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Role of Teacher and Student: how to alter status quo

Updated: Nov 11, 2017

Unfortunately, the role of teacher and student has not changed to any significant degree not only in the last few decades to half a century as the timeline depicts (all the steps are policy details with little overall effect or impact), both post and pre Sputnik era reforms, but as Sir Ken Robertson and Seth Godin would argue, the traditional structure of the classroom is still the same as what it was just after the Industrial Revolution when large-scale public education first began to take form and was modelled based upon the premises of factories, production, workers, and output. This problem is rooted in the fact that unfortunately we are too reluctant to challenge the status quo, and too short-sighted to make long-term reform and stick to those ideals for a long enough time so that the effects can be fully realized and appreciated. As the Sputnik article states and it really resonated with me,  "Reform must focus on the attainment of long-term educational goals, not on solving the crisis of the moment." To me, all the reforms on the timeline seem to be garden variety examples of 'solving the crisis of the moment.' This I believe is why today, many of the problems that Millar, Leach, Osborne & Ratcliffe, 2006 have alluded to exist and this is why instead of landing people on Mars by now, we are still stuck on earth and at times we seem to be moving backwards on issues of global citizenship. 

Student-run Science Show. Spring Bazaar. Spring Term 2017.

Many of the concerns that Millar, Leach, Osborne & Ratcliffe, 2006 have raised are rooted in a simple problem: we are told to teach topics that are determined by the 'experts' at the ministry of education  and we as teachers have to adhere. However, little consideration is given to student-centered education and to the notion that what does the individual student actually want to learn about the world and universe and science? The Fundamental Problem is that we decide what kids should learn about instead of letting kids tell us what they want to learn about. The Medical Establishment has accepted the notion of individualized medicine; its about time the Education Establishment also acknowledge the notion of individualized education and respecting each student's dreams and aspirations of exploration as their individual freedom and right.

I really enjoyed reading the Sputnik article (so thank you for including that in our reading for this topic) because nothing illustrates my point better than the movie 'October Skies' where we clearly see that a motivational and passionate figure such as Werner von Braun sparked one student's interest in space exploration and rocket technology which prompted him to study math and calculus with a zeal and fervour that epitomized what education, as a birth-right of every child, should be all about -- science teaching should engage students like an art that they want more of, not as work that no one wants to do more of. 

Science teachers should behave more as coaches and promote experiential learning as opposed to bookish pedagogy. There should be more Choice for students to select topics that they are interested in. Instead of teaching and grading the same topics to all students (conformity and killing creativity), we should provide a choice of topics for students to select from and then assess student Abilities (not topic knowledge). A student can demonstrate a scientific ability such as investigating and collecting data, making tables, proposing improvements, forming conclusions regardless of the topic -- maybe one student wants to do this about space and cosmos, another about a microbe and its ecosystem, and another about nanotechnology and nano batteries and carbon fibre tubes etc.... Topic knowledge is useless if does not spark student interest and curiosity .... Give them choice! ... and they will flourish! I rest my case.


Strive to use a diverse set of teaching strategies and learning activities. Aim to not use the same routines or styles in given week, better yet, in a given month, and even better, in a given academic term.

Here’s how to do it:

In keeping with Understanding by Design and Backward Design by Wiggins and McTighe 1998:

  1. Delineate the 'Big Ideas' - the 'enduring understandings' and learning outomes

  2. Decide and agree upon what forms of evidence of learning will be collected

  3. Design and plan student-centered activities that maximize choice and independent learning and that are diverse and rich and aim for understanding, NOT rote memorization and regurgitation (authentic learning)

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