The right way to teach Science

The right way to teach Science

Teaching Science needs to go beyond teaching it as a body of knowledge. This is because the nature of Science is inherent to many critical issues in Science education.

Understanding Science as a subject consists of 2 aspects: a body of knowledge and the process by which that knowledge is produced. Usually, we only see the ‘body of knowledge’ component of Science. We are presented with the scientific concepts, in the form of statements such as ‘the Earth is round’, with little background information about the process that led to that knowledge. The second component of Science, the scientific process, is a way of building knowledge and making predictions about the world in such a way that they are testable.

Educational researchers support the view that explicit instruction is necessary to improve students’ understanding of nature and the process of Science. They suggest that this can be done by having students develop their own descriptions of the fundamentals of the nature and process of Science. They emphasise that  teachers need to explain the aspects of Science such as the difference between observation and inference, and the difference between laws and theories, as Science is based on the observation of the natural world.

Reflective activities

The nature of Science instruction should take a more prominent role in Science education. Educational research on teaching Science suggests that the most effective instruction in this area is explicit and reflective, and provides multiple opportunities for students to work with key concepts in different contexts.

The explicit, reflective teaching does not mean didactic teaching, rather instructions that specifically target Science concepts and provide students opportunities to relate their own activities with that of the scientific community. The explicit, reflective instruction is effective in the sense that many students hold adequate conceptions about the nature of Science. Teachers have to focus on helping students understand the boundaries of Science. Furthermore, the explicit instruction on the nature and process of Science can be placed along a continuum from de-contextualised to highly-contextualised. So, how can this be done? Here are a few points one can begin with:

For students: Students should reflect on how their own understanding of Science is changing over time. Students need to learn that collaboration facilitates effective learning. They have to become comfortable with the idea that scientific data can be used to support different conclusions. They also need to know that Science and social issues are intertwined.

 For teachers: There has to be a symbiotic relationship between a teacher’s knowledge, his or her general instructional approach, the nature of Science content addressed in the classroom, the teacher’s attitude, the classroom atmosphere, and the student’s interaction with the teacher. It is necessary that teachers prepare instructions along with strategies designed specifically for teaching Science.

The instruction on the nature of Science should be incorporated throughout Science courses and includes discussion, in which students are asked to contrast different viewpoints on socio-scientific issues and evaluate how different types of data might support or refute. Teachers should be encouraged to view an understanding of the nature of Science as an important pedagogical objective in its own right. Hence, teacher education programmes need to make a concerted effort to help teachers improve their ability to explicitly translate their understanding of the nature of Science into their teaching practices.

The teaching of Science needs to enhance students’ understanding of scientific content, increase their interest in Science, and help them know the human side of Science. Through this, students become effective analysers of scientific and socio-scientific controversies. Normally, many of these intrinsic ideas are lost in a Science classroom leading to poor understanding of the concepts. Therefore, understanding Science’s nature and process is crucial for effective Science teaching, proper learning and responsible participation in society.

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