Science and the general public

  • #126
turbo
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Children don't distrust science. They embrace it. You just have to make it interesting. My neighbors' granddaughters love natural sciences, and we live out in the woods, so I teach them things that they can't learn in school. What's that bird? What's that bug?

The songs of grosbeaks and finches and the manic calls of pileated woodpeckers are all chances for lessons.
 
  • #127
Pythagorean
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Sure, but I see such "enthusiasm" in here among the participants. At some point, I'm curious to see for all those who made all these statements, how many actually DO something about the problem[...]
Zz/
That's sensible. Though I can understand why some may not feel it's their burden to relieve others of ignorance.

I personally feel that it's important for us to reach out to children (like, toddler-age) and teach them to at least have a good methodology and good observation skills, even if we don't dress it up in a package and label it 'science'. We should make them comfortable with the practices and techniques of science so that science is not so foreign to them later on.

I don't think there's much hope for adults except in rare cases where the adult is genuinely interested. And of course, every one in between is busy with angst, which requires a whole different approach that I'm not familiar with. Maybe we should ask the producers of Twilight.
 
  • #128
ZapperZ
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That's sensible. Though I can understand why some may not feel it's their burden to relieve others of ignorance.
But if one feels that way, then one shouldn't complain that the public isn't scientifically literate. Things just don't happen or change on their own.

I personally feel that it's important for us to reach out to children (like, toddler-age) and teach them to at least have a good methodology and good observation skills, even if we don't dress it up in a package and label it 'science'. We should make them comfortable with the practices and techniques of science so that science is not so foreign to them later on.

I don't think there's much hope for adults except in rare cases where the adult is genuinely interested. And of course, every one in between is busy with angst, which requires a whole different approach that I'm not familiar with. Maybe we should ask the producers of Twilight.
There is no one single approach here. It has to be on all fronts. While we can't educate everyone, at the very least, those who are interested, or open to it, should have access.

Zz.
 
  • #129
Pythagorean
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ZZ said:
While we can't educate everyone, at the very least, those who are interested, or open to it, should have access.
I agree, and I have signed petitions to that effect in an attempt to force publishers to respect open access. We also have wonderful platforms like scholarpedia and wikipedia that we can personally contribute to.
 
  • #130
ZapperZ
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I agree, and I have signed petitions to that effect in an attempt to force publishers to respect open access. We also have wonderful platforms like scholarpedia and wikipedia that we can personally contribute to.
Well, I'm not one of those people who think that everyone is entitled to have everything for free. In some sense, you get what you pay for in terms of quality, and I've never been a fan of wikipedia.

Furthermore, giving the public access to PRL, for example, does nothing to educate them about physics.

Zz.
 
  • #131
Pythagorean
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Well, I'm not one of those people who think that everyone is entitled to have everything for free. In some sense, you get what you pay for in terms of quality, and I've never been a fan of wikipedia.


Zz.
It's not "free", the research was paid for by tax dollars... which the public pays. You have control over the state of what wikipedia has to say about physics. You can get involved with the other PhD's that help regulate. Even if you don't like wikipedia, it's what people go to. If you don't like it, get involved in the wikipedia community:

"But if one feels that way, then one shouldn't complain that the public isn't scientifically literate. Things just don't happen or change on their own."


Furthermore, giving the public access to PRL, for example, does nothing to educate them about physics.
Well, you've moved the goal post. Remember what you said:

"While we can't educate everyone, at the very least, those who are interested, or open to it, should have access."

So the point of opening access is so that it's there, for people who have one foot in the public and one foot in understanding PRL to mediate the information transfer.
 
  • #132
ZapperZ
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It's not "free", the research was paid for by tax dollars... which the public pays. You have control over the state of what wikipedia has to say about physics. You can get involved with the other PhD's that help regulate. Even if you don't like wikipedia, it's what people go to. If you don't like it, get involved in the wikipedia community:

"But if one feels that way, then one shouldn't complain that the public isn't scientifically literate. Things just don't happen or change on their own."
But you're making an explicit assumption that EVERY paper that appears were funded by the public tax dollars. This is false.

Furthermore, do you also expect free medications? After all, a lot of pharmaceutical research were also either funded by tax dollars, or used tax-funded facilities to accomplished their results.

I really do not want to get into this debate, because it is not relevant to the topic on hand.

Well, you've moved the goal post. Remember what you said:

"While we can't educate everyone, at the very least, those who are interested, or open to it, should have access."

