NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

Guiding Science Expeditions: The Design of a Learning Environment for Project-Based Science

A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS for the degree DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Field of Education and Social Policy - Learning Sciences

By Joseph Louis Polman

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS June 1997

© Copyright by Joseph Louis Polman 1997 All Rights Reserved

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Abstract

Guiding Science Expeditions: The Design of a Learning Environment for Project-Based Science

Joseph Louis Polman

Project-based pedagogy has been revived recently as a teaching strategy for promoting students’ active engagement in learning science by doing science. Numerous reform efforts have encouraged project-based teaching in high schools, along with a range of supports for its implementation, often including computers and the Internet. History has shown, however, that academic research and new technologies are not enough to effect real change in classrooms. Ultimately, teachers accomplish activity with their students daily in classrooms. Putting the idea of project-based teaching into practice depends on many particulars of teachers’ situated work with students. To better understand the complexity of project-based science teaching in schools, I conducted an interpretive case study of one exceptional teacher’s work. The teacher devotes all class time after the beginning of the year to open-ended, student-designed Earth Science research projects. Over four years of involvement with the Learning through Collaborative Visualization (CoVis) reform effort, this teacher has developed, implemented, and refined strategies for supporting and guiding students in conducting open-ended inquiry. Through a close examination of the teacher’s work supporting student projects, I explore the design issues involved in such an endeavor, including affordances, iii

constraints, and tradeoffs. In particular, I show how time constrains both student and teacher action, how the traditional school culture and grading create stumbling blocks for change, and how conflicting beliefs about teaching and learning undermine the accomplishment of guided inquiry. I also show how Internet tools including Usenet news, email, and the World Wide Web afford students an opportunity to gather and make use of distributed expertise and scientific data resources; how an activity structure, combined with a corresponding structure to the artifact of the final written product, supports student accomplishment of unfamiliar practices; and how the teacher guides students in real time through mutually transformative communication. I synthesize the important design elements into a framework for conducting project-based science, especially in settings where such pedagogy is relatively new. This study will inform teachers and reformers of the practical and complex work of implementing project-based teaching in schools.

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Acknowledgments

I didn’t expect to be rendered mute after writing hundreds of pages, but I’m not sure how to start this, or how to express my appreciation to all those who have helped me to get where I am and to get this “wondrous monster” done. First of all, I am grateful to the National Science Foundation—under grant numbers RED-9454729 and MDR88-55582—and the Illinois State Board of Education—under the Eisenhower program—for funding this work. Besides the teachers mentioned in Appendix A, I’d like to thank Duncan Smith and Catherine Fraser for facilitating some of the best learning of my undergraduate years. This work is about the design of a learning environment, and the Brown-Rostock Exchange was a truly amazing learning experience. Thanks to all my friends in Rostock who were my informal teachers every day, especially Grit, Ingmar, Jana, Heiko, Volker, and Thom. The many CoVis teachers and students I have known over the years deserve praise for their courage in trying something new and difficult. I’d like to thank especially the original six teachers for working and thinking so hard with us: of course Rory Wagner, and Patty Carlson, Larry Geni, Mary Beth Hoffman, Ken Lewandowski, and George Dervis. Obviously, I am forever indebted to Rory and his students for sharing their lives and opinions openly with me. I hope what I have written here makes it clear how greatly I admire Rory’s perseverance and hard work, and how much I enjoyed spending time dayto-day with Rory and his students. The CoVis team at Northwestern is undoubtedly the most intelligent and talented group of people I have ever worked with. I want to thank the cohort of students I started with: Laura D’Amico, Barry Fishman, Doug Gordin, and Kevin O’Neill. We grew into v

