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dfishervan's picture

What can science education do to help?

I believe that a bulk of the problems involving scientific communication stem from the education provided to science and non-science students alike. This past weekend, I was volunteering and a breast cancer event. One of the women interrupted the person who was informing the women present of the risk factors for breast cancer to ask how society is supposed to trust all of this information when one day “they” say this puts you at but the next, “they” retract their original statement. Although I am not sure if this was intentional but, the women sort of put a negative tone on the “they” referring to the entire scientific community, implying that she did not appreciate scientists’ indecisiveness as it inconvenienced her lifestyle choices. I think it is imperative to teach all members of society, especially those who express no interest in pursuing science, that the process of science is constantly evolving and that science is not fact. Incorporating an element of the history of science  in introductory science courses might help promote a better understanding and appreciation of the scientific process.  By witnessing the past development of science, society could better appreciate the risk scientists are taking by presenting their findings to the public and understand the temperamental status of these findings.

As we mentioned in class, another step science educators should take involves incorporating more public speaking assignments into science courses. Currently, the majority of tasks assigned to students such as exams and lab reports emphasize intrapersonal skills and self-reflection. Consequently, the science courses are attracting and producing students who lack certain communication skills. Creating one mandatory public speaking course for science majors may help to build these student’s communication skills however, it could lead to the further compartmentalization of public speaking in science major’s minds. To successfully and continuously build scientists’ communication skills, I think most science courses need to integrate a form of public speaking into their curriculum which allows student to work on their ability to communicate their results to the public. This could be accomplished with lab report presentations to the class and final poster projects that culminate in a brief presentation to members of the entire campus community who possess varying scientific backgrounds.



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