Effective Science teaching strategies
Traditional science lessons have often begun with teachers presenting students with science vocabulary words and asking them to write the words, find the definitions in a dictionary or the glossary of the textbook, match the words to definitions, or use the words in a sentence. In this model of instruction, words are often presented in isolation and students are tested on the words alone, without application to concepts.
Many of us were “taught” this way, so we remember how little these practices contributed to conceptual development. These traditional strategies stem from the assumption that students absorb the meanings of many science terms simply by writing the words and their definitions. To many English-speaking students science words seem like a new language, and to English language learners, these words are a new language.
The job of science education is to teach students how to use thematic patterns of science to communicate meanings, “talking science” to solve problems in writing or speaking about issues in which science is relevant. The goal of helping students learn to communicate about science is important, but we must also be aware of potentially harmful messages that can be unconsciously communicated to our students. As science educators, we not only teach science but we may communicate a “mystique of science” attitude, promoting the idea that science is authoritative, impersonal and humorless, lacking creativity or values. This communicates a view that scientists are “experts” or “them, ” rather than seeing ourselves as scientists.
Scientific writing and talk often project science as a description of the way the world works rather than as a human social activity that tries to make sense of the world. We instead should help our students learn that science is all around us, influenced by human uncertainties, judgments, values, and interests. It’s important that we emphasize the human side of science. These well-established ideas about the nature of science have a lasting effect on students, so we need to be sensitive about the messages we communicate. Science is creative and science is tentative, which means that scientists recognize that we understand things based on current research. Just think how our understanding of the world has changed as a result of the invention of telescopes or microscopes!