Astronomer Carl Sagan said “Science is a way of thinking much more than a body of knowledge” Do we teach this?

Ezgi Çallı, Turkey

As Carl Sagan points out, understanding human fallibility lies at the core of science. Science, this "way of thinking" not only signifies trial and error but it also contains the psychological capacity to grasp our weakness in making absolute decisions about whether we found the truth, regardless of the relatively short life-span of one single human.

As teachers, explaining the merits of experimentation and the value of recently discovered facts might be interesting to our students. They may even develop an attitude to accept these "beneficial facts and experiments" as the best thing in their lives. Yet this is not enough for a student and even a teacher to be sufficiently skeptical. Without doubting the authority and also the self, no student and no teacher can remove faults from their understanding of the universe.

I think the professional satisfaction of a teacher peaks when a student asks logical and challenging scientific questions. But the critical point here is not putting limitations on either your own mind or your students’ minds at those times. Teachers are also human beings who can make mistakes, but they need to be curious. They need to take pleasure in an intellectual challenge. Growth is inevitable when the feeling of curiosity exists both in the teacher and the students. Curiosity was the driving force for most of the groundbreaking scientists. How can we know that a future groundbreaking scientist is not in our classroom?

As teachers, rather than focusing on the end-products, we need to make the process of science learning creative and flexible. Telling a student that some scientific concepts are behind his/her level or that s/he is too young for such a concept would be a major fault for a teacher. Instead, we need to make the principles of science more explicit for them so that they can build on their own experiences.

What's your view?

What advice would you give a new science teacher?

Cornelia Melcu, Romania:

Mistakes are a part of human nature. We always learn from mistakes. If you make a mistake in the classe, do not worry: correct it and say to your students you were trying to challenge them. From my experience, that works!

Share your advice: 

Ivan Đerek, Bosnia and Herzegovina:

It's necessary to be consistent: set out the rules (that's the easy part) and then stick to them (this is more difficult). If you make an error, fix it and learn from it.

Share your advice: 

Nicole Speck, Switzerland:

New ideas? No worries, simply try your ideas in the classroom and don't worry much about making mistakes. You and your students will learn a lot.

Share your advice: 

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