Science Skills: A Problem Solving Activities Book

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We will find that some of our ideas are similar to those of the scientist, but in other cases our ideas might be different. When we are finished with this unit, I expect that we will have a much clearer idea of how scientists explain those events, and I know that you will feel more comfortable about your explanations…A key idea we are going to use is the idea of force.

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What does the idea of force mean to you? At some point Minstrell guides the discussion to a specific example: He asks students to individually formulate their ideas and to draw a diagram showing the major forces on the rock as arrows, with labels to denote the cause of each force. A lengthy discussion follows in which students present their views, views that contain many irrelevant e. With this approach, Minstrell has been able to identify many erroneous beliefs of students that stand in the way of conceptual understanding. One example is the belief that only active agents e.

Facets may relate to conceptual knowledge e. One of the obstacles to instructional innovation in large introductory science courses at the college level is the sheer number of students who are taught at one time. Classroom communication systems can help the instructor of a large class accomplish these objectives. One such system, called Classtalk, consists of both hardware and software that allows up to four students to share an input device e. Answers can then be displayed anonymously in histogram.

This technology has been used successfully at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to teach physics to a range of students, from non-science majors to engineering and science majors Dufresne et al. The technology creates an interactive learning environment in the lectures: The technology is also a natural mechanism to support formative assessment during instruction, providing both the teacher and students with feedback on how well the class is grasping the concepts under study. The approach accommodates a wider variety of learning styles than is possible by lectures and helps to foster a community of learners focused on common objectives and goals.

The examples above present some effective strategies for teaching and learning science for high school and college students. We drew some general principles of learning from these examples and stressed that the findings consistently point to the strong effect of knowledge structures on learning. The approach stresses how discourse is a primary means for the search for knowledge and scientific sense-making. It also illustrates how scientific ideas are constructed.

Like other exploratory processes, [the scientific method] can be resolved into a dialogue between fact and fancy, the actual and the possible; between what could be true and what is in fact the case. The purpose of scientific enquiry is not to compile an inventory of factual information, nor to build up a totalitarian world picture of Natural Laws in which every event that is not compulsory is forbidden.

We should think of it rather as a logically articulated structure of justifiable beliefs about a Possible World— a story which we invent and criticize and modify as we go along, so that it ends by being, as nearly as we can make it, a story about real life. In addition, students design studies, collect information, analyze data and construct evidence, and they then debate the conclusions that they derive from their evidence.

In effect, the students build and argue about theories; see Box 7. Students constructed scientific understandings through an iterative process of theory building, criticism, and refinement based on their own questions, hypotheses, and data analysis activities. Within this structure, students explored the implications of the theories they held, examined underlying assumptions, formulated and tested hypotheses, developed evidence, negotiated conflicts in belief and evidence, argued alternative interpretations, provided warrants for conclusions, and so forth.

The process as a whole provided a richer, more scientifically grounded experience than the conventional focus on textbooks or laboratory demonstrations. The emphasis on establishing communities of scientific practice builds on the fact that robust knowledge and understandings are socially constructed through talk, activity, and interaction around meaningful problems and tools Vygotsky, The teacher guides and supports students as they explore problems and define questions that are of interest to them. Students share the responsibility for thinking and doing: In addition, a community of practice can be a powerful context for constructing scientific meanings.

Challenged by their teacher, the students set out to determine whether they actually preferred the water from the third floor or only thought they did. As a first step, the students designed and took a blind taste test of the water from fountains on all three floors of the building. They found, to their surprise, that two-thirds of them chose the water from the first-floor fountain, even though they all said that they preferred drinking from the third-floor fountain.

The students did not believe the data. Their teacher was also suspicious of the results because she had expected no differences among the three water fountains.

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These beliefs and suspicions motivated students to conduct a second taste test with a larger sample drawn from the rest of the junior high. The students decided where, when, and how to run their experiment. They discussed methodological issues: How to collect the water, how to hide the identity of the sources, and, crucially, how many fountains to include.

