Year Awarded: 2010
Enrique del Barco
College of Sciences
Teaching at all levels is the most satisfying consequence of my responsibilities as a faculty member at UCF. I am strongly dedicated to the education of young men and women in all aspects related with my scientific background. I am of the firm opinion that modern societies require a better understanding of the mechanisms governing our universe, at all scales, to be able to fully develop ourselves with respect to our environment and natural resources. As a scientist and educator of a public university, I feel a responsibility to help implant these natural principles in the brains of our future leaders.
My approach to scientific education is strongly shaped by a student-instructor interaction strategy, which I use in my teaching activities at all levels. The interaction strategy is of paramount importance for the understanding of science. Science cannot be taught following traditional educational strategies. For example, an instructor gives a lecture to a passive audience or a journalist writes a text report about a scientific development. Even the most basic scientific concepts can be impossible to assimilate by untrained minds. The student needs to be integrated into the instruction equation. Learning science needs to be a joint adventure where both student and instructor open the doors to scientific knowledge in a cooperative way. The implementation of this strategy has been supported by the National Science Foundation though a CAREER Award and a Physics Education Grant.
I firmly believe that scientific instruction needs to adequate to the times. The world is quickly losing its frontiers due to the drastic change in communication caused by the intrinsic interactive nature of the Internet. It is indispensable that the education of science finds its place into this new communication market, or we will lose the attention of the youngest part of our society, for whom the Internet is a natural part of their language. This is the principle behind a new science blog www.highschoolscience.ucf.edu that I have created in collaboration with high-school students, which is designed to strengthen the interaction between the two sides—science and the general public.