Selected Essays On Education: Call And Response: When One Teaches, Two Learn

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In point of fact, it is more than just a dream. My real classroom sometimes looks like this, at least occasionally. I learned when I began teaching that lessons in which students are actively involved in discussion, debate and enquiry tend to be more enjoyable and memorable both for the student and the teacher, therefore I try wherever possible to run things this way. But the sad fact is that the vast majority of lessons are determined by a different goal. For most teachers and students, the classroom experience is shaped, down to the last detail, by the requirement to prepare for examinations.

Far from being open spaces for free enquiry, the classroom of today resembles a military training ground, where students are drilled to produce perfect answers to potential examination questions. In one survey of the attitudes of university staff, this mentality was discussed in withering terms.

In Not for Profit , Martha Nussbaum puts it this way:. Ask the students themselves and they concur. When the philosopher Karl Popper, writing in Unended Quest , dreamed of his ideal school, he imagined the very opposite, namely a place where learning takes the form of free, intrinsically interesting enquiry, rather than mere exam preparation:. I think that school becomes more enjoyable and more effective when, instead of simply teaching students to pass examinations, they teach students to think for themselves.

To understand how this can be achieved, we need to remember something that Socrates drew our attention to long ago, but which in our eagerness to turn schools into engines of economic productivity we have forgotten, namely that education is a philosophical process.

Science education

It begins with questioning, proceeds by enquiry, and moves in the direction of deeper understanding. The journey of enquiry is powered by critical reflection, discussion and debate. It leads not to final answers but to a greater appreciation of the limits of our knowledge, both of the world around us and of our own mysterious selves. He tried to goad his fellow Athenians into beginning to think for themselves by questioning them so as to expose their limited understanding of ideas that were central to their lives, such as justice or courage.

Undertaken in a constructive spirit, Socratic questioning becomes the starting point for a process of enquiry as we seek to expand our understanding. It can also engender humility and openness to the ideas of others. They need to see themselves not simply as dispensers of the knowledge necessary for success in the world of work but as communities of philosophical reflection, spaces where students can explore the meaning of what they learn, and think for themselves about what it means to live well.

Understood in these terms, philosophical education is not a discrete subject but an approach to learning that finds application at all points of the curriculum. Philosophical education takes the form of shared enquiry, a process in which the teacher guides the class towards understanding through dialogue, not monologue. The template for such enquiry is provided by Socrates, who once demonstrated that he could, by a process of questioning, teach geometry to a slave-boy who had not been taught any mathematics previously.

When teachers adopt the role of Socratic mentors, their questioning of students stimulates them to think for themselves about the problem at hand, rather than passively absorbing information. The results of teaching in this way can be dramatic and surprising. I once spent a year teaching year-olds an optional philosophy class. There was no formal syllabus and no examination.

We simply talked about some interesting philosophical questions, such as how language gets its meaning and whether we know anything at all. The methodology was Socratic. We discussed the questions without coming to any settled conclusions. The discussions were relaxed, fun and informal; so much so that I subsequently found myself wondering how much had genuinely been learned.

It is something he has continued to do in his career with striking results, as his TED talk on democratic architecture illustrates. O f course, there is more to learning than classroom conversation, exciting and stimulating though this might be.


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Good thinking needs to be informed. How do you learn anything at all? Aristotle said we learn by doing. We learn to swim by trying to swim; we learn to play the flute by trying to play it. Learning is supervised trying. We can apply this to the next question: how can someone be taught to think? Students learn to think by thinking, under the watchful eye of a Socratic mentor who gives guidance on how to improve their thinking processes. It is through Socratic mentoring within a community of enquiry, then, that the process of forming independent thinkers begins.

But growth and development take time, and time for deeper thinking is often in short supply if all that happens in the classroom is that one unit of study succeeds another in rapid succession. A better context for nurturing young minds is provided by project work. Carrying out a project is a process — not a single task — and it takes place over weeks, even months.

Thus, valuable dispositions can develop, not least planning, persistence, resilience, learning from mistakes, creative improvisation and ongoing critical reflection. This shows the value of project work within a model of education that aims to develop the capacity for independent thinking. Teaching students to think for themselves is a laudable goal. But critics of this idea note that, left to themselves, the majority struggle to find the way ahead. Before students can reason independently, the argument runs, they need a great deal of background knowledge.

