Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Week 1 Memo

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?


  1. I think that Lehrer’s suggestion that a teacher’s knowledge of teaching and student learning is just as important as knowing the disciplinary knowledge is very powerful. After reading the article and seeing some of the benefits of gaining scientific knowledge empirically, it made me think back to how I was taught in certain classes. I can recall certain science classes that were very heavy on content knowledge and memorizing facts. Certain classes where I was required to memorize pathways and just trust that if I could remember the drawing for the test I would be good. It seems now that most of the knowledge I had to commit to memory I have since forgotten, but the knowledge I gained from doing experiments and observations are fonder to me.
    For example, in some class we were supposed to look at pictures of leaves/bark and memorize what they looked like, but I forgot the images after I didn’t need them anymore. When I was doing research in the Nature Park however, I was able to touch and feel what certain tree barks look like and how the leaves felt. I really enjoyed research in the Nature Park and I could still go out in a forest and look at a tree trunk or leaves and identify a cherry tree, from a sugar maple, from a pawpaw. I found myself asking more questions to the professor and thinking more deeply about why things are a certain way. I wondered about the interconnectivity of the different species and why some species grow more in some spots than others.
    It makes me curious as to how I can instruct classes through modeling in a traditional classroom setting too. Will time and location be an issue? If the best design is physically bringing students to the Nature Park, how could I do that with class time limited to an hour? Instead of pictures, would bringing in samples of the leaves and bark be more effective; because at least observation could occur? It makes me wonder if some classes were taught certain ways because of poor design, or if they were the most effective/practical given the circumstances of the classroom setting.

  2. First, how important is to know your content area? From reading your thoughts of the common theme, it is unsure whether you think that the ability to be aware and practice different teaching styles is more important than being knowledgeable of your subject. Next, do you think that your opinion will change once you have taught in the classroom for several years? You mention that you were struck to find the world described as orderly and ruled by simple laws. Lastly, how do you think designing simple or complex models could affect students learning and how could content knowledge of the instructor help or hurt in a lesson?

  3. Caitlin you brought up a very great point that “teacher’s knowledge of teaching and student learning is just as important as knowing the disciplinary knowledge.” These readings really drove the connection between these two home. When you encourage students to lead their own investigation and discovery, you are fostering their skills and vision to see outside-of-the-box. Thus, you need to be learned in your content/disciplinary content in order to answer outside-of-the-box questions. I think that is one reason why some teachers do not venture too far of traditional teaching methods because they are afraid that they may not know how to answer certain deeper questions posed by students who are taught differently. Due to this, it is critical that teachers are masters in their content area and while they will continually learn new things down the road, as new concepts are still being discovered, they will be prepared to answer those thought provoking questions.


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