Science Terms for Educators

Education needs science. Science is a way of thinking; a way of making sense of the world. To bring more science in, educators need a working knowledge of scientific (and not so scientific) terms as they apply to teaching and learning.

Confirmation Bias

We find things that confirm what we already believe in. This happens a lot when people hunt and peck through things to find something that backs up what they already have decided is true (or needs to be done). 

Science is the search for the truth, not finding things that back up what you think to be true. 

What can we do instead?

Broaden your perspective. Look at a wide variety of things – don’t just seek out what is going to back up what you prefer. This also helps foster a mindset where we are challenging what has always been presented as true. Sure, you’ll find things that align with beliefs you already have. But on the flip slide, you’ll learn heaps of new information as well. There’s a whole host of scientific things that have surprised me recently – most notably that citronella doesn’t actually repel mosquitoes

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Sales pitches aren’t science.

There are tons of great educational companies out there. Their job is to sell their product to make money to keep their jobs. That inherently isn’t bad. However, a sales pitch that touts ‘evidence-based’ programs or ‘data’ is still just a sales pitch. We have to dig deeper to know if there is any real science behind the work. Unfortunately, I have seen many companies that just study what they do, slap a, “Works great!” label on it, and off they go. 

What can we do instead?

Look for things that are backed by science – meaning they are based in and reference peer-reviewed published studies and concepts. Otherwise, we fall victim to one big confirmation bias (see above). Just remember, common sense can go a long way here. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Hawthorne Effect

Also known as the Henry Effect. When the subjects being studied act differently because they are being studied. Human behavior is so complex. Sometimes subjects will perform for the observer consciously. Sometimes the behaviors change without the subjects being fully aware of it. This applies to people of all ages, so in school, both to students and teachers. 

What can we do instead?

Be aware that observation has an impact on behavior. Use all the evidence available, including information collected when the subject(s) aren’t aware of an observation. 

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10 Correlations That Are Not Causations

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