Learning comes from experiencing new information, skills, emotions, perspectives, connections, or relationships. These new experiences are transformative, resulting in different perspectives or new connections. Education is the formal process of the experience, assessment, and reflection, and its purpose is to develop individuals who are adaptable workers and moral citizens.
The purpose of science is to provide a reasoned and consistent explanation of the universe, from the production of light by the Sun to the action of dopamine in the brain, therefore science education teaches the fundamental understanding of how the world works, from visible phenomena such as the motion of the ball rolling down the hill or the eruption of a volcano to fundamental theories such as gravity and evolution. The primary focus, however, should be on inquiry, including asking testable questions, testing one variable, and interpreting results.
Within this context of education, the role of the teacher is to provide the environment in which the student is exposed to these new experiences and guided through learning. The skillful teacher designs the environment to optimize the student’s growth and the growth of the group. The best practices that I strive for are personalization, cooperative learning, and integration of technology.
Personalization is about providing appropriate challenges for students. When students are given a task that is too easy, they are bored; when it is too complex, they are frustrated. The balanced edge between the two allows for the maximum amount of growth. All students have unique assets and challenges; therefore, what is fair is not necessarily what is equal. Additionally, personalization is selecting topics or letting students choose topics that are relevant to their world or of personal interest.
Cooperative, inquiry- and project-based learning are the most effective methods for student learning. By working with peers (not necessarily age-group peers), learners have the opportunity to teach and be taught, to make emotional connections and relationships, and to see different perspectives, thus developing social facilitation skills and strengthening understanding. With inquiry-based learning, students discover for themselves the answers to questions. They learn to problem solve and adapt, and they learn to think creatively and divergently. They learn skills and content in context of their own discovery. I see these activities as shorter and more focused with clearer outcomes and end points. On the other side, project-based learning allows students to apply skills, use knowledge from multiple content areas, and integrate technology. These projects are more open-ended, centered on a problem or event. In both inquiry- and project-based learning, meaningful use of content and skills puts energy into learning and deepens understanding and transferability.
Technology has always been a part of the fabric of our lives, but the ubiquity and mobility of devices today is changing how we function, learn, and work, and students need to learn the skills to use them effectively.
I further acknowledge the implicit curriculum that I teach with my actions and my words due to what I value, which include hard work, the value of sharing what I know with others and listening, and the ability for anyone to learn.
Throughout the learning process, the student and teacher assess their progress and challenges. In being aware of how she herself learns, she controls her education, thereby making herself adaptable in a rapidly changing world. In being aware of how she teaches and her student learns, the teacher refines her practices and aligns the taught and learned curriculum.
-Written as part of the Klingenstein Summer Institute for New Teachers