The Need for A Holistic Approach To Science Education

Date Posted:19 January 2017 

In our last blog, we examined the problems facing science education in Australia’s primary and secondary schools and proposed some potential policy solutions.

The Need for A Holistic Approach To Science Education

In our last blog, we examined the problems facing science education in Australia’s primary and secondary schools and proposed some potential policy solutions. Formal education provides a reliable, dedicated channel for the teaching of science to a new generation, and while its importance is unquestionable, there is an extensive body of research stretching back several decades that suggests it should not be the only methodology used.

 

 

Various studies have recognised that a holistic approach to science education that includes informal education opportunities can be a significant contributor to students’ outcomes and continued involvement in the discipline. The flexibility of informal education is one of its greatest strengths, covering everything from teacher-directed field trips to voluntary assemblies of students outside the school setting for the purposes of engaging in peer learning.

Fostering learning in and outside of the classroom

Citing a 1983 review, Hofstein & Rosenfeld suggest that field trips or structured visits to educational centres or some other place valuable to the lesson can significantly and positively affect children’s ability to learn and retain new information.[1] Additionally, the authors draw on two Singaporean studies from 1985 and 1987 that says that when assessed on a topic explained through an exhibition at the Singapore Science Centre, students who had interacted the exhibition outperformed those who didn’t in their ability to understand and then explain the underlying theory.[2]

In their summary of the findings, Hofstein & Rosenfeld conclude that informal science experiences – broader than simply field trips and covering student projects, community-based youth programs, casual visits to learning settings and voluntary reading – can effectively enhance science learning outcomes.

The effect of community-based youth programs was remarkable in itself. An analysis[3] of youth program members’ attitudes towards science found a surprising divide between their perception of what the authors defined as ‘science’ and ‘school science’, with members’ having a much higher opinion of the former than of the latter. The study suggested that students who enrolled in this program were more inquiry-oriented, and had concerns with the way that the formal science curriculum was deployed to meet ends other than broadening student horizons (i.e. enhancing performance in examinations). Programs such as Melbourne University’s Robogals have had success encouraging groups with historically low rates of participation in STEM fields – such as teenaged girls and young women – to continue their science education, obviously offering them something they are unable to get in formal settings, such as support and encouragement from people with a life experience more closely resembling their own. They provide greater opportunity for open exchange of ideas – something arguably more important to an individual’s success in scientific pursuits than rote learning of pre-established facts.

The importance of peer-directed and shaped education

Institutional education provides crucial discipline and academic rigor, but innovation is often born from a broad body of experiences. Informal education through science centres as well as ad-hoc and student-run groups like Robogals offers young and aspiring scientists the chance to meet and collaborate in casual settings with peers, encouraging more creative, free-form learning and exchange of information. Schools and bodies looking to create Australia’s next generation of innovators and inventors would do well to take note.

 

[1] Hofstein, A., & Rosenfeld, S. (1996). Bridging the gap between formal and informal science learning. Hofstein, A., & Rosenfeld, S. (1996). Bridging the gap between formal and informal science learning.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Eylon, B. S., Hofstein, A., Maoz, N., & Rishpon, M. (1985). Extra-curricular Science Courses: filling a gap in school science education. Research in Science & Technological Education, 3(1), 81-89.


Comments (1)

Way to go on this es

4 February 2017
Way to go on this esyas, helped a ton.

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