CoS and Effect: An Integral View

CoS and Effect: An Integral View

Dave Carlgren
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5873-6.ch005
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The science that is done by students in grade school settings naturally differs considerably from that done by actual scientists. While much of this difference is attributable to differences in age and experience between the two groups, it may be possible to decrease the gap between the learner and the researcher in science. To explore this possibility, an educational design research (EDR) study was conducted from the perspectives of complexity and networks, communities of practice, and integral theory, the goal being to assess the potential outcomes of engaging learners in a student-led science conference called the celebration of science (CoS).
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In current educational practice, a distinction has arisen in the realm of science. There is now a significant gap between the practice of science and science education (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Barnett, 2000; Healey & Jenkins, 2006). While the majority of previous research on this topic has been directed at identifying and working to remediate the differences in how science is conducted by college undergraduate students and by researchers, it may be instructive to wind back the proverbial clock somewhat further and investigate what is occurring in grade school science classrooms. Such a perspective may prove useful in designing an intervention that can introduce students to the practices, conventions, and communities associated with being a scientist. This study investigates one such possible intervention.

Relevant here is research carried out in the United Kingdom by Beau Lotto, who with his research group descended on a fifth grade elementary school classroom armed with bees and the desire to help students to be creative. In what became known as the Blackawton Bees Project (Schenk et al., 2011), students were first encouraged to learn about bees and then to design and implement experiments on them; soon they were pushing the boundaries of previous work and, with some assistance, conducting real scientific research. This project demonstrates the potential for grade school students, who have relatively few intellectual and creative constraints, to operate as research scientists. Further, from the students’ perspective, this opportunity will have provided an understanding of what it means to practise science as opposed to simply learning about it. So it was in the Blackawton Bees Project that, through the process of learning about bees, working with researchers, conducting experiments, and seeing their work published (as it eventually was), the students were also introduced to the range of actions and essential elements involved in contributing to the scientific community.

In my own science education practice, I have observed that the experiments recommended for and conducted in many classrooms follow a highly prescriptive model. Typically, this model involves the use of a textbook or other source that provides a list of materials, a set of procedures, and a series of questions intended to guide students toward certain conclusions. Frequently, an understanding of the conclusions from the textbook experiments is required in order to advance to the next topic, so the significance is revealed in subsequent pages to prevent any child from being left behind. Furthermore, most of the experiments are designed to verify previously determined results, a situation that is not the typical of experiments that researchers conduct for publication in scientific journals. Using the textbook commonly assigned to physics students in the province of Alberta (Ackroyd, 2007) provides a particularly illustrative example: in it, the acceleration due to gravity, g, is validated in no fewer than 11 ways, none of which is representative of approaches currently used by actual scientists.

Finally, while many classrooms model the scientific method in the conduct and presentation of an experiment, in that the instructions serve to communicate certain requirements of the thought processes involved, these exercises lack a fundamental component of what makes science humanity’s most powerful knowledge-generation tool. This missing piece is the peer-review process, through which a potential contribution to the body of scientific knowledge is subjected to rigorous scrutiny by other members of the scientific community prior to publication and dissemination for wider public engagement. The present study has accordingly been designed to help fill this gap in science education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Complexity: A description of a behavior of a system that demonstrates key aspects of emergence , response to feedback , and being greater than the sum of its parts . A complex system is one that cannot be broken down into constituent elements for the purpose of understanding the system as a whole. A complex system differs from a complicated system in that the latter is exactly equal to the sum of its parts. An example of a complicated system is an automobile, and of a complex system any vertebrate animal.

Paradigm: This term, more recently modified by Thomas Kuhn, describes the predominant mindset of a group, culture or society. It includes methods, standards, and ways of thinking that govern the legitimacy of contributions by an individual to a larger group.

Post-Modernism: A state of development characterized by the questioning of pre-existing narratives that drive behavior in the world. Post-modernists are often known for being highly skeptical and showing a proclivity for understanding narratives as social constructs and interpretations that are highly subjective, though this is of course itself a subjective, and potentially morally relative, claim.

Communities of Practice: A community of practice encompasses a set of individuals who, through sharing a repertoire, common purpose, and mutual engagement, form a cohesive group.

Science: An ambiguous term that simultaneously describes a subject of study in school and a method for the generation of knowledge of the natural world through the procedural iterations of hypothesis creation, experimentation, observation, and revision.

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