19 Urban Questions: Teaching in the City

By Shirley R. Steinberg; Joe L. Kincheloe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

How Should Science Be
Taught in Urban Settings?

Koshi Dhingra

How we think of the nature of science and scientists shapes the way we teach and learn science. It becomes important, therefore, to consider our own views as well as those of our students before attempting to list pedagogical approaches appropriate to urban classrooms. A not uncommon view of science is that it is an objective, fact-laden, impersonal discipline and that scientists are precise, logical, extremely bright, somewhat asocial or antisocial, and frequently eccentric individuals (usually white and male) who spend most of their time working on their own. This view, not surprisingly, distances many of our urban students from scientific pursuits and from identifying themselves as scientists.

Far from being a solitary activity, science possesses a significant social dimension. Three aspects of the social character of science are distinctive. First, members of the various scientific disciplines depend upon each other for the conditions (ideas, instruments, etc.) under which they practice. Second, initiation into scientific inquiry requires education from those who already practice it. Third, scientific practitioners are part of society, and the sciences depend for their survival upon society's valuing of what they do. The context of assumptions that supports reasoning and the sociocultural context that supports inquiry are directly related to knowledge construction (Longino, 1990).

The scientific method is typically described as a sequence of steps taken by all scientists during their investigations. However, most textbook descriptions impose limits on such key factors as personal interest, social influences, and relationships with the subject matter or test organisms. “Nonscientific approaches”

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