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What are the biggest barriers to learning science?

Discussion in 'Science' started by scienceteacher11, Dec 30, 2011.

  1. scienceteacher11

    scienceteacher11 New commenter

    I am writing an essay and am trying to find some alternative views other than literacy being the biggest barrier was hoping someone could point me in the right direction. View or names of some researchers would be really helpful!
  2. ferrisbueller

    ferrisbueller New commenter

    Being able to do effective research ?
  3. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    With great respect, scienceteacher11, I think we need to be a little more specific.

    From your username, I guess you are a secondary school teacher, teaching compulsory age school children (ages 11 to 16), and you may also be teaching post 16+. The barriers to learning science, your phrase, may well be different for the different age-groups, and also will certainly depend on what we mean by "learning science".

    "Learning Through Science" was a project initially sponsored by the Schools Council and the Scottish Education Department. I became involved as I developed my teaching from the original Nuffield O-level science courses, with their emphasis on practical work. The barriers to learning science nowadays are largely because these initiatives, albeit top-down curriculum innovations, have been largely ignored. The teaching profession is not really open to change, and then the UK Government stepped in with its National Curriculum.

    However, the Association for Science Education continues to lobby for practical science, which brings me to my point. Many science teachers will not make science a fully practical subject , like art and craft, for instance, and the reasons are now documented and communicated to a recent House of Commons Committee.

    One barrier to the learning of science (at any age) is that teachers do not see the subject as a hands-on, experiential, learning by doing, learning through play, activity.

    You ask for researchers, I began with Piaget!
  4. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Not enough practical work and too much 'thinking like a scientist/skills/planning etc
  5. scienceteacher11

    scienceteacher11 New commenter

  6. To the OP - do you mean learning science or passing science exams?
    If the former, I agree with the above posters, however there are some topics that have very little practical investigations that are allowed and some that would require the genius of Einstein to extract meaningful learning from everyone in the class
    If the latter, which is basically all science teaching now in UK state schools, there is no time to learn practically full stop. Unfortunately we have to teach to the exam and that means a laughably small amount of time to get through the material which means chalk and talk
  7. Also, teaching how to interpret questions
    In short - give us MORE TIME
  8. jermar

    jermar New commenter

    Sorry to say but literacy is one of the top 3! You can add numeracy, organisation, basic knowledge, interest, great teaching, lots of time for practical and discussion. I could go on.
    I agree totally with other posters. Having taught Nuffield A level Chemistry for years it was by far the best way. The students found it hard at first though but loved it by the end.
  9. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    With great respect, Mathsteach2, that is not the problem. In fact the story of my teaching career is constant change imposed from above, sideways and below, and the fact that I am still practising as a teacher is evidence that I (and my colleagues) are constantly adapting to change.
    I agree with you that practical work is a key part of scientific experience - possibly more so than ever as I am finding that youngsters seem to have less experience of the real world outside the classroom than in the past. In addition, many things that worked by clear mechanisms now work with "black boxes" of electronics. This means that the experience of the world of forces, tools and mechanisms is less clear to youngsters than before.
    In addition, despite the enormous push from Government and schools to develop language skills, some of the youngsters I see seem to have lower abilities to read, write, speak and listen. Some of them are also less well socialised and much less able to follow simple instructions.
    At the secondary end of science, the key barrier is getting from the practical to the abstract, the linking of observations of the world to explanations involving scientific ideas. Part of this is down to trying to get too abstract too early, part of it is down to the language barriers where we use normal words with very specific meanings.
    Increasingly, bigger classes and reduced time make for insuffiicent individual attention. I am also finding less and less time to think about what I am doing and why I am doing it. Too many lessons on autopilot!
    However, I am assured that Kwality is rising. Praise Mr Gove for Kwality with a capital K!

  10. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It's a shame the 3rd edition book destroyed the ideal.
    That text book, littered with errors, that was too hard for any student not expecting a grade B to begin to use ruined the whole idea for us.
    Best wishes,
  11. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    In no particular order, barriers include
    1. Literacy of students and their ability to access teaching materials
    2. Numeracy of students and ability to understand how results need to be processed
    3. Resourcing - I do not think that a single state school will have the resources to do all the experimental work that would lead to greater understanding
    4. Faddy ideas e.g. APP for KS3, HSW (the non-practical aspects) in KS4
    5. Uninspiring specifications, particularly for core science courses. I stil can not believe that people thought that taking out all the practical topics from the compulsory qualification would make it more interesting
    6. Results pressure leading to rigidly teaching the specifications rather than educating about science
  12. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    A very interesting and accurate post, ScienceGuy.

    I do hope that you have contributed to the ASE's recommendations to the House of Commons Committee, thus affecting the government proposals for NC science due out this year.
  13. I agree totally.
  14. jermar

    jermar New commenter

    I have to agree there as well,
  15. jermar

    jermar New commenter

    Spot on, it is a shame though that we are at this stage.
  16. lunarita

    lunarita Lead commenter

    I don't believe for a minute they thought it would. I think it was more likely a response to the shortage of specialist teachers able to deliver practical classes.
    Now the classes can be covered by non-specialist teachers and even by cover supoervisors.
    Quality of education has lost out to cost cutting and political dogma.

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