By Kathy Frame with the assistance of Society For Neuroscience scientists attending the National Association of Biology Teachers/Society For Neuroscience teacher/scientist partnership workshop held at Wake Forest University the summer of 1992. Special thanks to Dr. James Hamos from the University of Massachusetts for his advice.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR INVOLVEMENT IN SCIENCE EDUCATION
1. Reasons why scientists should become interested and involved in science education
- Become part of the solution by educating the public and making them scientifically literate on issues that impact their lives and require them to make informed decisions.
- Help raise a new generation of scientists (professionals, staff, technicians) who will address the questions of tomorrow
- Support and facilitate attitudes and skills for instilling the habits of life-long learning and critical thinking that are applicable to everyday problems
- Demonstrate that science has few absolute "answers." Scientific issues have a range of judgments and caveats depending upon the techniques and hypotheses used. The public must have a 'feel for the question in order to appreciate the partial explanations given at any particular time.
- In turn, the scientist should have a "feel" for the questions regarding education.
2. Represent scientists as members of the community
- Demonstrate that scientists do other things and are not 'joined to the lab bench.' You are in the classroom or helping the teacher because you want to contribute to education. This effect will flow into the community.
- Break the stereotype of the 'mad' scientist in the white lab coat; show that scientists are like everyone else. As one scientist commented, "Wear your backpack; drop the three-piece suit."
- Internal rewards as expressed by scientists
- "Go for it. The personal benefits are incredible."
- "Everyone who does it feels rewarded"
- "The day before, you might ask yourself 'why am I doing this?' While afterwards, you'll be 'tired', but high as a kite."
- "Involvement gives a new appreciation for the critical role and responsibilities of the teacher"
- External rewards
- Some scientists' evaluation process includes service to educational programs; many receive awards and recognition for service
- New funding from federal sources requires participation in science education
4. Methodology of higher education:
- Science education is largely fact-based for most students and is considerably l different than the inquiry based and open ended experience of practicing scientists.
- Graduate science students who will be future scientists are taught to evaluate principles and ideas; medical students who will be future doctors are not given the luxury of time to evaluate ideas, but are taught innumerable facts that will help them diagnose and treat disease.
5. Opportunity to be the role model of a scientist that is needed in education
BEFORE THE VISIT
- Reinforce students innate desire to ask questions and explore the world around them that may have been lost to the constraints of a system that require students to learn facts
- Invite them to your lab to see science in action
- Encourage their aspirations to pursue a career in science
1. Obtain the support of your administration and the public school administration. All you have to do is ask to be involved in education; dedicated administrators will encourage it.
2. Decide how much time you can devote to education and obtain release time for working in education.
3. Consider the age of your audience
- Elementary students will be less trouble. Remember they do not have a scientific background.
- Middle school students are a challenge as they are in 'transition'.
- High school students can be unresponsive unless you turn them on to what you're doing and why you're there
4. Provide appropriate age level resources for the topic presented.
5. Be clear on your ideas of science.
THE VISIT WITH THE TEACHER
1. Ask the teacher what they need. Decide upon clearly stated goals with the teacher Are you trying to:
- produce a scientifically literate population?
- produce the next generation of scientists?
- help students score well on standardized tests?
2. Appreciate the teacher's expertise.
- Rely strongly on the teacher's input for organizing the presentation. l
- Ask them how to implement your material into class activities. l
- Don't direct teachers; work with them. l
3. Timing can be a problem for a scientist. Ask how many classes you will be expected to do l
4. Know what the teacher is doing; be versed as to what is going on and being studied in the class; talk with the teacher; see the textbook.
5. Familiarize yourself with the learning cycle, cooperative learning and other teacher methods used by the teacher.
6. Assess or know the level of student interest and how the teacher interacts with thestudents.
7. Invite teachers to meet with your colleagues and if possible attend workshops or scientific
THE VISIT WITH THE CLASS
1. Keep your presentation simple.
- Stick to your own field
- Do not flood the students with information
- Demonstrate your science with hands-on activities, rather than lecturing
- Present general concepts, without too much detail.
2. Remember that this may be a one-time thing. Make it enjoyable and special.
- Background perspective and relevance are necessary in your classroom visit.
- Appeal to the interest of the group, such as human disease. Include the use of animals and how it helps with human disease.
- Show that for scientists, "science is play" and a privilege to explore unknown territories. Show that 'science is not drudgery' where one learns facts and repeats them.
3. At the end of the class hand out a one page summary of your presentation.
4. Stress the importance of understanding science as a process built out of facts, and that one question can bring down many facts.
5. Explain that there are several ways to address the question of process; people can disagree, argue, state opinions, perform tests.
6. Help the students learn to ask Why do you think this works?" rather than "What do we know about this?"
7. Share briefly why you became a scientist and what motivates you.
BARRIERS TEACHERS MAY HAVE
1. Realize that some programs are economically driven; teachers are expected to cover a large amount of material with few resources.
2. Assure the teacher not to be reticent about asking you into the classroom. Their reticence may be due to the following perceptions:
- that the scientists' time is more valuable working in the lab or teaching on the college level.
- a scientist's knowledge is vast and unreachable. This may be more common with elementary teachers.
1. After the presentation, have an evaluation mechanism and change your presentation to reflect the suggestions.
2. Encourage critical feedback. Sometimes teachers are uncomfortable in giving this.
3. Encourage this to become an activity of your department.
4. Establish a relationship with the teacher. Do not make it a one time event. Invest yourself. Do three or four presentations per year. By the third or fourth visit, the bond and level of questioning is even more insightful
5. Invite high school teachers and students to the lab and local scientific meetings.
Copyright Kathy Frame and James Hamos July 1992