Better Science Education

Source: UC Santa Barbara website, Feb 2013

… conventional, teacher-centered methods of teaching science and engineering have been found to be less effective than newer, more interactive and collaborative methods, according to Wieman’s research. The one-way transmission of information from teacher to student has been found lacking when compared to methods that include peer learning, constant monitoring and feedback, and activities that encourage thinking like scientists and engineers.

Designing challenging –– but not impossible –– tasks specific to the concept being taught, an awareness of student pitfalls, motivation, and timely feedback to guide thinking become the responsibilities of the teacher.

Such learning, meanwhile, also demands an investment of time, and greater levels of engagement and mental activity from the students. Most of the learning, said Wieman, will happen outside of the classroom, during homework and other activities meant to prime students into continuing to learn. Technology plays a role in various forms, from clickers used by students in the classroom, to the Internet for communication and interactive programs for learning and testing.

“To teach this way actually requires much more subject expertise than giving a traditional lecture,” said Wieman. The range and depth of questions students are likely to ask in the more interactive environment is far greater than in a normal classroom, he said.

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