Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Week 1 Memo

This week’s readings all dealt with the formulation of a scientific model. Galileo’s article highlights a few philosophers debating the reasoning behind a falling body’s motion and why or why not the other’s ideas are valid. Hazen’s article discusses how Newton built upon other scientists’ theories, like Galileo and Kepler, to come up with a better, more cohesive model for gravity.  Lehrer’s article shows how educators can guide children to come up with their own ideas about how basic scientific models work through observation and investigation.

A key theme that resonated with me in these essays was the emphasis on being open to new ideas.  In Galileo, Salviati mentions, “…a strong desire to maintain old errors, rather than accept newly discovered truths,” in referring to when one gets proven to have fallacies in one’s theory.  As a class last week, we demonstrated our flexibilities to fallacies.  By going with Lehrer’s idea for open design, we were only guided by two questions: how do you know if the ball is accelerating and how do you prove to someone that the ball is accelerating.  Our mini-groups decided how to use our materials, how to set up our experiment, as well as what hypothesis we would need to prove.  My particular group immediately agreed upon a hypothesis, but riffed off each other for how we should set up our experiment.  After we all finished our experiments, the mini-groups explained each of their processes. 

          The differences seen in every group’s process were enlightening as to see what an educator will go through as he/she is teaching any class that needs a question answered.  This demonstration gave me a deeper understanding of what Lehrer means by, “…materiality is often obscured by providing students with questions to answer, apparatus, and prescribed routines, exemplified by labs. Students are seldom asked to struggle with the material problem of developing conditions or instruments for investigation.”  The “struggle” was the ultimate factor in developing our scientific models.   Hazen notes, “deepest things are often the simplest,” and this idea resonated in our class experiment, with the use of timers and intervals, as it did for the jar ecosystem experiment Lehrer discusses in his paper.  The students’ use of peer reviews helped each other realize some easy solutions or answers as to why their ecosystem was failing and how they could improve it.  This type of discourse helps scientists build upon each other’s ideas and improve their scientific models, like in the students’ cases, how an ecosystem functions.  I really enjoyed how Hazen points out that most well known scientists have used this very reasoning to solidify their own models.  Newton riffed off Galileo and Kepler, Einstein riffed off those three, and eventually we will have a future scientist to riff off all four of these scientists to come up with a final unified field theory about gravity and relativity.  To me, that is amazing, and honestly gives me goosebumps!


  1. I think that it is interesting that you think of the "riffing" of ideas as positive. It made me question my negative thoughts of "riffing" because it is often associated with plagiarism. However, "riffing" ideas is simply borrowing ideas that we believe to be true and building off of those ideas. That is learning! Learning is creating new ideas and ways of understanding concepts based on previously accepted truths or notions. We come to these truths through our interaction with the world and with other people. We rely on other people to create a base of our knowledge and use this knowledge to acquire and explain more difficult concepts. Science must be taught in this way. Students must communicate with peers to bounce ideas off of each other and bring multiple perspectives to the investigation. Cooperation is vital within the scientific profession as well as within the real world, therefore science in the classroom should be taught with this highly emphasized.

  2. I like your identification of openness to new ideas as a theme. I had not thought explicitly about the importance of failure and revision with regard to these readings, but now that you mention it, it really is incredibly important to learning and knowing in science. I think that, as a teacher, one of the most important examples I can set for students is being open to failure, excited about learning from it and about correcting it, and explicit about the process of encountering and searching for solutions to problems without becoming frustrated or discouraged. I think that I would often benefit from taking this a little further and applying it to teaching itself, and not just scientific practice; for me, the important thing to keep in mind is not to be perfect, but to be learning.

  3. The concept of the "struggle" also resonated with me as an opportunity for students to break down systems and think independently. Experimentation and model building is something that I hope to incorporate into my future classroom and I am interested to see how everyone plans to implement this theory of suggestive model building. As a teacher, you are familiar with the material and thus able to understand or deduce potential relationships within a system (or that you will need a timer, etc), but students who are just coming to a topic may have a harder time drawing the necessary conclusions for creation of successive models. I guess my question for you all is- how do you recognize and differentiate productive struggle from inhibitive struggle?


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