Many teachers feel they are “doing” science when they teach what is in textbooks, laboratory manuals, and their lectures. Such a focus on science teaching has existed for decades. Teachers, school administrators, students, as well as parents, have generally accepted it as “doing” science. But, expecting students to remember and recite what they have read or been told is not “doing” science.
There are specific examples commonly used to indicate such “doing” of science. Strangely, however, they all have NOTHING to do with science itself. Examples used to indicate this teaching include:
- Treating all students alike and not as individuals.
- Focusing only on information included in textbooks, laboratory manuals, teacher lectures, or other assigned reading materials.
- Using chalkboards to indicate what students need to remember.
- Asking students to repeat what they have been assigned to study.
- Focusing too much on “grading” and “testing” regarding concepts.
- Strictly maintaining teacher authority in the classroom.
- Encouraging competition among students to indicate their level of learning.
- Closely following lesson plans with little or no input from students.
- Repeating information included in books called “science.”
- Rarely helping students to identify and use science regarding their own educational interests.
- Equating science to concepts from the various science disciplines.
- No encouragement with preparation for future science careers.
- Ignoring problems that are local, current, and/or personal.
Science teaching needs to change if we want students to experience the real “doing” of science. Students need to be involved in solving personal, current, and societal problems by asking questions that can substantiate possible answers. These actions are examples of “doing” science!
It should be remembered that science is “the human exploration of the natural world, seeking explanations of objects and events encountered, and providing evidence to support the explanations proposed.”
How can we get the old traditional ways of science teaching to change? Is STEM the answer? Will it take 70+ years for real changes to occur generally?
Or will it mean playing The Game of Science Education, as edited by Jeffrey Weld, executive director of the governor’s STEM council in Iowa, which uses the game metaphor to educate teachers about science teaching.
Robert E. Yager
Professor of Science Education
University of Iowa