Section 1 - About Workshop Three:
What is the theme of this workshop? The theme of Workshop Three
is "a teacher changing."
Whom do we see in the video? Jim Carter is a veteran high school
physics teacher in suburban Boston with over 20 years of experience in the
classroom. Even with his high degree of skill, Jim feels the need to be
What happens in the video? Jim is astonished to see that many
students misinterpret his well-planned lab activities, failing to grasp
some of the fundamental ideas. Working with teacher/researcher Jim Minstrell,
Jim Carter defines a new role for himself as a teacher. Much to his surprise,
his students like the "new Jim Carter" and seem to learn in more
What problem does this workshop address? The principles of a simple
electrical circuit formed with a battery, wire, and bulb are commonly taught
in grade 3, forming the foundation for ideas about electricity taught throughout
high school. Why is it, then, that even some Harvard and MIT graduates find
a simple circuit so difficult?
What teaching strategy does this workshop offer? Both teachers
and learners are encouraged to develop new metaphors for their roles in
the classroom. Students are urged to see themselves as something other than
"sponges" soaking up the teacher's information.
Section 2 - "Hands-On/Minds-On Learning"
A. The Goals for Workshop Three
"Hands-On/Minds-On Learning" is for any teacher interested
in trying new approaches to help students learn more effectively. Even though
this video focuses on a high school physics teacher and his class, the approaches
it depicts are useful for teachers of all subjects and all grade levels.
After viewing the Harvard and MIT graduates, discuss the following
The graduates are having a difficult time lighting the bulb. What
might this say
about science learning?
Typically, one of our interviews with a student might last 45 minutes
or more. Because the workshop can show only a small part of the interviews,
you may often assume that the interviewer has forced or led the student
to produce an answer that does not really reflect the student's thinking.
But you will be wrong.
Despite hands-on activities and demonstrations, the student did
not seem to believe her own conclusions. What does this result tell us
about science learning? About the value of hands-on learning?
Given your understanding of constructivism, how does the constructivist
approach to teaching differ from the more traditional one generally practiced?
What are the trade-offs in addressing science concepts and science learning
in the constructivist approach?
Constructivism is discussed briefly in Workshop One.
Conduct an interview that will identify what a student knows.
Is the response an indication of what he/she understands?
Conduct an interview with at small group of students. Does the
interview provide insight into what your students know and don't know?
Section 3 - Exercises
A. Exercises: Responding to Workshop Three
(See Section 5A) Write a brief description of the metaphors that
come to mind when you think of your relationship as a teacher with your
students. (For example, are you like a policeman? a counselor? an entertainer?
a shepherd?) Explain how and in what situations these metaphors apply.
Include the metaphors in your journal. Do you metaphors change
with time? How? Why? What do such changes tell you about yourself as a
teacher or about the profession of teaching in general?
Based on the ideas that you have seen in this video, if you were
in charge of in-service/pre-service teacher education, what would you consider
your highest priorities?
B. Exercise: Preparing for Workshop Three
You will get the greatest benefit from Workshop Four if you complete
the following exercise first. Please do your best to gather the information.
Pre-Workshop Activity for Workshop Four
Ask your class, colleagues, neighbors, and friends the following
question: What is
air made of? What would it look like if we could see it? If they
mention that air is made of "particles" or similar terms (such
as pieces, atoms, molecules, etc.) ask them what is in between the particles.
Write down all the different answers you receive on the board
or a large pad. Ask the students to vote on which idea they agree with.
What is the earliest appropriate grade for teaching abstract concepts
particle model of matter? Discuss with your colleagues the reason(s)
behind your answer.
Section 4 - Educational Strategy
A. Metaphors: A personal narrative
A metaphor for teaching is as unique as the individual who creates it.
Literally, metaphors are lies. Theoretically, however, they are self-constructed
truths. My metaphors for teaching have changed a great deal over the years.
When I began my career as a teacher years ago, I thought of myself as a
recorder of facts-a compendium of truths to be conveyed to my students just
as tape recorder relays past sounds and ideas to its listeners. This was
a powerful metaphor that met my needs for a while. However, over time, I
realized that I could not teach anything unless the material was carefully
"recorded on my tape." In short, this meant that I could teach
very little: the limitations of my knowledge and the immensity of the things
my students wanted to know were often out of sync.
Curiously, during a lesson on blood typing I was hit by a sudden insight.
My students knew things that they could apply to new situations, that they
could use to figure out answers to some of their own questions. I remember
the instant that this awareness came to me. From then on, the metaphor I
used shifted and changed. Now I was a prompter in the theater. When the
students recited the proper line, I allowed them to continue; when they
faltered, I provided them with a cue that moved them in the direction I
wanted them to go.
As time went on, the metaphor changed again. I became "a tour guide/pathfinder."
However, soon I realized that all students were not traveling the same path,
and my metaphor as a tour guide/pathfinder was not effective for everyone.
My students' side trips, which I had construed as time-wasters, were indeed
quite necessary for their travels..
