Students become more interested because they are involved. The objective of modern science instruction is to teach science as a process with emphasis on the cognitive development of the individual, students must have the opportunity to think. A lecture is passive learning with little thinking required, just staying awake. Students are often thrilled to discover fundamental ideas for themselves and not simply be told.
Tips for a good discussion:
The speaker should present an interesting background analysis before eliciting comments for the participants.
Discussion may be initiated by a model, object observation, demonstration, or audio-visual display.
A discussion may center on a case history and branch out into what needs to be known to treat the patient, understand the problem, or find a common characteristic from many examples.
Relax the audience; use humor to reduce tension.
Avoid embarrassing anyone.
Keep the discussion moving at the students' pace, which can be ascertained by the number and complexity of questions they ask.
Rephrase any comments that might be misunderstood, such as the misuse of scientific terms.
Be aware of anyone monopolizing the discussion or going off on a tangent.
Ask a variety of questions that draw on different levels of thought.
Demonstration can be used for many reasons: lower cost, availability of equipment, economy of time, less hazard from dangerous materials, direction of the thinking process, or to show the use of equipment.
Make all activities easily visible.
Show personal excitement over the event that is taking place.
Involve the students in making observations, suggestions, predictions, evaluations, and in assisting.
Start the demonstration with a question; teach inductively.
Ask questions constantly.
Use the blackboard to reinforce, illustrate, or collect data during the demonstration.
Verify that objectives are clear and that conclusions relate to those objectives.
At the conclusion of the demonstration, have a student summarize what has occurred and why.
Expand the questions to the broader philosophical basis of science. For example, you may ask:
How certain are we of our data?
What evidence is there of certainty in science?
How do scientists fractionate knowledge to find answers to bigger problems?
Are there social implications of the concepts presented?
Students directly relate effectiveness of the laboratory experience to the amount of individual participation. The ideal arrangement would be to have each student wholly responsible for conducting the experiment from start to finish. This would include the preliminary planning, gathering materials, preparation of apparatus, designing the method, collecting data, analyzing results, and drawing conclusions. Such an ideal situation would insure that the work of the individual student could be evaluated and that every student would have a maximum learning experience.
If the facilities available or the time allotted do not allow for individual work, teams may be formed to accomplish the task. Different activities may be assigned to each team or all teams may work on the same task and the data can be compared and evaluated together. Provide a clear structure and work assignments. Teachers may assist in assigning laboratory chiefs, or group selection. Laboratory chiefs or team leaders can collect or pool data and facilitate all team activities. The atmosphere should be as realistic and professional as possible. This may include safety procedures, solution preparation, and storage of materials, and keeping accurate data books. Laboratory activities should foster teamwork, skill development, and a reinforcement of theory in its application. The process of discovery can be exciting and rewarding for students when accomplished in an atmosphere of safe risk taking. A scientist provides expert guidance to foster appropriate experimentation.