Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Rethinking Science Education

Are we losing students who intended to go into science and engineering by the way we present a science curriculum in college? Shirley Tilghman, President of Princeton University thinks so.

Some of Tilghman's talk to college presidents concerned the dismal state of science education in the United States, from elementary and secondary education through higher education. She recited various statistics and called for the creation of more courses that engage science students in "big questions" early in their careers. Too many college students are introduced to science through survey courses that consist of facts "often taught as a laundry list and from a historical perspective without much effort to explain their relevance to modern problems." Only science students with "the persistence of Sisyphus and the patience of Job" will reach the point where they can engage in the kind of science that excited them in the first place, she said.

I think it is easy to see what's wrong, but it is more difficult to know what to do correctly. I've brought up TONS of examples of various educational philosophy and techniques/technology already being employed, all in the name of improving science/physics education for students at various level. At some point, there will be too many of these and not enough people studying which one is the most effective.

I still stand by my assertion that a students interest and engagements in a class depends predominantly on the instructor. A motivated and interesting instructor will be more effective in not only conveying the material, but also in generating interest in the subject matter than any technique/gadget/technology out there.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An irony in this is that teachers are a lot like students: there are lots of them, and comparatively few who are truly gifted or especially interested in the subject being taught. Keeping Society well-stocked in excellent instructors somewhat of a chicken vs egg problem, a nut nut easily cracked.