Jeff Thomas: Using Exploring Geoscience Methods with Secondary Education Students in the History and Nature of Science at Central Connecticut State University
About this Course
The History and Nature of Science course is for pre-service secondary science education majors.
Syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 36kB Jul1 14)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
During Unit 1, students read: "Geoscience and Geoscientists: Uniquely Equipped to Study the Earth" by Cathryn Manduca and Kim Kastens. Students struggled reading this academic paper. Since students were able to critique their ideas about the article with others (e.g. making posters), this enabled them to better understand the methods of geoscience (e.g. systems thinking). This was evident when I read their Unit 1 papers. The aim for Unit 2 was to provide students an example of investigating a problem using the methods of geoscience. During Activity 1 of Unit 2, students were very engaged as they interpreted the temperature and carbon dioxide data, watched the video about rising sea levels, and read the article about Hurricane Sandy. This activity set the stage for students to investigate the problem for Activity 2 of Unit 2: To what extent should we build and/or rebuild coastal communities? Students were engaged throughout this part of the activity, especially as they collected the geoscience data. Although they struggled interpreting the data, they also appreciated the complexity of it as well as the cognitive effort to determine how the data sets may affect one another. After reading the IPCC's Summary Report for Policy Makers, students felt more confident to write their position papers for Activity 3 of Unit 2. During Unit 3, students applied what they learned from Unit 1 and Unit 2 by selecting a interdisciplinary science lesson that incorporated the methods of geoscience. During class, students searched various clearinghouse websites. They were very engaged and were thrilled to learn of the many resources (e.g. Science Education Resource Center or SERC) that were available to them as pre-service secondary science teachers, including students who specialized in biology, chemistry, and physics. Since students created lesson plans, I will use them as a starting point when I see the students in my science methods course the following semester.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
This module builds students' understanding of the nature and methods of science, in the context of geoscience. This module complemented the structure of this course since it was implemented from a student-centered instructional approach. As a result, students were very engaged as they completed all three units. Moreover, since I used this module as the capstone activity of the course, it provided additional evidence that students better understood the nature and methods of science when compared to the beginning of the semester.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
I implemented the Exploring Geoscience Methods with Secondary Teachers module with fifteen pre-service secondary science teachers from all science disciplines (e.g. biology, physics). The History and Nature of Science, the first of two science methods courses, aims to improve pre-service science teachers' understanding of the nature and methods of science. I used this module as the capstone set of activities of the course. As I implemented this module, students were actively engaged throughout all three units. The class discussions were thought-provoking, the data interpretations were active and challenging, and the interdisciplinary lesson plans were collaborative. I am certainly looking forward to implementing this module again with my next cohort of students.
Unit 1: Students wrote papers outside of class that responded to the following question: "How can you modify that classic (stereotypical) scientific method to be more inclusive of what all scientists do, including geoscientists?" Students were limited to 300 words. Many students, however, wrote longer papers (e.g. about 500–750 words) which provided better evidence of their understanding of methods of science when compared to those who wrote 300 words or fewer. In the future, I would increase the word limit. This assessment was graded.
Unit 2: Students wrote position papers outside of class that responded to the following problem: "To what extent should we build and/or rebuild coastal communities?" Students utilized the methods of geoscience to answer the question. Students struggled interpreting and synthesizing the data. As a result, their papers were not as well supported with evidence as anticipated. Overall, students were very engaged in this part of the investigation. This assessment was graded.
Unit 3: Students selected an activity and developed a lesson plan for it that incorporated the methods of geoscience as the summative assessment for this module. Students really enjoyed searching for activities, especially with the resources that they found were available to them. They did struggle with some of the elements of the lesson plan such as the 5E Learning Cycle. For me, this activity was a great way to introduce lesson planning before they take my science methods course. This assessment was graded.
My vision for including this module as part of my course is to broaden my students' understanding of the nature and methods of science and how to incorporate these ideas as part of teaching and learning science. Pre-service science secondary science teachers often view "doing" science narrowly. For instance, many of my students believe doing science is following a set of guided procedures to test how one variable affects another. Students, instead, must understand the variety of ways of doing science such as the traditional experimental method to study our world such as investigating Newton's Laws as well as geoscience methods (e.g. systems thinking) to investigate complex issues such as climate change. This module was used as the capstone activity for my course to address the above issues. The work samples (e.g. methods of science paper, climate change position paper, geoscience methods lesson plan) students submitted from this module provided me with evidence that my students significantly improved understanding of the nature and methods of science and how it applies to teaching and learning science.