The Initiative for the Renewal of Science Education

A more scientific approach to science education

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Today science education tends to begin with theory and then proceeds to explain how observed phenomena are consistent with the theory. The theory is presented as primary, as something we should accept as given, as something already worked out by experts.

This approach is backwards. It promotes in students a habit of surrender, of sacrificing personal intellectual sovereignty. Students educated in this way lack the perspective and vision characteristic of someone with a scientific mindset; they are being trained to become technicians, not scientists.

The IRSE approach fosters a scientific mindset and an accurate understanding of what modern science is: a noble human endeavor to build models that have explanatory and predictive power. The student is respected as a rational agent capable of independently analyzing evidence. The student is supported in a process of inquiry, a process that mirrors the scientific method.

There are three pillars to the IRSE approach:

  1. Reality. The real world is the starting point. Students consider observable phenomena and follow evidential reasoning to working models.
  2. History. Students learn the history of scientific inquiry and discovery and, in doing so, better understand the models they use in problem solving and analysis.
  3. Epistemology. Students explore the intersection between modern science and other ways of knowing. Modern science is like the visible part of a tree, supported and nourished by the root-disciplines of mathematics, logic and metaphysics, with branches reaching to the sky, to the full spectrum of human wisdom, aspirations and ethics.

Our approach is reflected in the three drawings by Heights teacher Peter Vitz.

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