Seeing is the Key

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So, this is a little bit of an experiment.  I have to write a rationale for a funding agency that characterizes my research in a way that helps non-educators, and specifically business people, understand why what I am doing has value.  I have to do this in one page.  I am going to post a draft of my one page here in the hopes that some folks, educators or not, out there will tell me if I am making sense.  Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Understanding Professional Pedagogical Vision in Science Teaching

Fewer students are majoring in science and students do not see science as a field of creative expression and personal initiative. The current generation see facts as a keystroke away and they are immersed in dynamically creating for and contributing to the development of their communities through tools such as Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. We must transform science teaching to engage this new generation. The field of science education, through standards documents and peer reviewed research, is clear the direction of this transformation should be toward classroom inquiry science teaching. However, what classroom science inquiry means has been a debate in the field of Science Education since there has been a field. Inquiry has been used in place of hands-on investigations, described as minds-on activities, and is represented as a continuum from guided or teacher-directed to open or student-directed. One point of agreement is that transforming science teaching will help students understand science better and it will help them experience science as a disciple that requires creativity, initiative, and in which they can make contributions to a larger community.
 
Perhaps the dominant reason inquiry is not common practice is that prospective science teachers have not experienced inquiry science teaching as students, so they can’t recreate it when they become teachers of science themselves.  We have a self perpetuating system. Many science teacher educators are attempting to address this cycle by modeling inquiry science teaching for prospective science teachers or by engaging prospective teachers in science investigations. There is evidence that these experiences improve prospective teachers’ likelyhood of developing inquiry science in their own teaching, though the effects often wash out quickly.

However, these interventions are built on a key assumption: prospective teachers see the models of inquiry science teaching the way science teacher educator do. Imagine two people in an airport watching a baseball game, one is from the US and the other from the UK.  While they are both watching the same game, they are not seeing the same thing.  The person from the US sees the center fielder make a great catch on a fly ball, hit by a switch-hitting batter, off a left-handed fastball pitcher’s out and away curveball.  While the person from the UK sees all the action, they can’t interpret what they are seeing, and in that sense they literally cannot see the game of baseball.  It is likely that a more subtle version of this phenomena happens with prospective teachers when they watch inquiry science teaching.  They cannot interpret what they see in meaningful ways. What makes this worse, is they know something about science teaching from their own schooling and thus believe they understand what they are seeing.  Charles Goodwin, an anthropologist, described this ability to see and interpret events in a particular way as professional vision.  

The research questions I will be investigating are: (1) How do expert and novice teachers see science teaching differently?; (2) How can these differences begin to define professional pedagogical vision in the context of classroom inquiry science teaching?  Put simply, my research project will attempt to understand the differences between expert teachers and novice teachers when they look at science teaching.  Through the intensive use of teaching experiments, field observations and video analysis, I will develop a framework for how expert teachers see inquiry science pedagogy. I will ask experts and novice to analyze examples of classroom science teaching and use their analysis along with discussion around their analysis to understand what they attend to and how they interpret what they see.  My hope is that by understanding how experts see classrooms, and in particular differentiate between inquiry practice and non-inquiry practice in science, I can help prospective teachers “learn the game”. 

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6 Comments

Solid. Made it very clear to me. Is it reasonable to define Inquiry in a single sentence -- in a more obvious way? Or is this sentence the true definition:

"Inquiry has been used in place of hands-on investigations, described as minds-on activities, and is represented as a continuum from guided or teacher-directed to open or student-directed."

You are the man getting on this so quickly. I guess I was trying to point out that the definition is not clear and the field is still hashing it out. That sentence is meant to represent some of the positions on what inquiry is.

All that being said, if that was not clear I need to rethink that part.

Thanks for the feedback.

I think it was clear to me that was your intent. My point was if this is going to be read by the audience you describe, maybe a more overt statement is needed. Re-reading that paragraph makes it very clear, but the first time through I was left waiting to then read your definition. Unless of course the definition itself is not clear enough to simply come out and say -- or if the intent is to leave people thinking that arriving at the definition is part of what you are proposing via your research.

Your argument seems very clear to me, I just wonder if you put too much into the baseball description and not enough into what it means to “see the game”? I also agree with Cole, it would be easier to understand if you explained rather than implied the discrepancies in defining inquiry.
Also I have noted a few general suggestions:

Perhaps the dominant reason inquiry is not common practice is that prospective science teachers have not experienced inquiry science teaching as students, so they can’t recreate it when they become teachers of science themselves. We have a self perpetuating system.
Into ?
Perhaps the dominant reason inquiry is not common practice is that we have a self perpetuating system; prospective science teachers have not experienced inquiry science teaching as students, so they can’t recreate it when they become teachers of science themselves.

I will ask experts and novice (is there an agreement problem here? Expert[s] vs Novice[?]) to analyze examples of classroom science teaching and use their analysis along with discussion around their analysis to understand what they attend to and how they interpret what they see.

Thank you both. I think I am going to recraft the inquiry piece and be more explicit or at least connect it more explicitly to my research (as Cole suggests). Thanks Lis for the comments and rewording suggestions. They really are helpful.

Your stated goal was to demonstrate the value to non-educators, specifically business people, of your research interest. You start out well in this regard, but by the end I am not certain why an approach to science education as you describe is important to me. What am I and my peers missing out on if students continue along the trajectory you describe? Where is the economic beef?

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