While science surely is interesting, will knowing the parts of a cell or the intricacies of a thunderstorm help you in your everyday life? The problem is for most of us, it won’t. Science education scholar Noah Feinstein has set out to research the fundamental issue of how science is represented in our society. On Friday, February 7th, he will discuss the dysfunctions in science education today as part of the STS @VCU (Science, Technology and Society lecture series at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Feinstein believes we place too much emphasis on rote memorization of facts and not enough emphasis on useful science. According to Feinstein, the way our society understands the concept of science and how it is currently being taught in our schools reflects little about how people interact with science in real life situations. “Instead of teaching students to design experiments and think like scientists, we should teach them to judge the credibility of a scientific claim in context,” Feinstein says.
After completing his undergraduate studies in Biology at Harvard University, Feinstein was on track to become a research scientist until he started a job at the Exploratorium, a museum in San Francisco that focuses on interactive science for people of all ages. It was there he became interested in how science interacts with real people, not just those with “ Dr.” in their title.
“What I cared about more than any narrow piece of science was what the implications of science are for society,” he said. This interest in science education and how it relates to society became his main focus and led to a Masters in Biology and a PhD in Science Education from Stanford University. Since finishing his degrees he has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he researches how we can reform the way we teach Science on all levels.
“Right now we try to make people into marginal insiders, or beginner scientists. I am interested in creating competent outsiders who are able to answer questions relevant to their lives,” says Feinstein.
Dr. Feinstein will be giving a free lecture on the subject on Friday, February 7, 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. at VCU’s Monroe Park Campus , Academic Learning Commons Building, 1000 Floyd Avenue, Room 2100. For more information contact Wanda Clary, wclary@VCU.edu or 804/828.8427.
Article by: Margaret Carmel, an intern here at Science Matters. Margaret is a Virginia Commonwealth University student studying Broadcast Journalism, Middle Eastern Studies, International Social Justice, and Global Education. While she’s not studying science in school, she has always loved the subject and is thrilled to share her interest with our readers.