Competency in teaching general studies: Objective tests on scientific and health knowledge and its implications

Chung Wai Kevin LUI, Sing Lai CHAN, Chiao Liang Joseph TSANG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


The Primary General Studies Syllabus consists of four major content areas, namely Healthy Living, Living Environment, Natural World and Science & Technology. When these content areas are examined, discrete and rather independent elements are found in the topics of Science, Health Education and Social Studies, although a high degree of flexibility exists with respect to integration of these elements in teaching different themes of General Studies. The area of Living Environment is heavily social oriented whereas the areas of Natural World and Science & Technology are heavily science oriented. Furthermore, within the area Healthy Living, there is a high proportion of biology and health-related content knowledge associated with the topics covered. Given the significance of science and health components in the General Studies syllabus, a study has been initiated by our group of HKIEd Science Department staff to investigate the teaching competency of primary teacher trainees in science and health education components of General Studies. The study is a continuous one and is divided into several stages. In the initial stage of the project, a teaching competency self-evaluation questionnaire was designed and administered to representative groups of full-time and part-time HKIED teacher trainees to seek their self-evaluation feedback on their competency to teach science and health components of the General studies curriculum (Lui, Chan & Tsang, 1996). The competency questionnaire was composed of 3 major parts: a) Knowledge, b) Pedagogy, and c) degree of mastering specific General Studies science and health education topics (knowledge/ pedagogy). The teacher trainees felt that they needed to be better equipped with science and health knowledge for the teaching of science and health aspects of the General Studies curriculum. Furthermore, they felt there was not enough treatment of pedagogy as well as pedagogical content knowledge in science and health related components in HKIEd primary curriculum. In the second stage of the study, a pilot study has been conducted to investigate the degree of understanding of basic science and health knowledge by the HKIED teacher trainees. A test instrument containing thirty questions was constructed. Before the design of the instrument, the General Studies syllabus and teaching materials were closely scrutinised. The test questions are in general within the scope of the science and health education topics covered in the General Studies syllabus. In addition, the questions are deliberately adjusted to a minimum level required for the teaching of the subject. A bank of more than 60 questions in different areas of science and health education was set up. After consultation with a number of HKIED science lecturers familiar with the General Studies Curriculum, the total number of questions was trimmed down to 30 to make it more practical for the test to be conducted in a limited time span. The questions selected belonged to both science and health education fields. For science, areas such as astronomy, Biology, Chemistry and physics were covered. For health education, questions relating to the areas of diseases, nutrition, smoking, drugs, and body functions were asked. All these questions are related to the science and health education content materials covered in the General Studies. It is intended that the questions will be refined or modified after the pilot study. However, it is also hoped that the results will provide some valuable initial information regarding student trainees' level of science and health education background knowledge essential for the teaching of General Studies. The target groups of the pilot study are: (1) 3PC2 trainees who are second year group of three-year Primary Full-time Course and (2) 2IP1 trainees who are first year group of the In-service Primary Part-time Course. The 3PC2 trainees had already taken a compulsory curriculum module on General Studies and a compulsory academic studies module on general science which covers some basic areas of science including astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology. However, they had not taken any health education module. The 2IP1 part-time teacher trainees are teaching in Hong Kong primary schools and they came from a variety of backgrounds. They have taken a General Studies module and will take a science module in their second year of study. This module will have limited coverage of health education related to human biology in addition to general science topics and astronomy. It is of interest to know their standard in science and health education prior to their taking the compulsory module in the second year. The results of the pilot study indicate clearly that both Full-time and Part-time students need to improve both their scientific and health knowledge. In 10 out of the 30 questions, less than half of the students gave the correct answer. Students were doing especially poorly in astronomy, physics and health education questions. The results of both the self-evaluation competency questionnaire and the objective test on scientific and health knowledge indicate that the HKIEd teacher trainees need to be better prepared to teach the science and health components of the General Studies curriculum. The pilot objective test items will be modified and then administered to a larger population for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1997


Lui, C. W. K., Chan, S. L., & Tsang, J. (1997, November). Competency in teaching general studies: Objective tests on scientific and health knowledge and its implications. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association (HKERA) 14th Annual Conference: Compulsory Education and Beyond, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China.


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