“Will this be in the test?”

Amongst the major science research journals, Science magazine has consistently been the most prominent in flying the flag for science education. I was very interested, therefore, in an Editorial by Carl Wieman in the September 4th 2009 issue of the magazine. In his piece Galvanising Science Departments, Wieman describes some fairly radical innovations in Science Education currently underway at the University of Colorado and the University of Bristish Columbia. The aim is to adopt evidence-based teaching methodologies with emphasis on the development of scientific thinking and problem-solving skills rather than fact regurgitation.

I have no direct experience of teaching in the USA, either as provider or recipient. I know, for example, that much greater emphasis is placed on the recommended course text in the USA than in the UK, but beyond that I cannot speak with any authority. It does sound like some of the reported innovations are things that have taken place here for some while, such as the addition of specific (skill-centred) learning goals to modules. A cornerstone of the strategy has been appointment of science education specialists, individuals who not only have expertise in their subject discipline, but are also au fait with educational and cognitive psychology studies, a variety of effective teaching strategies and – I note with some mirth – possess diplomatic skills!  The programme is ongoing, the University of Colorado is in the 4th year of an initial six year project and so the full impact of the developments will not be known for some while. Continue reading

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