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Engagement in Science

Published on 08/01/15

Our starting point is that science and its applications are innately exciting - but there is no escaping the fact that there can be a great deal of quite complicated concepts that need to be dealt with in a rigorous way before understanding can properly develop.
Initially engaging students interest with an exciting event or demonstration is relatively easy - the real challenge in teaching science is to endeavour to maintain that engagement through the tricky bits. If we can do this then students can have even more exciting "wow" moments when, for example, they finally "get" electromagnetism, or can make their own spreadsheet model for stopping distance, or suddenly appreciate the universality of sine functions in nature. For students of different interests and abilities the level of this will vary but it is possible to achieve at some level for everyone.

Girls and boys starting secondary school are, more often than not, enthusiastic about science

Almost all have met intriguing ideas and enjoyed hands-on practical work in their primary schools, many have visited science centres and exhibitions, and most have seen exciting and informative science TV programmes. Our Biology, Chemistry and Physics teachers should then surely have an easy job to build on this and extend and guide the students from Year 7 through to success at (I)GCSE and beyond? Yes and no. Yes, the students continue particularly to enjoy practical work - something that differentiates science lessons from most other subjects - and the excitement of new ideas. No, the students do not all always enjoy the rigorous use of language insisted on, the more quantitative approach, the fact there is often not a straightforward answer; some do, but not all. None of them really enjoys having to disentangle misconceptions...this is completely understandable but inevitable. Naturally an eleven year old child will already have developed some sort of model in their head for what a word such as "electricity" or "force" or "particle" means, and it is incredibly hard for them to let go of or modify this whatever a science teacher shows and tells them; if they do manage to make an adjustment there may often be an unspoken, possibly subconscious, resentment towards the teacher and/or the subject.

So teaching science is not that easy, and a few flashy demonstrations will not address all the problems. It is, however, extremely rewarding and the key is always to start with the individuals who are sitting in our lessons.