Summary and Contemplations

This project was not conducted in my classroom or with the population or subject that I teach, so it will have no impact on my current course. It was intended to address ways to teach the general public about how science works, and my literature review uncovered some interesting ideas about model-based inquiries and a deeper notion of scientific inquiry in general. My work with my target audience confirmed my assessment, which was the motivation for this project, that the process of science is generally misunderstood, especially with the fallacy of revelation from authority.

The idea presented by Poli (2011) and Kepler (2008), i.e. that student’s engagement in scientific inquiry is heightened when the subject of the inquiry has some authentic relevance in their own experience, was borne out by my target audience’s high level of engagement with our tests. This experiment originated from within the group to resolve an in-class quandary, and so even the students with serious communication difficulties remained interested and involved throughout the project.

Interestingly, my review of the literature on this subject lead me to a desire to move my methodology away from a traditional step-based exercise of the scientific method (TSM), and into a more model-based approach as described by Windschitl, Thompson, and Braaten (2008). But my experience was that, while this approach is unquestionably superior in teaching higher-order concepts and actually educating students toward the end of working in science, it is actually not very applicable to more elementary students.

And while Tang, Coffey, Elby, Elby, and Daniel (2010) also argue against teaching of the scientific method as a step-based process, I found the easy deconstruction of the process via the design of the TSM, to be an excellent entry point for a more nuanced understanding of more authentic scientific inquiry. And none the less, the process of beginning with a topic of active relevance resolved most of the problems they observed associated with the teaching of TSM.

My own desire to explain things and affection for language, often leads me into a more instructivist stance, and can deprive the students of the possibility of struggling through the valuable process of developing understanding in their own way. I noticed this particularly acutely from watching the videos I made of my presentations to the group, and was surprised when I noticed myself cutting some of the discussions short and intervening to explain instead myself.

One of the surprises was that a couple of the students, who tend to be very quiet and reluctant to participate, when they finally did feel comfortable to speak up, had particularly insightful observations. Still, I think that this population, with their behavior and communication issues, was a drawback to what was possible with this project. This also highlights for me the value of inclusion, as had we had a group of similar size, 8-10 students, but with a more heterogeneous mix of students, I believe they would have been able to do more peer instruction. Rather than a chain reaction of anxiety and a feeling of being crowded out, I think we could have had a buddy phenomena where they could have supported each other.

The process of asking learners to discover a problem they would like to solve, and then scaffolding that intrinsic curiosity onto a process of the TSM, was definitely confirmed as an engaging and valuable educational process. I also discovered a significant improvement in the group’s understanding of the process-based component of scientific inquiry. My hope was to survey various and numerous other approaches and to do more concise testing and focus work to assemble a potential set of techniques to use in my Schmience program, and will go back now to consult with my colleagues about what sorts of components they would advise be included in such a program, and then test those with another group of the actual target audience, which is more generally primary school students

Phase One Reflection Video. Created November, 2011.
On one of the LAFS stages, I reflect on the progress of the Schmience project. The collaboration with my colleagues discussed here was asked to be removed from the phase two segment.

Phase Two Reflective Video – Reflective check point 2 Created December, 2011.
This is summary of the concepts that I am attempting to communicate to my audience. The issues involved in improving science literacy are discussed.

Phase Two Reflective Video – Reflective check point 2 (Created January, 2012)
“TRAILER” intended to demonstrate and authentic process of scientific inquiry from the point of view of the target audience.

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