Inquiring Into How Authentic Science Learning Works

Back in September I wrote about the different understandings of what makes “authentic science learning” authentic and therefore engaging for students. Since writing that post, my Schoodic Institute colleagues and I have started a project that involves students in forest ecology and intertidal ecology research. And, yes, we have already seen how “authentic” work can quickly make a difference for some kids. In this post I want to sketch out some ideas for a research design that might give us insight into what “authentic” means to students and how it interacts with other features of the students’ personal and educational context to create outcomes.  Continue reading

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Authentic Science

“Authentic” science learning is generally considered to be a good thing that might help engage students who are otherwise not interested in science. But … what makes science education authentic?  Continue reading

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Standards and Informal Science

Last Friday I was participating in a panel discussion about connecting informal science learning and classroom science–and the question of connecting informal science to standards came up. It’s a perfectly reasonable question. After all, teachers are expected to pay a great deal of attention to standards. But the question struck me as somehow missing the point — headed in the wrong direction. But I didn’t quite understand my response. What was so wrong about thinking about informal science in terms of standards?  Continue reading

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Lord Kelvin’s Hogwash

As I was reading this morning I ran across this:

As the great nineteenth-century mathematical physicist Lord Kelvin famously said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” We need real-time data to understand our performance: are we getting better or worse? And we can use quantitative benchmarks–specific numerical goals we want to achieve–to focus our efforts and motivate us to try harder.

Hogwash. Worse … dangerous hogwash.  Continue reading

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Self-paced, Student-Centered

Last week I joined a group of science and math teachers to talk about how the new school year was going. One of the teachers is working in a school where the administrative directive is to shift to “proficiency based” and “student-paced” learning. (I put the words in “quotes” because they seem to mean different things to different teachers.) The students in this teacher’s seventh-grade science classroom are now working at substantially different paces as they proceed through investigations. Some of what he sees happening is exciting. He said, “I am feeling a lot of discomfort, but that is also kind of exciting because when I am uncomfortable I am usually learning to do new things.” But some of the discomfort does seem related to real collisions between ideas about teaching and about what we value.  Continue reading

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Schools As Watershed Systems

How do we measure progress as we improve schools?

In a blog post this past week week Brian Drayton noted that while you can look at the improvement in performance of a business by looking at its bottom line, this doesn’t make sense for schools. They don’t have a bottom line. He suggested that it makes more sense to think of them as watershed systems.

What an interesting idea!  Continue reading

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What Can Teachers Learn From Kermit Washington?

The other day I picked up a month old (November 10) New Yorker while waiting for an appointment and started reading an article by James Surowiecki titled “Better All the Time.” I learned that in 1976 Kermit Washington, a former college basketball star with great natural athletic ability and size (six feet eight inches), found himself sitting on the bench with the L.A. Lakers. He had the size.  He had the natural ability.  But he didn’t have the skills.  Continue reading

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