Teaching and Learning Science: Towards a Personalized Approach

Teaching and Learning Science: Towards a Personalized Approach

Teaching and Learning Science: Towards a Personalized Approach

Teaching and Learning Science: Towards a Personalized Approach


This book extends and unifies recent debate and research about science education in several disparate fields, including philosophy of science, cognitive psychology and motivation theory. Through an approach based on the personalization of learning and the politicization of the curriculum and classroom, it shows how the complex goal of critical scientific literacy can be achieved by all students, including those who traditionally underachieve in science or opt out of science education at the earliest opportunity.

Current thinking in situated cognition and learning through apprenticeship are employed to build a sociocultural learning model based on a vigorous learning community, in which the teacher acts as facilitator, co-learner and anthropologist. Later chapters describe how these theoretical arguments can be translated into effective classroom practice through a coherent inquiry-oriented pedagogy, involving a much more critical and wide-ranging use of hands-on and language-based learning than is usual in science education.


A decade ago, Roberts (1988) posed the question 'What counts as science education?' It is still a pretty good question, though we may be only a little nearer to a satisfactory answer than we were when he suggested that 'it depends!' It depends on what is seen as the overall purpose of science education and, on this question, different stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, scientists, employers, politicians and the like) continue to express significantly different views. For some, school science education is about the selection and education of future scientists; for others, it is about preparation for responsible citizenship. Yet others see it as a means of responding to economic needs, social crises and problems of environmental degradation. As a consequence, says Roberts, science curricula exhibit a range of 'curriculum emphases': everyday coping; structure of science; science, technology, decisions; scientific skill development; correct explanations; self as explainer; solid foundations. Fensham (1994) has extended this list to include 'science for nurturing' (knowledge for improving the quality of life and environment) and 'science for making' (science for technological capability).

In recent years, it has been widely argued that many of these disparate goals are subsumed under the umbrella notion of science-technology-society (STS) education (Solomon and Aikenhead 1994; Yager 1996) and its overarching goal of scientific literacy. 'The STS (science, technology and society) concept of curriculum … is an opportunity to organize and present all the goals of science education in a coherent package' (Ministry of Education (Alberta) 1990: 44, emphasis added).

Although scientific literacy is by no means a new term, it has become established as one of today's slogans or rallying calls, along with the more recent 'authentic science', and is increasingly being used as a substitute term for the goals of science education. The opening paragraph of a decade-old article by Shahn (1988: 42) is typical of much of the rhetoric surrounding the notion of scientific literacy, and is worth quoting at length.

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