Plenary Panel I:
The Next Generation: Science for All Students
Marye Anne Fox (Moderator)
Chancellor, North Carolina State University
The first panel of our program will focus on the next generation of scientists, “Science for All Students.” We have three panelists participating in this discussion: Drs. Leon Lederman, Richard Tapia, and Marcia Linn.
Dr. Lederman is an internationally renowned high-energy physicist, the Director Emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. He holds an appointment as the Pritzker Professor of Science at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Dr. Lederman served as Chairman of the State of Illinois' Governor's Science Advisory Committee, and he is the founder and resident scholar at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a three-year residential public high school for the gifted. Dr. Lederman was Director of the Fermi Laboratory from 1979 to 1989, and is a founder and Chairman of the Teachers' Academy for Mathematics and Science. In 1990, he was elected President of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served as a founding member of the High-Energy Physics Advisory Board of the United States Department of Energy and on the International Committee for Future Accelerators, the largest organization of that type in the United States. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science, the Elliott Cresson Medal of the Franklin Institute, the Wolf Prize in Physics, and the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Dr. Richard Tapia is a strong advocate for minorities and women in the sciences and mathematics, and is a professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University in Houston.
In addition to being the first in his family to attend college, Dr. Tapia is also the first nativeborn Hispanic American to be inducted into the National Academy of Engineering. Internationally known for his research and work in computational and mathematical science, he was appointed by President William Clinton to the National Science Board in 1996. Recently, Dr. Tapia became the co-editor for all educational outreach programs for the nation's two supercomputer centers in San Diego and the University of Illinois.
Dr. Marcia Linn is a Professor of Development and Cognition and of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California at Berkeley.
A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, she researches the teaching and learning of science and technology, gender equity and the design of technological learning environments. In 1998, the Council of Scientific Society Presidents selected her for its first award in educational research. From 1995 to 1996, she was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, and in 1994 she received the National Association for Research and Science Teaching Award for Life-Long Distinguished Contributions to Science Education.
The American Educational Research Association bestowed on her the Willystine Goodsell Award in 1991, and the Women Educators Research Award in 1982. Twice she has won the Outstanding Paper Award from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching. She serves on the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Graduate Record Examination Board of the Educational Testing Service, and the McDonnell Foundation for Cognitive Studies in Education.
A PLAN, A STRATEGY FOR K-12
Dr. Leon M. Lederman, Director Emeritus
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
When I was invited to come here I said, “Well, the only thing I could talk about is what I happen to be doing now, and I happen to be very interested in high schools and high school science.” I spend a lot of time in high schools. I didn't know how relevant I could make that to your topic but between that time and now I have learned that indeed the kinds of things I am after have a surprising relevance to the issue we have today.
I am going to talk about a plan, a strategy for getting into the K-12 arena in a dramatic way. Now, again, my problem is complicated by the fact that I am a limited observer in this field. I tend to look at the spectrum of opinions on science education in the country, say, ever since the 16-year-old report, A Nation at Risk. One can read justifiable opinions on all sides of how well we are doing.
My own feeling is more pessimistic. In spite of the expenditure of many hundreds of
millions of dollars invested in science education reform and efforts of many, many smart people, we have very little to show for it.
It is not that we don't have anything to show for it. We certainly have a keen awareness now of the importance of science. Most dramatically, in spite of the obsessive belief in local deployment of education, we have a consensus of national standards in math and science that are being adopted by many states. The National Academies played an important role in this crucial development.
We are interested in a dramatic reform of high school science education, designed to change the way science is taught in 99 percent of U.S. high schools. We also want to breach the wall of resistance to change that seems to surround our educational system, and like any military strategist, once you enter that breach you spread out and begin to make the changes appropriate for the 21st century.
I call it TYNT because most teachers, when you talk to them about reform, will say, “Oh, oh, that is This Year's New Thing.” You have to face the fact that schools are bombarded with “This Year's New Things.” Of course, my year's new thing is going to be different from all other “This Year's New Things.”
We call it the “American Renaissance In Science Education,” or ARISE, and I like the word “renaissance.” It is carefully chosen. Three happenings make things encouraging. One is the new science standards. These standards require a minimum of three years of science in the grade 9-12 program. Four is better, if you want to reach and exceed the standards. Then we have the problem of the international tests like the Third International Mathematics & Science Study (TIMSS) 1998 and other assessments that tell us that we have a long way to go before we can be satisfied with our educational system. The poor performance of our students cries out for reform.
Finally, the time is appropriate to make serious changes in education, which has become known as “dot edu.” The President of the United States says that improving education is the most important thing we can do in the nation and this is clearly an unimpeachable source.
