ERIC Identifier: ED259938
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Blosser, Patricia E.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.

A Review of "Research Within Reach: Science Education." ERIC/SMEAC Science Education Digest Number 2.

This Digest provides information about the most recent publication in the "Research Within Reach" series produced by the Appalachia Educational Laboratory, Inc., Charleston, WV. The focus in this volume is on research in science education. Previous volumes in the series covered reading, elementary mathematics, oral and written communication, and secondary school mathematics.

TOPICS INCLUDED IN THIS DOCUMENT

The science education volume is divided into four sections: curriculum and goals in science education, teaching and learning in science education, a context for science education, and perspectives papers. Each of these four sections is further subdivided. The curriculum and goals section contains two chapters. The first deals with curriculum development projects of the 1960s and the second with goals of science education.

The teaching and learning section contains four chapters: instructional strategies in the science classroom, evaluation of student progress, the integration of science and other school subjects, and computers and science teaching. The "context" section of the publication contains two chapters. One is focused on research on the influence of school and home factors on learning. The other contains a discussion of science teacher preparation and professional development. The fourth and final section contains two perspectives papers.

COMMENTS RELATED TO CHAPTER DISCUSSIONS

Although there are 60 citations to curriculum development projects of the 60s, the author of the first chapter draws heavily on a group of recent meta-analysis studies for his discussion of these projects.

The chapter discussion supports the NSF-funded science curricula of the 1960s:

...Evidence shows that students in such courses had enhanced attitudes toward science and scientists; enhanced higher-level intellectual skills such as critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and process skills; as well as, a better understanding of scientific concepts. Inquiry-oriented science courses also enhance student performance in language arts, mathematics, social studies skills, and communication skills.

Much of the discussion in the second chapter refers to the findings of PROJECT SYNTHESIS and its four goal clusters related to students' future activities: personal needs, career education, societal issues, and academic preparation. Teachers are urged to incorporate all goal clusters into their instruction, not just the one for academic preparation. Thirty-nine references are found at the end of this chapter.

Chapter Three, which begins the section on teaching and learning, has 25 references. These are used to describe an effective science classroom as depicted through research.

The fourth chapter, on evaluation, has 39 citations. This chapter is uneven. Its author has attempted to cover many topics, each of which merits more discussion than printing space probably allows.

The authors of Chapter Five reviewed 128 pieces of literature focused on the examination of possible relationships between science and other school subjects. The relationship of science to reading, to mathematics, to social studies, to fine arts, and to health is described. Curriculum specialists and science educators interested in teaching science to elementary school students in settings in which science is integrated with other subjects should find this an interesting chapter.

Chapter Six highlights research related to the use of computers and other technology in science classrooms. Sixty-one citations are located at the end of this chapter.

Computers are used in science education for computer-assisted instruction, simulations and games, and specific problem-solving activities. Computers may also be used for enrichment activities. A possible side benefit from computer usage is that students' verbal skills may be developed as a result of having to be precise when communicating with a computer. One of the present handicaps in the use of computer technology is that the development of hardware and software has not been parallel: hardware is relatively sophisticated but software is often of poor quality.

Chapter Seven, the first of the two in the section entitled "A Context for Science Education," focuses primarily on some of the effective schools research and draws largely on literature related to the "Focus on Excellence" project of the National Science Teachers Association and other professional education associations. The reference list contains 58 citations. The author differentiates between microeffectiveness studies, in which the classroom is the unit of investigation, and macroeffectiveness studies, in which the school is the unit of investigation and analysis. Eight characteristics of schools with exemplary science programs are identified and discussed:

--Teachers develop their own curricula and are not textbook bound

--More emphasis is given to laboratory work than to lectures in science classes

--Teachers use a variety of resources in planning for instruction (other teachers, science coordinators, university faculty, inservice, professional organization meetings, journals

--Science teachers hold high self-expectations

--Science teachers provide both a stimulating environment and an accepting atmosphere for their students

--Science teachers challenge their students and have differentiated expectations for them

--Science teachers possess effective communications skills

--Science teachers stress the development of higher level intellectual skills

Chapter Eight, the second one in the context section, focuses on science teacher preparation and the question of whether a shortage of science and mathematics teachers exists. Forty-one citations are listed.

The two perspectives papers stand in contrast to each other and to the other chapters in this volume. They were not written in response to research related to teachers' questions but from points of view that the authors hold. Welch's paper begins with his assumption that the methods for learning science should be the same as the methods for doing science. He discusses what the science program should look like if science education should imitate science. In this writer's opinion, this is one of the more useful chapters in this volume--particularly for a classroom teacher who is interested in improving his/her science program and in countering some of the criticisms of reports about the deplorable state of science education.

Champagne and Klopfer offer the reader an alternative to the behavioral and the developmental views of teaching and learning. They discuss cognitive psychology, writing that cognitive scientists use computational metaphors to theorize about human cognition--the computer as a metaphor for the mind, computing as a metaphor for thinking, and data structures, for the knowledge in memory. Champagne and Klopfer are of the opinion that cognitive psychology will have "... major impact on the practice of science education in the 1980s and beyond...." Teachers at all levels should read their discussion of "naive theories." The authors emphasize, "When we teach, we assume students interpret text, lectures, and experiments as we intended them to be interpreted. The evidence is accumulating that this assumption is often not valid." Twenty-nine related references are listed.

SOME CONCLUDING COMMENTS, CAVEATS

The intention behind the RESEARCH WITHIN REACH is a praiseworthy one. Most classroom teachers are so involved in meeting their day-to-day obligations that they have little, if any, time for reading research findings. If research findings are to have any impact on classroom practices, classroom teachers need to know what these findings are.

However, this review, like any other, comes to the reader after passing through several filters. One filter was the questions chosen to serve as topics for discussion of relevant research. Another filter was whatever process was used to identify the research studies sent to the chapter authors for review. Still a third filter is composed of the expertise and the perspectives of those individuals who served as chapter authors. As a result, the research that is within reach (contained in this volume) is a sample of that available. Readers who are not conducting their own independent searches of the literature have no way of knowing what was not included.

Readers interested in a particular topic or finding should make a point of reviewing the original source. Basing their actions or decisions on the reviewer's remarks may, or may not, be a way to proceed.

The fact that chapters were written to stand alone results in repetition for persons who read the entire volume. It also eliminates the opportunity for chapter authors to compare and contrast their particular topic with other topics within the volume.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Holdzkom, David, and Paula B. Lutz, editors. RESEARCH WITHIN REACH: SCIENCE EDUCATION. A RESEARCH-GUIDED RESPONSE TO THE CONCERNS OF EDUCATORS. Charleston, WV: Research and Development Interpretation Service. Appalachia Educational Laboratory, Inc., 1984. ED 247 148.

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