The readings for the week represented an explanation of modeling, a way of knowing in science that involves the creation, revision, and manipulation of various representations of natural phenomena for the purpose of deepening understanding of these phenomena.
The Jackson piece presents modeling as a genre of instruction, describing the conditions of its initial conception as a way of teaching, providing details of its implementation, and presenting data as evidence in support of its effectiveness in teaching physics. The piece is written in a conversational, tone which is clearly aimed at other science teachers whose students might benefit from the teachers’ adoption of a modeling-based curriculum.
The first Lehrer piece, “What Kind of Explanation is a Model?” describes in depth what exactly modeling is, concluding that modeling is a way of understanding the world through substitution of complex natural phenomena with simplified ‘stand-ins’. The authors then lay out some ideal conditions for the introduction of students to modeling, specifically citing a pedagogy which “emphasize question posing, creating conditions for seeing, and development and evaluation of measurement” (p. 20).
The second Lehrer piece, “Reconsidering the Role of Experiment in Science Education”, builds on the first in that it briefly describes modeling for clarity’s sake before moving onto its primary goal of correcting the widespread misconception of experimentation in science education. The authors assert that experimentation is a form of argument that is embedded within scientific ways of thinking, instead of an entire way of thinking in its own right.
Common threads I noticed across the readings:
- Student agency and proactivity is central to modeling instruction and the development of student understanding.
- This includes student observation of phenomena, definition of questions, development of data collection instruments and methods, and standards for data analysis.
- Teachers have a responsibility to be prepared for student inquiry to go in unexpected directions, as long as it’s within the ‘big idea’.
- The development of models mirrors the development of student understanding, in that previous iterations are not discarded but instead are modified and reincarnated as more robust explanations of the universe.
In each of the readings, I saw a strong trend toward students’ ability to think independently, generate their own avenues of inquiry, and interact thoughtfully with other students and their ideas. This fits much more nicely with an education purposed toward not only the qualification and socialization of its students, but also their subjectification. That is, students guided to manipulate and test their own understandings of the natural world will not only become qualified to describe this world and develop the social skills necessary to operate and communicate collaboratively, but will also become more accustomed to self-initiated inquiry and problem solving.
On a stylistic note, I found the Lehrer pieces to be much more palatable this week. The entrée to modeling last week, in combination with the presence of the same two elementary school examples, made the articles seem more familiar to me and less esoteric. While the Jackson piece presented some interesting data, I think that it read too much like an advertisement and did not present much of note about modeling beyond what Lehrer, Schauble and Petrosino had presented in their own articles (with the sole exception of Jackson, et al.’s brief discussion of assessment, which is a conversation I’m itching to have).