Developing Expertise for Science Inquiry, Technology Design & Related Communications
Welcome! This page provides perspectives, general practices and links to resources for helping students to develop expertise — such as how they might design effective experiments and studies — that they could use for generating knowledge in particular problem solving contexts relating to science and technology. Developing such expertise is part of students' 'procedural' education,' which is one of two major domains addressed by my overall pedagogical framework. It also is an essential part of STEPWISE. Note that there are many pages linked to this one and each has downloadable resources. If you have comments, questions, suggestions, resource ideas, etc. about anything here, please write to me about them. Thanks.
|From a young age, people use methods similar to those used by scientists and engineers. Children often ask questions, develop ideas ('hypothesize'), test ideas against experience ('experiment'), draw conclusions and debate ideas. Although learners tend to develop some skills, they generally can benefit from broadening their repertoires. The greater the skill set that an individual possesses, the less dependent he/she is on others for building and evaluating knowledge. This is particularly important in societies that have highly developed science and engineering operations, which tend to be controlled by for-profit companies. Generally, companies benefit when consumers are dependent on their products and services. Since every product and service has inherent to it a set of instructions for thought and action, each use represents an element of control of people by those financing the manufacturing of the products/services.||Related to
this, the more individuals develop their own
(idiosyncratic) expertise, developed in situations
decided by them, the less others can define such expertise.
Currently, there tends to be an emphasis on excessive
pre-specification and management of student learning.
This has important implications for the democratic
nature of education. The more we allow governments and
others to define what is appropriate expertise (and
knowledge), the less autonomous we are as individuals
and, therefore, the more subject we may be to
manipulation by those who would benefit from
controlling our thoughts and actions. This is
reminiscent of an ancient Chinese proverb:
Give a man [sic] a fish and you feed him for a day;
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
|Before considering how to help
students to develop expertise for science inquiry and
technology design, we need to ask, 'What is the nature
of this expertise?'
taught, and to what use(s) might these be put? There
are some widely-referenced attempts at defining this in official curricula
and elsewhere, including:
||I often show people the
flow-chart at SciTech
Strategies, which depicts thinking skills that
might be used in science and technology. This is a
highly stereotypical depiction of such processes.
Although two cycles are depicted, the flow-charts are
far too linear. In practice, methods may not work out
as planned - and, so, scientists and technologists may
change directions at any step along the way. Also, it
is quite common for scientists to develop hypotheses after obtaining
results of inquiries, rather than beforehand. At the
same, it is apparent that some aspects of these skills
and processes are considered tacit;
that is, sub-conscious and difficult to express -
which, of course, means that we cannot fully know what
skills they are using! Apart from such cognitive and
methodological considerations, however, their are
factors. Scientists and engineers, for example,
have certain biases - such as those based on favoured
theories - which can lead them to desire certain
topics, methods, and results, etc. Their biases,
however, may arise from strong external influences.
There is much evidence, for instance, that
their work because of pressure from business
sponsors. Given the complexity,
unpredictability, idiosyncrasy and situatedness of
science & technology practices, any single
representation cannot accurately capture them.
Consequently, educators, policy makers,
administrators, etc. need to exercise flexibility
in terms of instruction and assessment and evaluation
of students' expertise for science inquiry &
technology design. Refer below
for some ideas.
|Instructors' approaches to helping students develop expertise for science inquiry & technology design and related communications depend on various factors, due to the idiosyncratic and situated nature of teaching & learning. Which learning perspective(s) influences an instructor, for example, is one factor. I have been heavily influenced by constructivist learning theories. Such principles form the basis for my overall pedagogical framework for science & technology education. Integrated in that framework are suggestions for assisting students with their procedural education. The model below magnifies the 'Procedural Thinking Cycles' of my pedagogical model, in which skills (procedural) education occurs in syncrony with 'conceptual' (i.e., 'content,' such as laws & theories) education. Although the 'procedural apprenticeship' model below is not, necessarily, to be followed in order, teachers might:|
evaluation of students' development of skills for
science inquiry, technology design and related
communications is complex - depending on such
factors as the teacher's educational theories,
students' readiness, government curriculum
expectations, and parental desires. Among the first
things teachers might do is to establish just what skills are worth
teaching and - related to that - the level of
flexibility about what these can be. They should
then, likely, consider some general principles of
assessment and evaluation (e.g., A&E).
learning principles and ideas explored above
about relationships among skills, NoST & STSE, some
specific suggestions for each of the phases of the
skills apprenticeship framework above
are given at right.