In a recently published book, Science Education from People to People, (Kindle edition here) the contributing authors have created a book that builds up perspectives on science, scientific literacy, and science education “grounded in the lives of real people and that are oriented toward being for real people (rather than disembodied minds.)”
In this book, the authors want “science education to be for people rather than about how knowledge gets into the heads of people–be it by means of construction, transfer, or internalization.
In my own thinking, this book contributes to our understanding of a humanistic science education. In the introduction to the book, the editor of the volume, Wolf-Michael Roth, many educators are no longer concerned about the so-called pipeline problem (throughput or filling the pipleline with scientists & engineers), but
want a science education that has a lot to say about the “tremendous experiences” and competence everyday people (including students) have and how science education could assist everyday, ordinary, and just plain folk in and with the problematic situations they face in their ongoing lives.
The educators who contributed to this book are concerned with science education and social justice, and ask how science can be made to be relevant to students, and to members of society, more generally.
The book provides research to support many of the notions described in Glen Aikenhead’s book, Science Education for Everyday Life, and the humanistic perspectives espoused in this weblog. One of the themes that comes through in Roth’s new book is science education should be for the people. The lives of students should be a starting point for teaching, and it opposes the general tendancy of doing science education as if the science could be imposed from the outside. To these science educators, science will be seen relevant by students once they see and understand how their own possbilities of acting and being in the world expand.
In the chart below, you will find a contrast between two paradigms for the way in which curriculum is organized. The notion of education about (the environment—substitute biology, physics, science) is the way in which we teach science today. The focus is on the content of science, and strive to organize curriculum around the “abouts.”
An alternative way to do this is to teach for (the environment, e.g. biology, physics, science), and in this approach science teaching is seen in its relation for people. I think it supports the ideas in the Roth book.
|Education about the Environment||Education for the Environment|
|• Reproductive curriculum• Predominately an emphasis on the sciences
• Employment of “traditional” teaching methods (lecture, recall, worksheets)
• Emphasis on cognitive skills
• Operates within the existing hierarchical, subject specific school organization
|• Reconstructive curriculum• Predominately an emphasis on social science
• Advocation of student-centered approach with emphasis on inquiry and problem solving.
• Emphasis on awareness, values, and attitudes as well as skills and knowledge. Advocation of practical action in the environment.
• Interdisciplinary approach
Figure 1. This chart is based on Michel, 1996. Environmental education: A study of how it is influenced and informed by the concepts of environmentalism. Doctoral Dissertation. La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
The ideas outlined in Roth’s book are challenging, yet point us toward a science education that is humanistic, and that is for people rather than strictly for science’s sake. You can link here to see the table of contents of the book, and peruse the content of the research. The ideas in this work ought to be central to our thinking about 21st century science education. What do you think?