Teaching Techniques for Science Teachers

Science teachers have an exciting opportunity to teach kids about how science makes the world work. Unfortunately, reduced teaching budgets and apathy on the part of students sometimes makes it difficult to get students interested in topics like biology, earth science, anatomy, physics, and chemistry. Some teachers are now using techniques such as peer learning, role-playing, and incorporating current events in science lesson plans. These techniques help engage students and help them understand the importance of science. They also make it fun to teach scientific concepts and help students understand common topics in the scientific world.

Peer-to-Peer Teaching

Traditionally, teachers used the lecture format to teach children about science. One of the drawbacks to the lecture format is that it does not engage students in their learning. This teaching technique encourages rote memorization and note-taking instead of excitement about the world of science. Peer-to-peer teaching is when the students actually get involved in teaching each other about science. This is an active learning method that encourages students to discuss scientific topics, develop questions about the material, and work in teams to learn new information. Buzz groups, solution and critic groups, and affinity groups are just three of the ways to use peer-to-peer teaching in the classroom. When students work in buzz groups, they spend approximately 20 minutes studying a topic and gathering information. At the end of the session, one representative from each group presents information to the entire class. For solution and critic groups, the teacher assigns one group of students to gather information and give a presentation. A second group of students acts as the critic group by evaluating the presentation. Affinity groups work together outside of the classroom and then present their findings during normal class time. All of these techniques help students develop research and presentation skills that will help them in the science classroom as well as other areas of life.

Real-Life Scenarios

The use of real-life case studies reinforces classroom learning. These scenarios are ideal for classes of any size, but they work best when each student has access to needed specialized equipment. Case studies should be relevant to students, as this will make it easier to engage them in learning. Case studies should also address timely topics, as students are likely to become disinterested when presented with a case study that is not relevant to today’s technology.

Current Events Tie-Ins

Some students do not enjoy science classes because they cannot imagine how they will ever use the information presented. Tying current events into science lectures and experiments is a great way to spark interest in the discussion at hand. One good example of a current event related to science is the BP oil spill. Teachers can use this current event to discuss the effects of the oil on the environment and on the wildlife in the affected areas. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters are also ideal for inclusion in this type of discussion. Science teachers can even discuss these news topics and then introduce a lab activity on creating a tornado in a bottle or examining the effects of earthquakes. Once students are interested in a topic, they are more likely to ask questions about it and take a real interest in learning more.

  • Engaging Teaching Strategies (PDF): This article discusses ways to get students involved in learning. Some of the methods suggested include discussing current events, asking questions, conducting demonstrations, and telling jokes related to the classroom material.
  • Glossary of Teaching Strategies (PDF): This resource defines some of the most common teaching strategies, giving teachers a point of reference when incorporating new techniques into their science lessons.
  • Twenty-Five Great Ideas for Teaching Current Events: This article gives 25 ideas for incorporating current events into lesson plans.
  • Using Science News in Teaching: This article discusses how incorporating current events into science lessons benefits students.
  • Teaching Science (PDF): This brochure discusses how teachers can promote scientific understanding by having students write essays or complete projects that address scientific concepts.
  • Science News for Kids: Science teachers can use these news articles to spark discussion and help students develop understanding of scientific topics.

Hands-On Activities with Follow-Up Work

Hands-on activities are a great way to introduce students to the world of science. Whether a chemistry teacher has students mixing chemicals in a lab or a physics teacher asks students to design and develop a physics experiment, these are excellent opportunities for learning. All hands-on activities should be followed by follow-up work, whether the teacher assigns an essay or asks students to complete a group project. Assignment questions should ask students to analyze the results of the activity and explain why a certain set of events may have occurred. These assignments reinforce learning and help students better understand scientific principles.

  • Providing Hands-On Learning Experiences in Science: This article addresses the importance of allowing students to participate in hands-on science activities, which help them better understand basic scientific principles.
  • Role-Playing Exercises: Rebecca Teed explains why role-playing is useful when teaching students about science. This site also includes a collection of role-playing scenarios.
  • Guided Science Experiments: Teachers can use these science experiments to help students better understand scientific concepts.
  • Strategies for Science Teaching and Assessment: This site offers resources for science teachers interested in using case studies, science mysteries, virtual field trips, concept maps, and other techniques to teach scientific concepts.
  • Exploratorium Activities: This site offers hands-on activities for science and math students. Science teachers can incorporate these activities into their lessons.


Written by Grace Ann Stanford

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