21 Jan 2007

A kindred spirit

My first experience with the annual ASE (The Association for Science Education) conference was at The University of Birmingham 3.-6. January. A paradox was that I had to go all the way to England to find that one of the most interesting experiences was to be a Swedish lecturer.

A packed programme with hoards of parallel sessions, spanning most thinkable and unthinkable science education issues; from the highly inspiring/enthusing to the one that give you the feeling "I never thought it was possible to completely ruin something so inherently fascinating". However, one experience left all of the other sessions in the shadows: Hans Persson at the Swedish National Centre for Education in Physics (and The Stockholm Institute of Education) had two sessions: "Creativity in the Science Classroom" and "Curious About Science?". His approach to science teaching was so fresh, vital and inspiring that the session ended in the audience giving standing ovations (the first time I've experienced such after a conference lecture).

What makes this special? First of all, the strong focus on students' interest/attitudes towards science in addition to the knowledge. Interest before knowledge, maybe. If you don't enjoy dealing with science, you won't learn much. Other key factors are having courage to be truly playful and enthusiastic, and utilising every aspect of everyday life to impart science. I also share his quite strong criticism of the kind of science teaching that is separated from everyday life, i.e. lab equipment which its sole purpose is for use in science education, but which doesn't exist anywhere else (note that this primarily applies to primary and secondary school, college/university level may be quite a different ballgame).

The other thing that makes this stand out is that he managed to convince me that he's got a firm foundation for this approach, possibly both theoretical/ideological and empiric, both from primary/secondary school and teacher training. His book on concept building is sure to find it's way to my bedside table soon (only in Swedish, unfortunately, but he's published books in English as well).

Anyway, I don't think I've seen such a fresh approach to science education during my five years in the game, and I decided to post this although strictly it doesn't deal with food and science education (although he touched in on that as well).

A visit at his web page, which bears the subtitle "How can we awaken interest in science and then keep that interest alive?", gives a small glimpse of his thoughts and work. I find this so important that I've put the link in the permanent links list in the right hand margin.


Link: www.hanper.se (both English and Swedish, but the Swedish pages are somewhat more comprehensive).


  1. I met Hans at the 2007 National NSTA Conference. It was exciting and made me want to go and share those activities, but alas , I have no classroom; I am working on my Ph.D. I too am interested in making science more interesting and am working on questions related to how teachers and/or students might use humor to help them learn science content. ie. humor that is directly related to science content. Can you refer me to anyone doing research in this area?

  2. regrettably I haven't got any references on this. however, I'll probably (hopefully) meet him now in October and will ask him about this and related stuff. If this proves fruitful, I'll surely write a posting on it.


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