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Know your students: Nature of the high school student

The purpose of this segment is to help connect what is known about students' cognitive development with what you want them to understand about science concepts and the nature of science. Use this brief description, combined with your knowledge of your students, to guide you in making instructional decisions appropriate for your grade level.

High school students range in age from 14 to 18. With this wide range of ages comes a wide range of abilities. As you look at your class, you will notice that some students are able to focus for only half an hour and others for upwards of one and a half hours. Some are ready to move from the concrete to discussion of abstract ideas, while others are lost. These differences are related to many factors beyond merely age.

Many students are more focused on their personal relationships and on the here and now than on their education or future. Some students prefer to focus on the coolness of not participating in any activity or discussion rather than on actively engaging in their education. To some degree, this reflects both teenage culture and the culture at large.

Although a relatively small percentage of students retain their natural curiosity for science, with the right instructional strategies and motivations, many students still find science interesting, especially if it can be made relevant to their lives. Students who were not particularly successful in their middle/junior high school can turn their educational experience around with appropriate guidance and an engaging curriculum.


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Text modified from Making Connections: A Guide to Implementing Science Standards © California Science Teachers Association. 1999. All rights reserved.

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