Many years later, I modified the metaphor again. Today the metaphor has
evolved into a mirror-a reflector of ideas. With constructivism and the
realization that knowledge grows as individuals confront their ways for
making meaning of new knowledge, this mirror has become a most powerful
image for me. When I stand before a class or work with small groups of individuals,
I capture the thought or idea coming from students and reflect it back to
them for further consideration, perusal, analysis, or synthesis. I may ask
them to reconsider their ideas when they are able to see them in a different
light, hear them out loud, or perhaps compare them with the ideas and evidence
of others. The knowledge is theirs to construct. As a teacher, I provide
them with the time, patience, and guidance to re-evaluate and reconstruct
All in all, metaphors often blend together and often no one metaphor
is totally adequate. The wisdom in teaching often comes from knowing the
differences between metaphors, and accepting the insufficiency of each (and
the power of all of them) while having the ability to know when each one
will be most effective.
Using metaphors to analyze one's teaching style requires an introspective
look at ones' own thinking. I came up with my metaphors after some genuine
reflection on exactly what I do when I teach. I searched my mind for an
object that had similar properties. I chose the mirror, the tape recorder,
and the theater prompter because they all had a relationship or parallel
to my teaching behavior along the way that coincided with my interpretation
of the object. I gained insight from the projection of my personal values
and ideas onto the object and vice versa. The metaphor can also be a person.
One friend of mine sees herself as a midwife helping students give birth
to their ideas. By modeling the image of a midwife, she coaches and encourages
her students when it is time for them to push and birth their new understandings.
After choosing a metaphor, you can search for more attributes and try
them on for size. Perhaps you will be happy with your metaphor and merely
fine-tune the pieces; or you may find that a different metaphor will be
more suitable. There is always the possibility of using several metaphors
for different situations.
The fun is in the search.
Dr. Richard Konicek, Amherst, 1994.
Section 5 - Resources for Workshop Three
Companies, publications, and organizations named in this guide represent
a cross-section of such entities. We do not endorse any companies, publications,
or organizations, nor should any endorsement be inferred from a listing
in this guide. Descriptions of such entities are for reference purposes
only. We have provided this information to help locate materials and information.
A. Materials for the Classroom
For more information on materials that might be helpful in the classroom,
contact the following sources:
Osborne, Jonathan, P. Black, Smith and M. Meadows. 1991. Electricity.
Primary Space Project Research Report, Liverpool University Press.
Burston Distribution Service
Newbridge Trading Estate
Off Whitby Road
NSRC, (1991). Electrical Circuits, National Science Resources
Center, Smithsonian Institution, and National Academy of Science, Arts,
and Industries Building, Room 1201, Washington DC 20560.
This is one unit produced by the NSRC for the elementary level. It
is based on research on children's thinking and on successful classroom
Batteries and Bulbs, publications available from Delta Education
in Nashua, New Hampshire.
12 Simon Street
Nashua, NH 03060-3009
Electricity, TOPS Learning Systems
TOPS Learning Systems
10970 South Mulino Road
Canby, OR 97013
Electrical Connections. AIMS Foundation, Fresno Pacific College,
PO Box 8120
Fresno, CA 93747
Thinking Physics in Gedanken Physics. Lewis Carroll Epstein, City
College of San Francisco, Insight Press, 1979.
614 Vermont St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
B. Further Reading
Arons, A. 1990. A Guide to Introductory Physics Teaching. John
Wiley and Sons. (This is written for teachers and is based on research on
learning and teaching and classroom experience.)
Shepardson, Daniel. 1994. The nature of fourth graders' understandings
of electric circuits. Science Education 78(5): 489-514 John Wiley
& Sons, Inc.
Wandersee, James H., Joel J. Mintzes, and Joseph D. Novak. 1994. Research
on Alternative Conceptions in Science. Dorothy L. Gabel, ed. In Handbook
of Research on Science Teaching and Learning, New York: Macmillan.
C. Bibliography on Circuits
Baumann, R. And S. Adams. 1990. Misunderstandings of electrical current.
Physics Teacher 28: 334.
Black, D and J. Solomon. 1987. Can pupils use taught analogies for electrical
current? School of Science Review 68: 249-254.
Cohen, R., B. Eylon, and M. Ganiel. 1983. Potential difference and current
in simple electric circuits: A study of students' concepts. American
Journal of Physics 51: 407-412.
Fredette, N. and J. Clement. 1981. Student misconceptions of an electric
current: What do they mean? Journal of College Science Teaching 10:
Joshua, S. 1984. Students' interpretation of simple electrical diagrams.
European Journal of Science Education 6(3): 271-275.
Osborne, R. 1981. Children's ideas about electric current. New Zealand
Science Teacher 29: 12-19.
Osborne, R. 1983. Towards modifying children's ideas about electric current.
Research in Teaching and Technological Education 1:73-82.
Peters, P. 1982. Even honors students have conceptual difficulties with
physics. American Journal of Physics 50: 501-508.
Shipstone, D. 1984. A study of children's understanding of electricity
in simple DC circuits. European Journal of Science Education 6: 185-198.