Isaac Newton first conceptualized the idea of gravity when an apple fell on his head. This moment was simple, but inspirational—with a huge impact on scientific progress to come. Answers of great importance such as this can originate in the simplest of questions: why, what, when and where? These questions are what begin a student’s journey into the complicated world of scientific discovery. But what are the best ways to inspire a student to learn science?
Do you remember that one teacher who made you feel engaged and inspired in class? Individual teaching professionals can make a difference. If students are struggling in science, suggesting they hire a tutor outside the classroom is a fantastic way to reinforce learning. Science is a very common subject for tutoring. By seeking an alternative approach to learning, students can understand science from multiple perspectives which can improve exam results.
Question, Question, and Question?
Teaching students to evaluate scientific concepts critically puts them in good stead for entering a career within science. Since all great discoveries have begun with one unanswerable question, this can help foster a scientific mind, especially for students in their college years.
Research has indicated that students perform better on tests where the professor actively asks questions about concepts. By triggering their natural curiosity, this prepares your student and fosters their ability to learn; positively engaging them and allowing them to learn new factual information.
Learning styles are heavily debated within the field of developmental psychology, yet Neil Fleming has categorized learning styles into three main categories: visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. Fleming and Baume (2006) stated that VARK, an optimized questionnaire, can identify the specific learning styles of a student and thus, the teacher can adapt to the student. For example, this could be reinforced with visual diagrams clearly explaining a biological process.
College programs have been reinvented over the years, especially within science, to accommodate kinesthetic learners through the medium of lab practicals. Additionally, visual and auditory learning is targeted by ensuring lectures are available online for revision and learning purposes.
Motivation to Attend
Class attendance is deemed to be the most apparent predictor of exam pass rates for students. Kassarnig et al., (2017) collected data on 1000 undergraduate students and reported a significant correlation between those achieving (p < 0.001) Grade A (U.S. grading system) with an average attendance of 80%. Concurrently, students achieving the worst grade, Grade F (US grading system), averaged an attendance of 40%, varying between the 20% and 60% percentiles. However, the variance of participation was reported to be more abundant within lower-achieving ranges.
Clark et al. (2017) examined at least 4000 college students and found that when students set tangible performance-based goals for specific core material, they did better overall; with at least a 50% achievement rate. Why is this? By convincing students to set realistic goals for an assignment, essay or end-of review test, this removes pressure and allows them to focus realistically on short-term rewards. Numerous studies have reported a positive correlation between performance-based goals and student grade attainment. Accumulatively, by getting an A+ on X assignment, for example, and an A on Y assignment, the student gains confidence in their ability. Ultimately, this aids with their final examinations since they are more likely to study and do better than non-performance goal setting students.
These are just a few ways to motivate your students in science, and it’s fairly evident that as professors, there is a big role in inspiring the young scientists of tomorrow.
Clark, Damon, et al. (2017). “Using Goals to Motivate College Students: Theory and Evidence from Field Experiments.” The National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 23638.
Fleming, N., and Baume, D. (Nov. 2006). “Learning Styles Again: VARKing Up the Right Tree!” Educational Developments, SEDA Ltd, Issue 7.4, p4-7.
Kassarnig V, Bjerre-Nielsen A, et al. (2017). “Class Attendance, Peer Similarity, and Academic Performance in a Large Field Study.” PLoS ONE, 12(11): e0187078. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187078