our careers and developed many of our ideas together. Thanks also to the rest of the CoVis team past and present: Steve McGee, Eileen Lento, Joey Gray, Danny Edelson, Phoebe Peng, Susie Rand, Linda Ortega, Sam Kwon, Greg Shrader, Lars Rasmussen, Raul Zaritsky, and Dan Vermeer. I value all your companionship over the years, and thank you for working with me. Without Roy and Louis’ vision, CoVis could not have happened; their powerful ideas about teaching, learning, and communication have become so much a part of my existence that I can barely distinguish my own personal ideas from theirs and the rest of the group’s. A special thanks to Laura for keeping me plugged in to CoVis goings on from afar. During the innumerable trips I made back to Evanston, I have been the beneficiary of more hospitality than I could have dreamed possible. Thank you Laura and Kevin, Eileen, Don and Jack, Barry and Teresa, Dee Dee, Taf, and Sofia, and Danny and Vivian for putting up with me and putting me up. I bestow the following awards on my gracious hosts: Don—best cook, Eileen—most outlandish taste in movies, Laura and Kevin—best burn stories, Barry and Teresa—best knowledge of popular and soon-to-be-popular culture. Thank you all for making me feel welcome; I always enjoyed being able to catch up after being away, and winding down with you in the evening after busy work days. I want to thank some of the other people who made graduate school what it was for me. My fellow graduate students—especially Brian Smith, Nichole Pinkard, Sandor Szego, Eric Baumgartner, Bill Sandoval, and Ben Loh—were a pleasure to learn with and hang out with. Thank you as well to the graduate school faculty beyond my committee, especially Brian Reiser, Carol Lee, Richard Beckwith, Roger Schank, Larry Birnbaum, Joe Walthers, and Mike Ravitch.

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I did not know when I assembled my committee how well they would end up complementing one another, but I consider myself lucky to have received such a balance of inspiration, prodding, and challenge. Thanks to Allan Collins for his gift of theoretical and descriptive clarity, as well as his difficult questions—addressing them was inevitably helpful. Thanks to Louis Gomez for tolerating a different and seemingly dubious path, and giving me positive feedback on what I did along that path; his daily warmth is part of what made working for CoVis a pleasure. Thanks to Bill Ayers, a consummate teacher, for the inspiration with his research and writing. I always depended on Bill to remind me that what I was trying to do could be done; his unwavering confidence in me and ability to help me see that I needed to and could “take him there” was crucial. Thanks to Roy Pea for encouraging me along this path in the first place, and for providing essential feedback and encouragement every step of the way from formulation to the drafting and rewrite of each chapter and section. Completing the final stages of this dissertation was spurred in part by some exciting prospects for future work which Jim Wertsch developed with me and helped get funded. His encouragement and good sense have been prized over the past few months, and I look forward to putting our plans into action in St. Louis. If it weren’t for music, I would have gone crazy working alone in my office during many days and every fourth night when Katie was on call. The credit for theme music for my writing goes to the Glory soundtrack, Natalie Merchant, Phillip Glass, Sheryl Crow, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Victoria Williams, and the Dave Matthews Band, among others. There are too many friends to thank everyone individually. It has been a great treat to spend time with Rich and Joanne over the last year again, and we will miss them, Matthew, and Nick so much. vii

To my brother. Bill. and for the gift of their interest in my work over the past couple of years. sisters and nephew: we have been through a lot. Thank you to the Plax clan—Julie. Laura. James and Charlie—for welcoming me. Discovering and contemplating the world. I miss those who are gone and hope that my life will have as much meaning to others as all of yours have to me. Josh. Joe and Jo. as well as internal editor. Sarah. Ted. and our future is continually exciting. viii . Dee Dee. Andy. Also Grandma. And finally. Kate.Thank you to my family for making me who I am today: Mom and Dad. I look forward to planting a garden with you and seeing it grow for years to come. Stan and Marge. Alison. It is amazing to think how we all have grown. each other. but doing it together with you has made it better. Taf. Steve. Danny. Being with you these years has been the most wonderful thing to happen to me. thank you Katie for being my partner and inspiration and beloved. Becky and Louie. and Sofia.

.................................................................................................... 1 Project-based science reforms in general and in context....... iii Acknowledgments........................................................... 30 Reason six: Economic and political pressures......... Everest ...........................................Table of Contents Abstract... 19 The plan for this document........ 32 A synthesis—situationally constrained choice ...... 34 Can computers and networking provide supportive resources?..................................................... 35 ix ...... Page 1....................................................................................................... v List of Tables ......... 24 So it has been tried before—what happened?........................................ 1 A day in the life of a project-based science class......... Expeditions to Mt.............................. 28 Reason three: The social control role of schooling.... 13 The complexity of particular reform efforts ................ 14 The nature of learning environment design..................................................................................................................................... 26 Reason two: Interference of school and task structures with reform............................................................... 29 Reason five: The social context of teaching and learning in classrooms................................................................................................................................. 26 Reason one: Misguided implementation of reform......................... 23 Hasn’t this been tried before?... Historical background: Haven’t we tried this path before? ... 29 Reason four: The culture of teaching and beliefs about teaching/learning................... xv List of Illustrations.............................................. 21 2............... xvi Chapter.......................................................................................... 16 The benefits of qualitative study of an evolving design...................................................................................

