Science, Engineering and Art as well –why it is hard to teach science well

I will reflect on what we know about teaching science for k-12 students and for undergraduates, how we know it, and what it tells us about good teaching. To teach well you must engineer the right learning conditions with careful design goals for what is to be learned, you must understand both the subject area you wish to teach and something of what research on learning tells us about critical aspects of learning that area (this is known as pedagogical content knowledge or content knowledge for teaching) and then you must be a skilled improvisational performance artist to pull off the lessons as intended, responding to the needs of students who enter your classroom with a wide range of prior knowledge, engaging them all as active participants in the learning.

This talk is based on work I have been doing in the area of science education since my retirement in 2010 from physics research, summarizing what I have learned in the process. Illinois and approximately 30 other states have adopted new science standards based on the NAS study “A Framework for k-12 science education” that I led. This study tried to capture the learning about learning from science education research as well as to shift the goals for what needs to be learned. I will discuss how it, together with research studies focused on teaching physics or other sciences at the undergraduate level, suggests changes in undergraduate teaching approaches as well.