by Claire Miller
For science and math concepts to really sink in, Marcia Linn believes educators need to find activities that are meaningful to their students and allow them to truly contemplate the lessons taught in the classroom.
“We need to think about how the material is presented to children and teenagers, and sadly, we don’t do that as much as we should,” said Linn, professor of development and cognition specializing in education in mathematics, science and technology in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, at the Feb. 16 Research Wednesdays. “We teach so much information that we rarely help people put it all together. In fact, we should be spending more of our time integrating our ideas and less time adding new information because it doesn’t help to add new information if you can’t connect it to what you already know.”
In the last few years, Linn has been working with the Technology Enhanced Learning in Science (TELS) Center in California to study the kinds of activities that promote integrating new and old knowledge.
High on the list in integrating these kinds of knowledge sets is eliciting ideas from students in the classrooms. Linn postulates that teachers should find out what their students know – their misconceptions, the areas they already understand and how they came to have this knowledge – and then design their lessons around their students’ understanding of math and science concepts.
From there, teachers can plan activities for their students that not only ask them to explore a concept, but to reflect on what they’ve learned and how they came to those conclusions.
“Just exploring a concept is one possibility, but when teachers elicit ideas and have students reflect and put all of their ideas together, we’re seeing that in general, students are gaining greater insight into complex ideas than they would if they did an exploration strategy alone,” Linn said.
The Research Wednesdays Speaker Series is designed to fulfill three goals: to provide a platform for explorations of new ways of conducting and disseminating educational research, to discuss new methods of mentoring doctoral students in an effort to enhance their development as researchers, and to fill a professional development need by providing access to cutting edge researchers at the state and national levels.
For more information about Linn and the Research Wednesdays Speaker Series, visit http://education.gsu.edu/main/coe_events.htm.