Sunday, September 13, 2015

Week 4, Memo #3 Bottorff

Lehrer Chapter 2:

§  Models in schools have traditionally been used as illustrations to explain concepts rather than as scientific theory-building tools; inquiry is not the main focus with the use of models. There are challenges to modeling, such as students’ reliance on resemblance between the representing and represented worlds and teachers’ readiness to assume that models are self-evident, but clear steps are outlined to introduce novices to modeling. Conditions must be arranged for seeing, and students must realize that learning can happen just as well from failed inquiry as it can from a successful one. There is too much of an emphasis nowadays in education on getting the right answer, sometimes even to a point of causing disconcertion or fear of even trying questions in fear of getting something wrong. Students do not realize, and it our job as teachers to help them see, that learning can happen from failure (why did something fail, what can I do next time to have a better chance of success?). Students need to also be able to invent measures that capture interest in modeling. Developing representational competence is also key, but it seems that this ability to see patterns either derives from practice or developmental readiness. Students must also be able to relate various models together, to see fit and misfit of a particular theory in a model. It is argued that tasks are favored that emphasize question posing, creating conditions for seeing, and development and evaluation of measurement.

§  Thinking ahead to a classroom, how can we move away from models simply as illustrations to explain concepts, and are models still worthwhile in this sense? What determines which concepts merit a model for illustration or a model for scientific theory-building? I enjoyed reading about the research meeting idea, though, for it seems to be an excellent way of promoting scientific discussion.

Lehrer Chapter 5:

§  Research agrees that it is practical to teach experimentation, designing experiments or interpreting data; however, it is more difficult to decide how to lead instruction, directly or through guided discovery. Some crucial aspects of science necessary for meaningful experimentation are rhetoric, representation, and modeling. Rhetoric highlights the interplay of English in science; a strong foundation in reading is paramount for success in navigating scientific journals. Perhaps a lack of one of these aspects could explain students not being able to describe experimental procedures or purposes even after instruction on experimentation and content. However, students with scaffolding embedded in experimentation and instruction were much more successful. Scaffolding helps prevent students from confusing representations of the world, experiments, with replications of the world and how to see the differences between the two.
§  Thinking ahead to the classroom, I’m apprehensive about moving away from using models simply as illustrative tools, such as the DNA helix to help explain the central dogma of molecular biology or semiconservative DNA replication, and using them more for the progression of scientific theory-building. However, scaffolding has been shown to lead to dramatic increases in student knowledge of experimentation and content, so it will be imperative that I scaffold modeling instruction when I teach.

§  Again, it’s important to move away from a “right” answer dominated sphere of education to a process oriented one that is focused on learning from all sources, whether it be a perfect experiment or a failed one. Learning from mistakes is a crucial skill that is lost when students only focus on avoiding failure. Similarly, students can learn from the interplay between various models; perhaps one model allows viewing of a certain aspect of a system very well but doesn’t mention some other aspect. Learning how to sift between models for a cohesive overarching understanding is difficult but key.

Jackson et al.

§  There has long been an emphasis on traditional instruction based on lectures, textbooks, and demonstrations. Many students are demotivated from pursuing science due to the traditionally, at times memorization heavy way it is taught through lectures and books. In the classroom, I will have to be diligent to try to avoid teaching how I have been taught for years (at least in science classes), with a heavy focus on lectures and memorization. As we have discussed heavily in class, some memorization is necessary in biology and science in general, but the focus in the class should be learning how to understand the world rather than memorizing how the world works. However, modeling instruction offers a different emphasis on the construction and application of conceptual models, specifically in physics. One of the aims of modeling instruction is to create students capable of thinking intelligently about and engaging in debates about scientific topics. One of the benefits of modeling instruction is its focus on modeling, which ties back into one of science’s main purposes: to be a tool to use to understand the world. By allowing students to explore the world first hand, passion in science can also be ignited. An important point was also made with respect to women in science; with the collaborative aspects inherent in modeling instruction, more students can feel comfortable with investigating science, reducing the gap between the sexes in science.

§  One main point was the use of modeling cycles which focus on model development and deployment. Development involves prelab discussion and demonstrations as well as small group collaboration for preparation Deployment involves applying one’s model and assessment, from lab practical exams to tests.


  1. I like that you pointed out the idea of a research meeting from the Lehrer reading-- it's something that didn't really jump out at me as I read, but it is definitely a concept worth talking about. For one of my other classes (hey Linsey/Joan/Renita/Phillip), we are required to meet outside of class for an hour each week with a conversation group to discuss what we talked about in class. These conversations give us the opportunity to talk about the topics that interested us in class and expound on them in a more casual setting, which lets us really connect with the material and apply it to our daily lives. By promoting discussion, we get to hear different perspectives on the same concepts, and I definitely think we broaden our understanding of any class (not just specifically science) by encouraging this open dialogue.

  2. That is absolutely correct! The concept of research meeting, which is what myself, John, Linsey, and Phillip all have to do once a week (not necessarily about research, but more concepts) and it is really beneficial in helping with gaining a better understanding of the material. The different perspectives can be very useful in helping students in learning concepts and also creating a conducive environment for students to articulate what they do know and learn from their peers what they do not know.