Humanistic Science

Science Learning Using Context and Student's Lived Experiences

Science education needs to humanize the context of learning, and it should begin with a recognition of the validity of student culture, and indeed other subcultures that exist within our school environment.  A humanistic science education is called for in the way that is described by Aikenhead in his book Science Education for Everyday Life.  A humanistic science tends to be context-based, rather than based on “established science.”  As a context-based approach, student culture, and student ideas would be foremost in the teachers’ approach, and curriculum designed for such a model would tend to be student-centered.

Years ago I began to teach courses at the graduate level on humanistic education and humanistic psychology at Georgia State University.  Working with teachers we integrated these ideas with experiential and inquiry-based science teaching to develop ideas for humanistic science education.  The core beliefs of our view were as follows:

  • Science is a human experience. It involves humans looking out at their world.
  • Science usually involves a cooperatives human effort. The scientist, alone, high in a ivory tower, is an inaccurate view of the scientific role.
  • The basic processes of science, such as discovering, valuing, and exploring, are applicable to many of the human social problems people face, problems that include social change and the improvement of interpersonal relationships.
  • Certain products of science, as transmitted through technology, can be used to alleviate human suffering resulting from poverty, disease, and illiteracy.
  • The essence of humanism, as we see it, is that each human being should be encouraged to utilize her or his full human potential, as well intellectual and social potential.

The Art of Teaching Science, which came many years later in my career was based on humanistic science education that we had developed earlier.  Humanistic science education is intimately entwined with involving students in science-related and context-based questions and issues.  As humanistic science teachers, we are challenged not be neutral politically, and at the same time not to impose our own values.  This has been a real issue for science teachers who supported science-technology-society (S-T-S) and environmental education (EE) approaches to science teaching.

When we engage students with questions and issues that involve environmental, biological, health, and social issues, we must ask the question, why this issue?  Is it important to the teacher?  Or is it an issue that students should deal with?  What will it teach students?  In whose interest is studying this issue?  According to science education researchers such as Wildson L.P. Dos Santos, teaching is directive and political in itself, and teachers who choose to bring S-T-S in the classroom will have to reveal their own views, but at the same time must enable every student to express his or her ideas, and indeed to develop and take action on their own choices.  This is what humanistic science education is all about.

The purpose of this cornerstone landing page is to lead you key ideas that your colleagues in science teaching have developed to humanize science education.  I hope you will be pleasantly surprised..

Humanistic Science Education Cornerstone Articles: A Bakers Dozen

  1. The Humanistic Paradigm as Reform in Science Teaching
  2. Should Science Teaching be Political? A Humanistic Question
  3. The Politics of Humanizing Science Education
  4. Transforming Science Teaching Through Social Activism: Is it a viable goal?
  5. Hip Hop Generation: Humanizing the Urban Classroom
  6. The Coffee House Syndrome: Humanizing the Classroom
  7. Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Enhances Student Achievement
  8. Why Do We Teach Science?: Four Different Points of View
  9. The Race to the Top: A Humanistic Perspective
  10. Paradigm Shifts: Education about, in and for the Environment: Implications for Humanistic Science Education
  11. Engineering as a Way to Humanize Science Teaching
  12. Science Education for People from People
  13. The World Might be Flat: But in Science Class, There are Borders to Cross
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