Friday, April 27, 2007

Student-Centered Learning

Students learn better when they are directly involved in problem solving, scientific experiments, or following their own lines of inquiry. However, achieving this type of learning is difficult even for experienced science teachers. These comments won't come as new or innovative to those who have worked in science education for a while. Yet, they continue to be central to achieving high quality learning.

A new study on physics education finds that students engaged in interactive courses outperform their peers who received traditional, instructor-led lessons. ASCD Research Brief / Study

In my own experience visiting after-school programs where youth workers are trying to lead inquiry activities, there is a difficult balancing act between student-centered activity and science content. If you asked them to teach drama or basketball, these experienced and trained after-school leaders would presumably put the students at the center - letting them play and experience the activities. Yet, with science, the staff revert to their own experience with science, attempting to spew facts or take the children through programmed experiment steps.

Overcoming the preconceptions about science education as lecture-led starts with the staff. NSTA and others have been helping teachers with this for many years. Now we have to reach a new group of science education staff in after-school programs, camps, and other informal settings.

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