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How We Teach Science

How We Teach Science

What’s Changed, and Why It Matters

John L. Rudolph

ISBN 9780674919341

Publication date: 06/01/2019

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A former Wisconsin high school science teacher makes the case that how and why we teach science matters, especially now that its legitimacy is under attack.

Why teach science? The answer to that question will determine how it is taught. Yet despite the enduring belief in this country that science should be taught, there has been no enduring consensus about how or why.

This is especially true when it comes to teaching scientific process. Nearly all of the basic knowledge we have about the world is rock solid. The science we teach in high schools in particular—laws of motion, the structure of the atom, cell division, DNA replication, the universal speed limit of light—is accepted as the way nature works. Everyone also agrees that students and the public more generally should understand the methods used to gain this knowledge. But what exactly is the scientific method?

Ever since the late 1800s, scientists and science educators have grappled with that question. Through the years, they’ve advanced an assortment of strategies, ranging from “the laboratory method” to the “five-step method” to “science as inquiry” to no method at all. How We Teach Science reveals that each strategy was influenced by the intellectual, cultural, and political circumstances of the time. In some eras, learning about experimentation and scientific inquiry was seen to contribute to an individual’s intellectual and moral improvement, while in others it was viewed as a way to minimize public interference in institutional science.

John Rudolph shows that how we think about and teach science will either sustain or thwart future innovation, and ultimately determine how science is perceived and received by the public.

Praise

  • Scientific research has changed a great deal over the past century, but the ways that students have learned about science have changed even more dramatically. In this engaging and wide-ranging study, historian John Rudolph traces enormous pedagogical shifts, the aspirations behind them, and why they matter for scientists and citizens today.

    —David Kaiser, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Author

  • John L. Rudolph is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he teaches in the departments of Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Policy Studies and is a faculty affiliate of the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies. His research focuses on the practice and history of science education in American high schools. Rudolph was Editor-in-Chief of Science Education from 2011 to 2016 and spent a number of years teaching physics, chemistry, and biology in middle schools and high schools across Wisconsin.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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