Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Private Universe Project in Science

Workshop 5. Vision: Can We Believe Our Own Eyes? (90 min.)

Whom do we see in the videotape?
Richard and Karen, eighth graders, and Conor, a fifth grader, are three students who constructed many of their ideas from personal experience, television nature specials, and classroom activities. Conor blends the various resources and constructs a rich and imaginative explanations of light and vision, Richard vacillates between scientific and non-scientific ideas, even after instruction, and Karen never waivers from her personal construction about vision.

What happens in the videotape?
Richard and Karen, eighth graders, and Conor, a fifth grader, are three students who constructed many of their ideas from personal experience, television nature specials, and classroom activities. Conor blends the various resources and constructs a rich and imaginative explanations of light and vision, Richard vacillates between scientific and non-scientific ideas, even after instruction, and Karen never waivers from her personal construction about vision.

What problem does this session address?
Although mirrors are among the most common of scientific devices, they remain enigmatic. The average adult in the United States may use a mirror 30,000 times in a lifetime. Why is it that, even with all of this experience, so many adults still cannot answer simple questions about the properties of mirrors?

What teaching strategy does this session offer?
Teachers learn to introduce students to modeling things they cannot see. Groups of students work at activities providing "data" about the phenomenon. The groups devise models to explain their data and defend these against the questions of others in the class.

"Can We Believe Our Own Eyes?" addresses students' "conceptual change," a process by which students replace old ideas when new ones become more acceptable. This session explores how students construct ideas from the many sources available to them. Television, radio, books, parents, teachers, peers all play a role in promoting the ways in which students' see and understand natural phenomena. In contrast, seeing often contradicts their understanding, and as a result, seeing is not always believing. What can we learn about children's concepts of light and vision that can shed some light on this problem?

What teaching strategy does this session offer? The role of students' experience can be very powerful in shaping their ideas and beliefs. Does this experience always lead to a better understanding? Teachers learn to confront students' understanding by offering alternative experiences which contradict old ideas.

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