Like most educational settings, the science classroom has changed dramatically in the past few decades. Education, like science itself, is an ever-changing field. As our technology and knowledge progress, we are discovering better methods for helping students learn science concepts while also teaching them to approach problems like scientists.
Technology has become increasingly ubiquitous in the past several years. Kids usually have access to a laptop or tablet daily at school. Teachers have recognized the many possibilities of using technology in the science classroom, including simulations and interactive lessons.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have opened up many new opportunities for science students. Students can experience science like never before. They can shrink down and see how atoms function or travel to other planets and galaxies. They can even do dissections.
Technology has also expanded the science curriculum into new fields such as computer science, coding, etc. Students can take entire classes on technology topics.
The Flipped Classroom
As teachers are moving away from having students read and do work in their textbooks during class, many have embraced the flipped classroom. In this setting, students do the work (such as reading and answering questions) at home and spend time in class having deeper discussions and participating in hands-on activities.
The flipped classroom allows students to get a lot of information while also doing higher-order skills in a classroom setting so that teachers can help guide conversations and experiments.
From Books To Hands-on
In the past, a science teacher’s role was to facilitate learning through a textbook. Students would get new material in a textbook chapter and through teacher lectures. Students would take notes, define new vocabulary, and answer questions in their book. At the end of a unit, they’d take a quiz.
While experiments did occur in the classroom, they were not a daily or even weekly occurrence. It is often not until high school that students sign up for a science lab, which is usually highly structured.
Now, science lessons are much more hands-on. Students spend their time exploring and experimenting. Lessons aren’t always guided and instead allow students to come to their conclusions. While there is still direct instruction, it is presented as a supplement to hands-on learning.
In the past, subjects were taught in isolation. Students worked on math during math class and reading during reading class. Now, teachers understand the benefits of teaching using cross-curricular lessons.
Many science teachers collaborate with teachers in other subjects to create integrated lessons. For example, students may spend time in science class learning about the classification of species. In social studies, they may focus on researching the history of Carolus Linnaeus, and then write about what they’ve learned in ELA class.
Since real life doesn’t occur in isolation, it makes no sense for subjects to be taught in isolation. When students focus on a concept through different subjects, they get a much deeper understanding of the concept and learn more authentically.
While historically all students were presented with the same material and manner, classes are now taught using differentiated instruction. Educators have recognized that students have different abilities and different styles of learning. When teachers meet them where they are, they’re more likely to succeed.
What does differentiated instruction look like? In some cases, it can be as simple as leveled texts to help struggling readers. Some teachers allow students choice when it comes to assessments. Students are given a choice board that gives them several options for how they want to show what they’ve learned such as creating a poster or slideshow.
As we move into the future, how we teach science will continue to change. All teachers are scientists, as they hypothesize what methods will work with their students, try them out, and continue to iterate until they get the desired outcome. As we learn more, our science classes will continue to improve.