We have about 16,000 school districts in this country, all going in their own different directions. About 50 percent of these schools insist on more than one year of science. Only 20 percent insist on three years of science, but there is a trend now to increasing the science required as states begin to take on the problem of establishing standards. Many, if not most, states are aligning their standards pretty nearly with the national consensus standards written by the Academies and by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
I think we see a good trend of increasing the science requirement. ARISE proposes to create a coherent three-year curriculum. That is, once you have a three-year science requirement, you may as well make it a core curriculum and let it hang together. We use the word “ coherent” and “core curriculum” because we want to show that there is a logical order to the disciplines and strong connecting links.
If you look at the mathematical metaphor, you study addition, and then you study subtraction, and you study lots of things in mathematics, but you never forget addition because you keep using it. It isn' t a question of
learning addition and then forgetting it because you are doing some other mathematics. It is all built in and is coherent.
In science, there is a natural tendency to move from the concrete to the abstract. We like inquiry methods, connections, applications, and the use of what we have learned as we advance; these are the sort of criteria relevant to a coherent science requirement. A model that satisfies all of these principles is a three-year core science curriculum woven appropriately in with mathematics. You could call it science 1, 2, and 3, but science 1, which would be ninth grade, would be mostly physics, using the algebra that students are just learning in eighth and ninth grade. It implies conversations between the math teacher and the physics teacher. Conceptual physics deals with some of the concrete things in the world around us, such as Michael Jordan's hang time.
Conceptual physics in ninth grade would include forces, motion, energy, gravity, circular motion, electricity, and electrical and magnetic forces. After a year of the standard treatments of physics, using only ninth grade math, stressing concepts, you end up with kids who have a feeling for atoms—the structure and function of atoms. Some elements of quantum theory are needed to understand how atoms differ from one another, some idea of the shells which electrons populate as we proceed from the simplest atom, hydrogen, to the more complicated atoms with many electrons. Presto! You are already beginning to explain that colorful chart which appears in one billion chemistry classrooms around the world, which is called the periodic table of the elements. Now the student, building on his or her year of physics, has a mechanism for understanding not only why the periodic table is the way it is, but also how the chemical properties are read from the table.
Tenth grade would be mostly chemistry. You have already begun chemistry. You continue with a higher level of mathematics (i.e., tenth grade) and little by little you proceed through the standard chemical processes, which continuously exercise the physics as a basis for understanding. The energy viewpoint teaches why some atoms approach one another and bind to form simple molecules. Gas laws and solutions again make use of the properties of atoms. Eventually one gets to molecules, which are large enough so that one or two of them start talking to you, and then the class realizes that they are already in biology. This is the kind of biology that is so exciting these days. It is molecular based, and we are assured that the 21st century will be the century of biology, according to our unimpeachable source.
A century is a long time to make predictions. For certain, the science and technology of the new biology will dominate the beginning. However, today in 99 percent of all high schools, biology, chemistry, and physics is the order in which students study science. Ninth grade biology is descriptive, probably that kind of descriptive biology which should be in middle school, but here it is, full of new vocabulary . . . more new words than in ninth grade French!
Ninth grade biology doesn't make sense and the students know it. The sequence, biology, chemistry, physics is universal not only because it is alphabetical, but also because it was proposed by a very wise committee more than
one hundred years ago. The fact that we continue to do it wrong in our schools, in spite of the progress in our science knowledge, is remarkable. In the 1930s, we learned the power of physics to understand basic chemical processes and then certainly in the fifties after the discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), it became totally clear that biology must be preceded by both chemistry and physics. The resistance of the system to change, you will have to admit, is awesome.
Implications of a sensible, coherent curriculum in the correct order are very significant. Physics, chemistry, biology, and math teachers have to talk to each other at least four hours a week. It is not an easy thing to implement. You need a lot of conversations so that you can maintain and extend this coherence. Now, if you are meeting with physics, chemistry, biology, and math teachers it is already a pretty big crowd. You may as well invite the history, art, and literature teachers and begin the process of expanding the breach into a more unified approach to all of education in the high schools, a 21st century “renaissance” of learning.
The goal of our physics-first sequence is science as a way of thinking designed to generate comfort with new ideas and with new situations so characteristic of our times.
In a three-year science sequence, one must include lots of pedagogic excursions to real world problems, sometimes contrived and sometimes real, that include interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches. These provide a link to the other disciplines. Teaching science without some appeal to its history, how do we know, how did we go wrong, and so forth, is dry as dust.
