Recently the science teachers at our high school took part in a round table discussion with 18 college science professors from local universities. For an afternoon we were able to pepper these instructors with questions as to what high school science teachers should emphasize in their classroom so students would know what to expect at the college level. Many of these teachers taught freshman or entry level classes and many of these classes were not designed for science majors but were necessary requirements none the less.

Much of what was discussed was expected, and reaffirming, such as the importance of writing clear, concise lab reports and being skilled at algebraic functions.  Any type of writing is a talent that takes practice.  Much like a job resume there is a standard, or template, that has been developed that students are expected to follow.  There is also a systematic approach to solving algebraic functions as they pertain to, in this case, chemistry.  The problems are not necessarily difficult but how the solution was derived must be communicated clearly as if read by the untrained eye. 

It seems clear communication is a skill necessary to succeed in many areas, as most students will be made aware as they enter the job market.

The most comforting topic these instructors discussed was what we, at the high school level, had in common with them; unprepared or unmotivated students.  We shared frustration with those who cannot bring a pencil to class, or a calculator, or a notebook, or a homework assignment.  Most frustrating are those students who own the most expensive Texas Instrument calculator but never get the correct answer because they have no idea how to use it.  One professor went so far as to ban theses calculators from her class.  KMart, Wal-Mart, TARGET, or any dollar store will have a calculator suitable for her course.

Probably most important skill was the ability to read.  Not just read but truly make the effort to comprehend.  Science textbooks are notorious for trying to convey foreign concepts using technical language.  It is not uncommon for a passage to be read six times to be understood.  Not every student is willing to make that commitment to a reading assignment.  This, along with note taking, is a time consuming process.

Most successful science students, like Marines, are not born, they are made.  With 150 students to consider those with the most basic skills have a built in head start.

 


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