Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
Private Universe Project in Science
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History of A Private Universe
In 1985, Matthew H. Schneps and Philip M. Sadler of the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics created A Private Universe, a video program for science teachers. The program opens with a segment in which newly minted Harvard graduates, dressed in caps and gowns, discuss their theories for the causes of the seasons. The Harvard grads, intelligent and articulate, speak eloquently about their ideas, which are, for the most part, erroneous. Through interviews with high school students and teachers, and scenes of classroom activities, A Private Universe demonstrates how a student's preconceived ideas and beliefs can pose critical barriers to learning science, whether the learning environment is a public school or a prestigious private college.
Encouraged by the success of the original video, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics continued the work of A Private Universe by creating the Private Universe Project. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Annenberg Media Math and Science Project, and the Smithsonian Institution, the Private Universe Project has produced a series of interactive teleconferences for teachers, an instructional television series, and a public broadcast series, all of which examine current research on how children learn science and the implications of that research for the classroom.
Origin of the Private Universe Project in Science Workshop
The nine sessions of the Private Universe Project in Science are the edited versions of the nine interactive teleconferences broadcast in the fall of 1994. These teleconferences reached thousands of teachers at sites across the United States, in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Costa Rica. The teleconferences were created to accomplish the following:
The remote site participants were asked to fax, telephone, e-mail, and mail in comments; to send examples of their students' work; and to answer specific questions regarding the content of each teleconference. We received thousands of responses, many of which have been incorporated in the written materials as well as in the final version of the broadcast series on science education.NOTE: Because the workshop tapes are edited versions of live, on-air interactive teleconferences that took place in the fall of 1994, it is important to note that the audiobridge (telephone connection to the studio from the sites around the country) no longer exists and feedback is no longer being gathered.
Format of the Workshop
The teleconferences have been adapted for use as professional development workshops, which can be viewed independently or in sequence. Some elements of the live, on-air teleconferences (i.e., studio site discussions and telephone calls from remote sites), have been retained in the workshop tapes when they are relevant to the topic being discussed. All discussions are built around rare and difficult-to-obtain footage of students discussing their ideas and the question of how students assimilate science concepts. Each program is structured as an experiment that investigates how a student's ideas change or do not change in response to a given teaching strategy.
How To Use This Teacher's Guide
The Teacher's Guide is a print supplement to the video programs. Before viewing each video you may want to review the materials included in the Guide. That way, you will be prepared for the discussions and will be familiar with the theme and goals of each workshop. The Guide also includes educational strategies for you to try in your classroom and resources for you to explore.
The sections entitled "Workshop Activity," "Pre-Workshop Activity," and "Workshop Discussion" are meant to promote and stimulate a dialog among the participants. We have found that in some cases, preparation for the workshop is helpful. Thus, we designate a "Pre-Workshop Activity" that should be completed prior to the intended workshop session.
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