Challenges in teaching science to high school students

  • ShanksE

    Posts: 263

    Mar 06, 2010 1:57 PM GMT
    I know that a lot of people on this site have science backgrounds and have worked as TA's at some point of time. What I would like to know is what challenges they have faced or are facing as teachers/educators/TA's in imparting science education to students?
    I would also appreciate if some one could share experiences that they have had with special needs children...If so what teaching techniques have you employed? I would be much obliged if you could share some information with me!

    It would also be great if science students could chip in with their perspective on the problem! Thanku!
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    Mar 06, 2010 6:16 PM GMT
    Trying teaching humanities.
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    Mar 06, 2010 6:30 PM GMT
    There is a technique called Guided Inquiry. Here is one teacher's site explaining it. Looks like he has gone entrepreneurial and is selling his lesson plans. Anyway, you can read about the technique and then research it more.
  • scubaguy1981

    Posts: 69

    Mar 06, 2010 6:40 PM GMT
    It seems that now the hardest part about teaching is that the students feel "entitled" to their education and grades, they appear to think that it's enough to just show up. It really makes me worry about thier ability to compete for jobs and promotions in the "real world". So the biggest thing for me has been to find what motivates my students on an individule basis and try to incorporate that into my lecture. I however don't really have the luxury of teaching what I want or think they need, so it makes it tough. You have to be creative and show them how much you like what you are teaching and show them how you applied it to life and how they can then do the same. Most of my last few years has been trying to lead by example and to hopefully be a positive role modle for the young minds and carrers. (I teach 18-25yos)
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    Mar 06, 2010 6:43 PM GMT
    scubaguy1981 saidIt seems that now the hardest part about teaching is that the students feel "entitled" to their education and grades, they appear to think that it's enough to just show up.

    There was an article in the NYT a year ago entitled "A's for doled out nice tries".
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Mar 06, 2010 7:24 PM GMT
    It really depends on the level and course. I have taught high school and now teach at the collegiate, and I taught art history in high school and now teach composition and environmental science. The biggest issue a science teacher faces typically occurs in biology in my experience. Depending on where you teach, evolution, the big bang, etc... doesn't play well. And global warming is starting to appear scientifically "shaky" as well. Students and/or the parents and even people not even connected to your class will try to undercut you.
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    Mar 06, 2010 7:40 PM GMT
    In college and senior high, I have only taught world & US history, US political science, physical education, geography and military science (for college Army ROTC). Never any hard science.

    But I always kept in mind that my students learned in different ways: visual, kinetic, tactile, aural, and verbal. I tried to make my classrooms contain elements of them all, so that what I presented would connect with each of them in some way.

    In college I tended more to the verbal lecture mode, though with lots of visuals. In high school I stressed more of the kinetic, tactile and aural, with much more student participation.

    I would think teaching science in high school should also stress these same features, though I'm just speculating...
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    Mar 06, 2010 7:42 PM GMT
    Used to teach pre-university Chemistry. It was a struggle to complete the syllabus, and yet put across how it was applicable to the students' daily lives. Too many in Singapore are also used to learning by rote, which makes guided inquiry difficult.

    When it comes to explaining difficult concepts, I find that it really helps to go down to the student's level, and explain it in the context of something they deal with on a day-to-day basis.
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    Mar 06, 2010 11:24 PM GMT
    Yes, I agree with teaching in context also.

    From taking science and math courses in high school and college, I'd say my biggest turn off was learning theory. I'm the type of person that learns better when I see science/math applied through lab experiments or visual models. Sitting at a desk and going through formulas all day is pretty boring.
  • Hunter9

    Posts: 1039

    Mar 06, 2010 11:32 PM GMT
    I suggest you watch the television series "Breaking Bad" on Sundance.
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    Mar 07, 2010 12:33 AM GMT
    I TA'ed and taught both college level general and organic chemistry.
    I think the biggest problem for most students taking science classes, at least at the college level, is that 80% are required to take the course as fulfillment for their major (usually not science). As a result they have no interest in what is being taught. icon_rolleyes.gif So what you have to do is keep it entertaining. I accomplished this by relating the material you are teaching to "real world" applications or every day examples that most everyone was familar with but never thought about on the chemical level. Then do a demo. Students are more likely to pay attention to something that looks familiar to them and is cool compared to something that isn't.

    For example this past summer I taught organic synthesis and spent about a week on a particularly long and rather dry subject of carbonyl chemistry. As much as I tried to make it bearable, I saw too many glassed-over expressions so I decided to do a demo that reinforced the key concepts. It was the Monday following the 4th of July and I told them how I was out watching the fireworks and and saw a bunch of drunks waving around glowsticks. As it turns out the active component of glowsticks, cyalume, and the sensitzer can be synthesized using carbonyl chemistry. I made both before class, went over their synthesis, and made a rather large scale reaction that got a lot of "oohs" and "ahhs". After class I got a lot of compliments on how that demo helped and how cool it was because they didnt think about it before.

    Also, least for me, I wasnt much older than most of my students, so you can be a little lax about your demeanor. Talk to them as if they were one your friends but still keep it professional. That way they see you as "one of them" and you become more approachable but they still hold the repsect for you as an educator.
  • ShanksE

    Posts: 263

    Mar 07, 2010 8:13 AM GMT
    Thank you all so much for your feedback.. it was really useful.. i do agree that demonstrations and visual/aural aids are much better than lecturing.. it reminds me of a quote that the head of our department in graduate school used to have in his cabin..
    it said : Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater. ~Gail Godwin

    As was pointed out, the issue is also about the curriculum and students' tendency to rote learning.. increasing practicals would surely be of help i guess!

    @Rgabon: that was a real cool example!! will surely take a page out of your book!

    @Caslon13000: Thanks for the link, it did have a few helpful hints..

    thank you all, and do keep the feedback coming in. would much appreciate it! icon_smile.gif
  • ShanksE

    Posts: 263

    Mar 07, 2010 8:17 AM GMT
    Pinny saidTrying teaching humanities.

    When we were in our final year of engineering at grad school, we had to take an elective from the humanities division.. a few of us opted for "classical indian thought in modern times" and boy did we have a blast in that class!! it was really amazing.. philosophy can be so much more difficult because of the level of speculation in it.. especially when one is dealing with difficult concepts like advaita vedanta, mimamsa, yoga, etc.. i really appreciate profs of philosophy who need to prepare so much more to keep the class interested and engaged in thoughtful debate!
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    Mar 07, 2010 8:22 AM GMT
    I did some teaching once, 2nd year uni students (lab and field demonstrator) and those undergrads gave me the shits. I was never disrespectful of any demonstrators back in my uni days, but these adults (and I use that term loosely) were terrible and just stupid. You will have a few students that will be interested, so my advice would be to focus on them and make sure they are doing well.