Science Teaching Philosophy

Teaching science, like teaching any subject, is important not because of the facts and variables that the students will learn, but because they will learn to act as scientists in the real world.  This means that they will learn to question what they see around them and to think critically about the reasons for their observations.  A science teacher cannot argue that curricula he or she teaches is more important than other subjects any more than an English teacher could argue that reading an important novel is more important than learning about World War II.  As a science teacher, I love the material I present, but what I love more is the process of inquiry that allows me to go through my day questioning and exploring the world around me.  Science is such a broad subject but what unifies all the material is the inquisitive mind of those who have explored it before us.  It is important to teach science so that students will develop the ability to question the world around them and to think critically so that they might make the connections and explain what they see.

            As a teacher, it is my goal that my students realize the sentiment of my last paragraph: That I do not teach them all these facts so that they memorize them and be on their way; I teach science so that they will learn to critically analyze and employ components of the scientific method in their daily lives so that they can more truly understand the world around them.  These skills will transfer beyond the science classroom and the school room in general so that they can learn to function as beings in a complex, diverse, and ever changing world.  If the world were sedentary, then all I would have to teach them would be the memorization skills to learn about it.  As it is ever changing, I must teach them to think so that they can react. 

            The best methodologies that I have seen to initiate this type of behavior in my students center on inquiry learning.  By allowing students to drive the lesson by them asking questions, I am making them accountable for their own education, and teaching them to get to the heart of matters by being inquisitive.  There are many different examples of this practice that I have seen in science classrooms throughout my years as a student and as a student teacher.  In the most basic example, I have seen teachers ask students to grab random objects from around the room and take time to write as many observations about the object as they can.  They may not realize it, but the students are acting as scientists in this practice.  They are asking and answering dozens of questions: What is it?  How does it work? What color is it?  How tall is it?  How hard or soft is it?  Implicit with all these questions is a pervading sense of why.  Students are engaging in the scientific method whether they are aware of it or not.  Another example from my own personal experience was the day we dissected a worm in my 8th grade biology class.  The teacher gave us these and only these instructions:  You are being graded on this.  Here is a scalpel.  Go.  Without more detailed instructions we didn’t really know what to do, but we knew we had to do something because we were receiving a grade.  While we were in a sense in the dark, this allowed us the freedom to question everything we were doing, and every piece we were discovering.  Because we were not looking for something specific, everything we found had meaning to us.  The observations we made and the questions we asked all had greater meaning because we knew each one could be important or hold the key.  While we were motivated by a grade (and this isn’t always the greatest motivating factor) I still to this day remember this experience as beneficial.

            Each of these examples ties to the belief that students should take a responsibility in their own learning by asking questions of the curricular world around them.  As a teacher, I hope to instill in my students a sense of wonder about the world.  If the students wonder about the magic present in the scientific world around them, they will be motivated to observe, question, and attempt to explain.  They will act as scientists in and out of the classroom and they will be better for it.

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Published on November 12, 2008 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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