Three challenges for education leaders

Given the increasing role of new challenges that people must face today in our societies, there is an increasing need that future citizens will be not only technologically literate but also truly aware of their own environmental problems and challenges that they’ll face in their upcoming future.

I know that this statement may sound weird to lot of you, but the main argumentation here is to focus on the strategies that young must develop to frame how science proceed and need to be communicated in the better way by professional educators.

I think that this is one of the many reasons why teachers and evaluators need to develop the right content with the best possible design to let young participate and appreciate the distinctions, the trade-offs and the relationships between STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) knowledge and its life applications.

In other words, this means that most of the lessons and the extracurricular courses related to what goes under the umbrella of ‘Science’ should be able to give them the skills to develop problem solving, thinking abilities, and the pleasure to understand the complex interconnections of the origin and historic time that define the amazing physics enterprises communicated nowadays.

NOW, you may ask ‘Why’ is important to define a deeper framework around sciences in general and physics more in particular.

Well, students need to learn how to observe what they see in their books through models. They must infer the rules and patterns that define the scientific method. They must be inspired and develop confidence for Physics that is (essentially) a well-founded system of thinking about the world, able to seize lots of young engaged minds.

Explain which are the rules and the discoveries that make physics so beautiful and in a constant research to define the “portrait” of the Universe is only one example that can lead teaching and help young develop explanations about natural phenomena.

I am the idea that young deserve better than they experience now, especially in Italy where I studied and live now. I’m paying attention to the fact that usually in their inferences there is a lack of strong and deeply understanding of the principles beyond the content explained by math or physics teachers.

This (almost general) trend does not allow them to have the keys necessary to apply all the paradigms recognized in class in an appropriate and effective way in their personal actions, lives and communities.

As I write these reflections it will be nice that teachers will pay attention to the fact that the ability to reach young attention and curiosity come after experience and training, but start doing an integration into the common traditional curriculum presented by the national ministry of education is not an extra they can decide to do or completely avoid, it should be a must!

keep calm

The mathematical structures students will learn during formal lessons may serve them later (as a framework) for building a strong and well-organized understanding of the subject in which practical knowledge and abilities are tightly woven along with the kinetics and physics mechanics showed them in class through theory and models.

Students need to practice “with” the formal content that educators and teachers provide them, recognized and assessed as truly relevant for their life, future vocation and career. It is not sufficient to present them what is behind the materials and the formulae application they practice several times through exercises and official exams. They need to understand what is beyond all this content. This is the teachers and educators’ challenge!

The educational priority is to allow young to understand the outcomes specified during the attained lessons. Fortunately, evidence suggests that with a right learning environment, students can define engineering problem, determine standards for successful solutions and identify constraints able to determine a valuable scientific learning experience.

Which is the best methodology to follow to increase all these aspects?

Well, if professionals want to figure out which are the embedded potential of an integrated learning environment and try to offer their students a better scientific training during classes (and extracurricular activities), they should consider and understand a wise number of distinct (but interlocked) topics:

  • What are the processes involved in physics understanding?

This might seem obvious – or even trivial – but many components and aspects that define our understanding are normally invisible to us.

  • Which are the passions and the mindset that define young?

Let’s start from the usually but not generally implicit rule that ‘understand students’ is a must that teachers or facilitators should have clear to provide them the right educational care. Educators should develop more attention to their curiosities, letting them become aware on which are the fundamental skills required to recognize and make a proper interpretation of the material and the physics laws presented in class.

Or maybe recognizing how all the content provided by the teacher, which in fact is a mentor, is dependent on the experiences they bring (or propose) to the class.

Everyone can understand that a force is necessary to maintain a certain velocity during a walking or driving action, or when you push something along the floor. So why not explain Newton’s second law in a consistent way up to the experiences that students make, in every moment and propose with enthusiasm to their peers?

  • How do students respond to formal physics instruction?

Lot of teachers assume that students respond to the provided stimuli as they did along their generation, or rather, as they might have wished to do, behaving and knowing what they know now. But the truth is that to design effective instruction, increase awareness on – and learn – how students really respond is a lifelong experiential challenge! Not only for the “educators” but also for the growing number of physicists that becomes aware on the field of physics education research as a growing sub-discipline of physics.

When it becomes difficult to grasp young sense of wonder and interest of a situation, we need to become attentive students by ourselves, participating in the forum and discussion related to the latest educational researcher or combine observation and analysis to figure out some trends.

I think that to have a deeper influence, teachers and educators need to learn how properly interact with their students. It is not only a matter of how you are good to execute observation or active listening abilities to recognize student’s real difficulties…

A classic example of this situation is when in a junior level class, a student asks a question about a currents comparison of a relatively complicated circuit. His professor, like many physics instructors, behave as a dedicated facilitator. After a careful listening of the student concerns he recognize his state of confusion about the observed process. BUT, instead of asking questions to determine WHY this student is confused, he proceeds to give a detailed description of how the entire complicated circuit work…

The next passage is a sense of unclear confidence that the young may feel after this secondary explanation on the observed processes. But afterwards, when he’ll need to explain what he has learned to a friend a sense of uncleanness appears during the process description cause some passages are not metabolized.

So please, if you are in the “world” of education and your students will politely nod after you give him more clues and a deep explanation try to not move on quickly!

Ask to them questions on the latest explained or related processes.

One way to do this is to carefully interview (without putting notes) several students, letting them describe what they think about a situation or allowing them to work through a problem.

The teacher/educator/facilitator can use what in literature is called “inquiry learning” to encourage the students to “think loud” and explain their reasoning to the class. The goal of this practice is not to help the students come up with the “correct” answer but rather to understand which are the fundamentals and logical processes of their thinking.

Designing strategies and explore how (possibly speaking) diverge from the formal and common used to behave and approach the class is a true challenge, do not tell me about it, but its clue can be found directly from common student wrong answers…

I hope that these reflections sound familiar to some of you and they worth a try. Even now.

Have a wonderful day and please share this post if you might think it is useful.





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