Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
Private Universe Project in Science
Workshop Eight: "Finding Solutions That Work"
Section 1 - About Workshop Eight
What is the theme of this workshop?
The theme of this Workshop is "theory and practice: bridging the gap."
What problem does this workshop address?
There is no "magic bullet" for the problems of science education. There are, however, some clear directions to explore. What obstacles will we meet along the way as we consider the necessary changes for science reform?
What teaching strategies does this workshop offer?
Several strategies have been introduced in previous workshops. New proposed strategies should address three broad areas. They should
"Finding Solutions That Work" is for any teacher who wants to bridge the gap between theory and practice in order to develop useful classroom strategies for science education.
The Content Guide for Workshop Eight lists several goals of constructivist learning. Students should:
Discuss your reactions to these ideas. How can teachers identify and implement realistic strategies that support constructivist learning?
The interpretation of student ideas and the design of lessons challenging student beliefs require a high degree of proficiency in science. Videos of constructivist practice are often interpreted to be mostly about process, with little attention being given to content.
Do you believe that knowledge of science content is an important part of constructivist strategies? Please explain your answer. Why was the hands-on instructional activity successful with Jon (Workshop Two) and not with Karen (Workshop Five)?
In Workshop Eight: "Finding Solutions That Work", we will explore the requirements for a successful science education strategy. The following are summaries of the strategies introduced in the first seven workshops.
Workshop 1: Eliciting Student Ideas
In Workshop One we discussed the common conceptions children and adults have about the natural world and how we can build on these conceptions in instruction. We suggested several strategies: interviewing, journal keeping, and interactive collaborative electronic (ICE) learning logs.
Workshop 2: Why Are Some Ideas So Difficult?
In Workshop Two we considered the strategy of "concept mapping" as a means of understanding how children make sense of their world and providing a clear picture of their thinking and understanding.
Workshop 3: Hands-On/Minds-On Learning
In Workshop Three we explored the idea of metaphors as "self-constructed truths." Metaphors encourage us, as teachers and as individuals, to express our understanding and meaning in unique and personal ways. Metaphors reflect our internal dialogue: they are the images and words we use to represent our ideas and understandings, offering us insights and new perspectives into our own understandings.
Workshop 4: A House With No Foundation
In Workshop Four we suggested using posters and small group discussions as an interesting teaching and learning strategy. Both approaches stimulate learners to be more aware of their own ideas and illustrate how these ideas change during the learning process.
Workshop 5: Can We Believe Our Own Eyes?
Workshop 6: Where Should We Start?
Workshops Five and Six both used the strategy of anchoring and bridging analogies. In this strategy we identify what the student already firmly understands (the anchoring example). Then gradually the teacher introduces new ideas (through lab activities, discussion, or other approaches) that help the student to build a bridge between the anchoring example and the target concept.
Workshop 7: Taking A Risk
In Workshop Seven we introduce the category of affective approaches by presenting the strategy of debating environmental issues. By gathering evidence, preparing an argument, and listening to the arguments of classmates, students not only learn about the science issues involved, but also learn about them in the context of emotional and intellectual commitment. The teacher can use the process both to determine students' initial ideas and assess how those ideas change.
Below is a compilation of statements frequently heard in constructivist education circles. Choose one statement with which you particularly agree or disagree, or one that puzzles, troubles, or encourages you. Briefly respond to it, relating it to your professional experience when possible. (The response can be either in a discussion setting or as a journal writing assignment.)
The student must make sense of new ideas in terms of existing ones. In doing so he or she will achieve "meaningful learning." Meaningful learning results in an understanding that the student can apply to novel situations. This learning is contrasted with rote learning in which the student's grasp of the subject is limited to classroom contexts and is often of short duration. Students who are proficient at rote memorization often get the "right" answers on standard exams without really comprehending the fundamental ideas behind the answers.
Teaching and learning are interactive processes in which both the teacher and the student need opportunities to talk through and check out developing understandings. Students need help changing their ideas about a topic in a way that makes sense to them. This change can only be achieved by helping the student construct a new and deeper understanding of the topic.
Because the ideas of science often defy our intuition, unguided experiences with natural phenomena can result in misunderstandings. To reflect this point, some teachers have replaced the term "hands-on" with "minds-on."
Teaching for meaningful learning takes time. For this reason, the pressure to cover all of the material in the curriculum may result in little comprehension on the part of the students. It is better to understand a few key concepts than to memorize, without understanding, pages of "facts."
Unintended learning outcomes occur when students construct understandings at odds with the teacher's classroom goals. A demonstration or explanation which seems clear to the teacher can take on entirely different meanings in the eyes of the students. Students who have not achieved meaningful learning will often incorporate the language and forms of a lesson into their old ideas without making a fundamental change in their old frameworks.
Since each student constructs knowledge in her or his own unique way, fitting new ideas among the old, only the student can take responsibility for her or his own learning. However, teachers can guide, coach, advise, and provide rich learning opportunities.
You will get the greatest benefit from Workshop Nine if you complete the following exercise.
A number of strategies for science education have been illustrated in these videos. Add to this list any from your experience that you feel are appropriate. If you feel any of our presented strategies are inappropriate, note those as well.
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. Related Resources on Decomposition
Teachers may want to explore various organizations that promote research in science education.
NARST (The National Association for Research in Science Teaching), founded in 1928, promotes research in science education at all educational levels and disseminates the findings of research in action, historical, philosophical, ethnographic, experimental, and evaluative studies. Research areas of interest to NARST include curriculum development and organization, evaluation, learning theory, teacher education, programs for the talented and the handicapped, and methods of instruction in science.
Executive Secretary, John Staver Center for Science Education 244 Bluemont Hall Kansas State University Manhattan, KS 66506-5310 913-532-6294 Fax: 913-532-7304 E-mail: Staver@KSUVM.KSU.EDU
AETS (Association for the Education of Teachers in Science) AETS is an organization that promotes supportive ways for teaching teachers how to teach science. For information contact:
Joseph Peters, Secretary University of West Florida 11000 University Parkway Pensacola FL 32514 904-474-2860
B. Bibliography on Constructivism
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