A humanistic touch to science teaching

Science education is often focused on the transmission of knowledge and skills that are considered to be ‘useful’ to society and to the learner. This mostly includes the preparation of students for workforce-integration by the achievement of good grades and skills that are valued by the society and industry. However, along with this ‘economic’ or ‘vocational’ goal of science education, the social, civic and humanistic goals are also meant to form integral parts of the educational experience of learners to ensure their holistic-development (Spiel et al, 2018).  In this presentation which is based on a qualitative case-study carried out by the author with secondary school science teachers in Mauritius, the often overlooked humanistic goal of science education will be explored. A humanistic approach to science teaching situates the learning of scientific concepts within the learners’ experience rather than through presentation of disembodied facts. This approach promotes the integration of scientific reasoning with values, cultural considerations and social concerns (Aikenhead, 2012). Such an approach allows the intrinsic involvement of the learners in the learning process, promotes social responsibility and encourages critical and creative thinking about real-life problems. Despite its perceived benefits, several challenges in the practical implementation of a humanistic approach to science teaching have been identified and these will be discussed. This will be followed by an exploration of the methods that can be adopted by science teachers to humanise the teaching of science without compromising on the scientific content and processes. 

Keywords: humanistic approach, science teaching

1. Spiel, C., Schwartzman, S., Busemeyer, M., et al., 2018. The contribution of education to social progress. (ed.) Rethinking Society for the 21st Century: Report of the International Panel for Social Progress. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 753-778
2. Aikenhead, G. (2012) Humanist Perspectives on Science Education. Encyclopedia of Science Education. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-2150-0_364

Roshnee Rajkomar

I am a Chemistry educator in Mauritius, with 14 years of teaching experience. I have a Masters in Education (UK) and my research interests are Science Education, Social relevance of education and Ethics in education. In parallel to teaching, I am also actively engaged in science communication to the public, with the aim of popularising science, especially towards the younger generation and also to inspire more girls to pursue studies in the STEM fields. I am a trained science communicator with international experience and I seek to use my experience to help improve the quality of science education in Mauritius and beyond.

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