Teaching: Pain & Progress in Discovery

At Chicago's Mather High School, an honors class in physics is discussing the properties of gas. "They mix together," volunteers one student. "They expand and contract," says another. How about constructing a model, suggests Teacher Daniel Cieslik: "Should it look like a big wad of cotton? That expands and contracts." By prodding and questioning, Cieslik eventually gets the class to focus on the rapid molecular motion that characterizes gases.

Cieslik's mode of questioning is the essence of the discovery approach to science (TIME, Dec. 16, 1966), in which Socratic discussion led by a teacher forces students to hit upon conclusions of...

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