Welcome! This page provides perspectives and practices useful for helping students to judge alternative ideas in school science & technology. "Judging Ideas" is the third of three phases in my framework for students' 'conceptual' education; that is, for encouraging them to reconstruct their conceptions about 'products' (e.g., laws & theories) of science & technology. If you have ideas, questions, comments, etc. about anything here, write to me.
Assessing & Evaluating.
on my constructivism-informed
pedagogical approach, after teachers help students to explore their
pre-instructional conceptions, they might work (in the Learning Ideas phase) to
students understand scientists' & technologists'
(e.g., laws, theories and inventions). However, students should not be
compelled to believe those conclusions. Since science
has changed over history and, in some cases, been shown to be biased
the views of dominant members of society, it must be considered tentative.
Similarly, technology inventions have sometimes proven problematic
individuals, societies and environments - the level of pollution and
ecosystems worldwide being prominant concerns. Ideas about the nature
of science & technology, including positive and negative aspects,
available through NoST. By encouraging
students to self-determine their perspectives
about nature, etc., science education is more about enlightenment
than indoctrination into particular
of thinking. Citizens need a broad repertoire of ideas with
to work and then, through Judging
Ideas, the right to decide which are acceptable
BENEFITS OF SD/OE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY PROJECTS
Ideally, students would be self-motivated and have sufficient expertise to get involved in independent science inquiry & technology design projects. In practice, however, it is frequently important for teachers to take various steps to assist students in getting to the stage at which they can comfortably carry out such independent (SD/OE) projects. Some suggestions - based on challenges facing teachers and students - are provided through the links at right.
Students should be motivated to conduct projects if they have personal interest in the 'topics' (e.g., questions, problems, ideas, etc). This will depend, in part, on their prior experiences. Students may have a 'natural' interest in ecosystems because they live near a forest and pond. Based on constructivist learning theory, however, they may not be fully conscious of their own interests and, so, teachers can help them to become conscious of them by having students express ideas. To help ensure students are expressing their interests, it is crucial for teachers to first encourage students to observe and discuss possible projects relating to aspects of their personal lives; e.g., sports, hobbies, school and family life. This, however, can be limiting - depending on the breadth of students' experiences; something that often varies with socio-economic status. Accordingly, teachers should encourage students to observe and react to a great variety of familiar phenomena. Some contexts for new student experiences are provided at right. Again, teachers should provide these carefully; ensuring, for example, that students' own experiences and ideas take precedence. At the same time, because of the seriousness of the many WISE Problems, it seems crucial to expose students to contexts in which they are likely to notice such problems or to more formally teach about such problems. Suggestions for this are given at right.
At some point, teachers likely will have to formally give students an assignment requiring them to conduct a SD/OE science inquiry and/or technology design project. In doing so, teachers should be careful not to over-prescribe them. Assessment and evaluation criteria they set can greatly determine this. Suggestions about this are provided below.
Motivation also may derived from feelings of 'self-efficacy'; that is, belief that they are capable of conducting knowledge building and/or evaluation activities. This tends to increase as students gain experience, especially if teachers encourage them to initially take on projects with which they are likely to have some successes. Such motiviation can arise through a Skills Apprenticeship.
Some Contexts of Possible Interest to Students
(Note: Any categorization is artificial & partial.)
Because students often lack expertise, as well as motivation, to conduct SD/OE projects, some teacher intervention is frequently required. This is a delicate matter; teachers need to prioritize student independence while, at the same time, ensuring that independence does not lead to frustration. Although there are various possible approaches to helping students to develop expertise and motivation for conducting their own projects, I recommend - of course! - my constructivism-informed pedagogical framework. Briefly, this involves two 3-phase cycles for:
(Note: Any categorization is artificial & partial.)
Assessment & Evaluation
Among the more challenging factors often preventing teachers from encouraging and enabling SD/OE science inquiry and technology design projects is anxiety surrounding assessment and evaluation (A&E) of such activities. Particularly under influences from 'right-wing' individuals and groups, teachers tend to orient much of their teaching towards tests or perceptions about testing. Such pressure tends orient A&E towards discrete, measureable instructional outcomes. This is inappropriate, to a great extent, because science inquiry and technology design (and related communications) are idiosyncratic and situational. In other words, they are conducted differently, depending on personal characteristics (e.g., internal biases) of the investigator and situational variables (e.g., availability of equipment, and source of funding). Consequently, teachers need to exercise a great deal of professional judgement when evaluating students' projects. Some specific suggestions with these and other issues in mind are provided below.
Suggestions for Assessing & Evaluating SD/OE Inquiry/Design Projects
1. Student-directed and open-ended (SD/OE) science inquiry and technology design projects should not be confused with teacher- and student-directed, open-ended activities, in which students are mentored (or 'scaffolded' or 'apprenticed') in development of skills for science inquiry and technology design (and, hopefully) realistic conceptions about the nature of science and technology. Assessment and evaluation of these activities are quite different for these kinds of activities. Perspectives, practices and resources for such activities are provided through Skills Education.