New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Choosing a Textbook for Junior Cycle Science

Colm O Coileáin, Dublin City University (Ireland)

Yvonne Crotty, Dublin City University (Ireland)


Students who began their lower post-primary education in Ireland in September 2016 are the first cohort of students to study the new Junior Cycle Science curriculum. One of the main emphases of the new curriculum is that the students experience more Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) and have the opportunity to conduct investigations. Research has shown that the curriculum materials available to teachers has an impact on the probability that they will implement IBL in their classrooms. This paper investigates how three topics (solubility and crystal formation, measuring volume and respiration) are addressed by four of the widely-available textbooks in the Irish market: “The Nature of Science”, “Investigating Science”, “Exploring Science”, and “Essential Science”. The paper outlines how the textbooks differ in their likelihood to promote IBL in the classroom based on four aspects: in whether the information is presented as fact or as an investigation to be carried out; the level of detail provided to students in conducting the investigation; whether the student is told how to manipulate results obtained (if any); and whether the conclusions obtained from the experiment are presented in the textbook, or left to the student to determine. It was found that the textbooks varied enormously in their approach to the three topics. In some cases, the information was presented as fact, without any accompanying investigation; in others, detailed instructions were given in how to conduct an experiment, including in one case the conclusions to be drawn were given in the textbook; and others yet provided sparse guidelines but left the detail in conducting the experiment to the student. It was concluded that, by choosing the ‘wrong’ textbook, teachers may reduce the likelihood of true inquiry taking place in their classrooms. 


[1] Department of Education and Skills. “Junior Cycle Science Curriculum Specification”, 2016, [Online] Available from:
153bc83f-9848-49f0-ad870a0d6b9b596c/Specification-for-Jr-Cycle-Science-EV_20160126-(1).pdf [Accessed 18 December 2016]
[2] Department of Education and Science. “Junior Certificate Science Syllabus”, 2008, [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18 December 2016]
[3] National Research Council. “The national science education standards”. Washington, DC: The National Academy Press. 1996.
[4] Smithenry, D.W. “Integrating Guided Inquiry into a Traditional Chemistry Curricular Framework”. International Journal of Science Education, 32:13, 2010, pp. 1689-1714
[5] Blanchard, M.R., Southerland, S.A., Osborne, J.W., Sampson, V.D., Annetta, L.A., and Granger, E.M. “Is inquiry possible in light of accountability?: A quantitative comparison of the relative effectiveness of guided inquiry and verification laboratory instruction.” Science Education 94, 2010, 577–616
[6] Donnelly, D., McGarr, O., and O’Reilly, J. “‘Just Be Quiet and Listen to Exactly What He’s Saying’: Conceptualising power relations in inquiry-oriented classrooms.” International Journal of Science Education, 36(12), 2014, 2029–2054.
[7] Crawford, B.A. “Embracing the essence of inquiry: New roles for science teachers.” Journal of research in science teaching, 37(9), 2000, 916–937.
[8] Anderson, R.D. “Reforming science teaching: What research says about inquiry.” Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(1), 2002, 1-12
[9] Gill, T., Grant, C., Meredith, V. and Odongo, S. “The Nature of Science”. Dublin: Mentor Books, 2016.
[10] Comiskey, S., Kelleher, S. and Kelly, S. “Investigating Science”. Dublin: Gill Education, 2016.
[11] O’Callaghan, M., Doyle, P., Molamphy, O. and Reilly, G. “Exploring Science”.
Dublin: The Educational Company of Ireland. 2016.
[12] Kennedy, D., Lawlor, R., and Finn, S. “Essential Science”. Dublin: Folens. 2016.

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