Skip to content

Bring more argument into science education, Stanford expert suggests

Stanford professor Jonathan Osborne, PhD, believes there's a grave misperception between how scientists learn and study the world around them and how science is taught to students in the classroom.  "In science, people argue for their ideas, in terms of the evidence that they have," Osborne said in a Stanford Report story published today. "There should be more opportunities [in science education] to look at why some ideas are wrong, as well as what the right ideas are."

Strong advocates of using the "argumentation" model in science education, Osborne and colleagues are working to develop new science curriculum standards to help students better understand "science's major ideas, why they are important and how they are justified." More about their research from the article:

In 2007 they launched a large-scale, two-year study at four schools in the United Kingdom. Because individual teachers come and go, Osborne and his colleagues sought to embed the new method in the faculty of an entire school. "Lead teachers" learned argumentation from training videos and passed their training along to their colleagues. Researchers tracked students' reasoning ability, argumentation skills, views about knowledge and engagement with science.

The results, recently published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, were surprising –measures of students' skill and understanding did not significantly improve.

"This is more of a challenge that we thought it was," he said.

He and his co-authors have a few theories. Perhaps even two school years is insufficient time to see a significant effect. Or maybe the assessments of students' skills were insufficient.

"Measuring students' skills in argumentation is something which, as a field, we have not developed," Osborne said.

Or their teacher training methods may need re-thinking. Osborne is now working to help teachers implement argumentation hands-on during summer sessions.

Previously: Stanford’s RISE program gives high-schoolers a scientific boost, A proposal to combat “science alienation”, The need to rethink science education and Do high school papers hint at the state of science education?
Photo by West Point Public Affairs

Popular posts