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Philosophy of Teaching Science

As I think back to my school days, I really do not remember much of my science education. What I do remember, generally consists of book work, tests, and worksheets. Science class should be worth remembering. As teachers, we need to find ways to convey important scientific principles to our students and to help them to grasp these ideas. Joseph Stepans says that " science educators and concerned teachers know . . . that much of what happens in science classes involves disjointed and disconnected concepts, mystifying terminology, and irrelevant symbols . . ." (Stepans, 1996, p. 3). To solve this problem, we need teach using a hands-on science curriculum which utilizes ideas of child development such as Piaget and Vygotsky. By making science fun and interesting, we can shatter the negative stereotype that science holds in today’s society.

By teaching science as a hands-on approach, students are actually watching and touching what is happening. This makes science "real" to them. Many students, especially younger ones, have trouble seeing how science relates to their lives. By showing practical things in a hands-on environment, students are able to relate science to their lives. Plus, science is much more fun this way!

When teaching science, we need to refer to the ideas of the gurus of child development, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Piaget has four stages of child development—sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operations. We need to make sure the science we are teaching in the classroom fits the students at their different levels of development. If we teach science that is above the level of the child, then he will not understand it. Also, lecturing to preoperational children would be a futile effort because this is above their level. The other theorist on child development, Vygotsky, emphasizes two important ideas—social interaction and the zone of proximal development. Vygotsky believes "that cognitive development occurs through the child’s conversations and interactions with more capable members of the culture, adults, or more able peers" (Woolfolk, 1998, p. 47). This means that group work will benefit students tremendously because they will be able to learn from each other through discussion. Also, Vygotsky emphasizes the zone of proximal development, which is the zone in which is the level where a child can be successful in solving a problem with adult guidance or a more able peer (Woolfolk, 1998, p. 49). This idea agrees with Piaget in the concept of children working at a level which is appropriate to their cognitive development.

Something has to be changed in our current science educational system. We need to implement a hands-on science program that employs the theories of the leading cognitive development. If we want children to understand important scientific concepts and to enjoy learning science, these changes need to be implemented soon. If nothing changes, the children of today will have the same miserable science experiences as the children of yesterday.

WORKS CONSULTED

Michigan State Board of Education. (1991). Michigan essential goals and objectives for science education. Lansing, Michigan: Michigan Department of Education.

Stepans, J. (1996). Targeting students’ science misconceptions: Physical science concepts using the conceptual change model. Riverview, FL: Idea Factory.

Woolfolk, A. (1998). Educational psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

 

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