What We Know about Science Teaching and Learning by Nancy Kober

By Nancy Kober

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This under­ representation of females in science represents a serious drain on the talent pool for critical scientific and technical jobs. Several studies have probed the reasons behind these patterns and have concluded that girls receive differential treatment when it comes to science. The roots of the problem begin well before formal schooling. Parent and societal attitudes, adult examples, and deep-seated myths about the respective proficiencies of girls and boys are just some of the factors that shape girls' attitudes about science.

Several studies have probed the reasons behind these patterns and have concluded that girls receive differential treatment when it comes to science. The roots of the problem begin well before formal schooling. Parent and societal attitudes, adult examples, and deep-seated myths about the respective proficiencies of girls and boys are just some of the factors that shape girls' attitudes about science. The toys they play with, the tools they use, the storybooks they read, the types of encourage­ ment they receive - all affect girls' perceptions about and familiarity with science.

Studies show that lecturing and discus­ sion are far and away the dominant mode of science instruction, comprising 75 percent of teaching time in kindergarten through third grade and nearly 90 percent in upper elementary grades. 36 Similarly, an International Assessment of Educational Progress study conducted in 1988 found that among 13-year-olds, only 28 percent of American students reported doing experiments with other students or by themselves with high frequency. Even when schools report using experiments or demonstrations in their science programs, this does not necessarily mean that students are being actively engaged.

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