Section 1 - About Workshop Eight "Finding Solutions That Work"
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
take into account the students and the classroom;
be sensitive to the teachers and the curriculum; and
be useful and available to the educational community as a whole.
Section 2 - "Finding Solutions That Work"
A. The Goals for Workshop Eight
"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:
acquire deep conceptual understanding;
use and apply knowledge;
reflect on how and what they learn;
take responsibility for their learning.
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)?
Section 3 - Summary of Strategies
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
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.
Section 4 - Exercises
A. Exercise: Responding to Workshop Eight
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
"The goal of education is meaningful learning."
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 isn't just telling."
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.
"Hands-on experiences alone are often not sufficient for meaningful
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."
"Less is more."
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."
"Teaching often results in unintended learning outcomes."
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.
"Students must take responsibility for their own learning."
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.
B. Exercise: Preparing for Workshop Nine
You will get the greatest benefit from Workshop Nine if you complete
the following exercise.
Workshop Activity and Discussion
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.
Section 5 - Resources for Workshop Eight
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
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
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