But advocates of education as a process of equipping the young to think for themselves ought to acknowledge the importance of imparting skills and information before meaningful enquiry can proceed. Yes and no. On the other hand, we certainly want people to learn to drive independently; instructors ought to do themselves out of a job.

Instead, this capacity is explicitly developed through teaching. It is a mildly paradoxical thought, but still true: students need to be taught to be independent. In the example with which we began, the teacher was guiding the discussion: introducing central arguments at key points, highlighting the use of reason, summarising and critiquing arguments, introducing terminology, and explaining important concepts. A great deal of guidance was provided, albeit not by a teacher at the front of the class lecturing students on how to think.

To foster the capacity of students to think for themselves it is crucial for the teacher and students to collaborate in managing a phased transition of responsibility for learning. They are being taught to think for themselves. As the process unfolds, independence grows. At this point, teachers might well ask about those all-important examinations. No, time spent teaching students to think is time well spent, and the benefits will be felt across the entire field of learning.

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Science education has been strongly influenced by constructivist thinking. Constructivism emphasises the active role of the learner, and the significance of current knowledge and understanding in mediating learning, and the importance of teaching that provides an optimal level of guidance to learners. Along with John Dewey , Jerome Bruner , and many others, Arthur Koestler [19] offers a critique of contemporary science education and proposes its replacement with the guided-discovery approach:.

To derive pleasure from the art of discovery, as from the other arts, the consumer—in this case the student—must be made to re-live, to some extent, the creative process. In other words, he must be induced, with proper aid and guidance, to make some of the fundamental discoveries of science by himself, to experience in his own mind some of those flashes of insight which have lightened its path.

The traditional method of confronting the student not with the problem but with the finished solution, means depriving him of all excitement, [shutting] off the creative impulse, [reducing] the adventure of mankind to a dusty heap of theorems. Specific hands-on illustrations of this approach are available. The practice of science education has been increasingly informed by research into science teaching and learning. Research in science education relies on a wide variety of methodologies, borrowed from many branches of science and engineering such as computer science, cognitive science, cognitive psychology and anthropology.

Science education research aims to define or characterize what constitutes learning in science and how it is brought about. John D. Bransford , et al. Educational technologies are being refined to meet the specific needs of science teachers. One research study examining how cellphones are being used in post-secondary science teaching settings showed that mobile technologies can increase student engagement and motivation in the science classroom. According to a bibliography on constructivist -oriented research on teaching and learning science in , about 64 percent of studies documented are carried out in the domain of physics, 21 percent in the domain of biology, and 15 percent in chemistry.

Quite often students' ideas are incompatible with physics views. As in England and Wales, science education in Australia is compulsory up until year 11, where students can choose to study one or more of the branches mentioned above. If they wish to no longer study science, they can choose none of the branches.

Poke holes

The science stream is one course up until year 11, meaning students learn in all of the branches giving them a broad idea of what science is all about. The National Curriculum Board of Australia stated that "The science curriculum will be organised around three interrelated strands: science understanding; science inquiry skills; and science as a human endeavour. In , it was reported that a major problem that has befallen science education in Australia over the last decade is a falling interest in science.

Fewer year 10 students are choosing to study science for year 11, which is problematic as these are the years where students form attitudes to pursue science careers. Educational quality in China suffers because a typical classroom contains 50 to 70 students. With over million students, China has the largest educational system in the world. As in many other countries, the science curriculum includes sequenced courses in physics, chemistry, and biology. Science education is given high priority and is driven by textbooks composed by committees of scientists and teachers. Science education in China places great emphasis on memorization, and gives far less attention to problem solving, application of principles to novel situations, interpretations, and predictions.

In English and Welsh schools, science is a compulsory subject in the National Curriculum. All pupils from 5 to 16 years of age must study science. It is generally taught as a single subject science until sixth form, then splits into subject-specific A levels physics , chemistry and biology. However, the government has since expressed its desire that those pupils who achieve well at the age of 14 should be offered the opportunity to study the three separate sciences from September In September a new science program of study known as 21st Century Science was introduced as a GCSE option in UK schools, designed to "give all 14 to 16 year old's a worthwhile and inspiring experience of science".

Other students who choose not to follow the compulsory additional science course, which results in them taking 4 papers resulting in 2 GCSEs, opposed to the 3 GCSEs given by taking separate science. In many U. This often leads teachers to rush to "cover" the material, without truly "teaching" it. In addition, the process of science, including such elements as the scientific method and critical thinking , is often overlooked.


