Scientists in classrooms squash motivation

September 23, 2010 at 11:06 am 4 comments

Most interesting tidbit I’ve learned so-far at this meeting: Larry Suter, long-time NSF staffer, talked about how to increase student interest in pursuing STEM studies. A common strategy is to show students what real science is all about, because students in the United States don’t understand what STEM jobs are like. One of the findings coming out of NSF’s ITEST program is that sending scientists into classrooms is a recipe for squashing student motivation. Scientists stroll into the classroom and talk about whatever boring thing they’re currently doing, and students react, “I really don’t want to do that!” Things get better if the scientists get briefed on what to talk about and how to relate to the students.

An important lesson for us in Computing Education where motivation to study is a significant issue.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Kay  |  September 23, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Often, a much better use of scientists in classrooms is as an aid to the teachers.

    This is tricky, but I’ve seen it work really well if the scientist and the teacher can find a good common ground. This isn’t just the teacher “learning science” but the scientist coming to an understanding of what real science means for children of certain ages and types.



  • 2. edtechdev  |  September 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Just my own gut intuition is that ‘expert’ visitors tend to be better received by younger students (middle school, etc.). And that younger mentors (undergrad or graduate science/eng. majors) may be more engaging to high school kids that your average expert visitor.

  • 3. Hélène Martin  |  September 23, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    I have definitely experienced this when bringing in guest speakers to my high school computer science courses. It’s important to work with presenters to make sure they’re engaging and interesting or it can really be a disaster!

  • 4. Clay Boggess  |  September 24, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Screening potential guest lecturers over the phone or, if possible in person, ahead of time can go a long way towards resolving this issue as well. I wouldn’t let anyone into my classroom until I have interviewed them personally.


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