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Building a better way of Understanding Science - Comments

Neuro's Avatar Comment 1 by Neuro

Cool... science needs a dynamic change

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 12:29:00 UTC | #338243

deejay64's Avatar Comment 2 by deejay64

I agree.(Stands up and applauds.)

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 12:52:00 UTC | #338258

Danish's Avatar Comment 3 by Danish

It would definitely be nice if something good could come out as a side-effect of all this religious nonsense. Challenging the scientific method and the academic process isn't bad per se. It makes people think through why they are putting their trust in science and scientists.

I've personally enjoyed increasing my understanding of the scientific method. Previously I just took it for granted because my intuition told me it was right and because other people I respected said it was right. While I've been saddened by human nature and its willingness to be misled and to lie and deceive, this creationism issue has only strengthened my trust in science.

However, it has also shown that the academic community should be better at communicating what science is about and why it is so awe-inspiring even if you don't know every single detail and even if you don't have a higher education. It would be great if more effort be put into this in the future.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 12:57:00 UTC | #338264

Fuzzy Duck's Avatar Comment 4 by Fuzzy Duck

Great news!

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 13:32:00 UTC | #338277

Koreman's Avatar Comment 5 by Koreman

Religion in decline in the US
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qamMjFSZqGI

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 14:00:00 UTC | #338283

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 6 by NewEnglandBob

I do not think young people will be able to navigate the web site Understanding Science.

I tried to look at the other web site Understanding Evolution, but the links just go to an hourglass for longer than 30 seconds each.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 14:20:00 UTC | #338291

MelM's Avatar Comment 7 by MelM

Drilling down we find, on the "Misconceptions about science" page: "Science contradicts the existence of God." Another step and we arrive at: "Science and religion: Reconcilable differences"
http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/science_religion

With the loud protests of a small number of religious groups over teaching scientific concepts like evolution and the Big Bang in public schools, and the equally loud proclamations of a few scientists with personal, anti-religious philosophies, it can sometimes seem as though science and religion are at war.
...
The attention given to such clashes glosses over the far more numerous cases in which science and religion harmoniously, and even synergistically, coexist.
I enthusiastically examine any effort to improve science education. I'll go ahead and look at this site but I disagree with an approach where the special sciences try to make peace with religion and ignore the wider context.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 14:21:00 UTC | #338293

debaser71's Avatar Comment 8 by debaser71

I don't see that much problem with how science is taught in schools. And in college IMO there's too many forced lab requirements.

The reason that so many find science uninteresting and/or diffioult is simply because it is HARD. Much harder than the other academic subjects except say for math, which, of course, science uses a lot.

IMO, and I think Dan Denne has suggested this, is to have science appreciation classes.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 14:52:00 UTC | #338298

blueollie's Avatar Comment 9 by blueollie

I agree with poster number 8.

We see this time and again: many students simply lack the interest and the willingness to work hard. So science doesn't get learned, and the education establishment cooks up yet another scheme.

Here is the outcome of a scheme from mathematics education:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080424140410.htm

People can talk about "community efforts" and the like, but what is left unsaid is that the researchers have an established base of knowledge and expertise to draw from.

Students don't.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 15:11:00 UTC | #338299

SnowyDoc's Avatar Comment 10 by SnowyDoc

Science is not hard. Certain aspects of technology and the _results_ of science are hard, particularly when learned by rote.

Learning and applying the process is in no way difficult.

Similarly, providing a background as to _how_ we came to know the existing body of information is immensely useful in teaching that existing body of knowledge.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 16:20:00 UTC | #338302

Tagred's Avatar Comment 11 by Tagred

In my opinion science is not well taught in schools. It's fairly common place now to have a science teacher with only a basic understanding of the subject let alone a degree, or even first yr undergraduate training.

When i was at school at least the science teachers had degrees in the subject they taught. I still didn't like a few of them because the teachers were boring and it was clear they'd rathet do more intersting stuff, but that's a different issue.

