Reviewed by Elizabeth James
HS Physical Science Teacher
This volume in NSTA's Exemplary Science series addresses a concept near and dear to my heart: students need to understand that learning about science is important to all citizens, not just people who want a science career. The book focuses on two goals described by the National Science Education Standards—to prepare students to use appropriate scientific processes and principles in making personal decisions and to prepare them to engage intelligently in public discourse and debate about matters of scientific and technological concern.
This book discusses the importance of these goals in science education and gives a number of examples of how educators at all levels in both formal and informal education settings have addressed them. The editor emphasizes that they are infrequently addressed in textbooks and in typical science classes. Too often, students’ natural curiosity about the world has been stifled by science education that focuses on discoveries made long ago. Students need to see that new discoveries are being made that affect their lives. They also need to participate actively in investigations and learn to think critically about information they obtain from the media. Perhaps most importantly, students need to understand that science knowledge can help them make choices and that their choices affect the world.
Each chapter describes one approach to science education that involves using real-life issues—often with clear local impact—to engage students and make them active participants in research. In doing so, the programs generate students who are comfortable with research and who can think critically about research they hear about. The classroom situations will be familiar to a wide range of readers, from education majors at the university level through middle and high schools and informal education settings.
The chapters explain how a scientific concept was incorporated and how well it was received. Many chapters include direct quotations from students, who were generally excited about the research they did. They were often surprised that they were able to do meaningful research. Having done research themselves, they were more comfortable with trying to understand the research of other people. Perhaps the greatest impact was their realization that science isn’t something in a book, but something people do, and that ongoing research affects their personal lives.
Too often science teachers “teach the book” rather than teach science. This is especially true for those who have not had an opportunity to participate in research themselves. For teachers who want to break out of that routine or have been struggling to make science relevant to their students, this book will be an invaluable resource. In realistically addressing problems the authors have encountered, it encourages teachers to persevere in their own efforts. For teachers who might be dealing with resistance from the community or administration, it also offers practical examples and supportive data. In addition to belonging in a science teacher’s personal library, this book would serve as an excellent resource for teacher preparation programs and professional development for science teachers.
Review posted on 1/24/2011