2. TESSA Teaching Lower Secondary Science

The TESSA teaching lower secondary science materials were developed by a team of teacher educators drawn from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Zambia, co-ordinated by The Open University, UK.

Initially, the group agreed a description of an effective secondary science teacher (Appendix 1). From this description, five pedagogical themes were identified covering the attributes, skills, knowledge and attitudes an effective science teacher needs to develop. These

The five pedagogical themes are:

  • probing understanding
  • making science practical
  • making science relevant and real
  • creativity and problem solving
  • dealing with challenging ideas in science

One science topic was chosen for each theme from physics, chemistry and biology giving a total of 15 units of work. The units do not attempt to cover the whole of the curriculum, but once teachers start to use the units and try out the pedagogic themes, they will begin to adapt the activities for other parts of the curriculum.

Table 1: TESSA Teaching Lower Secondary Science Units

ThemeBiology contextChemistry contextPhysics context
Probing children’s understanding / learningB1: Classification and adaptationC1: Elements, compounds and mixturesP1: Properties of matter
Making science practicalB2: TransportC2: Acids, bases, saltsP2: Measurement
Science lived (relevant and real)B3: RespirationC3: CombustionP3: Pressure
Problem solving – creativity – innovation in scienceB4: NutritionC4: Atomic structures, chemical families and the periodic tableP4: Forces
Dealing with challenging ideas in scienceB5: CellsC5: States of matterP5: Electricity and magnetism

The diagram below shows the thinking behind the units. By using the units, teachers will learn how to improve their practice, which will result in improved student outcomes.

In all of the units, the emphasis is on teacher learning. One of the findings from the evaluation report is that using the TESSA primary units has created a demand for professional development amongst teachers. Teachers who have been teaching for many years are finding that by using the TESSA primary units, their students are more engaged, and teaching has become more enjoyable. The 15 units listed in Table 1 are the first ones specifically targeting secondary school teachers.

1 Introduction to TESSA

3. A TESSA Teaching Lower Secondary Science Unit