The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education

By Kenneth Tobin | Go to book overview

Ohio. For four years my colleagues and I have worked with and studied the science and mathematics teachers in four junior high schools as they have adopted many of the strategies described above. They have changed the climate of their schools and their own classrooms. They have developed a new vision of teaching and learning and put it into practice in their classrooms. The effect has been remarkable. It has renewed their work as teachers. As one teacher put it, "This program has been the most important thing that has happened to me in 26 years of teaching." Even more important, it has resulted in substantial improvements in students' understanding of, and interest in, science. Students' self- confidence has also improved as teachers have employed a wider range of teaching and assessment strategies in their science classes.

Has it been easy? No. Nor has it been quick to occur. For the support teachers, the time needed for change to occur is measured in years of study and experimentation with new methods in their classes. First, they had to develop a new vision about teaching and learning based on their new knowledge base from research on teaching and learning, and then, they had to work to change their practices to achieve their vision. For their peers, who did not have the benefit of the extensive background in research-based knowledge learned through seminars and replication of studies, the process has been slower. It must be remembered that we have been working together for four years, and we have not fully reached our goals. For the support teachers and their peers, much of that time was filled with frustration, as they realized that they did not possess needed knowledge of the interconnections and applications of science that was central to the understanding that was desired for students. Moreover, even greater frustration occurred because they found they were deficient in skills and techniques for, among other things, effectively managing small group work and for using writing in science teaching, which are necessary parts of assisting students as they learn to integrate and apply scientific knowledge. However, they were buoyed throughout this by the belief that scientific understanding becomes a possibility for students whose teachers expand their vision about teaching and learning, and then develop new skills needed to attain that new vision. To do this is not easy, but for those who prevail, the rewards are great--for them, for their students, and for the society in which we live.


REFERENCES

Driver R. "Changing Conceptions." In Philip Adey (Ed.), Adolescent Development and School Science. London: Falmer Press, 1989.

Gallagher J. J. "Research on Secondary School Science Teachers Practices, Knowledge, and Beliefs: A Basis for Restructuring." In Matyas M., K. Tobin, and B. Fraser (Eds.), Looking into Windows: Qualitative Research in Science Education. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989.

Gallagher J. J. "Framing the Science Support Teacher Program: Context, History, Assumptions, Training and Technical Assistance." Paper, annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Fontana, WI, 1991.

Gallagher J. J., L. Cavazos, Z. Y. Deng, D. Holland, and R. Yerrick. "Initial Reportof a Survey of High School Science Teaching Practices."

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