This new curriculum is for all students. Out of this, for students who might be interested in further science, there would be Advanced Placement courses or fourth-year elective courses. There are many things you can do for all students whether their future is jobs, liberal arts, or science and technology. There is also the hope of trying to do something about the famous two-culture gap, by giving all of our high school graduates of the 21st century a feeling for the essential unity of knowledge, emphasized perhaps by the variety in ways of knowing and thinking. Before one dismisses this as hopeless, one should think through the earning potential of such a graduate.
Now, let me get quickly to the relevance of all of this to this assembly. In advertising this stuff, in getting it in the New York Times, Science Magazine, NPR's Science Friday, and so forth, we became aware that there exists an array of high schools already doing a physics-first sequence.
We now have a listserv of 70 high schools around the nation—some private, some public—that are doing what they call “physics first.”
Some of these schools have been doing this for upward of 12 years. The reports we are getting from these schools are so extremely favorable that the physicist in me gets a little suspicious. How could it be so good? We hear that after the new sequence is installed, increases take place in fourth-year science electives, enrollment in AP science courses zooms up, college successes are recorded, and then, here is the funny thing, there is a dramatic effect on women and minority students from poor families who come into high school without a strong positive science and math
experience. Many of these schools tell us things like: “AP physics now has 53 percent women.” I remember AP physics as having one, two, or no women. What is going on?
One can have theories as to why this happens. Perhaps it is ninth grade physics, which is largely conceptual physics and doesn't really exercise more math than the students are already learning at that point. Perhaps it is a kinder, gentler introduction to science. Maybe ninth grade biology with its huge memorization and no real analytical processes is a turnoff. It seems to me that we must authenticate this. We now have a couple of graduate students in science education who are going to visit all the schools we can locate and quantify the data exactly: how many students go in, what happened before, and what happened afterwards. Anecdotally, the data we have now are very impressive as to the influence a coherent science sequence has on women and minority students actually staying in science, taking AP courses, taking fourth-year electives, and so on. If the data holds up, then we must try to understand why, and of course we must realize that if 70 or 200 schools are doing it right, we only have 15,697 high schools left to convince.
MENTORING MINORITY WOMEN IN SCIENCE: SPECIAL STRUGGLES
Richard Tapia, Professor
Computational and Applied Mathematics, Rice University
What I am going to do is share with you some of my experiences. I will somewhat deviate from the assigned task that I was given and share with you that which I know best. It certainly is an important part of the conference theme.
Representation of minority women Ph.D.s in the hard sciences is a big national failure. By hard sciences I mean the mathematical sciences, physics, and computer science.
Minority women comprise 75 percent of the undergraduate students at minority-serving institutions. These are the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the University of Puerto Rico and the Hispanic-serving institutions. Women are significantly well represented in the hard sciences at the undergraduate level in these schools. Minority women, both African American and Hispanic, out-earn their male counterparts in total Ph.D.s.
Minority men are greatly underrepresented in the hard sciences compared to majority men,
and our small minority representation in the hard sciences is predominantly male, not female. The conclusion is: minority women are on the move, but not in the hard-sciences Ph.D.s. They are not encouraged and are not retained in the Ph.D. hard-science programs.
The country's dilemma then falls into the following situations: there are basically no minorities in the hard sciences, and we are headed for serious problems in terms of representation; the minority men are becoming an endangered species in post-secondary education. They don't go into undergraduate and particularly graduate school, and minority women do not enter or are not retained through the Ph.D. level in the hard sciences.
We can conjecture on possible blame—culture, society, and faculty culture. Faculty culture is something that I would like to address. I may say some things that people don 't follow well or disagree with. So, let me give you the basis on which I developed these ideas.
In my career, at Rice, I have had 36 Ph.D. students. Fifteen of them have been women. My first student was a woman. She wrote an outstanding dissertation. Recently, Herb Keller at CalTech called me and said, “Richard, I was going to do a research project with a student, and I found that your student Mary Ann McCarthy had already done it, an excellent dissertation.”
Last year I had two minority Ph.D. students, two women. This year I had three minority Ph.D. students in the mathematical sciences, one African American, two Mexican Americans, all women. At times, our department puts out half the productivity of minority women math Ph.D.s in the United States. My graduate class in optimization consists of five women, no men. They are all my students. Three are minorities.
Certainly, a part of the success comes from my commitment, strong critical mass in our department, strong structured mentoring, and a support system. I would like to address the mentoring and the support system.
Our support system has received a lot of recognition, and it is the basis for the NSF Minority Graduate Education Award that we just received. We were the only school west of the Mississippi that received such an award.
My premise is the following: there exist significant differences between men, women, and minorities. The problems of women and minorities are different. Minority women share both. Women and minorities should not be lumped into the same category for purposes of correcting issues.
