Science in school doesn't capture students' interest in science and technology, but science in society does. With that as a starting point, there are good opportunities to improve teaching, as a new thesis from Linköping University shows.
"The students share the teachers' view of the important role of science and technology in society, but the teaching doesn't take up what the students want to learn," says Anders Jidesjö, defending his thesis on teaching and learning science and technology.
In his thesis, Jidesjö analyses Sweden's results in the worldwide "Relevance of Science Education" (ROSE) project. Some 50 countries on every continent participate in the project, which investigates what interest and experience ninth-year students have in science and technology, and what they think of the school's teaching.
Teaching in science and technology is important for general education and for recruiting students to higher education, but Jidesjö argues that schools emphasize recruitment at the cost of general education, and that factual knowledge has a strong tradition.
The thesis shows that both boys and girls are interested in science and technology, but there are also differences between the sexes. Girls are more oriented towards the medical sciences, while boys emphasize the dramatic, violent aspects to a greater extent.
Young people also encounter technology and the sciences outside school, and in the media. When Jidesjö compared students' interests with the program content of Discovery, the popular scientific television channel, there turned out to be major similarities.
"School teaching in science and technology is getting competition from the traditions of popular science. A stronger connection to the development of society and to the media could raise the quality of teaching," he says.
He's deepening a media theory perspective that had previously not been developed within science education research, problematising young people's interest in science and technology and arguing that their experience of taking in and interpreting messages from the media are significant in today's society.
For more information on ROSE, see http://roseproject.no
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