They decided to include the same three fountains as before so that they could compare results. What do students learn from participating in a scientific sense-making community? Individual interviews with students before and after the water taste test investigation see Box 7. In the interviews conducted in Haitian Creole , the students were asked to think aloud about two open-ended real-world problems—pollution in the Boston Harbor and a sudden illness in an elementary school.

They worried about bias in the voting process. What if some students voted more than once? Science Skills: A Problem Solving Activities Book (): Alan Peacock: Books

Each student in the class volunteered to organize a piece of the experiment. About 40 students participated in the blind taste test. When they analyzed their data, they found support for their earlier results 88 percent of the junior high students thought they preferred water from the third-floor fountain, but 55 percent actually chose the water from the first floor a result of 33 percent would be chance. Faced with this evidence, the students suspicions turned to curiosity. Why was the water from the first-floor fountain preferred? How can they determine the source of the preference?

They found that all the fountains had unacceptably high levels of bacteria. In fact, the first-floor fountain the one most preferred had the highest bacterial count. They also found that the water from the first-floor fountain was 20 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the water from fountains on the other floors. Based on their findings, they concluded that temperature was probably a deciding factor in taste preference.

Not surprisingly, the students knew more about water pollution and aquatic ecosystems in June than they did in September. They were also able to use this knowledge generatively. One student explained how she would clean the water in Boston Harbor Rosebery et al. Chlorine and alum, you put in the water. Note that this explanation contains misconceptions. By confusing the cleaning of drinking water with the cleaning of sea water, the student suggests adding chemicals to take all microscopic life from the water good for drinking water, but bad for the ecosystem of Boston Harbor.

In September, there were three ways in which the students showed little familiarity with scientific forms of reasoning. First, the students did not understand the function of hypotheses or experiments in scientific inquiry. Ah, I could say a person, some person that gave them something…. Second, the students conceptualized evidence as information they already knew, either through personal experience or second-hand sources, rather than data produced through experimentation or observation. In the June interviews, the students showed that they had become familiar with the function of hypotheses and experiments and with reasoning within larger explanatory frameworks.

Elinor had developed a model of an integrated water system in which an action or event in one part of the system had consequences for other parts Rosebery et al. If you leave it on the ground, the water that, the earth has water underground, it will still spoil the water underground. Or when it rains it will just take it and, when it rains, the water runs, it will take it and leave it in the river, in where the water goes in. In June, the students no longer invoked anonymous agents, but put forward chains of hypotheses to explain phenomena, such as why children were getting sick page The June interviews also showed that students had begun to develop a sense of the function and form of experimentation.

They no longer depended on personal experience as evidence, but proposed experiments to test specific hypotheses. In response to a question about sick fish, Laure clearly understands how to find a scientific answer page Teaching and learning in science have been influenced very directly by research studies on expertise see Chapter 2.

The examples discussed in this chapter focus on two areas of science teaching: Others illustrate ways to help students engage in deliberate practice see Chapter 3 and to monitor their progress. Learning the strategies for scientific thinking have another objective: Often, the barrier to achieving insights to new solutions is rooted in a fundamental misconception about the subject matter.

Another strategy involves the use of interactive lecture demonstrations to encourage students to make predictions, consider feedback, and then reconceptualize phenomena. Students learned to think, talk, and act scientifically, and their first and second languages mediated their learning in power-. Using Haitian Creole, they designed their studies, interpreted data, and argued theories; using English, they collected data from their mainstream peers, read standards to interpret their scientific test results, reported their findings, and consulted with experts at the local water treatment facility.

Outstanding teaching requires teachers to have a deep understanding of the subject matter and its structure, as well as an equally thorough understanding of the kinds of teaching activities that help students understand the subject matter in order to be capable of asking probing questions. Numerous studies demonstrate that the curriculum and its tools, including textbooks, need to be dissected and discussed in the larger contexts and framework of a discipline. In order to be able to provide such guidance, teachers themselves need a thorough understanding of the subject domain and the epistemology that guides the discipline for history, see Wineburg and Wilson, ; for math and English, see Ball, ; Grossman et al.

The examples in this chapter illustrate the principles for the design of learning environments that were discussed in Chapter 6: They are learner centered in the sense that teachers build on the knowledge students bring to the learning situation. They are knowledge centered in the sense that the teachers attempt to help students develop an organized understanding of important concepts in each discipline.

They are community centered in the sense that the teachers establish classroom norms that learning with understanding is valued and students feel free to explore what they do not understand. These examples illustrate the importance of pedagogical content knowledge to guide teachers. Expert teachers have a firm understanding of their respective disciplines, knowledge of the conceptual barriers that students face in learning about the discipline, and knowledge of effective strategies for working with students.

The teachers focus on understanding rather than memorization and routine procedures to follow, and they engage students in activities that help students reflect on their own learning and understanding. The interplay between content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge illustrated in this chapter contradicts a commonly held misconception about teaching—that effective teaching consists of a set of general teaching strategies that apply to all content areas.

This notion is erroneous, just as is the idea that expertise in a discipline is a general set of problem-solving skills that lack a content knowledge base to support them see Chapter 2. The outcomes of new approaches to teaching as reflected in the results of summative assessments are encouraging. How these kinds of teaching strategies reveal themselves on typical standardized tests is another matter. In some cases there is evidence that teaching for understanding can increase scores on standardized measures e. It is noteworthy that none of the teachers discussed in this chapter felt that he or she was finished learning.

Many discussed their work as involving a lifelong and continuing struggle to understand and improve. What opportunities do teachers have to improve their practice? First released in the Spring of , How People Learn has been expanded to show how the theories and insights from the original book can translate into actions and practice, now making a real connection between classroom activities and learning behavior.

This edition includes far-reaching suggestions for research that could increase the impact that classroom teaching has on actual learning. Like the original edition, this book offers exciting new research about the mind and the brain that provides answers to a number of compelling questions. When do infants begin to learn? How do experts learn and how is this different from non-experts? What can teachers and schools do-with curricula, classroom settings, and teaching methods--to help children learn most effectively?

New evidence from many branches of science has significantly added to our understanding of what it means to know, from the neural processes that occur during learning to the influence of culture on what people see and absorb. How People Learn examines these findings and their implications for what we teach, how we teach it, and how we assess what our children learn. The book uses exemplary teaching to illustrate how approaches based on what we now know result in in-depth learning.

This new knowledge calls into question concepts and practices firmly entrenched in our current education system. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website. Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book. Switch between the Original Pages , where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

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Page Share Cite. Different Views of History by Different Teachers. Studies of Outstanding History Teachers. In the end, remind your reader again about your point of view. Go back and revise and hand this in again! Wilson and Wineburg What benefits do we get out of paying taxes to the crown? We benefit from the protection. Yes—and all the rights of an Englishman. So should all the colonies be punished for the acts of a few colonies? There were 12 jars, and each had 4 butterflies in it. And if I did this multiplication and found the answer, what would I know about those Jessica: Interactive Instruction in Large Classes.

The most practical way is 3 , because you find the answer from your own observations. The next best would be 2 , because you also do something to find out. Curiosity makes you ask questions and observe more carefully. And when you are very curious about something, you will probably remember what you have learned much better. Here are a few games and activities to make you curious.

Try this creative problem solving exercise!

You can do them in groups of two or more. Which direction is the wind blowing? Look at the wind arrows. They are not all pointing in the same direction but there is a pattern. The wind on this day is blowing from the sea towards the land. A professor's questions should build confidence rather than induce fear. One technique is to encourage the student to propose several different answers to the question.

The student can then be encouraged to step outside the answers and begin to develop the skills necessary to assess the answers. Some questions seek facts and simply measure student recall; others demand higher reasoning skills such as elaborating on or explaining a concept, comparing and contrasting several possibilities, speculating about an outcome, and speculating about cause and effect.

The type of question asked and the response given to students' initial answers are crucial to the types of reasoning processes the students are encouraged to use. Several aspects of questions to formulate them, what reasoning or knowledge is tested or encouraged, how to deal with answers-similar for dialogue and for testing. Chapters 5 and 6 contain more information on questions as part of assessment, testing, and grading.

Demonstrations can be very effective for illustrating concepts in class, but can result in passive learning without careful attention to engaging students. They can provoke students to think for themselves and are especially helpful if the demonstration has a surprise, challenges an assumption, or illustrates an otherwise abstract concept or mechanism.