African Americans are different from Hispanics and Native Americans, especially foreign versus domestic. Mainland Puerto Ricans, affectionately called New Yoricans, share similarities with African Americans. Mexican Americans, somewhat affectionately called Chicanos, are similar to Native Americans, with very strong ties. Strangers are often confused by me. Am I Native American or am I Mexican American?
In the Houston Independent School District, where I am very involved, success or failure in a K-12 class can be a function of understanding the various Hispanic/Latino populations and the great variants among them.
Successful mentoring is facilitated by understanding these differences. You understand the individual better, and this builds trust
and respect. You become a credible individual.
Certainly, I find that women talk about their problems a lot easier than men. They also feel that they have the need to talk about this issue. Minorities and women tend to lean toward scientific areas that directly impact our lives or society; i.e., most of the women and minorities that I work with are in some aspect of computational biology, computational medicine, and so forth.
Minorities in majority schools have a strong need to be involved in some form of outreach so that they don't feel that they have turned their backs to their people. A part of my mentoring program involves minorities and women in outreach, but not to the extent that it endangers their careers.
Majority schools produce leaders. We need minority leaders. This is the point of the Bowen and Bok book, The Shape of the River. We need minority leaders. Majority schools produce majority leaders.
This point often seems to be missed. My argument is that underrepresentation endangers first the health of the nation, but not the health of the profession. The profession is going to live. Two disjoint cycles, minority and majority, are not healthy for the nation or the profession.
Special challenges that I share with you are these: women and minorities are extremely risk averse. I don't feel that they are born that way. I think it is something that we learn, but women and minorities are extremely risk averse, afraid of failure, and don't want it discovered that maybe they don't know something.
Minority women suffer from being members of both groups. It is often very difficult for minority women to make bold conjectures. Let me share with you a letter from a colleague of mine who is directing two minority women that I mentor, and he says to me, “Richard, I have been thinking a lot about A and B, both minority women and what this all means. It struck me that I see them both failing in the same way. They are incredibly risk averse. They just will not take a chance. They won't even attempt work that they are not sure about. They won't speak up in seminar. They won't even bug me when they don't understand something for fear of my reaction; no risk, no learning. What in this world makes them so unwilling to risk failure and therefore sure of experiencing it? It must be a helluva place for both of them, extremely dangerous. Is there anything we can do to fix this? I don't know. It is not role models that they are missing. ”
If we don't change this, we are going to find women and minorities who will be good scientists, good scientist assistants, good technicians, but certainly they will not take a leadership role in science.
When I say this about minorities, it is not exclusive to minorities. Everybody shares these things. I just think the problem is magnified within the minority community.
Consider the fulfillment of womanhood, motherhood, and extended family. Traditional culture dictates a dream with expectation of dating, marrying, raising children near their grandparents and family, and then grandchildren. Science culture sells an opportunity for them to either have no husband or a late marriage, no children or few and late, live away from the extended family, much stress, little relaxation. It is a very hard sell that women have to deal with. The family doesn't promote
the sell. The family says, “Look, you are 30 years old. You are not married, and you are still going to school.”
Consider another issue; minority women are attracted to minority men, but these men will not let them be the women that they want to be in terms of reaching out. When I am adviser to the minority communities at Rice, I deal with this issue all the time. When at Stanford, I dealt with that issue all the time. In the community they also have to deal with machismo, which is a part of the culture.
Also, no doubt about it, minority women identify with both groups, the minority group and the women. However, there is a conflict. There is a split. I have never had a minority woman claim a stronger identification to the women's movement than the minority movement. The implication is that there is more unmerited discriminatory behavior and more difficult problems there. I asked my wife yesterday about this. My wife is New Yorican. She said, “That is an interesting question, Richard,” and then she said, “Of course, the minority thing.”
It is interesting that when we have meetings like a recent Sloan Conference, that was a controversial issue. In fact, every minority woman said, “Identification to minority issues.” Every majority woman said, “It shouldn't be that way.” It is hard for them to accept this issue.
The faculty traditional hiring process is not fair to women and is extremely unfair to minorities. They are seen as not being sufficiently precocious, no theorems before the age of 25, and graduating with a Ph.D. at the age of 30.
I bring you a message from my women students. I told them that I was going to address this distinguished group. My women students got together and said, “Here are the kinds of things we would like for you to share with them: Mentoring is not something that you do from two to three on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It is something that you do at all times and in particular when the need arises and in the problem areas. We are not aware of the fact that we are being mentored or that we need mentoring. It is a part of our everyday experience and our professional training. Some faculty are terrible at mentoring. Not all faculty should mentor.”
I conclude with this: role models are not necessarily successful women or women of color. For the women that I work with, Mary Wheeler has played a strong role and has been a role model. Men can be very effective mentors for women. What is important in good mentoring is sensitivity to the special struggles that women and especially minority women face.
