Monday, August 31, 2015

Week 2 Readings


In this excerpt, Galileo reviews the previously known, mathematically established, laws of uniform motion, then proposes that, based on his experiments, there exists a law of uniform natural acceleration due to gravity.  This proposition and the validity of his experiments to verify it are debated in a journal review session.
The debate between the four reviewers over uniform acceleration illustrates an important aspect of the scientific process – peer review.

Hazen and Trefil, Science Matters:

Hazen and Trefil seek to illustrate the manner in which the body of science is enlarged and developed through the process by which Isaac Newton developed his laws of motion and universal gravitation.
Science is possible because the universe is ordered and may be understood
Science may advance one of 2 ways
    o Revolution: out with the old, in with the new (a la Kepler, very rare)
    o Incorporation: incorporates the work of previous researchers without invalidating it.
Finally, they provide an overview of the major branches of science


In this letter, after putting forth a summary of the ways in which children learn, Lehrer proposes that the best way to get children to not simply learn scientific facts but think like scientists is to utilize modeling.
Ways children learn: Tasks, Inscriptions, Material Means, Argument, and developing a disciplinary Identity (helping students think of themselves as scientists)
Utilizing open ended modeling, such as in the compost piles and fruit flies, helps students develop the curiosity utilized in science

These readings look at the question How does science advance?  Hazen and Trefil answer the question most clearly in their discussion of the scientific method and the concept of Incorporation.  Galileo’s work adds to this through the concept of peer review and illustrates the process described by Hazen and Trefil.  Lehrer then argues that the best way for students to learn science is to step into the role of an investigator and, as we discussed in class last week, learn science by doing science.  I agree that this is likely one of the most effective ways to help students learn to think like scientists.  However, time constraints due to the number of concepts that must be taught, especially in such a diverse content area as biology, and requirements due to standardized tests and/or state laws may prevent the use of modeling as often as we might like.


  1. I agree with what you're saying about the pressures that teachers face with time constraints and hitting certain curriculum points with their lesson planning-- do you think there's a way to use modeling as a replacement for teachers lecturing on certain concepts, or is learning through modeling not "concrete" and direct enough when students need to learn specific concepts for standardized tests?

    1. I think that modeling is a very good supplement to lecturing and conversation (by conversation I mean teaching through the Socratic method. I believe Lehrer referred to it as argumentation), but not a replacement. For example, the test we did last week with the marbles and inclined planes is a good way to illustrate the concepts of position, velocity, and acceleration. However, I would not expect students to make the leap from uniform acceleration due to gravity (if they are even able to determine that) to the exact nature of the relationship between the three.

  2. Time constraints do pose a problem for the use of modeling, but I was wondering what your opinions were on the time necessary to lecture a topic with and without modeling. Would modeling reduce the length of time of a lecture enough to make it beneficial (in terms of the time constraint) to use the modeling exercise, or might this probably depend on the exact topic in question? I do agree though with your comment above that modeling is best used as a supplement rather than a replacement, at least in introductory courses where clear instruction through lecture is necessary.

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