................................................ 82 x ................................................................................ 39 Aspirations need to be met in real classrooms............................................................................................................................... Getting from questions to methods.......................... 69 Swimming upstream ...................................................... 64 Focusing on particularizability over generalizability....... 54 Putting interpretive methods to work.................... 48 Backdrop: Goals of the CoVis project........................................................................ 76 5........................................................... 38 Emerging importance of computing and networking technology ......................... 80 Modeling a science research project................... 55 The central role of meaning............................ 51 What’s the treatment? ............................................................................ 45 3................ 52 Prying open the black box.................................... 49 Early answers lead to more questions............................. 42 The importance of examining change in detail in one setting................................................................................... 57 “Being there” for extended periods of time. A teacher’s journey: Finding shoes that fit.................... 68 4................................ 37 Emerging views of learning ........................................................ 63 Typification and categorization of data and events................. 75 The hiking shoes fit ................. 72 Lessons from the “practical tinkerer”....... The difficulty of “bootstrapping” students into new practices ................... 52 Goals and limitations of process-product research.......................................................................................................... 61 Checking interpretations with informants.............................. 58 Triangulation of data sources.................... 48 Realizations lead to questions .................................................................. 69 Fish out of water................................ 79 The need for bootstrapping... 66 Using the products of research..................................................................................................................... 48 Setting the stage for interpretive research........A particular historical moment ....................................

.. take two.... 136 An example of how to do a project... 88 6....................................... 130 Conclusion: Groundwork activities as a transition................................................... 142 xi ................ Setting the stage in a new year ..............................................................Modeling a project................................................................ Laying the groundwork for projects ................ 137 The hurricanes project: Cooking up science by following the path................... 90 The first day: Introduction to the setting and actors................ the class......................... 93 Experiences in other science classes..................................................... 140 Who are the cooks................ 109 Overview of the first quarter ........ 124 Lectures and videos as seeds for later projects...... 117 Lectures and videos as means of covering standard content............................................................................ 121 Lectures and videos as means of conveying how science is practiced..................................... and seeds for projects .... 110 Lectures and videos: Content........ 134 8... 100 Where they’re going: Overview of CoVis.......... 109 Computer activities: Learning to use new tools .................................................................................................... not teacher questions. scientific practice. 87 Alternative forms of modeling ................................. 127 Limitations and pitfalls of the groundwork activities............. 86 The pitfalls of modeling..................................................... 90 Where the students are coming from.................. 140 What’s for dinner........ 141 Interlude: The development of milestones and the paper format............................................................ How structuring activity works ................................................................................................... 136 Milestones as a guide to “cooking up science from scratch” ..................... 103 7....................................................... 93 Interest in science and this class......................... 140 Background preparation......... 97 The school and community context........................................................................................................................................... and projects. 118 Interlude: Dialogue sequences punctuated by student questions.........................................................

................................................................................... 172 The UFOs & Aliens project: Falling through the cracks ...................... 185 The Zodiac project: It seemed like plenty of time ........................................... not the sun......... 207 The impossibility of providing crystal-clear instructions..... 157 The “Moons” project: Asking “why?” over and over again.......................................................................................... 148 Serving the meal in a “spaghetti bowl”............................................................................................. 220 Work grades: A tactic for decreasing teacher and student risk...................................................................................................................... 217 The Dinosaur Extinction project: Just trying to get by............................................................................................................................................................ 209 The Sun project: From cooperation to explosion......................... 200 Increased ambiguity and risk in project-based class...... 219 Student responsibility for work.......... 199 Earthquakes: Shocks and aftershocks of angling for the grade........................... 188 Conclusion .............................. 154 Final presentation of the meal ...... 151 Adjusting the seasonings for a new course.............................................. 214 Debbie explodes................................................. 196 1 0 ................ 212 Efforts to fix problems.................................................................................. 172 Rory’s limited time and its allocation........................... 224 xii .............................. 199 Introduction ............. 182 Compounding problem: Avoidance............................................. How the school culture affects guided participation .................................... 203 Ulterior motives for seeking guidance........ 206 Learning the science research article genre........................ Time problems and falling through the cracks ...................... 212 The seeds for anger....................................................Constructing your own recipe.................. 167 9............ 144 Gathering and organizing the ingredients..................... 158 Summary: Lessons learned and prospects for future research and development................................................................................................. 172 Introduction ................ 176 Rory’s reactive stance and reasons for it........................... 215 End result: A wholly adversarial relationship..

