Kay Steiger

One Solution to America’s STEM Problem: Make Intro Science Classes Less Boring

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Scott Zeger really wants to get away from the idea intro science classes are weeder courses. Jam-packed lectures that about half of all Johns Hopkins students take are some of the most difficult to teach and take, Inside Higher Ed reports today. This stat was startling:

At Johns Hopkins, more than 60 percent of incoming freshmen in 2006 indicated an interest in a STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) career. Of those students, 57 percent earned a degree in one of those fields.

Zeger wants to make such courses more interactive, using tricks like breaking chocolate bars into pieces to illustrate a point about clinical trials, for instance. I certainly remember taking intro science courses. They were boring and difficult and didn’t do much to entice folks like me to pursue a career in science. It could be a way to get more folks into the pipeline to begin with.

Written by kaysteiger

January 23, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Posted in higher education

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  1. I’m in favor of the idea that they be more entertaining and interactive, but I’ll say this in defense of treating majors biology as a weeder course … there are at least a dozen snotty, incurious brats who will never get within a mile of the medical school classes they thought they were entitled to go to because my biology teachers focused on the people who were excited and paying attention of their own accord rather than the people who talked through every class and only ever raised their hands to ask what was going to be on the test. I’m guessing she singlehandedly, just that year, saved the world from several millions of dollars worth of medical malpractice suits.

    Seriously, I’m talking glad-handing jocks who joked about wanting to be gynecologists in at least some cases. Or the girl who pitched a screaming fit and invoked her parents in the faculty office because she *had* to get an A for her med school application, in spite of the fact that she so refused to read the textbook (or use its index) that she left questions on take-home exams blank, and paid so little attention to instructions that she was out picking endangered flowers during a field trip into a national park.

    It’s for the good of humanity that prats like that won’t waste more than a year’s worth of highly prized seats in the nation’s science classrooms, no matter how much their parents make.

    So yes, science should be more engaging, especially for non-majors. It’s inherently fascinating, imo, and a discredit to the material to be presented otherwise. But science degrees often lead to jobs that require a high degree of responsibility, ethical rigor and good judgment. The intro for majors classes should be difficult to pass and require a high level of commitment. They should weed a lot of people out if they’re not going to leave it all on the field in their work and studies, if they won’t be devoted to the absorption of knowledge. They must.

    Natasha Chart

    January 23, 2012 at 5:09 PM

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