However, there was aphysics teacher who clearly loved the subject and was boisterous and loud and was passionate about what he taught. I wasnt allowed to choose physics at school because i had already gone for chemistry and geography, but because of that teacher i became interested and took the after school classes he ran.

Enough about my history, what i'm trying to say is that effective communication has always been at the heart of teaching, and with so many pyschologists and general cowing to the lowest common denominator the kids just dont havea clue wahts going on.

The best teaching i had was from the Open University, their books are so well written, so well communicated that i could understand easily what was being said. The techniques to imparting information and keeping interest were excellent. Indeed to the point where i gave up work and studied geology at university with absolutely no previous knowledge of the subject.

While at uni the next best thing was a Spanish teacher who managed to get 12 of us through an O'level pass in 6 weeks.

If the teacher is enthusiastic, and can communicate properly then kids will naturally want to learn more, and science would benefit immenseley.

So i guess anything that helps communicate science to people in a way that is interesting has got to be a good thing. You don't necessarily have to blind them with concepts only the academic can understand, its something ive been on about for a long time. I hope the AAAS do well.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 16:39:00 UTC | #338307

UncleBob's Avatar Comment 12 by UncleBob

I think the very basics of science isn't all that complex, but layman like to make it seem like some kind of obscure method. I often run into this when discussing science with theists.

I point out we are all using the scientific method when we solve a problem. My job, like many, I'm sure, involves a lot of problem solving, and each one involves a hypothesis, testing, data collection, etc.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 16:43:00 UTC | #338308

Frankus1122's Avatar Comment 13 by Frankus1122

I looked at the site and I passed it on to the science teachers at my school.
I think it is a valuable resource.

Actually, I got lost in there for a while, but I am a bit of a geek who likes learning things.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 16:57:00 UTC | #338314

AisforAtheist's Avatar Comment 14 by AisforAtheist

I interview as many high school graduates as I can; fewer than 20% can answer this question:

"Why are there seasons?"

There's no such thing as a bad Math or Science student... just poor teachers (or bad curricula).

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 17:38:00 UTC | #338329

therussmeister's Avatar Comment 15 by therussmeister

"I tried to look at the other web site Understanding Evolution, but the links just go to an hourglass for longer than 30 seconds each."

That's because it wasn't Intellegently Designed.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 17:40:00 UTC | #338331

heafnerj's Avatar Comment 16 by heafnerj

GREAT!!!! Someone with the capacity to change the status quo FINALLY gets it!!! I've been using a similar approach in my astronomy courses for years now. Such an approach is the basis for the intro textbook I'm writing. Maybe there's hope yet.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 18:05:00 UTC | #338345

blueollie's Avatar Comment 17 by blueollie

"There's no such thing as a bad Math or Science student... just poor teachers (or bad curricula). "

This is just plain wrong.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 18:14:00 UTC | #338348

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 18 by NewEnglandBob

12. Comment #354446 by UncleBob:

I point out we are all using the scientific method when we solve a problem. My job, like many, I'm sure, involves a lot of problem solving, and each one involves a hypothesis, testing, data collection, etc.


Unfortunately, many people try to solve problems by Wild-Ass-Guess then try it, then sit in a stupor when it doesn't work.

Sometimes this is from ignorance, but often it is due to laziness or apathy or stupidity.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 18:39:00 UTC | #338351

UncleBob's Avatar Comment 19 by UncleBob

NewEnglandBob said:
Unfortunately, many people try to solve problems by Wild-Ass-Guess then try it, then sit in a stupor when it doesn't work.

Sometimes this is from ignorance, but often it is due to laziness or apathy or stupidity.
----------

I have to disagree with this a bit. If it is your job, then you either find a method that works, or you become unemployed. But even in simplistic every day events, we are applying the scientific method no matter how unaware of it we are. Even something as mundane as hanging a picture frame on the wall, and wanting it to appear straight, requires a method.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 18:59:00 UTC | #338355

heafnerj's Avatar Comment 20 by heafnerj

AisforAtheist said:

"There's no such thing as a bad Math or Science student... just poor teachers (or bad curricula). "


and then blueollie said:

This is just plain wrong.


