Science Communicators Versus Science Teachers

Is science teaching congruent with science communication? Do they have the same ideals? What about the pathways that lead to the ideals?

Prof Bryant (2001) defined PAS as having “much broader, emotional and dispositional facets.” Personally, I feel that both science communication and science teaching involve emotional and dispositional facets. As teachers, we pay attention to our students’ attitudes towards the science issues that we cover in class. We, too, focus on role modelling the skills for accessing scientific knowledge. According to Dr Lamberts, “science communication focuses on how and why people appreciate and learn about S&T in everyday life.” I am sure many teachers try their best, within the limited time that they have, to engage their students on the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ in their daily classroom interaction. The PAST model suggested by Prof Stocklmayer emphasised the provision of analogous experiences and contextual experiences. I am sure many teachers also try to address misconception from prior knowledge, and provide meaningful analogies to help students make connections, if time permits.

By now, we see a common issue that we all face as teachers: TIME to cover the SYLLABUS (sigh!) to help students ace the ASSESSMENT. With this factor coming into play, the differences between science communication and science teaching surface as well. Unfortunately, in today’s highly competitive society, the outcome of education has become driven by a short term goal – ace your exams gives you a ticket to your dream school/college. While teachers understand the importance of ensuring accessibility of science, they also grapple with the increasing demands of assessments and societal expectations. Remember the law suit against Geelong Grammar School?

We don’t introduce our lessons with jargons but at some point, we have to “teach terminologies” and “scientific keywords” as required by the assessment criteria. Sadly, most assessments today still look like the deficit model. It measures how much one knows, or rather how much one doesn’t know.

The PAST model is an iterative process. The goal of science communication is long term. The public is driven by interest, curiosity and need to pursue free-choice learning of science beyond school.  To achieve life-long learning, it is an intricate interplay between formal education in schools and free choice learning beyond schools. After listening to Neil degrasse Tyson, I have been pondering whether I have been among the 80s or do I aspire to be among the 3s….