In his Wired essay, Science Education Is Woefully Uncreative. That Has to Change, Professor Rhett Allain explains that while science is creative, science education is not.
Unfortunately, a common idea about the nature of science is that scientists have to follow procedures without using any creativity. In fact, have you ever heard anyone say “I wouldn’t be a good scientist because I’m not creative”? No, instead people say “I’m not any good at math” or “I don’t like following boring procedures.”
The truth, Allain says, is that science is all about being creative, specifically, building models. The problem is that in order to coherently build and replicate models, students must first learn how to follow procedures.
Procedures are sort of like a map into the wilderness. If you want to explore the unknown, you first have to follow a trail to get to the uncharted regions….The problem is that we wish to take our students to the wilderness—but it is an especially long journey. Even with a map, it can take 4 years of classes to get to the cool stuff.
He points out that not only are the sciences complicated, and teaching proper investigative and safety procedures time-consuming but, when it comes down to it, creativity is much harder to grade.
In this regard, science should be considered to be similar to art. In both cases, the student really needs to use some form of creativity….
Allain says part of the solution for infusing science education with more creativity lies in teaching the teachers. In a physics class for education majors, he focuses on helping future elementary school teachers understand the nature of science — clear answers don’t arise from rigid instructions, rather models must be built, defined, and redefined.
Science is all about making models. These can be physical models, or a mathematical model or even a conceptual model. If the model agrees with real life, then that’s great. If there is an experiment that disagrees with a model, then we have to change that model. That’s it.
Changing the model requires curiosity and creative problem-solving. Elements that must make their way back into science education if we’re to engage and inspire our budding scientists.