Demonstrations that use everyday objects are especially effective and require little preparation on the part of faculty see sidebar. Students' interest is peaked if they are asked to make predictions and vote on the most probable outcome. There are numerous resources available to help faculty design and conduct demonstrations. Many science education periodicals contain one or more demonstrations in each issue. The American Chemical Society and the University of Wisconsin Press have published excellent books on chemical demonstrations Shakhashiri, , , , ; Summerlin and Ealy, ; Summerlin et al.

Similar volumes of physics demonstrations have been published by the American Association of Physics Teachers Freier and Anderson, ; Berry, You should consider a number of issues when planning a demonstration O'Brien, Which of the many demonstrations on the selected topic will generate the greatest enhancement in student learning?

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What design would be most effective, given the materials at hand and the target audience? What questions will be appropriate to motivate and direct student observation and thought processes before, during, and after the demonstration?

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What follow-up questions can be used to test and stretch students' understanding of the new concept? If the classroom or lecture hall is large, consider whether students in the back will be able to see your demonstration. Look into videotaping the demonstration and projecting the image on a larger screen so that all of your students can see. Small group discussion sections often are used in large-enrollment courses to complement the lectures. In courses with small enrollments, they can substitute for the lecture, or both lecture and discussion formats can be used in the same class period.

The main distinction between lecture and discussion is the level of student participation that is expected, and a whole continuum exists. Discussions can be instructor-centered students answer the instructor's questions or student-centered students address one another, and the instructor mainly guides the discussion toward important points. In any case, discussion sessions are more productive when students are expected to prepare in advance. Focused discussion is an effective way for many students to develop their conceptual frameworks and to learn problem solving skills as they try out their own ideas on other students and the instructor.

The give and take of technical discussion also sharpens critical and quantitative thinking skills. Classes in which students must participate in discussion force them to go beyond merely plugging numbers into formulas or memorizing terms. They must learn to explain in their own words what they are thinking and doing. Students are more motivated to prepare for a class in which they are expected to participate actively. However, student-centered discussions are less predictable than instructor-centered presentations, they are more time consuming, and they can require more skill from the teacher.

To lead an effective discussion, the teacher must be a good facilitator, by ensuring that key points are covered and monitoring the group dynamics. Guidance is needed to keep the discussion from becoming disorganized or irrelevant. Some students do not like or may not function effectively in a class where much of the time is devoted to student discussion.

Some may take the point of view that they have paid to hear the expert the teacher. For them, and for all students, it is useful to review the benefits of discussion-based formats in contrast with lectures whose purpose is to transmit information. When students do not spontaneously engage in a discussion, they may be unprepared or they may be reluctant to speak or to be assertive. Some may be more comfortable making comparisons than absolute statements, and others may be more comfortable with narrative descriptions than with quantitative analysis. You might try various strategies to engage your students in meaningful discussion by posing questions that measure different levels of understanding knowledge, application, analysis, and comprehension; see Chapter 6.

Probably the best overall advice is to be bold but flexible and willing to adjust your strategies to fit the character of your class. If you want to experiment with using discussions in your class, here are some things to consider:. Decide on the goals of your class discussion. What is it that you want the students to get from each class session? The ability to make connections to other disciplines or to technology? Keep in mind that the goals may change as you progress through the material during the quarter or semester. Explain to the students how discussions will be structured. Will the discussion involve the whole class or will students work in smaller groups?

Make clear what you expect them to do before coming to each class session: Let students see you take attendance. Students who do not come to class may not be studying. If you want students to discuss questions and concepts in small groups, explain to students how the groups will form. Do not allow a few students to dominate the discussion. Some students will naturally respond more quickly, but they must be encouraged to let others have a chance.

Be sure that all students participate at an acceptable level. In extreme cases you may have to speak outside of class to an aggressive or an excessively reticent student. Look for opportunities for you or your students to bring to class mini-demonstrations illustrating important points of the day's topic. This is a very effective way to stimulate discussion. Be willing to adjust to the needs of your students and to take advantage of your own strengths as a teacher. Watch for signs that the students need more or less guidance. Are the main points coming out and getting resolved?

