Hazen’s chapter of knowing relates a quick history of the development of the different fields of science, and the theories and laws that are the foundation of the modern sciences. The story-telling manner of Hazen’s chapter contrasts with the imaginary dialogue Galileo writes as he reasons towards his definition of acceleration, and the literary review and analysis style that Lehrer uses to suggest instructional methods.
I was, first and foremost, struck by the number of times all three articles described the world as orderly and ruled by (mostly) simple laws. Lehrer, Hazen, and even Galileo’s dialogue show that the world can be explored and described through models, or representations. Furthermore, mathematical representations are popular when describing recurring phenomena. Hazen’s history of science mentions Newton’s three laws, all of which are mathematical formulas. Lehrer’s takes this idea and applies it to teaching. Students can be taught to use models while doing experiments in class, and the students will quickly move back and forth between physical imitations of what they see and mathematical, or otherwise, representations of what they observed. For example, in one of Lehrer’s studies, the students steadily reduced generalizations, and then amplified details such as plant growth, in the plant images on page 767. We used mathematical and image representations in class last Thursday as we tested, and explained, the definition of acceleration (of which we then read in the Galileo passage). Galileo spends most of his time describing theoretical experiments to support his reasonings. However, he also uses images to represent acceleration experiments. On page 7, his depictions represent distance and an apparatus.
There were also a few minor themes that I found interesting as I read through the articles. Hazen made the point that theories and laws are often revised and improved upon. For example, Hazen relates how Newton’s laws incorporated Galileo’s ideas, and then Halley tested them as he predicted the return of the comet. Then later, Newton’s definition of gravity was improved by Einstein’s experiments. The revisions of models can also be found in an education environment. Lehrer’s studies show that students will see inconsistencies in their models, pose questions and new hypotheses, and then improve their models (i.e. the plant models). Galileo’s dialogue shows the finding of fault in old ideas and reasoning towards a better answer.
A theme that resonated with me on a personal level was Lehrer’s suggestion that a teacher’s knowledge of teaching and student learning is just as important as knowing the disciplinary knowledge. One of the reasons I am taking this course is to develop my own knowledge of science instruction and how students will respond to different teaching methods. My professional development will affect how well my students learn. However, I wonder how applicable or easily Lehrer’s instructional designs can be put into a traditional classroom, that may or may not be limited by time, material standards that have to be met?