How is science affected by Junior Cycle reform?

The new specification explains how science is linked to the central features of learning and teaching outlined in Junior Cycle reform and outlines which statements of learning students will access when they engage with the subject.

The proposed changes to the assessment of science as a result of Junior Cycle reform are as follows:

  • A dual approach to assessment: formative and summative assessment side-by-side throughout Junior Cycle.
  • Two Classroom-Based Assessments (CBA 1: Extended Experimental Investigation (EEI) in Second Year; CBA 2: Science in Society Investigation (SSI) in Third Year.
  • An Assessment task (10%) and a common level exam (90%) in Third Year

Watch the following videos for further explanation of the new course by two of our Catalyst authors:

How does Catalyst cater for the Classroom-Based Assessments?

Catalyst contains everything that students and teachers need to engage with the two CBAs. Catalyst is committed to giving students the opportunity to become confident investigators and researchers. Students are given titles and prompts for designing, planning and conducting their own Scientific Investigations and Science in Society tasks. This approach allows students to develop as investigators through experimentation and research.

With more than 90 suggested Scientific Investigations and over 30 Science in Society research tasks, Catalyst offers teachers and students a huge resource of ideas for the two Junior Cycle Science Classroom-Based Assessments.

Why does Catalyst provide students with learning intentions rather than learning outcomes?
Catalyst has been developed in line with the learning outcomes in the Science Specification. However, learning outcomes are intended to inform teachers about the understanding, skills and values students should be able to demonstrate at the end of a period of learning. As a result, they have been unpacked into student-friendly learning intentions at the start of every topic spread in Catalyst.

For subject department and classroom planning, teachers need to be informed by and plan with the learning outcomes. To this end, the Catalyst Teacher’s Resource Book includes a chapter on planning and a detailed breakdown of which learning outcomes from the specification are linked to every topic spread in Catalyst.

The Catalyst Teacher Edition ebook features the learning outcomes relevant to every topic.

Watch the video to see a learning outcome being unpacked into student-friendly learning intentions

Why does Catalyst come with a Portfolio?

The Catalyst portfolio is not a prescribed lab notebook in which students copy all the information from one page to the next. It is a record for the student and the teacher, which allows both to see where the student is in their learning journey. It gives students the opportunity to document their development as investigators and to reflect on their learning and skill development.

The portfolio includes space for students to ‘traffic light’ their learning for every topic. This is part of the ongoing assessment of student learning, which is integral as they develop scientific understanding, skills and values.

If students are to review their investigative and thinking skills as required by Nature of Science learning outcome 5, it will be useful for them to have a record of their experiments and research. The portfolio also exists as an excellent resource for preparation of the Classroom-Based Assessments.

Watch the video for more information about how the Catalyst Portfolio will support students on their learning journey

How flexible is the new course?

There is a certain degree of flexibility for teachers and students to pursue avenues of interest as they engage with the learning outcomes of the Science Specification. Catalyst includes a diverse range of topics that will contribute to a rich experience of the learning outcomes. For example, waves is not a specified topic in the learning outcomes, but an understanding of space travel (Earth and Space learning outcome 8) will be enhanced by an appreciation of waves and radio telescopes.

A comprehensive rationale for how every topic included in the textbook links to the learning outcomes is provided in the Teacher’s Resource Book, as well as suggested extensions to the learning in the textbook.

Watch the video to see a typical class using Catalyst for a idea of how the book can be used

How should the Nature of Science strand be taught?

The Nature of Science learning outcomes are realised through the content and activities of the contextual strands (Biological World, Chemical World, Physical World and Earth and Space). Nature of Science threads through the entire course and must be foregrounded in the teaching and learning that happens in every lesson. Keeping the Nature of Science central in textbooks was identified as a potential challenge during the consultation on Junior Cycle Science (NCCA, 2014, p. 36)

Every page of the Catalyst textbook offers students an opportunity to engage with Nature of Science in the form of literacy and numeracy tasks, investigations, Think Big questions and Big Challenges. The Nature of Science focus in each topic is clearly explained in the Catalyst Teacher’s Resource Book.

At the end of every chapter in Catalyst, there is a Working as a Scientist task. These tasks offer insight to an aspect of scientific work that is linked to the theme of the chapter and fulfil learning outcomes within an element of the Nature of Science strand (e.g. Communicating in Science).

Watch the video for more information about how Catalyst is themed

Is the Catalyst ebook a pdf?

It is much more. The student ebook allows students to click on key words to see definitions. Investigation videos, animations and quizzes are embedded throughout to bring learning to life.

Catalyst also comes with a Teacher Edition ebook that includes everything you need to plan, approach and teach a Junior Cycle Science class, all at the touch of a button: learning outcomes for each topic, solutions to activities and questions, investigation and research methodologies and key skills.

Watch the video for more information about the features of the student and teacher Catalyst ebooks

How does Catalyst deal with the new Earth and Space strand?

As required, Catalyst gives parity of esteem to all strands of the Science Specification. Earth and Space is presented across six chapters: Space, Earth, The Interaction Between Earth and Space, Sources of Energy, A Sustainable World and Space Travel. Earth and Space learning outcomes are clearly explained, with rationale, in the Teacher’s Resource Book.

How does Catalyst integrate the Key Skills of Junior Cycle?

Key skills are an important part of Junior Cycle reform. The acquirement of key skills does not simply take place in the course of routine classroom activities. Key skills should be a focus in the classroom and a priority for the teacher.

The eight key skills for Junior Cycle are written in student-friendly language and should be shared in the science classroom. Students should be aware that they are developing skills that will help them grow as scientists.

Catalyst centralises the development of key skills through the study of science. The Catalyst Teacher Edition ebook features a Key Skills button beside every activity in the textbook. This offers examples of the key skills students can engage with in the course of each activity.

The portfolio asks students to identify which key skills they have developed at the end of each investigation, research project and task.

The Teacher’s ICT Handbook is organised into chapters based on the eight key skills and demonstrates how teachers and students can use digital technology to enhance each skill.

Watch the video for more information about how Catalyst helps develop key skills in Junior Cycle Science

Are there any posters for my classroom?

When you commit to the Catalyst package, you will receive a gift of twenty engaging and informative posters for your lab. These posters deal with essential aspects of each of the strands of the Science Specification, including the Nature of Science. A key skills poster for the lab offers a useful reference for integrating key skills into lessons.