So the point of opening access is so that it's there, for people who have one foot in the public and one foot in understanding PRL to mediate the information transfer.
I did not move the goal post. I just didn't explain it clearly enough, and you took it into another direction. "Access" means being able to meet and talk to scientists, and being able to find general-public information, NOT necessarily scientific journals.

Zz.
 
  • #133
Pythagorean
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But you're making an explicit assumption that EVERY paper that appears were funded by the public tax dollars. This is false.
Nope! The open access movement only applies to federally funded research. The petitions explicitly say that!

Furthermore, do you also expect free medications? After all, a lot of pharmaceutical research were also either funded by tax dollars, or used tax-funded facilities to accomplished their results.
The research should be open access, yes, that's relevant. The meds themselves take labor, logistics, and materials to produce, which must be accounted for. Either by taxes (which would be fine with me) or out of pocket. Generally, somebody with a relevant disease already gets the medications free through government plans.

ZZ said:
I did not move the goal post. I just didn't explain it clearly enough, and you took it into another direction. "Access" means being able to meet and talk to scientists, and being able to find general-public information, NOT necessarily scientific journals.
What I meant is that you switched back to the full charge of "educating the public" after you had explicitly dismissed it:

While we can't educate everyone, at the very least, those who are interested, or open to it, should have access.

[...]

giving the public access to PRL, for example, does nothing to educate them about physics.
seems like cognitive dissonance to me...
 
  • #134
ZapperZ
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Nope! The open access movement only applies to federally funded research. The petitions explicitly say that!



The research should be open access, yes, that's relevant. The meds themselves take labor, logistics, and materials to produce, which must be accounted for. Either by taxes (which would be fine with me) or out of pocket. Generally, somebody with a relevant disease already gets the medications free through government plans.



What I meant is that you switched back to the full charge of "educating the public" after you had explicitly dismissed it:



seems like cognitive dissonance to me...
So you want to derail this thread into proviiding the public material with QUESTIONABLE public benefit, just because of ONE statement that I made that you misinterpret? no wonder public education goes nowhere. We seem to ENJOY bickering about semantics rather than doing something that's actually productive!

Zz.
 
  • #135
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http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070221093213.htm

According to that article, students learn science better when they conduct experiments using their own intuitive thinking, as opposed to just being given a standard set of procedures and following directions explicitly. Not only that, but when compared, students who conducted experiments and gathered materials on their own (instead of being given the prepared enzyme, this group gathered it themselves from an onion) knew their topic far better than those who just followed instructions to the T.

What I mainly liked from this article was that Steve Rissing, the old Director of the Biology Department at Ohio University, is fully aware that scientific literacy is completely lacking in K-12 education. What he notices though, is that it's the teachers fault, and it is traceable to the fact that these teachers aren't being taught well enough in college.

“The college professors and scientists are ultimately the ones that foster public understanding and opinions of science.”

Now, this article is from 2007, but it is still relevant. If the high school teachers are the problem, then we need to trace it back to the source of where they are getting educated; college.
 
  • #136
Evo
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If the high school teachers are the problem, then we need to trace it back to the source of where they are getting educated; college.
Perhaps this is something that could be addressed at the local public school system level. A program to educate and excite science teachers. Local school support of the sciences. Get feedback on the effectiveness of their courses.
 
  • #137
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Perhaps this is something that could be addressed at the local public school system level. A program to educate and excite science teachers. Local school support of the sciences. Get feedback on the effectiveness of their courses.
I'm a part of the Lead Team at my school's RSVP program (a relatively new thing, it's only in a few schools around the country.... the acronym stands for Raising Student Voices and Participation, and it's essentially a way for students to let the administration know about anything that they want changed).

I'm wondering if I would be able to try and get the students behind this, and see if we could get enough votes to actually change something. I'm useless during the summer, because we only meet during the school-year, but I'm thinking that getting the program going for elementary and middle school science classes would be more effective, because my high school is blessed with some great science teachers who I feel don't need to be motivated any more than they already are.
 
  • #138
turbo
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I'm thinking that getting the program going for elementary and middle school science classes would be more effective, because my high school is blessed with some great science teachers who I feel don't need to be motivated any more than they already are.
You're very fortunate. All the "science teachers" in my elementary years were old-lady generalists who taught out of out-dated books, and my HS science teacher was hopelessy out of his league. He was supposed to teach a couple of levels of general science, biology, and physics. I got great SAT scores (probably due to so much self-study) but when I got to Uni, I had to play a lot of catch-up. I can't blame him, because my graduating class had only 42 students (the largest in the history of that regional HS), and nobody can know all sciences and teach them properly, but still, we are not doing all we can for our kids.
 