As someone who has taught undergraduate astronomy and physics since 1992, I can tell you emphatically that the second statement is not true! We fool ourselves into thinking that science is more difficult than it really is because we fail to teach the proper foundations BEFORE teaching the science! The students who have succeeded have done so because they already had exposure to the foundations, and they are the minority. Our colleagues in music get it right, in that they don't expect would-be violin players to know how to play a symphony on the first day of an introductory violin class. Yet, in science, that's precisely what we expect students to do without any previous understanding of what science is or how it works or (most importantly) its limitations. We expect them to do science without having first learned science. The fix is simple: put the science back in (if, of course, it was ever there to begin with in our educational system). Yet, this simple fix meets tremendous resistance primarily from arrogance and egos of those who succeeded in spite of the educational system rather than because of it. Enough's enough.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 19:15:00 UTC | #338359

dougie's Avatar Comment 21 by dougie

well done to Judy Scotchmoor, she sounds progressive,which can only be a good thing....It is better than my Scottish latest news,,, Scotlands catholic schools barred pupils from raising cash for COMIC RELEIF, -because it backs contraception in Africa. ..Some lunatic, called Michael McGrath, is the head of Catholic Education in Scotland, sanctioned this rule....The virus must be stopped in Scotland ,I reckon it is harder than we think here in Scotland.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 20:03:00 UTC | #338370

Goldy's Avatar Comment 22 by Goldy

"There's no such thing as a bad Math or Science student... just poor teachers (or bad curricula). "

This is just plain wrong.

I sometimes have to sit with the undergrads and slowly talk them through the principles (mostly for calculating molarities and the like but other stuff too). If I do it slowly and simply enough, I can almost hear the click within them as the old cogs in their noggins begin to mesh :-)
Sure, some prefer the arts while others love numbers more than letters - that's their genes at work. But with the right nurture, all can be good whatever the field of study. As heafnerj said, you just gotta teach them right.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 20:07:00 UTC | #338373

Rob Schneider's Avatar Comment 23 by Rob Schneider

Right... did anyone look at the new chart? As if the Bio-Hazardesque diagram weren't enough, scroll down until you see the version of it covered in red lines.

Oh, yeah... THAT's helping clarify the understanding of science!

Nice effort, and may see some results... but the reasons for the downfall of science are:

1. Lazy kids
2. Difficult topics
3. Aggressive counter-education by anti-scientific folks.
4. Treating science as a set of facts, instead of as a worldview and/or process.
5. Letting 1 get away with avoiding 2.
6. An economy built on duping the uncritical thinkers. (i.e. good science education isn't in many businesses' self interest... we'll just figure out where/how they're scamming us)

I'm sure there are more, but adding an over-complicated flow diagram won't fix these.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 20:12:00 UTC | #338375

j.mills's Avatar Comment 24 by j.mills

Hmm. One of our first courses at university was in error handling and data analysis. I was baffled, less by the math than by why this arcane and abstract topic was being thrown at us so early. I quickly realised that it was actually fundamental and that we would immediately need to apply it in our lab work. So they did the right thing by teaching it so soon; they did the wrong thing by not explaining why they were doing it.

No biggie. But what I draw from this is that even a small amount of prior explanation of what is to be studied might greatly contribute to learning. At school we were taught biology, chemistry and physics as separate subjects; it occurs to me that at no point were we given even a single lesson explaining what science is, how it works, why it's important and reliable, and how these subjects fit together.

In an hour you could give students an overview of observation, hypothesis and falsification; of peer review and replication of results; of uncertainty and how it is handled; of how the scientific method produces knowledge independently of the experimenter's bias and idiosyncrasies; of how it is a huge communal and cumulative endeavour, and arguably humankind's most successful project. I think I'd make that the first lesson if I were designing a syllabus.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 20:46:00 UTC | #338390

ghuckin's Avatar Comment 25 by ghuckin

Good for Ms. Scotchmoor, but don't expect any positive spin-off here in Canada. Our evangelical christian prime minister (Bush North) has appointed a young-Earth creationist as his science minister.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 21:06:00 UTC | #338395

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 26 by aquilacane

J.mills wrote:
"they did the wrong thing by not explaining why they were doing it."

