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
...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
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
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
--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.