  • #139
collinsmark
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So, just out of curiosity, how many of you here have been involved in trying to communicate science to the public? Your participation here on PF does not count.
In a very informal way, I try to get/keep people involved with various astronomical events, if the circumstances permit that all they have to do is tilt their head up and look (or walk a few feet outside the doorway, if the event is less common). Some examples are simply pointing out planets if we happen to be outside already, or better is stuff like the recent solar eclipse and Venus transit, both which were visible from my location. I also try to point out the International Space Station (ISS) sightings when they are visible in my area. None of this is organized, it's just something I can do in my own way to inspire awareness of the things around us, to anybody that is open to it and happens to be around.

I try to keep abreast of the events and prepare as necessary, like bringing solar safe glasses, a home made solar projection device, and/or a green laser pointer (etc.)

The people can range from coworkers/colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers. I've even gotten some of the neighborhood homeless guys interested in the eclipse, Venus transit and an ISS sighting or two.

The location is wherever I happen to be at the time: work, pub, coffee shop, social gathering, etc. It only takes a couple of seconds to walk outside and look up. I inform people of what they can see if they choose to, but I don't pressure them if they are not open to the idea. I let them know what's happening up there, and if they want to come have a look, the rest is up to them.

I'll usually have a few facts about whatever it is that's going on. For example, I might speak about history of similar, past events, or quote the speed of the ISS, etc. I try to keep it basic though, and I won't go into detail unless somebody asks.
If you have, did you learn anything from your effort? Did you think your efforts were productive?
The recent solar eclipse and the Venus transit were very productive. I sparked a lot of interest in people who otherwise would never have even given the events any consideration at all. The feedback given to me was very positive. Sometimes, I find those same people still talking about the event(s). They probably would never even have thought about it otherwise.

The ISS sightings can be a different story. The vast majority of the reception ISS sightings are positive. The greater bulk of the people I gather for ISS sightings thank me in the end for letting them know, and are always asking me when the next one is when they run into me. But that's not everybody. Reactions also range to complete indifference, and even to contempt and malice. Sometimes, I just don't understand these latter people's reaction to the ISS. A group of us might be outside, all looking at it "fly" over, and somebody walks by. I'll mention to the person, "If you're interested, that's the International Space Station flying above us right now." And I'll point up to it. Sometimes, albeit only a small fraction of the time (fortunately), the look I get is one that I just ran over their cat and ate the cats' kittens. Others refuse to look up because they disbelieve that there is such a thing as the International Space Station and don't want to change that beleif (and thus refuse to look up, presumably in fear that it might compromise their blinkered world view) [Edit: and even then I'm always polite. If they're not interested, then so be it. It just doesn't do any good otherwise]. I'm tempted to go on about some of these reactions in more detail, but I won't here. I might save it for a new thread though.
What lessons can you convey to the group here?
Basically, not everyone will be interested in science regardless of how interested you are. If somebody doesn't want to participate, or doesn't want to learn, sometimes there's just nothing positive that can come out of pressuring them to do so. You can show them the path, but not everybody will choose to go down it.

[Edit: But still give it a try! It turns out that most people are interested! But just don't push it too much. Don't be discouraged if you can't get through to all people.]
 
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  • #140
Pythagorean
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So you want to derail this thread into proviiding the public material with QUESTIONABLE public benefit, just because of ONE statement that I made that you misinterpret? no wonder public education goes nowhere. We seem to ENJOY bickering about semantics rather than doing something that's actually productive!

Zz.
That's quite a loaded post. Trying to guess at motives isn't really productive. I do not want to derail the thread, but it was important to clarify your misrepresentation of the open access movement, which is an important part of the relationship between the public and science.

Librarians are one of the people at the forefront of the interface between the public and science and they are also big supporters of open access; they are the motivators for the movement at my university because they know that scientific literature is in demand. Next to wkipedia, libraries are among the first places people go to learn new information about a scientific subject.

..and regardless of the scientific community's feelings towards it, wikipedia will continue to be first contact for the public with many scientific subjects, so it's an important place to participate in, especially if you're critical of the quality of the content and you have the expertise to enhance it.

