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Education through exploration

Ariel Anbar’s students learn science by exploring the unknown rather than mastering the facts.

As the director of the Centre for Education Through Exploration (ETX Center) at Arizona State University, Anbar aims to disrupt the traditionally siloed and rote teaching approaches of STEM education by promoting the pedagogy of science exploration through engaging and adaptive digital learning platforms.

Anbar’s efforts in pioneering education through exploration have recently earned him a place on The Chronicle’s inaugural list of “Teaching Innovators”.

Habitable Worlds, a first-year course at the University of Arizona created by Anbar with support from NASA and the National Science Foundation, is a prime demonstration of education through exploration’s potential. Since its inception in 2011, over five thousand students have been introduced to astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology and physics through “interactive simulations and virtual field trips” instead of lectures and quizzes.

Students are still taught and expected to have a strong grasp of foundational knowledge; however, interactive courses like Habitable Worlds strive to spark students’ innate curiosity and have them use the facts to establish a bridge between deductive and inductive learning.

The success of Habitable Worlds and the education through exploration model is leading ASU, and 50 other post-secondary institutions, to adopt the approach—in varying capacities–to their introductory-level STEM curriculums.

Through leading-edge digital platforms and a pedagogical emphasis on questions and exploration, Dr. Anbar plans to change how students experience science education. We’ll see the impact in a few years, but the preliminary results are promising.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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