Friday, April 23, 2010

Teaching Science to Nonscience Majors

A very nice article in Science Career section about various instructors teaching science topics to non-science major. A quote from a physics instructors reinforced what I've said earlier regarding communicating physics to the general public.

Teaching nonmajors has much in common with the work of science communicators. You have to learn something about a range of disciplines and social issues and stay current on "what's on the news," Moctezuma says. "I love science, but I'm also interested in other fields, and this allows me to explore some things beyond science and also how science influences and affects many different fields of study," he adds. Also important is not to fall into the trap of thinking it's easier than teaching majors. "There are probably some people who think ... if you can teach classical mechanics to physics students, you should be able to teach motion at a lower level," Schwarz says. "It's actually harder."

It definitely is. This is because, more often than not, what you think you are communicating or trying to convey is not what they understood. This makes it harder because you have to choose your words very carefully, and always have to realize the "pedestrian" meaning of the words and phrases that you chose. This pedestrian meaning is what the general public will attach these words and phrases to, not the physics definition. So this makes the job of communicating science (and physics) significantly harder.


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