Teaching science to science teachers

Many science teachers need to learn science so they can teach it effectively, says this Education Week story. Unable to find enough qualified science teachers, schools often draft teachers to cover subjects they didn’t study themselves.

For years, educators and researchers have seen teachers at all grade levels attempt to upgrade their grasp of physics, chemistry, and biology, from basic theories to complex material. Now, the pressure on schools and instructors to improve science instruction is likely to intensify, with approaching federal requirements on states to test students in science and for instructors to become “highly qualified” in the subjects they teach.

That evil No Child Left Behind strikes again.

The story features Bill Robertson, author of “Stop Faking It! Finally Understanding Science So You Can Teach It.”

According to a 2002 report by Horizon Research Inc., only 56 percent of high school physics teachers have taken six or more college courses in their subjects, compared with 67 percent of chemistry and 92 percent of biology instructors. Another report by Horizon found that at the elementary level, fewer than one-third of teachers believed they were well-qualified to teach each of the science disciplines.

Physics and chemistry majors have many job choices when they graduate; few choose teaching.

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  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    You teach a teacher science, then you require her to teach a bunch of touchy-feely Gaia religion crap as science. When you go from the Second Law to the Kyoto Treaty or from Ohm’s Law to Green Power you have to shift mental gears so often that eventually your clutch on reality gets worn.

  2. “only 56 percent of high school physics teachers have taken six or more college courses in their subjects”

    I’m not sure how much that matters. It’s been a long time since I had college physics (let alone high school), but I doubt that there’s much after the third or fourth class that would be useful to teach a high-school student. I think that for most of that later material you need math skills that high school students don’t get unless they have really advanced classes.