Reform students more proficient in science and technology

The students of the reform obtain poorer results on national and international tests in science and technology, but are however more competent, according to Patrice Potvin, professor-researcher in science didactics at UQAM.

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Pupils in the reform score lower on national and international tests in science and technology, but are nevertheless more proficient, according to Patrice Potvin, professor-researcher in science education at UQAM.


“The national and international tests are the result of a consensus between the states and the provinces which pass them. The education systems which are the most delinquent or the most innovative will necessarily identify targets which deviate from optimal performance on these tests. The drop in the results of Quebec students is therefore not surprising. In fact, I expected it to be more drastic, ”notes Mr. Potvin.

By virtue of its “originality”, the reform trains different young people. "Our study shows that Quebec students have not improved, they have not regressed, they have changed," he notes. They are a little less good at answering questions, but they can solve some science and technology problems better. "

This observation comes from the comparison of the results of graduates of 2009 (before the reform) and 2011 (first cohort of the reform) to the “cooking game”. As part of this computer game, the young people had to compose the “ideal soup to satisfy the sensitive palate of the taster”. The young people therefore had to experiment with different quantities of ingredients, then analyze the results and repeat the experiment in order to obtain the best (virtual!) Soup possible. “We decided not to associate the task with a particular discipline because with the reform, teachers have some leeway in the time they allocate to different disciplines. The idea is to develop skills and the knowledge supports those skills. Choosing a discipline could have led to inequities from one environment to another, ”explains the researcher.

To be continued…

In 2009, 468 volunteer students from three public and one private secondary schools agreed to take the test. In 2011, 382 young people from the same schools did so. All four establishments were fairly standard. The difference in skills of the two groups at the end of the test is significant. Mr Potvin would like to take the test again in 2013 to determine whether greater teacher ownership of the reform will result in even greater student competence. However, he is concerned that there is some confusion that currently reigns. “The students tested in 2011 were trained by teachers who believed that the Department of Education's end-of-year tests would be skills tests. But we see that the exams do not really conform to the program, these are questions that look a lot like international tests, says Potvin. So I have the impression that teachers could give up making efforts in the direction of competence development. So I am not sure that we will continue to see an increase. "

More interest

In addition, the young people of 2009 and 2011 were also invited, at the end of the experience, to fill out a questionnaire. It emerged that the young people of the reform had a more favorable attitude towards science and technology, a greater interest in careers in these fields and a better perception as to the usefulness of the school to understand "the real one." life ".


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About the Author

Nathalie Côté
Nathalie Cote
Nathalie is a journalist. His favorite themes are family, education, health, consumption, the environment and social phenomena. She contributes in particular to the newspaper La Presse.

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