....... 228 Opposing epistemologies of teaching and learning ....... 236 Introduction: A tree swaying between extremes........................................................... 266 Motivational benefits of openness to student ideas ........ 283 Adapt and improvise: Improvements through iterative design.................................................................................. 225 Seeking teacher buy-in over scientific disagreements ..................................... Retracing our steps and considering their implications .................................... 244 Interlude: Transformative communication..................................................................................................... not putting yourself in............. 265 UFO Sightings: Balancing student voice with teacher advice ........................................... 229 Summary ..... 233 1 1 ............................................................................................... 286 Tradeoffs of project-based science in schools................................................................................................................................................................ poor choices.. and misunderstandings............................................... 247 Digging up plesiosaurs successfully: Developing fluency with a variety of tools......... 281 Looking back.............Problems with work grades: Time and affordances of assessment practices............................................................................................. 267 Pitfalls of student ownership and control: Resource use................. 237 Search follies....... 269 Repeating the cycles........................... 276 Conclusion ...................................... 284 The challenge: “Tutoring” more than twenty students at once........................................................... 258 Using a sample write-up as a model................ 254 Group difficulties and combustion..................................................................................... 285 A design framework for project-based science learning ................................................................................................................................... 279 1 2 .................................................... 282 The need to customize these ideas for other situations... 292 xiii .................... The balancing act: Coaching........................... 281 The call for models... 236 Plesiosaurs: Inspiration and combustion......... 264 Postscript to Plesiosaurs: Scientific interest and professional collaboration for the teacher ................. 238 Negotiating a research proposal.

................................... 344 February 1996 interview with Rory Wagner......................................................... 298 The promise of expeditions into science............ 347 February 1996 interview with students...................... 302 Appendix ................................... References .. 346 December 1995 interview with students........................ 357 xiv . 331 Refined study conception............... 299 1 3 ..................................... 341 September 1995 interview with Rory Wagner................. Page A......................................................................... 354 BACKGROUND INFORMATION...... 339 February 1995 interview with Rory Wagner............................................... C........................... 315 Original study conception.....................Continued change as inevitable and revitalizing...... 348 E....................................................... B.............................................................. Class handouts ............................................................................. 356 PROJECT REPORTS............................................................................... A personal story: Walking around in other people’s shoes .................................. 351 Project Milestones and Due Dates ....................... 339 May 1995 Interview with Rory Wagner........................... D................................................ 350 HOW TO DO AN EARTH SCIENCE PROJECT............. upon entering the field (10/17/94) .................................... 297 Resources for guiding expeditions into science............................. 335 Teacher and student interview guides .. before entering the field (7/18/94)...............................

.. 182 Observed student.... 10.................................................... 9........... 83 Mean student responses to survey items on science interest....... 152 Observed number and topics of groups’ discussions with Rory.................................................. 287 Tradeoffs in teaching practices.................. teacher-initiated interactions by group............................................ 12.......................... Sources of field notes from first half of 1995-96......... 14. Page 1........ 3... 2............. from slide show.. 7...... 6.......................................... 293 xv ... 13.. 125 Number of student questions in observed lectures .................... 15..... 180 Variation in observed teacher-student interactions throughout project ..................................................... 60 Steps to doing a project.. 186 Design elements for Rory’s project-based learning environment.............. 184 Topics of observed discussions with students initiated by Rory............... 138 Correspondence of milestones to report sections.. 4................... 131 Summary of planned milestones and due dates...... 94 Rory Wagner’s breakdown of “Earth Science”...........................................................List of Tables Table ............................... 8..vs............ 11............................ 104 Number of periods spent on activities during the introductory quarter....... 110 Distance of planets from the sun (in Astronomical Units).......... 5......