CONTROVERSY, THE INTERNET, AND DEFORMED FROGS: MAKING SCIENCE ACCESSIBLE
Marcia C. Linn, Professor
Development and Cognition, University of California, Berkeley
This material is based upon research supported by the National Science Foundation under grants EEC-9053807, MDR-9155744, RED-9453861, and DGE-9554564. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Special thanks to all the members of the Deformed Frogs! partnership, including the classroom teachers, the discipline specialists, the technology experts, and the students who have and will participate in the project.
I challenge all concerned about science education to remedy the serious declines in science interest, the disparities in male and female persistence in science, and the public resistance to scientific understanding by forming partnerships to bring to life the excitement and controversy in scientific research. Science controversies can offer
students a window on science in the making and showcase the diverse voices contributing to scientific discourse. Communicating a sense of the excitement that sustains and nurtures our quest for scientific understanding can infect students with a quest for lifelong science learning. When students see that scientists regularly revisit their ideas and rethink their views, students are empowered to do the same.
Giving students the opportunity to connect to a contemporary scientific controversy can establish valuable lifelong science learning patterns. Unlike typical science instruction, curriculum materials that feature current scientific controversies are more easily connected to the problems and concerns that students will face in their lives. They can prepare students to make decisions on other controversial science topics such as alternative medical treatments, environmental stewardship, nutrition, or smoking. In making decisions all during their lives, students will typically encounter controversial and conflicting material from diverse sources including scientific journals, news reports, testimonials, and the Internet. Science courses that incorporate this information into the curriculum can equip students to think critically and productively about new science topics.
This challenge of making sense of diverse findings motivates scientists, yet rarely occurs for science learners. Today, controversy in science is erased from the published record, obliterated from the science textbook, yet privileged in the popular press! Articles in scientific journals tend to focus on the results, often telling a rather uncontroversial story of hypothesis, resolution, and consensus (Latour, 1998; Lemke, 1990). Textbooks devote less than 1 percent of the material to controversy; the most common Internet science assignment is to read a few Web pages. It is no wonder that many students report that everything in the science textbook is currently true, with the possible exception of some of the true-false questions. Unless we design the curriculum carefully, they may also conclude that Internet materials are generally accurate. Rather than seeing science as a dynamic enterprise where scientists make sense of complex topics, students see science primarily as a collection of facts. When asked whether they should memorize science information or understand it, many students respond that memorization works the best (Linn & Hsi, 1999). Students distinguish classroom science textbook material from popular press accounts of scientific controversies, and often conclude that scientists are simply perverse and disagree with each other in the popular media because they do not want to change their minds. As a result, students may isolate the material learned in school and assume that it lacks relevance to science information they will encounter in their lives.
For example, when we ask middle school students whether science is relevant to their lives, many say, “No, there is nothing that I have learned in science that I can use in my life.” Others, like a student I will call Terry, give a superficial answer saying, “Yes, because there is science all around you. Almost everything has something to do with science.” When the interviewer asks, “Is it relevant outside of school?” Terry responds, “Yes, it is just not the same as what we do in school. It is just that is in school, and that is at home. So, the stuff is
different, you know?” When the interviewer persists, asking, “How is it different?” Terry replies, “Well, I mean at home that would be like if you really found something. This [science class] is like all set up, you know?” Terry separates school science from the out-of-school process of scientific inquiry. Consistent with Terry's comments, students have been heard to remark, “Objects in motion remain in motion in science class, but come to rest at home.”
Introducing the Deformed Frog Controversy
To remedy the lack of connection between school science and lifelong learning, we engaged students in exploring a contemporary controversy about frog deformities. We formed a partnership at Berkeley with graduate students from David Wake's laboratory, technology experts, assessment experts, pedagogical researchers, classroom teachers from a local
middle school, and middle school students (see http://wise.berkeley.edu).
The deformed frogs controversy motivates diverse students for many reasons. There is the “yuck, gross” factor. In addition, the topic was publicized in 1995 by a group of school children who discovered deformed frogs while on a fieldtrip to a pond in Minnesota (Figure 1). Students have returned to local ponds and documented increasing deformities. In some ponds, up to 80 percent of the frogs are deformed and some communities are distributing bottled water. Finally, the controversy connects to student concerns about environmental stewardship.
A contemporary controversy like deformed frogs can bring diverse voices of scientists to light in the classroom. Scientists in laboratories researching the controversy have created informative, accessible Internet materials (e.g., Lab for Studies of Regeneration and Deformed Frogs http://darwin.bio.uci.edu/~mrjc/; Deformed Amphibian Research at http://www.hartwick.edu/biology/def_frogs/).
