Why Do We Teach Science? The Skills Argument

In the last two posts, the economic and democratic arguments have been discussed, respectively.  We now turn to a third argument, the “skills argument.” According to R. Stephen Turner, the “skills argument” is second to the economic argument as the reason we teach science.

According to Turner, the skills argument provides the rationale that the study of science results in the development of certain “transferable skills” that are important to an informed citizenry.  For science teachers the skills argument is associated with pedagogies that include hands-on activities, involve students in analyzing and interpreting data, and also in designing and conducting open-ended investigations.  … Read more

Linking Research and Practice in Science Teaching

For many years I was fortunate to conduct seminars for the Bureau of Research in Education (BER), an organization that provides staff development and training resources for educators in North America.  One of the principles that provided the framework for the seminars that I did, and others that the BER offers is the link between research and practice.  That is to say, the seminars needed to show how current research in science education could be used to improve science teaching and student learning.  … Read more

Back to Basics: A False Solution to Mathematics and Science Test Scores

There was an article today in the New York Times entitled As Math Scores Lag, a New Push for the Basics. The article is about “rethinking” the teaching of mathematics, which has been prompted by students’, lagging test scores on international tests. The blame is put squarely on the “new math” which some label as “fuzzy math.” Another words, any reform that took place in mathematics MUST HAVE BEEN implemented nation-wide, and as a result students don’t know how to do long division, and other arithmetic skills.… Read more

Learning to Learn

I’ve been recently reading about early American history, especially the revolutionary period, and have especially appreciated authors including Joseph J. Ellis (The Founding Brothers, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, and His Excellency George Washington), and David McCullough (John Adams and 1776). One of the things that struck me was how dependent the founding brothers (fathers) were on books to learn new things. I know this is not a new idea, but in light of our challenge in schools in general, and science education specifically, one wonders how to instill the love of learning in our students.… Read more

Inquiry: Learning to Open the Mind

One of my favorite columns appears in Newsweek Magazine entitled The Last Word by Anna Quindlen. In a recent piece (May 30, 2005), “Life of the Closed Mind,” Qundlen is concerned that in recent years (after 9/11), America has become a country that sets its young people the terrible example of closed minds. What is needed, according to Quindlen, is to create more uncomfortable experiences in schools and colleges, such as “exploring new ideas, encountering people with different values, learning a new discipline’s way of thinking and having someone point out a flaw in one’s argument.” In teaching, the way to help people develop an open mind is through intellectual inquiry.… Read more