Other than that, local outreach programs are neat and fun, but they're not there, waiting for the moment when the public is inspired; for when a member of the public needs information about a particular subject: for that, wikipedia and the library (including specialist/research libraries on campus) are the main source of information.

These are the two organizations that you can empower to help educate the public in a significant and meaningful way.

Children's museums are another important institution that has a strong STEM component and is geared towards developmental paradigms in learning through play.
 
  • #141
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.. These are the two organizations that you can empower to help educate the public in a significant and meaningful way ...
This is, of course, entirely reliant upon the fact that these people are going, by choice, to the libraries to learn about science. Simply increasing the content of a library, or a wikipedia page, only results in the better education of the already scientifically literate, or at least those who got to that point by their own means.

I still feel like K-12 education is the point that we need to really focus on. All of these outside sources of improving scientific literacy have been, so far, reliant upon people choosing to learn about science on their own because of their own motivation. Improving science in school (which requires better teachers) would by far be the most effective way to get results.

People are required to go to elementary school. They're required to go to middle school, and are highly encouraged to go to high school. What people aren't required to do is go to the library in their free time and check out science books, or go online and read up a bunch of science articles on Wikipedia.

Now, there are various ways that we could try to improve science education:

1.) Change the way that science teachers are taught in college, in a way such that they are better informed, and more knowledgeable of their subject, which will more than likely transfer over to appreciation and passion; thus creating a better teacher for the future.

2.) Don't change the college curriculum for science teachers, but instead have K-12 educational programs for teachers (like something that Evo mentioned) that is almost a crash-course, trying to get them to inspire their students, or at least appreciate the subject for what it's worth.

3.) (Also branched off of Evo's recommendation) - Analyze the way that elementary, middle school, and high school science teachers are teaching. Determine whether or not it is effective (most of us know that answer), and if not, then work to create a better, more efficient, and inspiring curriculum.

We've already addressed the fact that there is a lack of science teachers who actually teach the subject (this is more of an issue with math, but is also an issue with science) that they learned in college. Now, in the future, if science education improved, essentially more students would be inspired, and we would see a surplus of science teachers due to more peaked interests in the subject.

As of now, we will have to deal with a lack of science teachers. That's why I propose this: if any teacher were to teach a subject that they weren't effectively taught in, then I think they should have to either take that class at a community college over the summer, or at least have them take a test showing that they are in fact proficient at this subject, despite not majoring in it.

Thoughts?
 
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  • #142
chiro
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This is, of course, entirely reliant upon the fact that these people are going, by choice, to the libraries to learn about science. Simply increasing the content of a library, or a wikipedia page, only results in the better education of the already scientifically literate, or at least those who got to that point by their own means.

I still feel like K-12 education is the point that we need to really focus on. All of these outside sources of improving scientific literacy have been, so far, reliant upon people choosing to learn about science on their own because of their own motivation. Improving science in school (which requires better teachers) would by far be the most effective way to get results.

People are required to go to elementary school. They're required to go to middle school, and are highly encouraged to go to high school. What people aren't required to do is go to the library in their free time and check out science books, or go online and read up a bunch of science articles on Wikipedia.

Now, there are various ways that we could try to improve science education:

1.) Change the way that science teachers are taught in college, in a way such that they are better informed, and more knowledgeable of their subject, which will more than likely transfer over to appreciation and passion; thus creating a better teacher for the future.

2.) Don't change the college curriculum for science teachers, but instead have K-12 educational programs for teachers (like something that Evo mentioned) that is almost a crash-course, trying to get them to inspire their students, or at least appreciate the subject for what it's worth.

3.) (Also branched off of Evo's recommendation) - Analyze the way that elementary, middle school, and high school science teachers are teaching. Determine whether or not it is effective (most of us know that answer), and if not, then work to create a better, more efficient, and inspiring curriculum.

We've already addressed the fact that there is a lack of science teachers who actually teach the subject (this is more of an issue with math, but is also an issue with science) that they learned in college. Now, in the future, if science education improved, essentially more students would be inspired, and we would see a surplus of science teachers due to more peaked interests in the subject.

As of now, we will have to deal with a lack of science teachers. That's why I propose this: if any teacher were to teach a subject that they weren't effectively taught in, then I think they should have to either take that class at a community college over the summer, or at least have them take a test showing that they are in fact proficient at this subject, despite not majoring in it.

