10 Tips for Science Class Success

10 Tips for Science Class Success

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Updated on Sep 3, 2013

Excellence in science has always been a hallmark of the United States, resulting in inventions from the cotton gin to GPS technology. But with the rest of the world working hard to overtake us, the need for science education has never been more urgent. President Obama highlighted this sentiment during a radio address: “Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation.”

So how can your student do his best in science? Maria Caryotakis has taught high school science for twenty years, from introductory courses to Honors Chemistry and Physics. The following is a list of strategies that she recommends for students who want to do well in her class:

Participate 100% in Class

Students think they can save time by using one class’s lecture time to prepare for a different class. For example, many students tune out during a science lesson so they can study the vocabulary for next period’s English quiz. But there’s never a better time to learn something than when a teacher is presents it; it takes twice as long to learn it at home on your own. When you’re following a lecture, it’s easy to stop and ask a question before you get lost. Plus, you’ll make a better impression on the teacher if she calls on you.

Accept That There Isn’t Always a Right Answer

Schools today teach that there’s always a right answer, one correct bubble to fill in on the scantron sheet. But in science, we don’t yet have all the answers. Sometimes the best we can do is to develop theories, so it’s important to be comfortable with complicated answers. During a lab, don’t be overly focused on getting the “expected” results; in science, any experiment that yields data is a viable experiment. In fact, some of the greatest discoveries of our time were born from “mistakes.”

Speak Up in Your Group

Much of science is done in the company of others, from lab work to group projects. It’s important to be heard within the group. If there’s a problem, staying quiet is the worst thing you can do. Make sure you understand what others are saying by rephrasing what you’ve heard. Don’t ignore problems with group dynamics: the group works too quickly, someone takes over as the de-facto leader, or a member doesn’t help at all. Try working it out, but if it doesn’t help, go to the teacher to voice your concerns. A good teacher will intervene in the group to improve the dynamics, or if that can’t work, should move you to a more compatible group. 

Take Good Notes

Science books cover vast amounts of information, and it can be hard to know where to focus. But each teacher has a specific subset of information that he feels is most important. The notes you take in class indicate what the teacher wants to emphasize, and what you should expect to see covered on tests and quizzes.

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