Pretty much wrapped up my entire education in one line. School was largely a barrage of meaningless data for me. I ignored it early and daydreamed instead.

I would flunk until my teachers got worried then I would pull off an A to show them I could do it; eventually they just left me be with a passing grade.

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 21:53:00 UTC | #338404

Crazy_Steve's Avatar Comment 27 by Crazy_Steve

School was largely a barrage of meaningless data for me. I ignored it early and daydreamed instead.


As a highschool math teacher I have seen this in action.... too many pieces of information, not enough connections.


1. Lazy kids
2. Difficult topics
3. Aggressive counter-education by anti-scientific folks.
4. Treating science as a set of facts, instead of as a worldview and/or process.
5. Letting 1 get away with avoiding 2.
6. An economy built on duping the uncritical thinkers. (i.e. good science education isn't in many businesses' self interest... we'll just figure out where/how they're scamming us)


I've seen all this too. The funny thing is the lazy kids think they are too smart to be duped. Undergrads are one thing, try hormonal 15-16 year olds and see if you think there is such a thing as a "bad student"

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 23:48:00 UTC | #338430

blueollie's Avatar Comment 28 by blueollie

Ok, I'll post an example. I had one student who really tried hard.

She was able (finally) after office hours, etc. to compute d/dx (x^2) = 2*x.

So she asks me how to do: d/dt(t^2) =

I said: "we just did that".

She said "but that was "x", how do you do "t"?"

Some people simply have no ability to abstract.

Of course, there are those who simply won't put in the amount of work necessary to succeed.

In calculus class, those who flunk are usually those who won't even bother to learn the basic formulas (e.g., how do calculate d/dt(sin(3t))= 3*cos(3t); those who learn this usually make at least a C.

Sorry, but my data shows that "bad students exist".

Of course, lots of good ones exist too; I've got 3 sections of them this year! :-)

As for those who don't think that science is hard:

1. Pick up a quantum mechanics textbook; I mean a real one (university level). Try to read it.

2. Pick up an evolutionary biology text book; I mean one that assumes a foundation of basic biology, chemistry, etc. The amount of jargon and background required to understand it is huge.

Mon, 23 Mar 2009 05:32:00 UTC | #338497

heafnerj's Avatar Comment 29 by heafnerj

blueollie,

Without any background on WHAT you taught and HOW you taught it (with the latter being somewhat more important than the former), your conclusion in no way follows from the premises. Abstraction is a learned skill and you can't expect a student to understand it without having been previously exposed to it, and correctly exposed to it. Yes, it could be true that the student didn't put forth effort outside of class, but there are several other possibilities. We're always too quick to blame the student.

Your quantum mechanics analogy is also flawed. Of course qm is difficult if you've not had a good foundation in classical physics. Even with the proper foundation, qm requires different reasoning than does classical physics. However, "different" does not necessarily equate to "difficult."

Sooner or later, we who deliver instruction must realize that we may have been part of the problem. If the situation is to improve, we need to change how we do things. I'm comforted by the fact that I'm little more than halfway through my professional career and as the old schoolers retire and die off, there's a greater probability that I and people like me can indeed make a difference. (that sounds snotty...don't mean for it to) It's not always the student's fault.

Mon, 23 Mar 2009 12:52:00 UTC | #338622

X-Muslimman's Avatar Comment 30 by X-Muslimman

I face all kinds of problems presentig evolution to my Muslim university students because most of them lack basic scietific knowledge and reasoing skills. The battle is really hard in the Arab world because facts are distorted on a regular basis.

Mon, 23 Mar 2009 12:54:00 UTC | #338626