Thoughts?
A lot of people share your thoughts in particular teachers and scientific professionals including people with prior background who are not working in science and people who are active in science (like some of the people posting here).

But the thing is actually getting teachers that are not just qualified, but that actually give a ****: this might be offensive, but the truth needs to told.

There may be deficits with the curriculum and so on, but the thing is that a good enthusiastic teacher can rub off that enthusiasm to their students.

Now people have had ideas like paying teachers more, paying by performance (a highly touchy subject amongst many teachers), increasing general resources (like equipment, books, labs, etc).

But the thing a lot of people don't talk about are the attitudes for teaching things like mathematics and science as well as the overlooked fact that needs to be emphasized: primary and high school is mostly babysitting and behavioural management control for the majority of students. This has to be said and it is naive if it is overlooked.

A lot of teachers end up burning out because they have deal with kids that make it hard for anything to get done and now they have to face the situations of liability issues that interfere with student discipline. It is really a sticky situation.

The other thing about teaching is that they are protected by powerful unions.

So when you pile things like the fact that most of the teachers energy is put into babysitting students and trying to get them to shutup as well the fact that they don't necessarily have the ability to really get things going in terms of teaching due to the legal issues that they have to worry about, then you get a really bad situation for the otherwise aspiring teacher.

The other thing (and this is direct experience as a high school teacher on practicum) is that the curriculum and teaching in general does not encourage failure. They reward situations of knowing the answers before hand or if you have to figure something out, it's really a trivial thing.

This ends up getting kids to being familiar with A or A+ grades frequently and then they freak out if they get anything lower and drop the course.

This is psychologically the worst thing you can do in education. When you bring students up in this way to expect everything to be easy and always to have the expectation of top grades, you are distorting their reality so much that they snap like a twig the moment they struggle.

These self-esteem idiots don't realize that failure when balanced with reward in the right way is what develops people into balanced human beings.

The other thing is that people think of themselves in terms of their grades. If they get a bad grade they think they are bad as people in terms of being inferior in relation to their classmates, when they should be looking at the situation in terms of 'not knowing enough about the subject or the test'. This means that the students end up dropping hard subjects like science or maths just so they can do something else that makes them feel better about themselves, and it's no surprise this happens because school is the main activity for a child from kindergarden to the end of the high-school.

All of these things are properties of the systems themselves and unfortunately some of them have been intentionally designed this way, and this is what everyone needs to understand.

If I could only do one thing to help kids get more interested in science and math, it would be to tell the kids the reality of life that things are hard, you fail a lot to get to the good stuff, and that you are not your grades and your grades are not you (OK maybe thats a few things).

The minute you do this, it means that students will see mathematics and science as something that can be explored without the panic that happens now. You won't get everyone and that isn't the point: the point is to get the ones that would like to do it but don't because of those reasons and they are the ones that should be targeted.
 
  • #143
Pythagorean
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This is, of course, entirely reliant upon the fact that these people are going, by choice, to the libraries to learn about science. Simply increasing the content of a library, or a wikipedia page, only results in the better education of the already scientifically literate, or at least those who got to that point by their own means.
That's not true. People that are not scientifically literate engage in and use wikipedia (as is evidenced by the number of amateurs citing it and editing it). And librarians make contact with numerous anxious amateurs in a variety of subjects. There is an important demographic of people whose hobbies are integrated with science. Amateur astronomers are a typical local group. What's really important about these people is that they, themselves, are another layer of interface between the public and science; they promote it in conversation and they start astronomy clubs.

I still feel like K-12 education is the point that we need to really focus on. All of these outside sources of improving scientific literacy have been, so far, reliant upon people choosing to learn about science on their own because of their own motivation. Improving science in school (which requires better teachers) would by far be the most effective way to get results.
I agree about K-12, and I agree that a lot has to be done in schools. Have you seen "Waiting for Superman"?

I think one of the problems is that we can't afford to just hire quality teachers and buy quality equipment (well... we could certainly divert some defense funding, but that's a different thread...).

What we need is innovators to keep creating charter schools that will replace typical public schools, based on the old "good old boy" system. We need teachers and admin that care to replace teachers and admin that ride the system or just aren't any good.

