Thursday, August 11, 2011

Breadth vs. Depth

As I look over the last several years of teaching in the classroom, I always wonder if I was able to make a difference in the lives of my students.  Did they take anything from my class?  Had they met or exceeded my expectations?  Were they thoroughly prepared for science in high school?  I consider self-reflection a key characteristic of professional growth.  One thing I find that doesn't help self-reflection for the purposes of perfecting your skill is placing blame on other teachers and grade levels.  This won't be one of those conversations.  Instead, I want to revisit this idea of breadth versus depth in science education and address its impact on our students.

Each year students go over the scientific method.  The idea is that if they memorize the steps that they are sure to remember it for next year, right? WRONG! In fact, taking this approach is quite a disservice to our students.  I understand that there may be times that we are trying to keep up with pacing guides and curriculum maps, but why sacrifice depth for breadth?  The only thing breadth of content is good for is ensuring that students will ask you, "Ms., How does that go again?"  Breadth doesn't support critical thinking and application skills.  

If we want our students to understand the scientific process, we must make the time to go IN DEPTH from the very beginning.  We need to help students analyze each step and apply each step to different situations.  We need to provide our students with more opportunities for discovery and exploration and stop feeding them all the information.  THIS IS A DISSERVICE TO THEM.  I don't have time to point fingers at anyone else to felt breadth was more important the depth, but instead this is a great learning moment for me to capitalize on.  I want my students to delve into the inquiry process and not limit them by a pacing guide that tells me how long I need to address a topic.  A pacing guide doesn't serve learners' needs.  

What do you want your students to leave with when they move on to the next grade level.  For me, I want them to love and understand the scientific process.  For this to happen, I must want them to do more than just memorize steps. 

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