Teaching is becoming more scientific on many fronts – from measuring and quantifying learning outcomes with student assessment tools, to basing teaching methods on novel scientific models of cognition. In so many ways the world of education is increasingly a precise science rather than a mysterious art. Many forces are coming together to cause this reality.
An important driving force of teaching becoming more scientific is political accountability. As an area of government spending, an account needs to be made of education expenditure. Society needs to know how effective the system is and many statistics are collected regarding, for example, the number of students in a school, the attendance rate, the results of school leaving exams, the level of teacher qualification and so on.
These statistics can give a quantitative value to various measures and are the basis for establishments and governments being able to demonstrate improvement, or not. Increasingly these statistical measures are entering the classroom with increased national testing (see for example Australian NAPLAN testing) giving data about children’s performance in class tests. Students and schools can scientifically compare their performance with peers.
Greater focus on individuality in learning
Teaching is becoming more scientific because there is increasing recognition that different people learn in different ways. There was a time when every child in the classroom was treated the same regardless of their learning style, or other needs. Today education is increasingly drawing upon the latest psychological theories of cognition, development, learning styles and so on to deliver an individualized learning program for students based on their unique needs.
There is a whole area of education known as “special needs” that tailors programs to children who have learning challenges, like being deaf. The methods are not ad hoc random experiments but carefully worked out systems that help a child passed a particular hurdle. Children learn in environments that have been scientifically chosen to maximize their chance of success.
Increased use of technology in society
Education cannot be separated from the rest of society, and as technology plays an increasingly important role in society, so teaching is also changing and increasingly utilizing “scientific” equipment like computers, the Internet, interactive whiteboards, sophisticated on-line multi-media textbooks and computer-assisted learning programs that chart in detail the student’s individual progress through material. The technological gadgets make teaching more scientific because they provide the teacher with very detailed, quantified feedback that allows them to assess the student’s progress and learning down to the last click on the computer.
Science is augmenting the art of teaching in different ways – from the cognitive models of human development provided by psychology, to the tools a teacher has to measure a student’s progress – making the venture far more precise than it has ever been.