Each of the readings dealt, in some form or another, with the creation of models for describing and understanding natural phenomena. Various aspects and implications of modeling were discussed, from Galileo and his use of modeling to describe the nature of terrestrial gravitation, to the exploration of milestone scientific models and modes of thinking, ending with a description of current educational practices designed to introduce students to modeling as a way of knowing through experience.
I perceived several key themes across multiple or all of the readings:
- Simple, everyday observations can lead to monumental discoveries
o Monumental to mankind, and/or monumental in the development of children’s knowledge
- Experimentation and control of variables are essential to knowing in science
- “The universe is regular and predictable” (Hazen & Trefil)
- Scientists must be open to change and revision
- Knowing in science is dependent upon language and communication
o Language of mathematics, spoken language, written language, representational models
- Key contributions in science have been made by doers of science and not merely thinkers about science
o “They were not, like many of their colleagues, armchair philosophers” (Hazen & Trefil)
- The documentation/inscription of phenomena fixes them, allows them to be manipulated and reflected upon, and creates from them sources of learning to be used by future generations
I felt that the Galileo piece and the Hazen & Trefil piece interlocked quite nicely, with Galileo’s exploration of accelerated motion fitting right into Hazen & Trefil’s description of his work on terrestrial gravitation and its subsequent incorporation into Newton’s laws of universal gravitation. I have more difficulty relating the Lehrer & Schauble piece to the other two, since it seems to me to be so entrenched in educational jargon that its emphasis on modeling as a way of knowing becomes obscured to a degree. I can, however, identify that Galileo and Newton first understood the world via physical models, and later through representational models, and used these models to communicate their ideas to the larger scientific community. These models were later revised to account for Einstein’s discoveries, exemplifying the degree to which inscription and scientific documentation create time-independent interaction between ideas and collaboration between scientists. In this same vein, Lehrer & Schauble strongly emphasize the development of understanding through modeling, communication, and collegiality. In their writing, they point to the development in children of a scientific way of knowing as a result of exactly the type of experimentation and modeling in which Newton and Galileo participated. I could be misinterpreting the format of the Galileo text, but in my understanding Galileo represents his personal scientific process as a discussion between three aspects of himself, demonstrating just how integral it is to knowing in science to be communicating, crafting arguments, asking questions, and revising one’s own thinking. Personally, I found that each of the readings (especially Hazen & Trefil) inspired me to put science and science teaching on an even loftier pedestal.