Do you need to do more summarizing or moderating? Collaborative learning "is an umbrella term for a variety of educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together" Goodsell et al. Cooperative learning, a form of collaborative learning, is an instructional technique in which students work in groups to achieve a common goal, to which they each contribute in.

The interaction itself can take different forms:. Although cooperative learning has been used effectively in elementary, middle, and high schools for a number of years, as discussed by Johnson and Johnson and Slavin , few studies have been done to demonstrate its effectiveness in the college classroom. Nevertheless, a growing number of practitioners are assessing its effectiveness Treisman and Fullilove, ; Johnson et al. While many advocates of collaborative learning are quick to point out its advantages, they are also sensitive to its perceived problems.

Cooper , for example, points out that coverage, lack of control during class, and students who do not carry their weight in a group, need to be considered before embarking on collaborative learning. In addition, the evaluation of group work requires careful consideration see Chapter 6. It is hard to imagine learning to do science, or learning about science, without doing laboratory or field work.

Experimentation underlies all scientific knowledge and understanding. Laboratories are wonderful settings for teaching and learning science. They provide students with opportunities to think about, discuss, and solve real problems.

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Developing and teaching an effective laboratory requires as much skill, creativity, and hard work as proposing and executing a first-rate research project. Despite the importance of experimentation in science, introductory labs fail to convey the excitement of discovery to the majority of our students.

They generally give introductory science labs low marks, often describing them as boring or a waste of time. It is clear that many introductory laboratory programs are suffering from neglect. Typically, students work their way through a list of step-by-step instructions, trying to reproduce expected results and wondering how to get the right answer. While this approach has little do with science, it is common practice because it is efficient. Laboratories are costly and time consuming, and predictable, "cookbook" labs allow departments to offer their lab courses to large numbers of students.

Improving undergraduate laboratory instruction has become a priority in many institutions, driven, in part, by the exciting program being developed at a wide range of institutions. Some labs encourage critical and quantitative thinking, some emphasize demonstration of principles or development of lab techniques, and some help students deepen their understanding of fundamental concepts Hake, Where possible, the lab should be coincident with the lecture or discussion.

Before you begin to develop a. Here are a number of possibilities:. Exercise curiosity and creativity by designing a procedure to test a hypothesis. Developing an effective laboratory requires appropriate space and equipment and extraordinary effort from the department's most creative teachers.

Still, those who have invested in innovative introductory laboratory programs report very encouraging results: Many science departments have implemented innovative laboratory programs in their introductory courses. We encourage you to consult the organizations and publications listed in the Appendices. Education sessions at professional society meetings are another opportunity to get good ideas for labs in your discipline. Some faculty members have given up lecturing and large. A major goal of this course is to teach students how to do science: Each lab is two weeks long, with the equipment and animals available for the entire time.

All of the materials that students could plausibly need are stored on shelves for easy and immediate access. In the first hour, we discuss the lab and possible hypotheses, and look over the materials at hand. Each group then formulates an initial plan, obtains approval for their plan, and conducts the experiment. The most flexible labs utilize computer-controlled stimuli.

In one lab, students are asked to determine to what features of prey a toad responds. Although they begin with live crickets and worms, they are encouraged to use a computer library of "virtual" crickets and toads. Students are given instructions for making new prey models, or modifying existing ones, to test the toad's response to different features. The library includes variations of shape, motion, color, three-dimensionality, size, and so on, plus a variety of cricket chirps and other calls.

In general, students quickly discover that virtual crickets work almost as well as real ones-better in that they provide more data since the toad never fills up! A simple statistical program on the computers helps minimize the drudgery of data analysis, enabling the students to concentrate on experimental design and results rather than tedious computations.

A number of other labs in the course make use of computer-generated and modified stimuli. Labs using this strategy deal with mate recognition in crickets and fish, competitor recognition in fish, predator recognition in chicks and fish, imprinting in ducklings, color change in lizards, and hemispheric dominance in humans. Students in two laboratory sections of a chemistry course for nonscience majors worked in groups of three on two experiments about acids, bases, and buffers.