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Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Fulcrum Institute Development Team

Case One: Your Learning (~3.5 hrs.)

To set a context for this week's assignment, first consider the students in your classroom. What evidence do you use to find out what your students understand? You may use what you hear, for example, a student’s response to a question, or conversation with a classmate. You can also use what you see, for example, written artifacts or students’ actions such as their use of materials. At any rate, collecting evidence is not an easy part of your job. Documenting learning or change in understanding is challenging.

Let's start with the case of your own learning. Your challenge this week is to use evidence - your responses to questions and conversations with peers, your written artifacts or actions - to describe and chart the development of your own understanding of a concept related to heat and temperature during the past four weeks.

A. Pick a concept and describe your understanding

Science Concepts Sessions 1-4

  1. On a microscopic scale temperature of an object is a measure of the average kinetic energy of the moving particles of which the object is composed.
  2. There is a net energy flow from hotter objects to colder objects - the greater the difference in temperature between the objects the faster the rate of flow of energy.
  3. Energy is transferred by convection by the movement of the material itself. On a microscopic scale this means that faster moving molecules colliding with slower moving molecules will tend to transfer energy to the slower moving ones.
  4. Energy is transferred by conduction from regions of higher temperature to regions of lower temperature without mass moving. On a microscopic scale, energy is transferred from particle to particle within certain materials, or from one material to another when the two are in direct contact.

Pick one of the concepts above that you understand in a new or deeper way now than you did when you started the course.

In your teaching journal

With the concept you have chosen in mind, think about how you would complete this sentence:

“I used to think ….. Now I think … These unanswered questions remain …“

B: Find evidence that your science ideas form and change

In the case of your learning about this concept, what do you think made the learning happen?

We can’t be certain how ideas form or change. However, we can seek a trail of evidence and try to make sense of it.

What made the learning happen?
  • some aspect of an investigation?
  • a reading?
  • discussion with colleagues?
  • a reflection?
  • a particular example or question?
  • the answer to a question?
  • a challenge?
  • a chance to apply the new learning?

Where's the evidence?

  • Revisit your journal entries
  • Revisit your messages from Sessions 1-4.

Mark evidence that your thinking was clarified or enlarged. See if you can reconstruct a sequence of ideas as they developed. Pin point the moments when your ideas began to change and list them in your journal. How did you know a change was occurring? What triggered this recognition? If you found you were confused, what step could you or did you take to clear up the confusion? What “worked” for you? If there were roadblocks, how did you get around them?

C. Write up your case

Understanding can be elusive. Sometimes we think we’ve got a grip on a concept only to find that the next day it’s become muddled or slipped away. If an idea is complex, there is always something more to understand.

To write up your case, identify the concept you chose. Using your notes from Parts A and B and responses to the questions below, write one or two paragraphs that tell a tale of your science learning.

  • What pre-existing understandings about the concept you chose did you bring with you?
  • How were you made aware of your ideas and thinking initially and during the change process?
  • What made the learning happen?
  • What about the “replacement” process? Did you have to give up a previous understanding and replace it with a new one? Explain.
  • What strategies did you use to monitor your learning? How did you acquire these strategies?
  • What evidence did you find to document your current understanding?

You'll post your case in the Teaching Forum by Tuesday.

D. Find out more about how people learn

Great strides have been made in understanding how people learn with important implications for teachers. To gain an overview of this work, read Learning: From Speculation to Science from How People Learn, Brain, Mind, Experience and School, (2000). Bransford, J., Brown, A, Cocking, R editors. Note: This is a large PDF file, it may take a few moments to download.

Add to the Case of Your Learning

After you finish reading, add the answer to the question below to the description of the case of your learning.

  • In what ways does the Bransford et al reading shed light on the case of your own learning?

In the Classroom (~1.5 hrs)

A. Your students' perspective

How do your students know

  • how, if, and when their ideas are changing?
  • whether they do (or don't) understand what they're studying?

Have a 10 minute discussion with your class. Ask them one (or both if you have time) of the questions we've just posed above and let us know what you learn in the Teaching Forum.

B. Children's pre-existing Ideas

Read Primary Science: Taking the Plunge, Chapter 5, pp.48-57 (top), where Harlen summarizes some of the research about children's ideas in major areas of science.

Note: You will read about children’s ideas about heat and temperature in Session 7.