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August 5, 2021
At 95 years old, Ed Drexler still remembers what it was like to teach high school biology in the 1950s. “Biology was based on a rhetoric of conclusions. Everything was ‘known,’ and I was simply teaching what we knew.” What most students learned was how to memorize facts from the textbook.
Things changed when BSCS entered the scene in 1958. Drexler pilot tested BSCS’s first biology program and investigated countless unknowns with his students. “I loved the idea of teaching students science from an inquisitive point of view, as opposed to lecturing them on supposed ‘facts.’ This was a much better way of teaching. Kids would leave my class with both more knowledge and more questions.”
Six decades later, BSCS is still helping teachers bring inquiry-based science learning to their students, but the world we are preparing them for feels more complex.
That’s why we’re conducting rigorous research to understand “what works” in 21st century science classrooms. We’re supporting teachers with effective instructional approaches and programs that maximize student curiosity and engagement in science. And we’re preparing students to use science throughout their lives, in response to today’s most pressing societal challenges.
For example, Senior Research Scientist Brian Donovan is exploring the role science education can play in reversing two societal challenges: racist and sexist thinking. His research reveals that the way students learn about genetics can increase their tendency toward both. However, Brian’s research has also uncovered an approach to genetics instruction that reduces this tendency. And this summer, Brian and BSCS colleagues Monica Weindling, Dennis Lee, and Awais Syed are working with middle and high school biology teachers across the country to prepare them to implement this approach in their classrooms.
Paul Strode recalls a time when he, like many others, was teaching an oversimplified version of genetics—a version that could contribute to students’ misconceptions about the role genes play in human characteristics and abilities. “With Dr. Donovan’s guidance, I am now teaching more complex models to help my students understand that genes matter, yes, but so does the environment and a lot of other ‘unknown’ factors. Yet there are limits to our knowledge of genetics and it’s important to teach what we don’t know.”
At BSCS, we believe science education is the key to making our world better. So we’re grateful for researchers like Brian, who are willing to ask tough questions. We’re grateful for educators like Paul, who are willing to teach tough topics such as race and genetics. And we’re grateful for supporters like you, who contribute to programs that will help students tackle tough challenges throughout their lives.
Daniel C. Edelson
BSCS Executive Director
Read more about this line of work and how you can get involved.