Engaging Students in Science
Thanks to LinkedIn I am aware that I have been out of the classroom for now four (4) years. While I do not teach high school Science daily, I still spend a great deal of time in Science classrooms observing and evaluating. One thing I have noticed is that teachers seem to be having more difficulty engaging students. Sometimes I am not sure if this is truly a struggle for the teacher or if the teacher has decided that the content should engage itself—that the students should invest themselves into the content to make it engaging. Either way, I am troubled by the number of students who appear to disengaged in their Science class. As I stated, I cannot pinpoint if the teacher is trying but failing, or if the teacher has shifted the responsibility for engagement to the student. When engagement lags, interest wanes, and learning is stifled. This sequence of events should not occur in a Science class. Science is dynamic. It is real, it is everywhere, and it affects everyone—this alone should be sufficient to raise the level of interest.
Science teachers, why did you decide to become a Science teacher? You are probably good at Math, why didn't you teach Math? Or English-Language Arts (which is what many people initially assume I teach, since I also write). Or Social Studies? I, honestly, considered each of these options, but I was always strongest in Science. I thought that with Science, I could always keep it interesting! I had a fear of being a boring teacher who put kids to sleep. Another plus for teaching Science was that as a Science teacher, I could really teach everything! Everything we know has a history and most advances arise from a need. Math is how scientists prove their findings. They must measure and calculate to show change—scientists don’t just say “more” or “less” they show their findings will real numbers. Scientists must be able to communicate their findings, so their ELA skills must be honed. As a Science teacher, you are a BOSS, as the kids say! You know a great deal about a myriad things, and you stay current because there is always something new in the world of Science.
Science teachers, are you communicating your love of Science to your students? Do they know that you love what you do? Do they know that you stay current because you are constantly engaging them with current news from the Science world? If any class period is boring it should not be your students’ Science class. There is too much to do! The standards are extensive, there is an expectation of 30% labs, plus you must factor in time to talk about current, not-so-related events—mudslides in California, the false alert Hawaii received about a missle threat, and alligators in brumating in frozen water! When the bell rings, it should catch your students off guard as they’ve lost themselves in their work.
In the past four years, the availability of and reliance upon technology has changed, but the needs of people have not. My biggest competition was Instagram, but now there’s Snapchat, and Instagram still exists along with other addicting and distracting apps. To counter this we must set and model rules for technology usage in class. If you want your students to put their phones away, you must do the same. You may not keep your phone in your pocket to check email or social media each time there is a transition, unless you want them to do the same. Students need structure and they need to know there is a time and place for phones—anytime they feel like it, is not appropriate. Set rules and stick to them. Be observant that you enforce rules fairly for everyone. If you find yourself giving up 20 minutes to phone issues each day, set the rule that phones must be unseen and silent. If everyone adheres and no phones must be addressed, you agree to give everyone a 5-min phone break at the midpoint of class. Incentives such as this cause students to encourage friends not to break the rules--which means less headache for you!
I stated above that the needs of people have not changed. Your students need to know that you have high expectations for them, that you will support them throughout the course; that you care about their well-being inside and outside of class. They need to know that you value their knowledge and interests. Students need to know that you see value in both what you teach and in who you teach. While you are a Science teacher, what you really teach are students.
Because Science Education Matters,
Kimberly G. Massey - M.Ed., NBCT
Science Instructional Specialist
Rock Hill Schools of York County, SC
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Kimberly G. Massey
Science Instructional Specialist, Rock Hill Schools of York County
The views/opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rock Hill Schools of York County SC.
Call for Papers
If you believe Science Education Matters, and you have something you would like to share as a blog post, papers are being accepted. Your post should be between 600 and 1500 words. The topic should be relevant to Science educators and those who care about Science education, and the future. The topic should be broad, yet specific examples should be explored in the post. Any references should be cited at the bottom in APA style and the websites should be hyperlinked within the post. Photos owned by the author are also a great addition. Please email Kimberly G. Massey to share your topic idea BEFORE preparing your post.