According to some educationalists, science teachers face a curious paradox. “In our culture, schools are designed to present established understandings, not to promote discovery of new knowledge. […] The ensuing culture of conformity with established knowledge is the very antithesis of scientific inquiry.” Instead of experiencing science as an exhilarating quest for truth, students feel the burden of learning lots of textbook knowledge.
The article cited below focuses attention on how classrooms can create genuine environments for discovery, and this is good. However, the tried-and-tested strategy for countering the paradox is to make students aware of controversies within science. This fans the flames of curiosity and demonstrates that the “end of science” has not been documented in the textbook!
In biological education, there is ample evidence of a “culture of conformity with established knowledge”. This is shown by enormous resistance to any suggestion of critical discussion of Darwinism in the classroom. Teachers who entertain the thought may be considered subversive to science. Addressing this problem requires more than providing an environment for discovery. It requires a commitment to freedom of enquiry within science and following the evidence wherever it leads.
INQUIRY LEARNING: Teaching Scientific Inquiry
David I. Hanauer, Deborah Jacobs-Sera, Marisa L. Pedulla, Steven G. Cresawn, Roger W. Hendrix, and Graham F. Hatfull
Science 314, 22 December 2006: 1880-1881.
Opening two paragraphs:
Science teachers in kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12) classrooms face a curious paradox. On one hand, according to the generally accepted theory, scientific inquiry in the classroom is "at the heart of the science and science learning" (1). In essence, the teaching of science should mirror the processes used by professional scientific researchers. On the other hand, a school classroom is not a research laboratory. Scientific research typically involves complex methods and problem-solving approaches (2), resulting in conclusions that are subjected to worldwide evaluation (3-6). Capturing these characteristics of professional science within the K-12 school classroom is daunting (7).
The goals of scientific research and current pedagogical practice are at odds (8, 9). In our culture, schools are designed to present established understandings, not to promote discovery of new knowledge. The focus on persuading students of the correctness of stated information is intensified by increased reliance on broad-based standardized testing, which--especially in the United States and the United Kingdom--has become a popular mechanism for making schools accountable. The ensuing culture of conformity with established knowledge is the very antithesis of scientific inquiry (8).
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