Scientific education is crucial for fostering critical thinking in students. The goal of science is to investigate and analyze natural phenomena in a rigorous way in order to provide understanding about our environment. This critical thinking is paramount in the pursuit of knowledge as it allows us to make connections to separate ideas that expand our comprehension of not only science but all subjects. Physics is a particularly important section of science education. Physics provides us the tools to function in both the workplace and public sphere in a technology driven society. Additionally, the study of physics has been at the heart of innovation from electricity to rocket engines. A strong physics education will prepare our students for entry into important fields such as engineering and physics research.
My personal philosophy of teaching physics is one that utilizes the principles of engineering design and inquiry based learning. Science is a discipline that cannot be taught by simply learning and applying formulas. Instead, it must be experienced by the students through creation, experimentation, and exploration. Methods such as problem based learning, case based learning, and engineering design allow students the opportunity to apply their content knowledge in order to solve relevant problems in a scientifically rigorous manner.
As a science teacher, my goals are for students to not only gain an understanding in my content area but also in the discipline of science in general. They will understand that science is not simply a set of facts to be memorized but instead a robust collection of theories, laws, and experiences that shape our ability to interpret the natural world. Additionally, they will also recognize that science is a process that allows individuals to build scientific connections in the body of knowledge. Finally, students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the nature of science and how it relates to scientific inquiry. They will also be able to list the various parts of the nature of science and what they represent. I believe that these goals, both general and physics-specific, can be achieved by utilizing inquiry based learning methods. An example could be having students engage in an engineering design project where they have to create a teaching guide on items such as the nature of science, scientific body of knowledge, and scientific process.
As the American people progress deeper into the 21st century, we find ourselves at an educational crossroads. Astronomer Carl Sagan was astute in his observation that “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” STEM education allows educators to provide a strong scientific education that will ensure a scientifically informed populace. Additionally, a strong science education will pave the way for innovation and growth in the future. The US Department of Commerce predicts that the number of STEM jobs will increase nationally by 17% by 2018. If we are to ensure that there are individuals ready to fill those positions, we must pursue a strong science curriculum in order to produce students that can fuel the engine of innovation.
Inquiry based science education is critical to student and social progress in the United States. The skills and methods covered in scientific education allow for students to develop a strong body of scientific knowledge that they can utilize to develop rigorously tested solutions for real world problems. Scientific innovation is an engine of economic and social progress in today’s world and effective STEM education ensures that innovation can indeed move forward.