
As the exam started, there were several comments and questions that illustrated many gaps in understanding. Looking at the test, I noticed that it was neatly divided into distinct sections of physics, chemistry and biology. I thought they integrated the curriculum? From what I saw, the curriculum was still fragmented into the individual sciences with little if any connections. There was no central theme or “Big Idea” on the exam. I can understand the puzzled looks on the student’s faces. A, B, and C were certainly missing from this curriculum.