The Necessity of Students & Teachers as Science Researchers
Mackenzie, Ann Haley, The American Biology Teacher
I don't think I understood how science is done until I was a researcher in an ecology lab. From doing research, I realize now that science is not a linear process. Questions drive the process more than I ever knew. Now [that] I can actually do inquiry with my students, science has come alive for me through the research I've done in an actual lab.
Teachers as researchers. Students as researchers. For inquiry to actually become the bedrock of biology classrooms, more teachers need to be engaged in actual scientific research. By doing science, these teachers gain a stronger understanding of the process, the methods, and the struggles, as well as the successes, of this enterprise we call science.
In 1990, the American Physiological Society began the Frontiers in Physiology Research Teacher Program. This summer program is designed for middle and high school science teachers. Each teacher is paired with a physiologist/biomedical researcher in his/her local community and conducts seven to eight weeks of actual research in the labs of these scientists. A week-long pedagogical workshop is also part of the experience, introducing teachers to effective in-class and online strategies in science teaching. The teachers also create inquiry experiences for their classrooms based on their research experience. As one teacher says:
APS's Frontiers in Physiology program has had an enormous impact on the way that I view the nature of science and therefore has dramatically changed the way that I teach science. Through the summer research program, I was able to participate in true scientific research which led me to a better understanding of the work of scientists. I learned how the continual search for answers leads them to investigations that are meaningful and challenging. My new understanding of science was then passed on to my students by providing them with the opportunity to conduct meaningful investigations of their own. APS has also taught me the true nature of inquiry based learning and how to utilize sound pedagogy in my classroom as well as how to write curriculum that reflects my new understanding of science and the principles put forth in the National Science Education Standards. APS's Frontiers in Physiology program has truly had a positive impact on my teaching and therefore on students as well!
--Cathy Box, Tahoka High School, Tahoka, Texas
By having research experiences, teachers better understand basic research techniques (Pasley, 1998) and procure an increased understanding of science as a research endeavor (Dotterer & Pasley, 2000). Teachers come away from research experiences with an increased awareness of the creativity, resourcefulness, diligence, and stress that research involves (Pasley, 1998). Dean and Wood (2004) state how research helps teachers have a greater sense of authority when describing the research process with students. Since these teachers experience physiological concepts in action, their understanding of these concepts is deeper and more thorough than without the experience (Pasley, 1998). As a result, these teachers become more proficient in using open-ended inquiry with their students. The idea of students doing actual scientific research becomes more of a priority for these teachers. Science is no longer a passive pursuit but one of wonder and curiosity with questions posed by students. For these teachers, the research experience:
* increased their understanding of what inquiry is and how it can be done in the classroom.
* increased their understanding of the important role inquiry plays in the science classroom.
* increased their understanding of the implementation of inquiry as well as an increased preparedness to using inquiry-based strategies. …