We are investigating effective ways to help students use Internet materials to construct their own arguments and prepare for a classroom debate (see Linn et al., 1999). To help students understand this controversy, our partnership organized the Internet material around two main hypotheses. The parasite hypothesis says that increases in a parasite called a trematode explain the increase in frog deformities. Scientists can show that trematodes get into frog limb buds during metamorphosis and either block limb growth or enable multiple limbs to grow. The environmental chemical hypothesis says that increases in chemicals used to spray adjacent fields get into the pond water and cause the increase in deformities. In particular, methoprene, a chemical found in some pesticides, is closely related to retinoids, a growth hormone that has been shown to cause deformities in many organisms including frogs and humans.
To investigate the controversy, students examine a variety of evidence from several research laboratories, discuss their ideas with peers, search for additional information, form arguments, and participate in a debate. Students often bring in news articles about frog deformities both during the unit and after they have completed the unit. As a result, students can connect their science learning to out-of-school experiences and also revisit their ideas after completing classroom instruction.
The partnership constantly seeks additional evidence from research to help students revise their ideas and reconsider their views. For example, the partnership identified research on Lefty (Figure 2) as a pivotal case because the legs growing out of its stomach, rather than at the limb buds, raises doubts about the parasite hypothesis. The partnership seeks compelling results like these to spur student thinking.
Designing the Learning Environment
The partnership also benefited from a 15-year long research project called the Computer as Learning Partner (http://www.clp.berkeley.edu) that informed the design of the Web-based Integrated Science Environment used to deliver curriculum (WISE, http://wise.berkeley.edu). The cognitive and social research findings from
this research enabled the Deformed Frogs! partnership to get a head start on curriculum design. For example, as shown in Figure 2, the environment captures the inquiry process graphically on the left side of the screen. This inquiry map appears in every activity that students do using WISE giving students a consistent representation of the inquiry process. The WISE learning environment enabled the partnership to create controversy materials that draw on Internet materials and take advantage of classroom research.
The WISE inquiry map guides students to critique Web material, seek hints, respond to prompts by reflecting on ideas, and to question the source and validity of each Web site. Using WISE, students review evidence, take notes, get hints, discuss with peers, organize their ideas, and plan their debate presentation. Students can also participate in an on-line, asynchronous
discussion of specific questions relevant to the controversy such as: “How do laboratory experiments compare to studies of frogs found in the wild?” The learning environment structures the activities, helps students explore the controversy, encourages them to follow a consistent inquiry process, and frees the teachers to focus primarily on helping students develop their arguments.
To help students recognize that scientists can construe evidence differently in a contemporary controversy, we are gathering diverse perspectives on controversial topics. In a new project called Science Controversies On-line: Partnerships in Education (SCOPE) partnership, scientists represent their arguments and identify open questions using a visual representation as shown in Figure 3. Students can compare their representations to those of several scientists (see http://scope.educ.washington.edu).
Designing the Debate
Engaging students in debate is a novel activity for science class. The partnership spent a considerable amount of time honing and refining the debate activity to make it equitable and effective. Often, class discussions engage only a few students and privilege male views. To ensure that students connect all their ideas—not just classroom information—we developed a comprehensive classroom debate activity. Students had the opportunity to learn from each other and to respect diverse views.
To make the debate accessible, the partnership sought ways to frame the two hypotheses about frog deformities: parasites and environmental chemicals. The scientist members of the partnership initially framed the environmental chemical hypothesis in terms of the chemical similarity between methoprene and retinoids. The teachers pointed out that students in seventh and eighth grade had not studied chemistry, and therefore would not be able to make good sense of these chemical representations. The scientists and teachers looked for a way to analyze the environmental chemical hypothesis that captured the main issues in the controversy without frustrating students with details that were unfamiliar to them. The goal was to maintain the controversial character of this debate and to make sure that it was meaningful to the students. (See Linn & Muilenberg, 1995, for additional discussion of the level of analysis issue.) Rather than chemical representations, the partnership used a descriptive representation describing the character of the similarities. The teachers helped students to connect chemical similarities to other cases of mistaken identity.
The partnership selected cleared and stained frogs as a representation of the nature of the deformities that students could interpret. Students could analyze the shape and form of the deformities by looking at these skeletons. Students could compare cleared and stained frogs that had been exposed to different conditions. For example, students could contrast the appearance of limb deformities when frogs were raised under carefully controlled conditions in the laboratory and when frogs matured under more complex conditions in the wild.