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This emphasis can produce students who pass standardized tests without having developed complex problem solving skills. Although at the college level American science education tends to be less regulated, it is actually more rigorous, with teachers and professors fitting more content into the same time period. In , the U. National Academy of Sciences of the U. National Academies produced the National Science Education Standards , which is available online for free in multiple forms.

Its focus on inquiry-based science , based on the theory of constructivism rather than on direct instruction of facts and methods, remains controversial. Inquiry is central to science learning.

Course design

When engaging in inquiry, students describe objects and events, ask questions, construct explanations, test those explanations against current scientific knowledge, and communicate their ideas to others. They identify their assumptions, use critical and logical thinking, and consider alternative explanations. In this way, students actively develop their understanding of science by combining scientific knowledge with reasoning and thinking skills.

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Concern about science education and science standards has often been driven by worries that American students lag behind their peers in international rankings. In recent years, business leaders such as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates have called for more emphasis on science education, saying the United States risks losing its economic edge. Furthermore, in the recent National Curriculum Survey conducted by ACT, researchers uncovered a possible disconnect among science educators.

According to a report from the National Academy of Sciences, the fields of science, technology, and education hold a paramount place in the modern world, but there are not enough workers in the United States entering the science, technology, engineering, and math STEM professions. In the National Academy of Sciences Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K Science Education Standards developed a guiding framework to standardize K science education with the goal of organizing science education systematically across the K years.

It emphasizes science educators to focus on a "limited number of disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts, be designed so that students continually build on and revise their knowledge and abilities over multiple years, and support the integration of such knowledge and abilities with the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. The report says that in the 21st century Americans need science education in order to engage in and "systematically investigate issues related to their personal and community priorities," as well as to reason scientifically and know how to apply science knowledge.

The committee that designed this new framework sees this imperative as a matter of educational equity to the diverse set of schoolchildren. Getting more diverse students into STEM education is a matter of social justice as seen by the committee. In a new standards for science education were released that update the national standards released in Developed by 26 state governments and national organizations of scientists and science teachers, the guidelines, called the Next Generation Science Standards , are intended to "combat widespread scientific ignorance, to standardize teaching among states, and to raise the number of high school graduates who choose scientific and technical majors in college An emphasis is teaching the scientific process so that students have a better understanding of the methods of science and can critically evaluate scientific evidence.

Organizations that contributed to developing the standards include the National Science Teachers Association , the American Association for the Advancement of Science , the National Research Council , and Achieve, a nonprofit organization that was also involved in developing math and English standards. Informal science education is the science teaching and learning that occurs outside of the formal school curriculum in places such as museums, the media, and community-based programs. The National Science Teachers Association has created a position statement [49] on Informal Science Education to define and encourage science learning in many contexts and throughout the lifespan.

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Research in informal science education is funded in the United States by the National Science Foundation. Examples of informal science education include science centers, science museums , and new digital learning environments e. Early examples of science education on American television included programs by Daniel Q.

Posin , such as "Dr. Home education is encouraged through educational products such as the former Things of Science subscription service. This book makes valuable research accessible to those working in informal science: educators, museum professionals, university faculty, youth leaders, media specialists, publishers, broadcast journalists, and many others. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the academic journal, see Science Education journal.

The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with Western culture and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article , discuss the issue on the talk page , or create a new article , as appropriate. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. History Literature Method Philosophy. Education Funding Pseudoscience Policy Sociology. See also: Branches of science. See also: Physics education. See also: Chemistry education.

See also: Science education in England. In MacLeod, R. The parliament of science. Northwood, England: Science Reviews. Huxley: scientist, humanist and educator. London: Watts. April Science Education. Committee of Ten". Theory into Practice. International encyclopedia of education. Oxford: Pergamon Press. Oxford Dictionaries English. Retrieved 21 March Retrieved 16 April International Journal of Science Education. Pakistan Journal of Chemistry. Retrieved 22 April Hassaskhah ed. Educational Theory. Act of Creation.

London: Hutchinson. Suzanne Donovan, John D. Bransford, and James W. Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy. University of Colorado Boulder. Archived from the original on 18 June Retrieved 18 June Skeptical Inquirer. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching. In Abell, Sandra K. Handbook of Research on Science Education. Lawrence Erlbaum.

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