Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Science education

For those of you that don't know, I'm a 2nd year TFA corp member. I have my issues with the organization like anyone else who likes the idea of public education, but its an organization I'm glad I joined. I'm using my position in the organization to influence other teachers and their pedagogy. I recently got an email asking about what science education should be, and how to better train corp members to teach science. I included the following as an incomplete list of the premises I think we need to agree upon before deciding how to teach. What additions to this? What subtractions? What changes? Thanks for your feedback.

Premise 1: The scientific method is THE 21st century skill (along with the engineering process), each student needs to be able to discover for themselves. To prepare our students for the world they need to learn how to think (no content will prepare them), not just know.

Premise 2: Science content is by nature fleeting and most content is unnecessary to teach (for example, Al Gore speaks of a student in his elementary school class that was ridiculed for thinking Africa and South America fit together because that wasn't the accepted theory at the time. I only wish I knew what lies I was telling my students because its what we think now).

Premise 3: The only skills that matter are 1) being able to learn new information through experimentation and 2) be able to learn new information through research (reading, watching, talking, etc.). If we can teach our students how to discover information and how to learn on their own we would have done our jobs. Now of course to research and experiment takes a whole lot of other skills, we just need to ensure that we are teaching those smaller skills so that they can learn the larger skills.

Premise 4: My goal is to create citizens and not workers. I'm not satisfied with students that are docile, attentive, competent and quiet, if they aren't also interested. I'm as interested in if my students vote, are active in their community, volunteer, explore, protest, communicate, and try to discovery as I am in their ability to read the periodic table.