The second main hypothesis, the parasite hypothesis, was easy to frame once the focus on cleared and stained frogs was made. For example, results from the “bead experiment” where researchers blocked limb growth using resin beads were easily compared to results from blockage because of parasites. The teachers worked with scientists to transform research descriptions into prose likely to communicate to students. For example, the term, “Mirror image limb duplications” needed to be unpacked and illustrated in order for students to understand it. We also added a glossary and supports for language learners. Three design decisions show how the partnership engaged students in scientifically responsible communication about a complex topic.
The teachers, scientists, and pedagogical researchers worked together to take Internet Web pages designed by the scientists and add pages that clarified material that students found complex and confusing. After several iterations between teachers and scientists, evidence that was acceptable to both groups and all members of the partnership emerged. The partnership
sought to depict this controversy in language and representations that students could understand, without losing the essential excitement and disagreement that existed in the field. The classroom results, discussed below, suggest that the partnership succeeded.
Conducting a Debate in Science Class
The teachers were initially skeptical about introducing debate in science class. One said, “I've never seen a debate in science class. ” Another remarked, “Students will disrupt, not pay attention.” Members of the partnership described successful middle school debates and invited a teacher, experienced in using debate, to meet with the Deformed Frogs! partnership and discuss using debate in science class. The partnership observed this teacher use a debate. Teachers asked questions like, “How did students learn to ask such good questions?” or “How can I model good debate behavior?” The teachers agreed to use several practices established by the experienced teacher, including requiring each student to write questions for each presenter and asking all groups to come prepared to debate both sides of the topic. This discussion focused on pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1986). The teachers discussed how to connect science subject matter knowledge and classroom practice knowledge to design a debate that allowed students to link and connect their ideas, to develop a more cohesive and robust understanding of science, and to respect each other.
One of the participating teachers volunteered to try the debate activity. The other teachers were able to observe or watch videos of the teacher enacting the debate. The teachers found that having students write questions down for each presenter meant that that student had the opportunity to think about questions that other presentations raised. In this way, the class as a whole had an opportunity to critique each others' presentations and to learn from every class member.
Each teacher then tried the debate. By repeating the debate in different classrooms, the teachers jointly refined their pedagogical content knowledge about debates concerning Deformed Frogs! They defined and identified pivotal cases that helped students shape their arguments. They developed excellent questions to model the questioning process for students. For example, they came up with thought experiments such as, “What would happen if you put adult frogs in water with lots of trematodes?” They also exploited pivotal cases like Lefty the Frog. The debate motivated many students to wonder whether there might be two or more factors at work in frog deformities. Students completed the debate activity and the Deformed Frogs! project with an understanding of these two hypotheses and a curiosity about the future.
Deformed Frogs! activity was carried out with diverse middle school students. Half the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches and 1 in 4 students speaks English at home. The teachers agreed that Deformed Frogs! was successful. One classroom teacher remarked, “Debate helped my students understand that scientists can resolve disputes with evidence.”
The quality of students' written questions impressed the teachers.
In the debates, most students were able to make sense of the evidence they encountered on the Internet and to use complex arguments. For example, one sixth grade girl made the following comments: “After the tadpoles grew up, the frogs in fresh methoprene didn't have any deformities in their eyes. But frogs in methoprene that had been in the sun for a while had deformities in the eyes or missing eyes. It proves that sun might play a big role in deforming a frog, but only if it reacts with methoprene.” Note that this student not only used complex vocabulary like methoprene and deformities, but also was able to accurately describe the potential interaction between multiple factors, a form of reasoning that rarely occurs in typical science classes.
This example also illustrates that when students are involved in the sustained reasoning and complex argumentation necessary to carry out a debate about this kind of controversy, they learn the vocabulary in the service of science rather than the other way around. Too often students memorize vocabulary only to isolate and forget it. In this case, students have incorporated vocabulary that they can use productively in the future.
The proportion of students turning in assignments was another indication that the controversy activity made science accessible. The teacher of the regular seventh grade science classes reported that her students typically turned in about 67 percent of class assignments. In contrast, 98 percent of her students turned in their Deformed Frogs! assignments. She argued that students were more likely to turn in these assignments because they were highly motivated to understand the material.
Teachers also reported that the Deformed Frogs! activity gave them another way to evaluate students' ability to learn science. Some of the stars in the debate had never previously engaged in science. The teachers took this as evidence that current instruction was simply not reaching a proportion of students who could be successful. Debate observers, including the school principal, expressed amazement at the contributions of some students who had primarily been viewed as discipline problems in the past. One student, who spent most of science class prior to Deformed Frogs! with her head down on her desk, first participated in science during the Deformed Frogs! activity. She reported that she participated because the teacher and students cared about her opinion—no one had ever cared about her ideas before. She was a star in the debate presenting a coherent and articulate account of her perspective on the controversy and answering questions effectively. On the class post-test, she persisted for a few pages, complained that written tests are boring, and put her head down.
