While all curriculum areas share some of the same issues and concerns, individual curriculum areas seem to also have concerns specific to them and their courses. This list looks at the top ten concerns for science teachers. Hopefully, providing a list such as this can help open up discussions with fellow teachers who can then work towards effective solutions to these issues.
1. SafetyMany science labs, especially in chemistry courses, require students to work with potentially dangerous chemicals. While science labs are equipped with safety features like ventilation hoods and showers, there is still a concern that students will not follow directions and harm themselves or others. Therefore, science teachers must always be aware of everything that is happening in their rooms during labs. This can be difficult, especially when students have questions requiring the teacher's attention.
2. Dealing with Controversial TopicsMany topics covered in science courses can be considered controversial. Therefore, it is important that the teacher has a plan and knows what the school district policy is concerning the way they teach topics such as evolution, cloning, reproduction, and more.
3. Knowledge vs. UnderstandingSince science courses cover a large number of topics, there is always friction between how deep and how wide a teacher should go in their curriculum. Due to time constraints, most teachers will teach a breadth of knowledge without having the time to go in depth on individual topics.
4. Time Consuming Planning RequirementsLabs and experiments often require science teachers to spend a lot of time in preparation and set up. Therefore, science teachers have less time to grade during the normal school hours and often find themselves working late or coming in early to keep up.
5. In Class Time ConstraintsMany labs cannot be completed in less than 50 minutes. Therefore, science teachers are often faced with the challenge of dividing labs up over the course of a couple of days. This can be difficult when dealing with chemical reactions, so a lot of planning and forethought needs to go into these lessons.
6. Cost LimitationsSome science lab equipment costs a lot of money. Obviously, even in years without budget constraints, this precludes teachers from doing certain labs. This can be especially difficult for newer teachers to deal with as they come across great labs that they just can't afford to create.
7. Facilities LimitationsSchool labs across the country are aging and many do not have new and updated equipment called for during certain labs and experiments. Further, some rooms are set up in such a way that it is actually difficult for all students to effectively participate in labs.
8. Prerequisite InformationCertain science courses require students to have prerequisite math schools. For example, chemistry and physics both require strong math and particularly algebra skills. When students are placed in their class without these prerequisites, science teachers find themselves teaching not only their topic but also the prerequisite math required for it.
9. Collaboration vs. Individual GradesMany laboratory assignments require students to collaborate. Therefore, science teachers are faced with the issue of how to assign individual grades for these assignments. This can sometimes be very difficult. It is important for the teacher to be as fair as possible so implementing a form of individual and group evaluations is an important tool in giving out fair grades to students.
10. Missed Lab WorkStudents will be absent. It is often very difficult for science teachers to provide students with alternative assignments for lab days. Many labs cannot be repeated after school and students are instead given readings and questions or research for assignments. However, this is another layer of lesson planning that can not only be time consuming for the teacher but provide the student with much less of a learning experience.