former begets the latter

Posted on August 10, 2010

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According to the National Science Foundation, by 2020, 80% of all jobs in the United States will require a STEM background. What this predication should do is serve as a serious wake up call for the current state of science education and teacher preparation in our country. Many students around our country are not prepared to work in a STEM based economy. That is partially the fault of teachers that are underprepared to deliver science classes that model true scientific work. Modeling work that requires exploration, creativity, risk taking, and failure are not taught in our nations classrooms. Instead students are given the virtual guidebook of all of the science understanding up until twenty or so years ago and the subsequent cookbook required to find the answers to the questions that were solved decades ago. What they do not find is the curiosity, problem solving skills, creativity, and fortitude that all of our past discoveries required. Those skills cannot be found on a multiple-choice test, a worksheet, or in a predictable lab scenario, instead they are honed when they are encouraged by leadership that understands and values the true nature of science.

A good portion of my career has been spent encouraging students to try something new in my science classes, writing curriculum that hopefully changes the face of science teaching for the better, and helping educational leadership understand that scientific understanding and development is stifled by the standardized assessments we are forced to measure it with. Through the diverse schools that I have taught in, and my education at the University of Pennsylvania, I feel that I have been exposed to not only the academic, research based understanding of science education, but the real “boots on the ground” aspect of science teaching. The former does not beget the later in that scenario. To be a quality science teacher in current times, the teacher has to have research based practices as well as the ability to facility student science exploration. Due to the nature of not only teaching, but also of research, it is difficult to find someone that not only has the time to dedicate to both crafts, but also has the skill and innate ability to do both with equal deft.

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