What was your favorite activity you ever did in a science class at school? It could have been building bottle rockets, exploring a local creek, hatching a chicken egg, or a myriad of other activities that were unique, fun, and interesting. The point is, you remember that activity because it was memorable. Most students don’t remember the lectures, power points, and worksheets because those activities are, on average, well… average.
So how do we, as teachers, take science education from being average to being exemplary?
Exemplary teaching differs from the average by:
- Being student-oriented
- Linking concepts to student interests and everyday applications
- Inspiring curiosity, inquiry, creativity, and discovery
- Being experience-dominated
- Promoting individuality, diversity, critical-thinking, and problem-solving
- Authentically communicating observations, ideas, and perspectives
To be an exemplary teacher, I want to 1) Go Beyond the Classroom, 2) Engage Students in Exploration and Spark Curiosity, and 3) Make Science Accessible to all Students.
1. Go Beyond the Classroom
Exemplary teachers go beyond the classroom to allow their students the opportunity to explore, make observations, ask questions, and learn through discussion and experimentation. In this way, students can connect the content to the world around them. To go beyond the classroom, exemplary teachers can foster learning by:
- Exploring the outdoors with students– walk around the school grounds and/or go on local field trips to creeks, parks, natural areas, etc.
- Partnering with area businesses, universities, and funding agents to conduct student research studies on a local issue/interest
- Inviting professionals to class to talk about how they use science, math, and technology in their jobs
Real-World Activity: Take a field trip to a local stream. Have students explore, make observations, discuss findings with the class, and relate findings to course concepts on stream morphology and habitat. Then, allow each student to choose an object or organism observed near the stream to research further and present later to the class.
2. Engage Students in Exploration and Spark Curiosity
Exemplary teachers engage students in real experiences and create opportunities for students to learn more. When grounded in real science, students are doing more than just memorizing content for a test. This can be done through:
- Long-term observation stations placed around classroom
- Student-led research and experiments based on their own questions that model the ways in which science is done
- Introduction of a topic with a demonstration, activity, investigation or problem the students have posed, and class decides that they need to know in order to understand the topic more fully
Real-World Activity: Begin a lesson with a demonstration on how a carbonate rock reacts with dilute HCl acid. Open a class discussion on why a reaction occurs and how the class can go about determining how/why the reaction occurs. Have students work in pairs to test their hypotheses in the lab.
Tyler Dewitt, a science teacher, shares his thoughts on ways to help students understand science and become engaged in it
3. Make Science Accessible to All Students
Our classrooms are filled with students of varying cultures, experiences, and perspectives. As exemplary teachers, we need to make science accessible to all students by letting them know that their ideas have merit and their questions and contributions are welcome in the classroom. To do so, we can:
- Provide proper learning supports
- Have high expectations for learning
- Challenge students with meaningful work
- Recognize the contributions of a diverse array of scientists
As a final thought – I see exemplary teaching as a journey, where we take risks, extend the classroom into the margins, and learn how to best help our students become science literate citizens.