Opportunistic Science Teaching and Learning ‘Outside’ the Classroom
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Science is often perceived to be conducted mainly in laboratories by scientists bearing stereotypical features. This is perpetuated in schools when science practicals are conducted in laboratory settings, using ritualized procedures requiring specialized and expensive equipment and for which the relevance of activities is not established. Using the lens of opportunistic teaching, this chapter highlights the experiences of pre-service science teachers and individuals who participated in practical activities, at a Research Days event held at a Jamaican tertiary institution. Visitors to the booths made and used coin batteries and ‘invisible’ ink. This multi-method study aimed at determining whether interacting with the activities impacted visitors’ chemistry knowledge, perceptions of science and understanding of science teaching. Survey findings from 101 student visitors revealed that after participating, over 60% of the responses to knowledge items were correct. Over 80% indicated that their impressions of science had changed and 90% reported a more favourable impression of science. These results suggest that engaging in authentic practicals ‘outside’ of the classroom had a positive impact on the participants’ knowledge and perception of science. The pre-service teachers learned that opportunistic teaching experiences engage learners and that effective science teaching may require improvisation. The findings imply that science teachers should provide more activities that relate to students’ experiences. This will likely contribute to their retention of information and heightened positive attitudes towards science. The authors recommend opportunistic learning as an instructional strategy that science teachers should use to promote student engagement and learning.
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