As our pedagogy has developed, we've paid great attention to the importance of individual learning needs, developing individual education plans for exceptional students but also promoting the concept that teachers build a strong relationship with each of their students. This relationship is intended to help the teacher meet the student where they are, and encourage their involvement in the content of the course through their interests and the interaction. The content should be learned in isolation, between the teacher and the student, and often teacher and student via technology. Certainly we've enabled learners in our classroom to push themselves further and engaged them with this model, but we've done so at the cost of true authenticity in modeling the discipline of science, and indeed the primary mechanism by which many working environments function in general.
Pure science is a model whereby a primary investigator (PI) works alongside colleagues, such as other PhD's, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, to solve a problem as precisely as possible. Once they think they've done so, they send off their work to journals who share the work with other peers working in the field, hoping to support their findings, either through repetition studies (rarely) or support of the theory surrounding the evidence in the paper. In doing so, once peer reviewed, such research is finally seen as 'valid' and is shared with the science community at large, albeit often a small subset of the field who may be the reading audience of that journal. In this way incremental progress is made in our understanding, and this progress is supported by evidence and testing, rather than pure conjecture. The problem is, this in no way represents what many classrooms have come to embrace as learning in science. Rather, the scientific facts are shared and repeated, perhaps innovative ways of asking students if they know these facts are invented, but little to no aspects of a student's experience represent true scientific study or a sense of why science might be a field they wish to pursue. We rely on students to engage themselves in 'the material' and our enthusiasm, for it is seen as an obvious indicator of why they should be just as enthused. If we found ways to show students what real science means, earlier, we would show them why it is an all encompassing discipline and why their questions are worth examining. This does not minimize the importance of providing students with the large and sometimes challenging lexicon of science, nor the essential concepts that they must embrace to have a conversation; I can't talk to you about heart conditions until you know the anatomy of the heart. But the proposition is that content should run simultaneously with scientific study, where the teacher acts as the PI and the students investigate their own questions via direct scientific experimentation. To this end, they're required to work in groups, bouncing ideas off one another and submitting their work together.
This is how science is done, this is how many students learn best, and we have forgotten this, in our efforts to enable student achievement. Scientists rarely work in isolation and we need to acknowledge that we're not doing students a favour by avoid anxious situations where they have to talk to peers, because this is likely to be the reality once they enter the working world, and not exclusively in science. We need to reimagine a classroom where students are constantly working in groups and bouncing their ideas off of the teacher, in an almost apprentice style setting. Certainly some lecturing will be necessary, and attempting to completely focus on theory without providing the backbone of content is foolhardy. But finding ways to engage students in working groups for their learning is an advantage, not a drawback, and should be embraced not only because of its capacity building aspects, but also because it more closely resembles professional science discovery. Students need to be encultured with the principles of scientific discovery, and group work is a key element.
In my discussion, I'll give 3 key examples I've used in my class to try and help in this regard, which assist students in their learning as well as their ability to describe the material to their peers. I will present a model of how students should leave the high school setting as graduates with a science focus, and how it better prepares them for university, college settings, and scientific study.