Tuesday, September 15, 2015

McMullen- Memo 3

            All three of the papers this week addressed modeling in the context of the science classroom. I really appreciated how grounded these papers were in ideas to implement in the classroom (I viewed them as heavier on the practical and lighter on the theory). The Jackson, Dekerich, and Hestenes paper focused on Modeling Instruction. I understood Modeling Instruction as a specific approach to inquiry based learning in the science classroom from the information in this paper. The second paper by Lehrer and Schauble examined modeling in light of younger students (strengths and difficulties) and what modeling brought to the table that traditional approaches did not. Finally, Lehrer, Schauble, and Petrosino touched on the difference in modeling and experimentation in the science classroom. They posed the idea that experimentation may not be a meaningful activity if necessary modeling has not occurred beforehand. All three of these papers were interesting and practical in light of my future classroom.
            As per usual, after reading these papers, my mind began to race to try to come up with connections to what I experienced my teachers doing and how I viewed myself teaching in the future. I connected the Jackson, Dekerich, and Hestenes paper back to my high school physics teacher. Mr. Bywater did a similar process to the one outlined in Modeling Instruction, but he changed aspects of it to better suit time restraints and the personality of himself and out class. I believe that this is an important recognition on the part of the teacher. It is so important to push your class beyond what they think they are capable of doing, but it’s also important to recognize what the personality of your class is and be aware of that in planning. We had an incredibly chatty class, so instead of having individual group presentations each time, we would often have a class discussion instead. It was powerful for me to understand the direct connection to my experiences and to also recognize that very rarely are things one size fits all. I need to be open-minded and able to recognize when techniques could be adjusted to the benefit of the whole class.

A slightly tangential connection I noticed immediately was the struggle of the young children (kindergarten age) to grasp the representations in the Lehrer and Schauble paper. In Ed Psych this week we talked about Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, and kindergarteners are still in the preoperational stage. During this stage of development (from 2ish-7ish years old), they begin to understand that one object can represent another, However, these kindergarteners are still in the middle of this stage of development, which could explain why they had a hard time grasping some of the modeling techniques used by their teacher. Since we’re interested in secondary ed and not elementary, this may not be the most relevant connection, but I still found it interesting in the context of content from other courses.


  1. I agree that we have to be flexible in our teaching. In fact, I think that modeling as these papers describe it forces us to be way more flexible than standard lecture-based classes since we have to be willing to go where the students are taking us. Not to mention that this will change class-to-class.

    Regarding the psychology tangent, I wonder just how much of a shock students who grew up with the standard lecture/lab instruction would experience upon entering a class that is largely model-based? How long would it take them to adjust? Kids' brains are plastic, so I don't think it would take very long, but it's fun to think about.

  2. I liked the psychology connection, because I remember reading in Lehrer that teachers often feel constrained in their use of modeling by this very consideration - does modeling fit with the child's stage of development? Lehrer does make the point that, if explicitly taught, children can perform at a higher developmental stage than is usually ascribed to them. Modeling may therefore speed up childrens' psychological development.