Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Science Education elsewhere...

Thanks to Tim at Assorted Stuff about this bit on Hands-On Learning and Physics courses at MIT:
The physics department has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning...

M.I.T. is not alone. Other universities are changing their ways, among them Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard. In these institutions, physicists have been pioneering teaching methods drawn from research showing that most students learn fundamental concepts more successfully, and are better able to apply them, through interactive, collaborative, student-centered learning.
and this from the ASCD News Brief and reported in the Seattle Times:

The first revision of the state's science education standards since 2003 is organized into four essential learning requirements across all grades from kindergarten to 12th grade. All children should be able to accomplish:

-Systems thinking to analyze and understand complex phenomena.

-Inquiry activities to develop understanding of scientific ideas.

-Application of the science they are learning to solve real-world problems.

-Understanding of the domains of science: physical science, life science, and earth and space science.

Under these categories come more specific goals concerning the core content kids are supposed to learn at different grade levels.

The new standards require teachers to cover fewer concepts per year, but to do so in a deeper way. The document does not tell teachers how to teach; it provides an outline of the path of learning kids should follow to gather certain science knowledge by the time they graduate from high school
I can only hope that these initiatives have momentum and cause some change. Most, I think, believe those of us who have made great sweeping changes in the classroom are off the path, but I believe we are on to something. How to assess this is definitely a problem, but we know science education as we know it is broken and time to really look at what all kids need to be able to do (especially think critically and inquire.)

Tags: ASCD, Seattle Times, science education

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