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03 SCE 3106 Activities

03 SCE 3106 Activities

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04/14/2013

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Week 1
Higher order thinking
Russell Tytler, March 28, 2004There is a lot of focus currently on the notion of higher order thinking, particularlyin relation to the Middle Years concerns, focusing on engaging students inmeaningful learning. Terms such as the ‘Thinking Curriculumare used todescribe a school focus on deeper level ideas. Higher order thinking is used as aterm to describe a number of related ideas, all essentially held to be in contrast torote learning, learning of facts, superficial thinking etc. Schemes such Bloom’staxonomy have been used to order knowledge forms in a hierarchy, withinformation at the bottom (Bloom called it ‘knowledge’ but the term tends to havea wider meaning these days), then comprehension, then higher levels such asapplication, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The ‘three tiered intellect’ usessimilar terms, with higher order thinking being associated with words such asinterprets, analyses, reflects, evaluates….Also associated with higher level thinking are dimensions of creativity, or divergent thinking. Emphasising, in science tasks, such things as creativity,imagination, flexibility all aim at developing in students a capacity to think throughideas and apply them to a range of contexts, to think ‘outside the square’ and tothink critically.Higher level thinking is also associated with investigative practices in science,and with problem solving. Such behaviours and knowledge as askinginvestigable questions, designing investigations or measurement procedures,critically evaluating evidence, thinking of ways to test ideas etc. are all part of what we would hope an engaged and resourceful student to be doing.The first two SIS Components of effective teaching and learning are closelyrelated to higher level thinking. These are given below, with links to the scienceeducation literature.
1. Encouraging students to actively engage with ideas and evidence
Component 1 is a key characteristic of effective teaching and learning. It is linkedwith a number of important ideas that appear in the science education researchliterature, and in curriculum and innovation change projects.
The key idea embodied in this Component is that real learning is an active process that involves students being challenged, and challenging each other,rather than accepting received wisdom and practicing its application
. Apredominant image projected by this Component is thus one of the active,searching mind. The underlying logic of this Component is consistent withconstructivist insights into
 
learning.
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This does not in any way diminish, however, the role of the teacher. If anything itmakes teachers’ roles more complex and difficult, in asking them to encouragestudents to express their ideas, but to maintain a high standard of challenge andattention to evidence based on scientific traditions. The Component combinestwo ideas — that learning involves activity and engagement, and that scientificprocesses fundamentally involve argument from evidence. It is hard, in apractising science classroom situation, to separate these notions.
Related ideas in the science education literature:
Sharing intellectual control, or student centredness — The idea that students’ideas be treated with respect is well established in research on students’conceptions and research on learning in science. The Monash UniversityExtended PD materials, now embedded within the SISPD program, emphasisedthis control aspect. One cannot expect students to be engaged with a pre-packaged program entirely dictated by teachersunderstandings, and thisComponent asks that teachers take some risks in acknowledging that students,if they are to learn, must be given a measure of control over the ideas that arediscussed.Inquiry based learning — This is a term much in vogue in the U.S., implying thatscience teaching and learning must be based on students actively exploring andinvestigating and questioning. This is different to ‘discovery learning’ which, in itspure form, implied somehow that students could learn science simply byundertaking appropriate practical investigations, and under-represented thecritical role of the teacher in structuring and responding to student experiences. Arelated phrase often used in primary science education is ‘hands-on, minds-on’science. It is the ‘minds-on’ part that is referred to by this Component.Student autonomy, and responsibility for learning These ideas emphasiseboth the active and intentional nature of learning and the purpose of schooling inpromoting autonomous adults. Engagement is a prior condition for both. TheMiddle Years concern with student engagement with ideas and with schooling isalso linked to this Component. The Component should not be thought about,however, simply in terms of motivation or a willingness to join in. It focusesclearly on ideas.Maximising student-student interaction A video study of mathematics andscience teachers (Clark, 2001) found that the key determinant of a rich learningenvironment was the amount of high quality student – student dialogue. Thiscould be taken as one of the critical features of engagement with ideas.Community of learners This idea of a class or group as a communitydedicated to particular forms of learning sits comfortably with Component 1,since ‘engagement with ideas and evidence’ can be interpreted as a communal
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enterprise. Social constructivism, or socio cultural theory, is also linked with thisidea.Argumentation — there is growing interest in idea that the ability to frame andrespond to argument is an important focus for science education. Science as it ispracticed in the community is characterized by argument based on evidence.Science processes and concepts of evidence The teaching of scienceprocesses has a long history in science education. These are sometimes called‘skills’, but in fact there is a good deal of knowledge associated with things likeexperimental design, measurement principles, or analysis. Evidence is handledin science in particular ways (eg. principles of sampling, or variable control, or measurement procedures) and learning how this occurs in a more formal way isa part of this first Component. The teaching and learning focus associated withthis would include being taught how to do things like sample biological data,control variables, set up tables, deal with measurement error etc. These may betaught explicitly, but teaching for an understanding of the way evidence is usedwould imply that students need to learn to make decisions about design,measurement and analysis. Open ended investigations form an important end of the practical work spectrum.
2. Challenging students to develop meaningful understandings
Component 2 raises the questions ‘what does it mean to understand something in science’, and ‘what is meaningful? 
’ Neither are straightforward questions. Theteachers who were originally interviewed to
 
develop the Components talked of deeper level understandings, or understandings that would be
 
revisited indifferent situations to enrich and challenge.
Related ideas in the science education literature:
Student conceptions — The research into student conceptions shows clearly thatstudents come to any science topic with prior ideas that will often contradict thescience version of understanding, that can interfere with learning. Learning, andgaining understanding should be viewed often as a shift in perspective rather than something implanted over nothing. The conceptual change literature, whichemphasises probes of understanding, and challenge activities, is thus relevant tothis Component. Lesson and topic structure becomes important for thedevelopment of understanding.Metacognition The work of the PEEL project has important links to thisComponent, focusing on student learning strategies, and control over learning. If students are to establish deeper level understandings they need to be helped todevelop good learning habits, and to monitor the adequacy of their ownunderstandings. These ideas underlie the ‘thinking curriculum’ focus of some of the Middle Years projects.
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