How People Learn and How People Teach: Combining the Two in an Integrated Pre-service Science Content Course Dr. Brad Hoge and Dr. Scott Slough University of Houston – Downtown
Constructivism informs our view of how people learn, which in turn informs our view of how we teach science to pre-service teachers. This paper discusses the conflict, and hopefully some resolutions, between implementing constructivitic teaching methodologies while attempting to integrate physical science and earth science content into a single course for pre-service elementary teachers within the Natural Science Department at UH-Downtown.
Science education has been moving towards an inquiry based constructivism since the early 90’s, due to the goals and guidelines of The National Science Teachers Association (1992), The American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993), and the National Research Council (1996).
The National Science Education Standards call for a shift in emphasis from “focusing on student acquisition of information to focusing on student understanding and use of scientific knowledge, ideas, and inquiry processes” (NRC, 1996)
NSF Standards for Inquiry Students should understand that in science: • Investigations involve asking a question and comparing the answer to what is known • Explanations emphasize evidence • Explanations have logically consistent arguments • Investigations are repeatable by others • Scientists make their results public, review and ask each other questions
Constructivist views of learning provide a theoretical framework to teachers in helping students reconstruct their own understanding through a process of interacting with objects in the environment and engaging in higher-level thinking and problem solving (Driver, Asoko, Leach, Mortimer, & Scott, 1994).
Constructivism provides the theoretical framework for all forms of project-based learning (Grant, 2002). PBS pedagogy (Schneider, Krajcik, Marx, & Soloway, 2002) assumes that students constantly ask and refine questions; design and conduct multiple investigations; gather, analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions from data; and report findings. . . . by extension, learning scientific process (literacy) extends beyond the classroom (Bransfield etal, 1999).
Scientists explore the physical world for reproducible patterns which they represent by models and organize into theories according to laws (Hestenes, 2004).
Constructivism posits that individuals build their own knowledge and understanding by assimilating their prior knowledge with the new experience with which they are confronted (Richardson, 1997).
Individuals do not obtain knowledge by internalizing it from the outside but by constructing it from within, in interaction with the environment (Kamii, Manning, & Manning, 1991; Perkins, 1992; Piaget, 1969; Vygotsky, 1978)
Thus, constructivism is based on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Learning is a process of modifying our mental models to accommodate new experiences.
Research shows that students learn science best by engaging in hands-on minds-on lessons through a inquiry based curriculum (Abell and Bryan, 1997; Stepans, et. al., 1995: Metz, 1995; Glasson, 1989).
What is often overlooked, is how important it is to incorporate this constructivist strategy into pre-service teacher education (Bodzin and Cates, 2003; Kelly, 2000).
Inquiry is a fundamental component of effective science teaching and learning (Lunetta, 1997; Roth, 1995). Inquiry-based instruction allows students to make connections between the classroom experience and their personal lives. Learning becomes relevant to students.
Without preparing teachers with this learning strategy, the benefits of inquiry-based science does not trickle down to students (Slater, et. al., 1996; Stepans, et. al., 1995; Michelsohn and Hawkins, 1994; Fullan and Stiege, 1991; Doyle and Ponder, 1977).
Restructuring science content courses for teachers is the logical place for these skills to be taught, since this is where teachers learn to connect science content to their own “special knowledge” (Marek et.al., 2003: Kelly, 2000; Shulman, 1986).
The ever-expanding knowledge base in science, new technologies for teaching and learning, high-stakes testing and increased accountability have produced an overburdened local curriculum in science and mathematics (NRC, 1996).
This has led, in many instances, to an increase in the number of courses pre-service teachers must complete, or, an integration of content across disciplines. In particular, high stakes testing has been widely blamed for curricula that are “a mile wide and an inch deep” (NRC, 1997).
Therefore, science education of pre-service teachers should utilize more appropriate metacognitive psychology.
We teach our content courses for pre-service teachers through hands-on research-based projects within a constructivist ideology, as a model of how we would like them to teach in their own classrooms. This teaching method already puts a lot of pressure on content coverage, how then can we double the load and increase learning?
We have developed a new paradigm for teaching science, a more metacognitive constructivism. Our paradigm draws on the research into how learning takes place as well as how it can best be taught. It calls for a hierarchical metacognition which cascades through ranks and generations, rather than just being passed on. A more whole brain, whole body approach will also lead to greater retention of content knowledge.
Our metacognitive approach to teaching science requires knowledge of the history of the science, current science knowledge and practice, and theories of explanation.
E.O. Wilson stated, the benefits of metaphor over analogy in teaching science is rooted in our evolutionary past. We use metaphor to make sense of our world. Integrated science provides metaphors by relating knowledge from one field as examples for lessons in another, such as the application of physics to earth science.
Three categories of metacognition: • person variables – knowledge about how human beings learn and process information (also self-knowledge of personal strengths and weaknesses) • task variables – knowledge about nature of task and type of thinking skills needed to meet it • strategy variables – knowledge of cognitive and metacognitive strategies.
Cognitive strategies are used to help an individual achieve a particular goal. Metacognitive strategies are used to ensure that the goal has been reached. Metacognitive experiences precede and follow (or both) a cognitive activity.
Simply providing knowledge without experience or vice versa does not seem to be sufficient for the development of metacognitive control (Livingston, 1996).
The scientific process (historically and in a philosophical perspective) is the ultimate metacognitive strategy for problem solving.
Heat Transfer In the Atmosphere
Careful observation means being prepared (making predictions)
Discussion • How can we best integrate metacognitive strategies into integrated science lessons (teaching for literacy)? • How can we best structure our curricula to integrate the earth and physical sciences? • What PBS curricula is there to meet these needs? • What PBS curricula needs are there to be developed?