Curriculum Books Essay

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However, some of the discussions of constructivism and brain-based approaches do not recognize the need for teachers to structure classroom tasks to facilitate the construction of meaning. SIGs integrate the best aspects of traditional role-plays and simulations into a learning environment that promotes active engagement, interactivity and collaboration, the application of knowledge and skills, and the use of complex thinking skills, including empathy and values-based learning (Nonaka, 2001).Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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The constructivist view of learning, in various guises, is widely embraced by most researchers studying cognition in education. Although, the meaning of constructivism is currently the subject of considerable debate (Clark & Mayer, 2003), the essential idea is that knowledge is actively built by the learner through transformations to existing knowledge structures, rather than being directly transmitted from the instructor to the learner. The implication is that a student's prior knowledge is critically important in shaping the acquisition of new knowledge. Studies of many different domains in science indicate that students begin their study of science with strongly held misconceptions of phenomena (Jonassen, 2010). Several researchers expressed the view that these misconceptions are embedded in robust domain-specific theories (Anderson, 2009). This has led some researchers to suggest a radical reform of science instruction built around a conceptual change epistemology involving the replacement of students' naive conceptions with more robust scientific ones (Flavell, 2009). Gagne, et al. (2003) argued that students do not exhibit theoretical coherence beyond a very limited context. He proposed that these theories are a fragmented, loosely connected, collection of ideas, having none of the commitment or systematicity attributable to scientific theories. Knowledge is believed to be distributed in pieces in both initial and advanced states of understanding. The development of expertise is not a function of a shift from intuitive everyday concepts but from the beginner's flat and fragmentary knowledge to the expert's systematic multilayered knowledge structures. Jonassen, (2010) suggested that replacement and confronting students' beliefs do not constitute an adequate approach to learning. He argued that students' intuitive knowledge is rooted in productive and useful knowledge, which provides a basis for developing a more expert-like understanding (Sun & Peterson, 2008).

Students' beliefs systems lack the coherence of scientists and misconceptions are embedded in complex knowledge systems. These patterns of misunderstanding are not the result of a single piece of wrong knowledge. Rather they reflect reciprocating networks of knowledge elements, which can be correct, partially correct, or flawed (Flavell, 2009). Therefore, to understand misconceptions, it is necessary to uncover the multiple contributing sources of knowledge that comprise them. However, students in advanced knowledge domains, such as medicine, have acquired substantial formal knowledge and their beliefs can exhibit substantial theoretical coherence (Nonaka, 2001). As discussed later in this chapter, people's indigenous cultural belief systems can exhibit varying amounts of coherence (Anderson, 2009). Detailed study of knowledge structures sometimes reveal, however, that systematicity of beliefs may be more illusory than real. Further probing of subjects may indicate that their belief systems exhibit internal contradictions and sometime provide explanations that show inconsistencies across problems.

Most medical students have extensive backgrounds in the biological sciences and some knowledge of the physical sciences. Much of the basic science curricula in medical schools is predicated on the fact that these students have an adequate background so that instructors can focus on more advanced topics. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that medical students exhibit significant misconceptions (Clark & Mayer, 2003). This is consistent with other research in the biological sciences. Songer and Jonassen, (2010) documented conceptual difficulties in college students in understanding cellular respiration, not only persist after advanced levels of instruction, but also increase in number. There is compelling evidence to suggest that teleological causation may underlie intuitive theories of biology in children as well as adults (Anderson & Fincham, 2004). Teleology explains causes in terms of a purpose or goal. For example, an organism's purpose is to survive and reproduce. Biological processes can be thought about in terms of their mechanism of action or in teleological terms. Although it is advantageous for students to have a principled mechanistic understanding of scientific concepts, teleological or goal-oriented explanations are often presented in textbooks and in lectures to orient students to the functions of a particular bodily mechanism. Teleological explanations are common in young children (Collins, et al. 1989), but are also evident in medical students (Collins, et al. 1989). It is hypothesed that teleological explanations may contribute to patterns of understanding and misunderstanding in medical students (Nonaka, 2001).

Constructivism is a postmodern antiscience philosophy that is based on Piaget's work on how children construct concepts and conceptual relations and on the philosophy of two early eighteenth-century opponents of the Scientific Revolution, Giambattista Vico and George Berkeley (Collins, et al. 1989). It's a form of subjective empiricism that puts its emphasis on the thoughts of the knower and views the search for truth as an illusion. "Knowledge can never be considered true in the conventional sense (e.g. correspond to an observer-independent reality) because it is made by a knower who does not have access to such a reality. . . . From [the constructivist's] perspective, Truths are replaced by viable models -- and viability is always relative to a chosen goal" (Sun & Peterson, 2007). Constructivism redefines knowledge to be whatever individuals, "given the range of present experience within their tradition of thought and language, consider viable" (Anderson, 2009).

Such an ideology would be of no interest to scientists and science educators were it not, in effect, the official ideology of the reform movement in the United States and elsewhere. New Zealand is so committed to nonobjectivity in science teaching that the lecture-demonstration tables have been removed from all the science classrooms in the country (Nickols, 2009).This is to prevent teachers from claiming to know more than their students, thus unduly influencing how the students' construct their own knowledge. Constructivism is deeply embedded in many educational institutions in the United States, is supported by the National Science Foundation, and was for a time the official ideology of the science-education reform effort in Massachusetts (Clark & Mayer, 2003). But when push comes to shove, no one knows how students are to construct their own theories of atoms and electrons, of stars and galaxies, of DNA and genetics. Educators are beginning to recognize the limitations of constructivist ideology as they begin to address the problem of implementing state and national content standards (Sun & Peterson, 2007).

This openly antiscientific ideology is still fashionable, however, because it's in step with the many postmodern doctrines that are endemic in academia today (Flavell, 2009). Constructivism fully supports the view that establishment science is the particular construction of white males because it can argue that what is viable for white males at some historical period may not be viable for other human beings at some other time. But more important, by devaluing scientific knowledge -- bringing it down, so it speak, to the level of everyday knowledge -- constructivist educators with no knowledge of science have increased their own power in science education relative to educators with scientific knowledge (Sun & Peterson, 2008). In the United States, pre-high- school science education, such as it is, is controlled by professional science educators, trained in schools of education which have been notorious for a hundred years for their low academic standards. Rare is the science educator who knows even the science expected of an eighth grader. It's this group which has enthusiastically endorsed constructivism because it allows them to speak only about process (whatever that is) rather than content (of which they are ignorant). And it's this group that writes the frameworks, standards, and textbooks for elementary and middle schools.

This harsh judgment is borne out by the incredible number of errors, misconceptions, and undefined terms that occur in the most recent spate of middle school textbooks. Gagne, et al. (2003) has published two pages of errors that he found in SCIENCE Interactions (Nickols, 2009), commenting that with eleven authors and countless consultants and reviewers they should have done better. In addition to Iona's list, I have a list of my own, including the erroneous implication that buoyancy depends on how far a totally submerged object is below the surface of the water (Sun & Peterson, 2007).

Constructivist Education

Constructivists believe that each child can learn the scientific process in a rather straightforward manner by observing patterns and making predictions (Anderson, 2009). This may sound reasonable, but it's essentially Aristotelian science and is contrary to everything we have learned about science since the Scientific Revolution. I had an opportunity to observe this in June, 1995, when a constructivist was invited to facilitate some inquiry-based lessons on density and buoyancy to twenty-four middle-school science teachers who were participating in a two-week SEED (Science Education through Experiments and Education) program (Anderson & Fincham, 2004).

He began by giving the teachers a number of equal-volume… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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