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New Directions in Science Education

(CCT697, Sum 00)

Initial Goals
I organized and taught in this course for several reasons: a) to create visibility for my CCT emphasis on science in its social context and, through non-credit options, to draw non-students; b) to teach in my specialty science-STS area given that teaching required CCT courses meant I had not been able to during the previous year; c) to experiment with a course consisting of Friday-Saturday, 1-credit workshops so as to accommodate students and faculty who did not want to give up either their weeks or their weekends during the summer; and d) to fulfill unmet need in GCOE for secondary science education courses.

Apart from organizing the course, I would lead one of the two-day workshops on the topic Science in its Social Context, along the lines of CCT611 (see 4.) One goal I had was to stimulate participants to study or collaborate further with me.

Challenges and Responses
Many of the for-credit students turned out to be M.Ed. students seeking a science course to complete their degree, so I did not recruit them to further courses! The evaluations indicate that some of them wanted the workshop leaders to translate their approaches into the terms of science classrooms operating under the pressure of MCAS. However, others came to accept that stimulation was sufficient; it was up to them to do the translation.

In my workshop, which had a large number of additional non-credit participants, discussion was lively. I found, however, that energy flagged by the end of the second day and, even beforehand when analyzing the homework reading, I carried more weight than I preferred in keeping things going. Beside shortening the workshop or reverting to a standard weekly class format, the best response I can see is to draw the participants into a group project that they would be invested in finished. For example, I could use a problem-based learning (PBL) unit about new developments in human reproduction that I adapted from a case Steve Fifield introduced me to (see entry in Thinking for Change fieldbook on CCT website). Such a workshop would follow well after Nina Greenwald's on PBL.

Future Plans
Before I make the shift from a mini-course on science-in-society to PBL, the course needs to be formalized as a new course or the description of CCT640 altered so as to highlight its attention to new directions in science education. I was not able to prepare this proposal in time for last summer's catalogue and the course did not attract sufficient enrollment using the old description inserted by the publications department. I do not plan to organize the course next summer, preferring to see if the need for it is less now that I am teaching more science-STS seminars and Hannah Sevian has joined the GCOE faculty to teach in the area of secondary science education. In the meantime, I continue to seek opportunities to lead science-STS workshops (see sections I.B.3 and III.A of my personal statement) and am learning to lead PBL classes (see 12. below).

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