Teachers’ questions can model the sorts of questions students might ask themselves when conducting personal inquiry.

Research and best practice suggest that, if we are really clever and careful, students will come more naturally to the conceptual ideas and processes we want them to learn. Being clever means incorporating what we have come to understand about how students learn. This chapter describes a series of activities from which the experience of teachers and researchers demonstrates students do learn about the meaning of force and about the nature and processes of science. It also explains how the specific activities and teaching strategies delineated here relate to what we know from research on how people learn, as reflected in the three guiding principles set forth in Chapter 1 with regard to students’ prior knowledge, the need to develop deep understanding, and the development of metacognitive awareness. We attempt to give the reader a sense of what it means to implement curriculum that supports these principles. It is our hope that researchers will see that we have built upon their work in designing these activities and creating the learning environment. We want teachers to get a sense of what it means to teach in such an environment. We also want readers to get an idea of what it is like to be a learner.

The following unit could come before one on forces to explain motion (i.e., Newton’s Laws). By the end of this unit, students should have arrived at a qualitative understanding of force as applied in contexts involving buoyancy, gravitation, magnetics, and electrostatics. The activities involved are designed to motivate and develop a sense of the interrelationships between ideas and events. The expected outcome includes qualitative understanding of ideas, not necessarily formulas.


Part A: What Gravity Is Not
Getting the Unit Started: Finding Out About Students’ Initial Ideas

Teachers need to unconditionally respect students’ capacities for learning complex ideas, and students need to learn to respect the teacher as an instructional leader. Teachers will need to earn that respect through their actions as a respectful guide to learning.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement