Construction Sites: Science Labs and Classrooms
When I began teaching more than a decade ago, I had just completed a masters degree in physics, but I did not have any background in educational psychology or methodology. Pondering how I should approach the teaching of science, it occurred to me that I wanted my students to learn in a setting like the one in which I had experienced the excitement of scientific discovery, and I recalled my days in graduate school: I remembered those long days and nights when I sat over my results, eagerly trying to understand the meaning of all those graphs and charts; I remembered the long discussions I had with my peers who worked on similar problems for their theses to come to understand our own and each other's work; I remembered the discussions with post-doctoral students and professors through whose critical questioning I came to reflect on my own understanding; and I remembered those weekly seminars where we (professors, post-doctoral, doctoral and masters students) critically examined, in turn, each of the research projects in the department of atomic physics. I was determined to create classroom environments in which my students could experience all the excitement of real science and the excitement of finding out for themselves, and with others, in a setting that nurtured abilities and where science was conducted authentically. Since then, I have taught all my courses in laboratory, nonlecture settings that emphasize science as a process of meaning-making, and knowledge as individual and negotiated construction.
A traditional view of the teaching-learning process regards knowledge as a body that is transferred from a teacher to a student. This view of teaching is so deeply rooted in our culture that learning is mostly described in terms of the conduit metaphor such as in "I can't get it," "I was cramming," or "it didn't sink in." More recently, constructivism began to be accepted as a more appropriate conception of knowledge in the fields of education, epistemology, history and