The Deformed Frogs! partnership concurrently designed the pre-tests, post-tests, inquiry activities, and curriculum materials to ensure that instruction and assessment were aligned. One assessment question required students to look at a new deformed frog and explain what they think caused the deformity. Prior to instruction, students gave very general explanations for the possible causes of frog deformities. Students said things like “something in the water” or “something it ate” or “radioactivity.” On the post-test, over two-thirds of the
students were able to use the mechanism for the parasite hypothesis that they learned from the Internet evidence. One good example of an answer is “Trematodes goes into the limb buds of the tadpole. When tadpole goes through metamorphosis, it deforms frog limbs. It could split a leg into two or stop it from growing.” This answer reveals the student to be a language learner. It also captures a complex argument learned from reviewing and integrating the web resources.
Only about one-third of the students could give the fully instructed mechanism concerning the environmental chemical hypothesis on the post-test. We attribute this difference in success to the greater complexity of the environmental chemical hypothesis. In reviewing and revising instruction, we will improve the materials and activities relevant to this hypothesis. On all the assessment measures we found that males and females were equally successful.
Deformed Frogs! enabled diverse students to gain a robust and cohesive understanding of a complex scientific research program. Students could debate using evidence from scientific research. They remained open to future research findings and recognized that the controversy was not yet resolved. They made good connections between their scientific activities in class and science in the wild. They brought news articles into class and reported discussing their science activities with family, friends, and parents. They continued to bring in new articles on the topic all during the school year.
We cannot yet know whether this controversy has set more students on a path toward lifelong learning but we do know that more students participated in science, more students gained scientific understanding, and students became more aware of the excitement that motivates scientists to pursue careers in science. We also observed no differences, in participation or success, for males and females. In related classroom research, we have found that instruction based on this framework does lead to more persistence and interest in science for students from all backgrounds (Linn & Hsi, 1999).
This research project conducted in partnership with teachers, educators, scientists, and technologists demonstrates the challenges associated with designing effective instruction. Deformed Frogs! succeeds because the partnership designed the instruction and continues to refine the materials based on classroom research. Too often science instruction is decreed by framework committees or textbook writers rather than designed for the student audience. Students cannot succeed when the instruction is isolated from their ideas or when the assessments lack connection to the curriculum.
The pedagogical framework to promote the linked and coherent understanding students displayed features four main ideas. First, the framework calls for making science accessible by crafting an effective representation of a complex controversy, such that students can participate and explore compelling, contemporary scientific ideas. Selecting a level of analysis for environmental chemistry hypotheses was guided by this framework idea. Current controversies make science accessible by enabling students to connect school and
personally relevant science ideas, and by illuminating reports in the popular press. Students are concerned about environmental stewardship and connect Deformed Frogs! to their views.
Second, the framework calls for making thinking visible. Allowing teachers and students to hear diverse voices of scientists is one way to make thinking visible. When scientists model the process of scientific dispute resolution, students observe science in the making and can identify with one scientist or another. The deformed frogs controversy also makes students' ideas visible by offering representations of arguments like the one in Figure 3. Our future work will enable students to compare the argument maps that they create to argument maps created by scientists (http://scope.educ.washington.edu/index.html).
Third, the framework calls for providing diverse opportunities for students to listen and learn from each other. Students specialize as they research a controversy and share their experience with others. For example, some students became expert in understanding the staining process and explained how it worked to other students. Most important, students learned from each other during the debate activity by articulating their ideas, asking questions in class, and responding to questions.
Fourth, the framework calls for promoting lifelong learning. Enabling students to make connections between what they learn in science class, what they read in the newspaper, hear about on television, or believe about the environment contributes to lifelong learning. By prompting students to reflect on their ideas and to write explanations, we encourage students to reconsider and revisit ideas on their own. In addition, students learned to critique Internet evidence, a skill that they will need in the future. Students asked questions about the origin and authorship of Internet materials. Students became aware that researchers preferred certain methodologies. They noted that some scientists primarily base their assertions on observations of frogs in the wild while other groups preferred to perform laboratory experiments. Students learned to distinguish the potential information value of materials from these different methodological approaches. Students also gained an awareness of the criteria used in different laboratories to evaluate research findings. These ideas can help students as they continue to explore science.
In conclusion, I encourage scientists everywhere to bring contemporary controversies to life to increase the number of students who persist in science. By forming partnerships, including experts in the science disciplines, classroom teaching, pedagogy, and technology, we can create a repertoire of compelling controversies that communicate to students. The WISE learning environment can help by allowing designers to capitalize on current pedagogical research on equitable instruction. Enabling more and more students to make sense of contemporary controversies can also raise public awareness of current science policy issues.
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