I also previously mentioned Children's Museums. The association of Children Museums makes a good case for them:

http://www.childrensmuseums.org/index.php/case-for-childrens-museums.html [Broken]
 
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  • #144
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... I think one of the problems is that we can't afford to just hire quality teachers and buy quality equipment (well... we could certainly divert some defense funding, but that's a different thread...) ...
The ways I suggested above don't require a lot of money, they just suggest that we need a more efficient curriculum. There's no sense in spending money on better teachers, when we can deal with it at the source and create more quality teachers. (I entirely agree with you in terms of the national defense budget, though...)

I'm also not trying to say that either Wikipedia or libraries are obsolete, only that students still have to motivate themselves and go their on their own time, where an improvement in science education in schools is a more direct approach. Both are effective at improving scientific literacy, it's just that one of those options will get to more children who previously would have been entirely negligent to the wonders of science.
 
  • #145
Pythagorean
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The ways I suggested above don't require a lot of money, they just suggest that we need a more efficient curriculum. There's no sense in spending money on better teachers, when we can deal with it at the source and create more quality teachers. (I entirely agree with you in terms of the national defense budget, though...)

I'm also not trying to say that either Wikipedia or libraries are obsolete, only that students still have to motivate themselves and go their on their own time, where an improvement in science education in schools is a more direct approach. Both are effective at improving scientific literacy, it's just that one of those options will get to more children who previously would have been entirely negligent to the wonders of science.
I understand, your sentiments. There are competent education groups already working on the problem:

http://www.waitingforsuperman.com/action/ [Broken]

More to the point, there are also STEM-focused schools:

http://opportunityequation.org/school-and-system-design/stem-focused-schools-designed-support [Broken]

The programs are out there, they just need support (both financial and grassroots).
 
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  • #146
Now, there are various ways that we could try to improve science education:

1.) Change the way that science teachers are taught in college, in a way such that they are better informed, and more knowledgeable of their subject, which will more than likely transfer over to appreciation and passion; thus creating a better teacher for the future.

2.) Don't change the college curriculum for science teachers, but instead have K-12 educational programs for teachers (like something that Evo mentioned) that is almost a crash-course, trying to get them to inspire their students, or at least appreciate the subject for what it's worth.

3.) (Also branched off of Evo's recommendation) - Analyze the way that elementary, middle school, and high school science teachers are teaching. Determine whether or not it is effective (most of us know that answer), and if not, then work to create a better, more efficient, and inspiring curriculum.

We've already addressed the fact that there is a lack of science teachers who actually teach the subject (this is more of an issue with math, but is also an issue with science) that they learned in college. Now, in the future, if science education improved, essentially more students would be inspired, and we would see a surplus of science teachers due to more peaked interests in the subject.

As of now, we will have to deal with a lack of science teachers. That's why I propose this: if any teacher were to teach a subject that they weren't effectively taught in, then I think they should have to either take that class at a community college over the summer, or at least have them take a test showing that they are in fact proficient at this subject, despite not majoring in it.

Thoughts?
There was a very lovely lady who used to be a member here. She was a high school level teacher and wanted more than anything to bring education to people. I bring her up because she found herself in the situation of trying to teach students who did not seem at all receptive to learning. It made her profoundly depressed to realize that she may simply not be able to reach these students. Considering that she was in South Africa at the time she perhaps just had her work cut out for her. Either way she did not feel that she could continue there, considering her emotional state over the matter, and she left.

I think that this may be a common problem. Teachers feel that they can not teach their students and either leave those places that they are perhaps needed most, or they become bitter and jaded and begin to fail their students where they believed that their students were failing them. I think that such a person that becomes life alteringly depressed at the thought of not being able to reach their students is the very sort of person who really ought to be teaching. Someone who really cares about what they do.

The question is: How do we keep them interested? How do we keep these wonderful people from feeling that their efforts are in vain? Can we crack the shell of that cynical teacher and make them enjoy teaching again? Perhaps focusing on what teachers need to do to be good teachers fails to recognize what a good teacher needs in return to continue being a good teacher.

I certainly agree with your opinions, I don't think post cards to teachers from college students will fix everything, but perhaps the sort of investment necessary for a good teacher isn't exactly what we think it is.
 
  • #147
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A lot of people share your thoughts in particular teachers and scientific professionals including people with prior background who are not working in science and people who are active in science (like some of the people posting here).

But the thing is actually getting teachers that are not just qualified, but that actually give a ****: this might be offensive, but the truth needs to told.

There may be deficits with the curriculum and so on, but the thing is that a good enthusiastic teacher can rub off that enthusiasm to their students.

