If you're anything like me, you're doing it wrong. Teaching science, that is. For the last two years as a science teacher, I have been on a quest for the best activities for "doing science". Hands-on, "fun", engaging, and meaningful are the words that I used to use to describe my lessons and activities. I read a ton of literature on how to get students to think like scientists and how to make my lessons focus on critical thinking. And it never really clicked. Until now.
FINALLY. I. Get. It. Science isn't something that you do. It's everything, all day, every day! Thinking critically is just a small part of science. What is critical thinking, anyway? There are so many different interpretations, but for me, critical thinking is just being able to independently solve problems that you face by using your background knowledge and whatever tools you have available to you. This starts with science, I believe! Scientists solve problems every day and it's important to teach students to think like scientists so that they can solve real world problems that they will inevitably face throughout their lives. Teaching students how to think like scientists really does change the way at which they look at life. It's all about getting students to be very curious about the world around them and to teach them how to ask testable, scientific questions. But for me, this isn't something that comes naturally as a teacher. I have to work at how I deliver the content to students. And it is so hard!!
Through reading, reading, and reading some more, I have been able to pinpoint some key strategies to help students. Prompting students with a very intriguing question is key. Developing that initial interest and curiosity is necessary in order to get students to really be interested in what they are doing is crucial to the main goal of the lesson. The next part is probing them with deeper questions until they start to probe the questions themselves. This will come over time and isn't something that happens overnight. Another big part of critical thinking is to provide students with just enough information to get them started and then BACK OFF! This is a very difficult concept for me because when a student comes to me with a question about what they are doing, it's so easy to just tell them the answer! But instead, it's so important to let students figure things out for themselves, let them ''do it¨ wrong so that they can learn from their mistakes. Even answering a question with a question is a good thing for developing critical thinking skills.
Though I started this year out VERY strong with these critical thinking skills, I let the difficulty of practicing this technique get the better of me and I haven't been as diligent with practicing these skills daily. So, after Spring Break, we are retracting a little. We are going to practice these science processing skills covering content that we've already learned about. We will just be taking it to a deeper level.
I have a very, very long way to go until I am by any means comfortable with this. But it really is all about growth and learning. I love it!!