Jay Etner on the What, When, and Why of Science Education

Related image

Science education is all about teaching scientific subjects to people who are not (yet) in the science community, or who have less knowledge than others in the community. According to Jay Eitner, good science education looks at space, earth, and life, and it ensures students are able to really grasp the information properly. Eitner’s interests lie particularly in the science education of young people in high school, hoping that this will encourage them to become more interested in all the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines. That said, science education is something that can fascinate people regardless of their age.

Jay Eitner on How to Teach Science

There are many different ways that are used to teach people about science. Interestingly, those come from various scientific disciplines themselves, including cognitive psychology, computer science, cognitive science, and anthropology. In New Jersey, schools have accepted the National Standard as set by the federal government. What makes this standard so unique, is that it is based on inquiry. This is a modern teaching method that is more hands on and involves students in their learning experience. No longer do teachers simply stand in front of the classroom with students sitting back and listening, they provide direct instruction. Interestingly, while this is now accepted that this is an effective teaching method, some still feel it is quite controversial. This is mainly because parents and educators worry that it becomes harder to measure whether or not pupils have attained a certain level of knowledge and understanding.

Informal education is also becoming increasingly popular. In this type of learning, students will go outside of the formal curriculum as set by their school. This is usually done in an extracurricular manner, however, whereby students take part in various community programs. One important medium in this is the media, who are capable of imparting various pieces of knowledge to young people in a format that they understand and enjoy. They can use printed media, but also various visual tools and video, for instance. Good examples include NOVA, The Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Dragonfly TV. Those are all targeted at younger children, however. For the older ones, there are various Facebook groups and pages that have a scientific background and where information is shared and discussed regularly.

According to Jay Eitner, informal education is a vital tool at our disposal to impart scientific knowledge on young people. This is because it speaks to young people as equals, using a medium and a format that they know, like, and use themselves. There are a number of recognize learning styles, which is unlikely to ever change. But what is changing, is the method in which those learning styles are delivered. Young people expect to work with interactive, digital tools and technology, and they are unlikely to enjoy learning unless it is delivered in that format. Eitner feels that New Jersey truly is leading the way, acting as an example of best practice to schools across the country.