As some of you will know, I’m currently studying how to be a teacher. I’ve already completed my bachelor of science, now I’m learning how to impart my knowledge to the young minds of tomorrow. It’s been half a semester and already I’m picking up on a few things that seem different to when I was in high school. For a start, and this could just be my particular teachers, there is a lot of focus on girls participation. When we are learning practicals to teach to our classes, our teachers make sure that all the girls are having a go. It is instilled in us as future science teachers that this is something we do when we start working. With decreasing numbers of female participation in STEM, it is clear to see why this is so important.
Something else I’ve realised is we, as future teachers, are being told not to teach as our teachers likely taught us. To make sense of this, the role of the teacher and their presence in the classroom is changing. When I was at school it was the teacher who would stand at the front of the class and transmit their knowledge to us. These days, the aim is that knowledge attainment is more student focused and student driven. They call this ‘flipped learning’, which you can read up on here. Even the way we are learning in this degree is based on flipped learning, I’m not sure if that is something specific to the university I attend, or if it’s a growing trend in tertiary education in general. The thing that stands out about flipped learning is that it allows many different types of students to excel.
Along with flipped learning comes ‘scaffolding’ – you support your students, and as they are improving, you can start taking away some of the support to allow them to engage in their learning fully. A part of scaffolding is the notion of High Challenge High Support. There have been indications that students who are encouraged and challenged regardless of their background or learning abilities can shine academically, given the right support. Take a look at this article and video, which shows how well scaffolding and support works.
The current NSW syllabus revolves around contexts, making science relevant in the real world. This is important to make the content which students learn more relatable to everyday life. Just recently in my Science Teaching Methods class, we were asked to form groups and come up with a lesson plan surrounding a syllabus dot point. To do this task we got creative, it was all about separation techniques of elements, mixtures and compounds. So to make it fun and relevant to students, we designed a whole lesson about separation techniques but tied it in with going camping. The experiments would be set up as problem solving activities with for example a background story of “you have gone camping and you need fresh drinking water”.
Now obviously most of these teaching strategies are to be incorporated in all areas of the syllabus, but it is important to tailor these strategies to teaching STEM. With a decline in the uptake of STEM subjects, with these new strategies we can start turning this around. Student engagement seems to be the theme of all these strategies, so it’s our jobs as teachers to get students to fall in love with STEM.
Want to read more? Head to the links below: