Science Teaching 3.0: A New Word Sign for Innovative Teaching

In the last post, I introduced the notion that we can look at science teaching, globalization, the Earth, and the World Wide Web using a three-point scale, e.g. 1.0, 2.0, 3.0.

Word-Signs: Science Teaching 3.0; Globalization 3.0; Earth 3.0; Web 3.0

Word-Signs: Science Teaching 3.0; Globalization 3.0; Earth 3.0; Web 3.0

In particular, I introduced the use of the word-sign Science Teaching 3.0 as a way of calling attention to the humanistic science paradigm (click here to read blog entries) that I have emphasized in my own teaching, and in this blog, and is documented in the literature of science education. In one of these posts I wrote this about the humanistic science perspective:

A humanistic science perspective tends to be context-based or science-technology-society based. Instead of a science concept being the starting point for learning, the humanistic science teacher starts with contexts and applications of science. Science concepts are explored within these contexts. Humanistic science teaching trives in STS programs, environmental science projects, gender projects, and culturally focused investigations. These experiences shed light on science-related social content for students, and often focus on the affective outcomes of learning, how students feel about science, how it impacts their lives, and what they can do to solve science-related social issues. Many teachers know from experience that projects like these help students see themsleves as citizen-scientists, using social and scientific processes to solve real problems.

The three categories of science teaching that I have identified (Science Teaching 1.0 or didactic teaching; Science Teaching 2.0 or inquiry teaching; and Science Teaching 3.0 or humanistic science teaching) do not represent a progression, or reflect the development of science teaching. Didactic teaching, inquiry teaching, and humanistic science teaching have co-existed for more than a century of science teaching. Didactic teaching represents a teacher-centered approach, and for many teachers is the most common way in which instruction is delivered to students. This approach supports a pipeline ideology, and the content of our courses is representative of the knowledge base or product of science. Didactic teaching can be interactive, and thoughtful teachers use a facilitative dialogue to engage students in the acquisition of science content. This content is normally articulated in the state’s , and the NRC’s National Science Education Standards.

Inquiry (science teaching 2.0) and humanistic science (science teaching 3.0) are student-centered approaches to teaching, although it is possible to differentiate inquiry oriented teaching from humanistic teaching by examining the contexts and starting points for learning. Many inquiry approaches to teaching use science concepts as starting points for investigation, whereas humanistic science approaches use applications and contexts as starting points.

Inquiry and humanistic science teaching offer a different set of goals for science teaching, and regard hands-on and minds-on philosophies as crucial in helping students achieve these goals. Inquiry goals acknowledge the importance of helping students learn how to “do” science by helping students learn to employ many of the methods that scientists use to solve problems. Humanistic goals recognize the value of science for everyday life, and for helping students develop positive attitudes toward learning, and science.

How does this play out in practice?

There was an interesting article in Education Week about Shira Blum, a fifth grade science teacher at the Academy for a the Americas, a Detroit public school. The article describes how Ms. Blum is using BioKIDS, an inquiry-oriented science program with her students. BioKIDS (Kids’ Inquiry of Diverse Species) was developed at the University of Michigan and is a grades 4 – 8 science program fostering scientific inquiry. Shura Blum’s students investigate the biology of environments surrounding the school in urban Detroit. The BioKIDS/DeepThink research group is involved in a research project to improve the learning of science in high-poverty, urban elementary and middle school classrooms—and their research work is particularly focused on the Detroit Public Schools.

BioKIDS is an outstanding example of a student-centered science curriculum. Students are actively involved by going outside exploring and making observations of living things. Students design experiments, and the project has designed a website that students use to extend their studies. According to Nancy Butler Songer, the Director of the BioKIDS project, the nature of the learning that takes place in the classroom is not so much dependent upon the “written” curriculum materials, but by how teachers use the materials in the context of diverse classrooms. In this innovative program, students become inquirers of their own environment under the guidance of their teachers, and using a constructivist program learn about biodiversity, habitats in their own schoolyard, microhabitats, and how to use their own data to make conclusions (click here for a research paper on BioKIDS by Songer).

In the context of this large urban school district (22 Detroit schools are involved), the project is well received by students, teachers, and administrators. In fact, students that participate in the project have done well on Michigan’s achievement tests.

Clearly, BioKIDS is representative of a new generation of inquiry science projects that are based on social constructivism and the learning cycle. Using concepts drawn from learning cycle research, BioKIDS curriculum is designed to emphasize and measure these important aspects of inquiry (see Songer):

  • The formulation of scientific explanations from evidence
  • The analysis of various types of scientific data (charts, graphs, maps)
  • The building of hypotheses and predictions (based on relevant evidence)

Another aspect of the BioKIDS project that is important is how it uses digital and Internet resources to help students “do” science. Using two tools, CyberTracker (used for field data collection) and Animal Diversity Web (online dataabase of animal natural history), the project enables student to complete richers investigations by these icon driven tools.

The Education Week article describes how several teachers are using the BioKIDS project with their students in Detroit. I think you will find it valuable to not only read the article, but visit the BioKIDS website.

Do you think this is an example of Science Teaching 2.0 or Science Teaching 3.0?

Do we hamper the real contributions of programs like BioKIDS by assessing their value in terms of how well students do on standardized tests?

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University.