Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thinking, Teaching, and Learning Science outside the Boxes

McComas, W. F. (2009). Thinking, Teaching, and Learning Science outside the Boxes. Science Teacher, 76(2), 24-28.


This article is looking at redefining the term "interdisciplinary" with relation to the sciences. It begins with the story of researcher Thomas Young, and all his accomplishments. He was referred to as "the last man to know everything" (24). He combined many different aspects of science to solve multiple problems, spanning many different disciplines of science. The article discuss the university approach to sciences, where each discipline of science is learned at separate times, and even have different buildings for each. The discussion then turns to how we can incorporate all aspect of science and offers different levels of blending to accomplish this. The levels represent the extent of blending the disciplines ranging from 0, or no blending, to 5, which requires students to look at a concept and think of all the disciplines relate to that topic, concept, or problem. However, it also discusses the difficulties in creating a true interdisciplinary classroom. Two of the bigger problems stem from the fact that many teachers with a science background are experts in only one of the scientific fields. In addition, since the teachers were never really exposed to this type of learning, how can they teach in this manner? The article address the difficulty in this type of teaching, but concludes in stating that sometimes brillant ideas or difficult to implement.

Relavent quotes/concepts:

"Phenix uses the concept of “ways of knowing” to help focus the definition. In his view, these ways of knowing include empirics (science), symbolics (mathematics), aesthetics (arts), ethics, synnoetics (literature), and synoptics (history). Therefore, it is more accurate to describe interdisciplinarity as the crossing between various ways of knowing or what some might call “schools of thought" (25).

"Rationales can also be found within the pedagogical 
realm. Students may benefit from seeing the world in 
a less-constrained fashion; thus, teaching effectiveness 
is increased when students are permitted to explore in 
ways that have personal meaning" (26).

"Science teachers typically start out as biologists, geologists, chemists, and physicists, and, with few exceptions, rarely gain content knowledge too far outside their initial science realm" (27).

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