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Modify the stereotype of the scientist could improve the learning of science

The science learning is a complex task, because the science itself is complex (especially in the context of the interconnected world in which we live). However, the way in which we imagine the work of the scientists helps neither the learning nor the understanding of science.

A study done in Taiwan, and published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, shows that providing students with information about the difficulties you go through the science in order to illuminate their theories may have relevant effects on the learning and readiness to learn science.In particular, the researchers focused on the learning of physics, using three giants, Galileo, Newton and Einstein, whose trials, tribulations, and hard work have been widely disseminated by studies biographical.

The methodology of the study relied on presenting to different groups of students a few lessons on physics, designed according to three conditions:

A group of 88 students worked a few lessons where, apart from the theories of the three scientists, they were presented with information about the frustrations that I resportó your work, and on your perseverance to carry it out.

A second group of 93 students worked the lessons of physics without any information about the personal journey of the scientists.

Finally, a third group of 90 students worked the lessons, but with an additional information on the achievements of the three characters, including their key findings.

The researchers found that the work with the lessons that presented additional information about the frustrations and perseverance of the scientists had key benefits for the learning of the students. In particular:

  • Modification of the stereotype of the scientist
  • Increase in the interest for the theme
  • Improvement in recall over time (a week after) the content of the lessons
  • Increase in the resolution of problems based on the content of the lessons

It is interesting that the lessons with information about the achievements of the scientists produced adverse effects on the students. According to the researchers:

We found that the achievement-oriented background information had negative effects on students’ perceptions of scientists, producing no effects on students’ interest in physics lessons, recall of science concepts, or their solving of both textbook-based and complex problems.

Maybe the improvements in learning are due to a more realistic of the scientific work can show us that the great scientists, apart from geniuses, they are people who need to work hard, which can enhance the emotional response of students to the study materials.

In addition, the consciousness of that hard work of scientists, which results in the comparison of rival theories, the matching data, and the creation of a hypothesis, it could provide the students with a more global vision of science, allowing them to explore the connections between theories and concepts.

As said in the review of the study of the blog BPS Research Digest, you will need to perform similar studies in other educational contexts and social to confirm these findings.