Monday, August 11, 2014

The Heart of Teaching Science

In the book "The Heart of Higher Education" Palmer and Zajonc with Scribner analyze the need to move to an 'integrative education'. In it they mention research supported by The Carnegie Foundation ( that shows the value of community.

Palmer and Zajonc give a solid philosophical foundation for 'Integrative Education' by looking at the ontology, semantics, pedagogy, and ethics of the teaching-learning process. This book is a must read for those involved in higher education today, as we experience a revolution in the way we conceive the reality of our world.
I am not going to go further talking about the book as a great review can be found here!

One aspect of the changes we face in the way we teach and learn science is connected to the way we interpret reality, the way we see how the world is made. Moving from the "atomistic" world view that supports individuality, to the quantum field theory that supports the idea of a relational reality, a community.

When students learn about concepts, ideas, as isolated bits of information in a linear fashion, students will be able to articulate a worldview that is not changing, chaotic, and in some ways messy. But we know that the world in which we live is changing, chaotic, and messy, so how is the knowledge acquired in this fashion going to help the student go out into the real world and be efficient and able to work in ethical way.

Bringing ethics here seems to be a bit of a stretch but Palmer and Zajonc give excellent examples of why this is. Examples of real life like those in charged of the Enron fiasco were highly educated accountants and economist in the traditional sense, as those in charge of the Holocaust (many with Ph.D.) were educated by higher ed institutions in Germany. A lack of ethical education in these cases is evident.

Hard learned habits are difficult to change, the classical atomistic view of the world has been around for centuries now, and is deep in our consciences; so as we move to a newer quantum-field view of the world we have to be intentional about ways to move forward.

Chemistry is not isolated, as the other sciences are not isolated so how do we teach it in a relational way without losing rigor? Without losing the need to develop skills to solve complex problems?

I know the way is not clear and it appears messy, but do we have a choice?