New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

What Matters in Science Teaching

Alton Biggs, Biggs Educational Consulting (United States)


The question of identification and implementation of the essential qualities of great science teaching is the stimulus for spending millions of dollars for educational research and tremendous amounts of time. Good educators understand that much of this time and money is wasted, or at least, used unproductively. Anyone who has had a career in education for more than a few years can identify the latest trend. These trends alternate from one side of the pendulum to the other, with very few positive advances made.

However, not all is lost. There are answers to the question of what matters most in teaching. One does not even have to be a great teacher to realize the essential ingredients of great teaching. [4] Teachers must use what has been learned about the brain’s functioning, particularly the Reticular Activating System or RAS. [5] Such things are easy to implement in training teachers, and science teachers in particular. However, other problems are more intractable. For instance, building public commitment to schools and teachers in the face of increasing taxes, thinking about evaluation rather than just giving tests, and developing student self-discipline and love of learning are huge hurdles. [3]

This author – with more than thirty years’ experience as a secondary classroom teacher in the public schools of Texas, more than four years’ tertiary experience at the university level and more than twenty-three years’ experience as a co-author of internationally used science textbooks – has pointed out more than once that if science proceeded in the same way that educational research does, there would be a cold fusion reactor in every science laboratory. In this paper, we endeavor to go beyond the hallowed halls of tertiary academia and beyond the narrow vision of educational researchers whose main goal is to propose a new trend or a new set of standards. Instead, we distill three decades of classroom experience to detail the essential qualities that produce excellence in science learning.


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