Before I get started here, I have a quick announcement. Seed is seeking reader-submitted questions to ask its ScienceBloggers, so if you have a burning question (and I know you do), submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s (or last week’s, rather) Ask a ScienceBlogger question is “What makes a good science teacher?” I probably put this one off for so long because there’s so much to cover there. Since nobody wants to read a 5,000 word essay, and since I’ve pretty much missed the boat on this one anyway, I’ll make this one short.
Most of the general qualities that make someone a good teacher in any subject translate to the sciences, but I think there are three things in particular that good science teachers do really well:
- They inspire enthusiasm for the sciences, and they do that primarily by being enthusiastic themselves. If you’re not excited about the subject, it’s probably not really going to happen. You don’t have to be quirky or weird, but you do need to be able to articulate to your students in a believable way why you love the sciences. Especially in the early years, this can really influence how positively a student is going to perceive science in the future.
- They make things interactive. Science in the real world is a hands on endeavor, and it should be in the classroom as well. Unfortunately, so many classrooms are constrained by funding for material and by time, especially with more and more class time being wasted on preparation for standardized tests. Although planning fun, exciting, and interactive labs can be difficult and time consuming, the payoff is enormous, both in the increase in understanding and in general interest in the sciences. This doesn’t just have to happen in labs, asking constant questions to drive a lecture forward helps keep students involved and interested.
- And, they make connections between facts within a subject and between different subjects. The most interesting parts of science are the unifying principles–the things that really explain how the world works. A comprehensive science education should stress the big picture while giving the students the factual background to see these principles at work. Evolution, in particular, is one such unifying theme, one that helps put the rest of biology into perspective. Even where the teaching of evolution isn’t directly compromised by law, I have known teachers who shied away from it to avoid controversy. Although it’s hard to blame them, their students are missing out on a big part of their science education.