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Rowena Hopkins

Relevance of the science curriculum

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Guest Adrian Dingle

At the risk of repeating myself, I do not see it as my responsibility as a high school science teacher to produce "cutting edge scientists" or to produce "anarchists" in ANY sense of the word.

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OK, I see we have totally different views on that one, but what about social resposibilty? Are we not socially resposible? What about life skills? And what exactly is wrong with a spot of anarchism when the alternative is blindly following the leader? :ph34r:

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Guest Adrian Dingle

OK, here's the deal.

If you want to talk about social responsibility let me say this. The overwhelming majority of students that pass through my classroom in any one year will have absolutely no use for knowing the formula of a sulfate ion, or understanding an acid base neutralization ever again in their lives. Utter ignornace of chemistry will almost certain not impede them on the route to riches and/or happiness. That's a FACT.

When students say to me, "Why am I learning this? I'll never use it again", I say, "You're almost certainly 100% correct, but that's not the point. This is just a set of hoops you have to jump through in order to get to the next stage in life". By making the kids meet deadlines, be responsible, be on time, be polite and courteous, be neat, listen etc. I am teaching them a set of skills that they can use in their lives which are much more useful than anything to do with the material.

Since the overwhelming majority will never use or need ANY chemistry again, I am actually providing a better service by concentrating on those life skills rather than concentrating on the subject matter that will be of use to a far smaller number. That's logic.

This seems like a very worthwhile effort on my part, since I have to deal with scores of people everyday, who don't have the skills that I mention.

Edited by Adrian Dingle

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I totally agree with you that those social skills are lacking in a lot of young people and that you manage to encourage them through your science teaching is admirable.... however one could teach them history, english or David Beckham studies and have the same results. Actually my current favourite study topic at an American university is 'Weapons of Mass Destruction Avoidance' but I digress...

So, what is special about science appart from the fact that its the one subject that I'm qualifed to teach?! Well, supposedly its about experimentation, research, trial and error, having ideas, putting existing ideas to the test, all the things that we are supposed to be doing when in fact we're ploughing through the syllabus.

If we are going to insist on teaching them things that they are never going to use again and simply helping them to jump through examination hoops then why not make those hoops about hits of the 70's, the history of fashion or the trials and tribulations of Manchester United. At least that way they might win a few pub quizes as well as being polite, tidy and perpetually on time.

If science as it stands is 'useless' to the majority and all we are doing for the genuinely scientifically inclined is helping them to get into college then why teach them science at all.......

And so we come full circle,

Rowena

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Guest Adrian Dingle

As I said before

We're not all trying to "mend" the system. Some of us teachers are pretty non-militant and are quite happy working in it, no matter how flawed it is. I am quite content that I make a positive difference to my students lives every day, even if I am preparing them for exams as opposed to "educating" (whatever that is).

It appears as though you are somewhat discontent and are constantly wrestling with the "why" of teaching science. I am very happy teaching toward an exam without questioning the "why" because I have justified it to myself, that in itself, exam preparation is a valid goal. Since you obviously disagree, AND you are working in an educational system and society where the exam results approach is continually validated (by league tables etc.), you will obviously get frustrated. I'm not.

all the things that we are supposed to be doing when in fact we're ploughing through the syllabus

I consider "ploughing through the science syllabus" TO BE teaching science!

Edited by Adrian Dingle

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Guest Adrian Dingle

If that's what the parents were paying for, yep!

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I agree that a teacher. every teacher has the duty to educate and to prepare the students to the several aspects of life,but they(the students) must learn also subjects probably they will not hear about any more in their span life.

I do not share at all the opinion that a teacher must do what the parents pay for how you,Andry,say.

So if the parents pay to let their kids pass the exams or to the next class without studying?

It seems you approve that.

What kind of school is this? And what the ethics in this? And what society are you contributing to build? :ph34r:

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Guest Adrian Dingle

Giuseppa you miss the point.

In private education, if exam results were not good, questions would be asked. I have a responsibility to help the kids get good results, to at least some degree that is what the parents are paying for. They would say that they a paying for a "better" education - part of that is better exam results.

I can only speak for my own subject, but in AP Chemistry if the kids get a good exam grade, by definition they know a lot of chemistry, so by definition they have been well educated.

I don't understand the constant "rubbishing" of exam based teaching. Many teachers seem to be afraid of hard assessment.

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I have read this debate with interest. Although it was initially about science education, the issue applies to the teaching of all subjects in the curriculum. I have taught exam groups since 1977 but left the classroom a couple of years ago to concentrate on online education.

At the beginning of every exam course I would tell my students several things. This included telling them that I would do all I could to help them get the highest possible examination grade. I also told them about the other responsibilities I had as a teacher. This included helping them develop their full potential as a human being.

I also told them that if at the end of the course they obtained an A grade but never read another history book in their life, then I would see myself as a failure. My main objective was to help encourage them to become lifelong learners. My worry is that some teachers see their role as a supervisor in an exam factory. They might do this job very well but I fear they are also at the same time destroying the student’s love of learning.

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We have a responsibility to allow students to explore an appropriate curriculum that will support them in all aspects of their lives to come. A love of chemistry is welcome bonus.

Qualifications are a requirement but don’t forget that in teaching science (and chemistry) we should not lose sight of any non examined skills. These skills are the ones that will allow the recipient to make informed and effective decisions and judgements about technological issues and so forth.

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Guest Adrian Dingle

Nick, I agree with what you say.

My argument remains that if the standardized testing and assessment is well designed, important skills that are at the periphery of factual recall, can be incorporated, and as a result exam grades can be both good, "hard" assessment AND have real meaning.

For far too long, too many teachers have been hiding behind the idea that is not possible to measure their own performance through (for example) exam results. Sensible analysts realize that it is certainly difficult, and that there are all kinds of safeguards and criteria that must be understood to make it meaningful and valid, but we shouldn't be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Edited by Adrian Dingle

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Guest Adrian Dingle

John said;

I also told them that if at the end of the course they obtained an A grade but never read another history book in their life, then I would see myself as a failure.

By doing so, he nicely encapsulates the difference of opinion expressed in this debate. I consider helping a kid achieve an "A' grade an unqualified success. I might like, but do not require, any further criteria to consider myself successful.

As I said before, I appear to be much happier and more content working within our imperfect system, than many others.

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