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Why Science is Hard to Learn.

05 Sep

At the same time, it begs the question:

“why is Science hard to teach”?

Got two words for that:

misleading concepts

The other day, when I found myself mentioning to students ‘I’d been teaching for longer than they’d been breathing’, I realized that, despite the long time, the challenges of teaching Science were always there…

I could list here various reasons for those difficulties: perhaps students have persistent preconceptions (especially misconceptions); lack previous life experiences (including those they might have missed in school) that would have provided valuable background information on the topic; maybe even a limited ability in the math skills needed for a particular subject; difficulty understanding abstract ideas; all that together requires a lot of extra strategic teaching skills from the teacher. If the majority of these difficulties are not addressed, in one way or another, students may end up developing even more misconceptions and more gaps in their learning…

So, maybe, teaching Science is harder than learning it? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to this question, and would gladly accept suggestions and/or guidance… Teaching is already hard enough by itself. When we add to the pot a series of misleading concepts, which aren’t all untrue in their nature, but extremely challenging to explain and to be understood, then, the boiling conclusion teachers have to face are serious instructional dilemmas

But, hey! Although hard to admit, some concepts are not as easy to teachers as we may try to sell them to students! [guilty smiles!]

One common fact is that the more abstract a Science topic is, the harder it is to learn for many people, including us, teachers! Telling Science to students is not teaching Science.

These images all show an aspect of science, but a complete view of science is more than any particular instance.

image from University of California Berkley (ucberkley.edu)

We all, students or not, learn by “doing” Science, and abstract topics need to be made concrete. The question is: ‘How?” How to transform concepts such as “the flow of matter and energy in ecosystems“, “matter and its transformations“, “Earth’s shape and gravity“, and understanding changes in motion – into something more concrete? Luckily, for these questions in particular, if you are curious, feel free to visit the “Hard-to-teach Science Concepts“, a great discussion-book for teachers and committed parents. Students are better able to face their misconceptions and preconceptions when they are engaged in instructional activities, placing Science into a context they are capable of understanding…

If learning Science is considered to be difficult, the reverse activity, the act of passing on your life and academic experiences, your knowledge, your discussion points, through teaching sessions, is also challenging! And as Carl Sagan once stated (see box above), offering our students and our children a “shrug” as a possible answer, could just be the path of least resistance, but definitely, may not work in the long run when attempting to raise intellectually motivated students – that being in Science or in any other academic field.

Good luck to us all, Science teachers or not, and I’m wrapping this ‘brainstorming’ post up, with a very optimistic smile… :o

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5 Comments

Posted by on September 5, 2011 in EDUCATION, resources, science

 

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5 responses to “Why Science is Hard to Learn.

  1. recetasencocinacaseras62.page.tl

    December 20, 2013 at 1:28 am

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    |
    En Este blog tiene el mismo diseño que tenía instalado en el mío.
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    Me divierte tu artículo. Guardo el Feed y así no perderme nada en el futuro.

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  2. The Gates of Lodore

    October 20, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    A few thoughts here:

    1) Most students are not receptive to science until it becomes hands-on, and the value or importance of the lesson is understood. Few science teachers adequately demonstrate the practicality of their lessons.
    2) Science teachers are dealing with a culture that is increasingly taking things for granted. Most people can now get through life without having to understand what direction gravity pulls things or how the brakes work on their car. 100 years ago, basic science was needed for many everyday tasks, such as cooking and farming.
    3) Teaching adults science is pehaps more difficult than teaching childen. I am contatnly bombarded with questions from the general public about what a geologist studies and how it relates to everyday life. Adults rarely listen, and continue to believe their myths and old wife’s tales before they accept new knowledge. If adults are unwilling to learn, their children are also unlikely to take an interest.

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    • 3rdcultchild

      October 20, 2011 at 7:34 pm

      Thank you so much for your response, your inputs, impressions.. it’s definitely not an easy path… I’m experiencing now, for the first time, teaching elementary kids (science labs), and I’m finding out that all my years teaching college kids, are not very useful when you’re willing to transfer knowledge and info to teens, and recently, to elementary kids… but, we keep on moving… let’s see… let’s be in touch.. thank you again for sharing your perception and experiences!:o
      Greetings from http://3rdculturechildren.com

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  3. carlaat

    September 5, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Have you read Making Sense of Secondary Science by Rosalind Driver? This is a great book that deals with children’s misconceptions in science and helped me tremendously when I was teaching – just to remember how students might see the world and what I had to bridge to get their thinking to a scientific place.

    I also love these two videos: A Private Universe and Minds of our Own. They’re available free as streaming videos from The Annenberg Foundation – there’s a ton of great resources on that website for teachers interested in helping students really understand scientific concepts, not just regurgitate what the teacher tells them. Just Google “A Private Universe” and you’ll find it. This is the link: http://www.learner.org/resources/series28.html

    Best wishes!

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    • 3rdcultchild

      September 5, 2011 at 1:56 am

      Carla – thank you for stopping by! and this for taking the time to comment and share a bit of your experiences! That’s what I’m always looking for: shared experiences, guidance, suggestions! It’s never too much! I’ll definitely be checking them out! Cheers from Recife, Brazil! ;o

      Like

       

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