My philosophy of science education includes three main tenets. First, I believe that science education, and education in general, should be equitable. An equitable classroom is one that recognizes that every child is unique and the factors that make a child unique can impact his/her ability to learn. Some of these factors might ethnicity, religion, personality, developmental stages, health, socioeconomic status, family environment, learning styles, etc. I believe that my role as a science educator is to ensure that every student is provided with the resources and supports that he/she needs in order to be successful in his/her learning. I recognize that this is a large task; however, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a goal that I aspire to. Ways that I can work towards creating an equitable classroom include varying my instructional and assessment strategies to appeal to a variety of students and collaborating with other professionals such as educational assistants, administrators, etc.
The second tenet of my philosophy is that science education should be an interactive learning experience. The science education that I received was very traditional: teachers transmitted content through lectures, and we sat in desks and took notes. Lab activities were used sparingly and only to confirm what we already knew. The problem with the structure of a traditional science classroom is that it quells students’ natural sense of curiosity, for they are never afforded the opportunity to explore or think for themselves. I believe that science education should promote and encourage curiosity, as well as instill a sense of excitement and wonder about the world. Therefore, during my pre-internship, I tried to provide my students with regular opportunities to take part in interactive, hands-on learning activities that introduced, explained, and elaborated on scientific concepts. For example, in the Chemistry 30 class that I taught, we made rock candy as a way to explore concepts of solubility and saturation, and in Environmental Science 20, we tested the pH of different brands of bottled water to determine whether they met Canadian drinking water standards.
I noticed a difference in my students when they were taking part in these interactive learning activities compared to when they were simply sitting in desks and taking notes. During a lecture, the students were often bored, checked out, or uninterested. However, when they were allowed to physically interact with the material, it sparked their curiosity––they explored ideas, developed insights, made connections, and asked questions. Ultimately, they became more engaged in, and excited about, their learning. In this sense, interactive learning activities are crucial to science education. Furthermore, while engaging in interactive, hands-on activities, students develop important scientific process skills such as observing, inferring, planning, communicating, and questioning––skills that will help students explore and investigate the world around them.
The third and final tenet of my philosophy is that science education should be contemporary. Science education focuses heavily on “settled” science, or science of the past, but I think it is just as important for students to explore topics of current scientific issues or advancements in order to understand how science is relevant and applicable to real-life situations. In addition, part of making science education contemporary also means incorporating social justice issues. I believe it is important to integrate social justice issues into science education in order to disrupt the notion that science is an objective body of knowledge that is separate from the social and political issues of society. That being said, one of my goals for pre-internship was to integrate contemporary science issues into my instruction. For example, in the Environmental Science 20 class that I taught, we analyzed the chemistry behind the Flint Water Crisis, and we compared the situation in Flint to the poor drinking water conditions in hundreds of First Nations communities across Canada. When we discussed contemporary issues, my students were invested in their learning because the content was relevant and applicable to their everyday lives. Furthermore, because it was happening in the present day, my students were able to ask questions like What can I do?
I think it is important to note that I don’t expect my philosophy of science education to ever be static; I expect it to always be a work in progress, constantly under construction, as I complete my internships and my degree, and throughout my teaching career. In my opinion, a philosophy that did become static would reflect that I have stopped learning and growing as a science educator. That being said, I believe that it is my responsibility to continually reflect on my personal knowledge, beliefs and values, to constantly question what I believe and why I believe it, and to make changes when they deem necessary over time. I plan to do just that.