Now people have had ideas like paying teachers more, paying by performance (a highly touchy subject amongst many teachers), increasing general resources (like equipment, books, labs, etc).

But the thing a lot of people don't talk about are the attitudes for teaching things like mathematics and science as well as the overlooked fact that needs to be emphasized: primary and high school is mostly babysitting and behavioural management control for the majority of students. This has to be said and it is naive if it is overlooked.

A lot of teachers end up burning out because they have deal with kids that make it hard for anything to get done and now they have to face the situations of liability issues that interfere with student discipline. It is really a sticky situation.

The other thing about teaching is that they are protected by powerful unions.

So when you pile things like the fact that most of the teachers energy is put into babysitting students and trying to get them to shutup as well the fact that they don't necessarily have the ability to really get things going in terms of teaching due to the legal issues that they have to worry about, then you get a really bad situation for the otherwise aspiring teacher.

The other thing (and this is direct experience as a high school teacher on practicum) is that the curriculum and teaching in general does not encourage failure. They reward situations of knowing the answers before hand or if you have to figure something out, it's really a trivial thing.

This ends up getting kids to being familiar with A or A+ grades frequently and then they freak out if they get anything lower and drop the course.

This is psychologically the worst thing you can do in education. When you bring students up in this way to expect everything to be easy and always to have the expectation of top grades, you are distorting their reality so much that they snap like a twig the moment they struggle.
I couldn't read the whole post, but the start sounds like you are saying science education needs more charismatic teachers.

I have had about two teachers (grade 6 & post secondary) grade six teacher was teaching for non financial reasons, didn't need the money and I guess teaching was a good work life balance or whatever.

Other teacher, also teaching "boring" math / science was really funny & charismatic.

I found both teachers delivered the material in an engaging way. Both could have found far more financially rewarding careers specifically because of their analytical + charismatic personality. Teaching is for.... I'm not sure but not for someone with a rare & desired skill set who wants to become wealthy through their career.

With that said why is the responsibility on teachers to engage a student in science / math. I appreciate the "management" side of public education. But how spoon fed does it have to get? Take it or leave it, no?

Jimmy Snyder
addressed this whole issue in post #32 with a practical story.
 
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  • #148
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I think that this may be a common problem. Teachers feel that they can not teach their students and either leave those places that they are perhaps needed most, or they become bitter and jaded and begin to fail their students where they believed that their students were failing them. I think that such a person that becomes life alteringly depressed at the thought of not being able to reach their students is the very sort of person who really ought to be teaching. Someone who really cares about what they do.
There is a huge iceberg beneath this that no one has the stamina to chart. 1st off, though: school is a requirement and the primary element of force escapes no one, especially the kids.

There was a special on TV last week about Angola prison in Louisiana. The warden related that he got his job after years of being a high school teacher. It was all the training he needed, he said, and he hasn't done anything substantially different as a prison warden.

Enthusiastic teachers like the one you mention haven't come to grips with this and probably don't want to. The system we have being what it is, their first job is to be a kind of drill instructor/prison guard/policeman. The meta-lesson always going on in the background of all other lessons is indoctrination into society. Enthusiasm is not required, just compliance.
 
  • #149
Bacle2
Science Advisor
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I am just mentioning the way my logic goes:

Teachers that have specific degrees/qualifications in science and mathematics are far more likely to enjoy teaching those subjects (as they studied them for a reason) than someone who is not qualified. Not only that, they would have a better understanding and could probably teach the subject better too.

If we could somehow get more qualified teachers, it may in the long run help get more interested in the subject and hopefully increase the qualified teachers pool.

But, this is just wishful thinking on my behalf. I am sure there are other factors to take into account.
Maybe we could start by paying (public school ) teachers a decent salary? It seems too much to ask of someone to suffer thru 10+ years to get a PHD only to be paid a misery as a high school teacher, not to mention that there is little prestige associated with the position. But then why do we pay athletes, entertainers millions , but skimp on teachers' pay?
 
  • #150
Bacle2
Science Advisor
1,089
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Just wondering what others think about these ideas I've had:

i) Contrast the look/appeal of a nice-looking bookstores like B&N and Borders (RIP) and their respective coffee shops, with your standard dark, dingy public library. If your public library was attractive looking like these bookstores, wouldn't that make it more likely for people to drop- by the libraries, browse while having a drink and pick something up , read it casually? It seems to have that effect here in NYC. Not a silver bullet, but it may help.
 

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