................List of Illustrations Figure ........... 149 Pie chart of hurricane path shapes........................... 4.................. 162 Rory’s sketched graph of two variables ...................................... 182 xvi ..................................................... Page 1.. 120 Dave’s drawing of common hurricane paths......... 163 Observed number and topics of group discussions with Rory............................................................. 92 Diagram of solar system.............. 181 Variation in observed teacher-student interactions throughout project ........................ 157 Orbital period of three moons from Final Draft... 7... 9.............................................. 8............................................................ 5.......................... 162 Density of three moons from Final Draft .......... 6.... from revised report..... Lakeside’s CoVis classroom layout. 2............ 3...................................

sits on the stool at his tall demonstration table in the front of the room. Their teacher. Sarah and Susan sit at another computer in the back of the room. monitors facing in. 1 .Chapter 1 Expeditions to Mt. Elisabeth. and Mike are in their usual back corner of the room to Rory’s left. talking with Alex about possible project topics. Rory Wagner’s real name is used. and a few are sitting at the six tables in the front and back of the room with computers hooked up to the Internet on them. For their projects. while Sarah reads a message from the graduate student who mentored their last 1 The names of the high school and all students have been changed to protect their privacy. Some students are sitting at the movable work tables in the middle of the room. Seventeen ninth through twelfth graders sit in clusters scattered about the large laboratory room equipped with sinks on either side. At his request. Alison and Sophia at the Macintosh computer just to Rory’s right read electronic mail Sophia just received from Israel. with multiple conversations going on. Amanda. Rory Wagner. followed by his partner Rob. The volume level in the room is high. Everest A day in the life of a project-based science class Period 7 Earth Science class is about to begin at Lakeside High School1 on a spring day in 1995. Jorge. Andrew joins Rory and Alex. the students design and conduct research within the broad domain of Earth Science. Rory’s students began working on their final quarter-long project of the year a week earlier. and Jeff sit at a table trying to figure out what kind of project they can do on comets. in the vicinity of another computer. Kevin browses the World Wide Web at the computer to Rory’s left. Nearby. Kim.

is “the idea of doing research.. But technology use and informality are not the main issue for Rory—the “motivating factor. and try to come to some conclusion about how it worked.” for him.” Rory’s been working with these kids since last fall on how to do research. There are many obvious ways in which this class is different from other classes—not many students use electronic mail or computers on the Internet at Lakeside or any other high school. when he took the role of project manager on the sand analysis project. energized by that. and not many high school classes are as informal as Rory’s. Heather sprawls across a table in the central part of the room. On the board behind Rory. Julia. and take more interest in and ownership in it.” . they’re more apt to be .2 project. and Brad. and also notes in his book who is here today.. who is as animated as usual. asking for “re-entrance” forms from those who were absent yesterday. I wanted people to actually try to figure something out—observe some scientific phenomena. Letting them pursue topics of their own choice is a second “motivating influence” for Rory.. students have worked in groups of their own choosing. Rory has tried to “make this class a little bit different” from other classes since the first day. talking with Christina. and then take their backpacks with them out of the room. on topics of their own choosing. Christina works on something from another class. when they walked to a nearby beach on Lake Michigan to collect sand samples.” The bell rings and no one calls to order. the day’s announcements detail “Things past due” and “Next due. Rory continues his conversations with students. or reduces the volume of conversation. since “if students are involved with doing things that they pick and design.. Since then. take measurements or collect information on it.. and Susan pulls some books on soil out of her backpack. or what was happening. Some of the student groups ask Rory if they can go to the library.

and also include longitude. but he knows there is a real effect of greater suicide rate. and Rory suggests scientists have been having trouble describing hot and cold magma flow. and they soon get into a conversation with Rory about it. . it’s a possible project. For their last project.” Rory doesn’t think that’s the reason. New Mexico. but not surprisingly. Kevin and Alex. with untucked. and Rory is trying to help them find a more promising topic. They try refining it into a workable project for a while. amount of rain. “You could compare suicide rates in several places.3 Today Rory’s students are in the beginning stages of their fourth and final project of the 1994-95 schoolyear. Kevin then suggests toilets. but then Kevin suggests geysers. They weren’t able to marshall much data to use as evidence.” Rory tells him that has to do with the Coriolis effect. As Rory points out. and “why the water flushes down counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. who style their dress after the music scene that started in Seattle. using examples such as the oft-cited government “coverup” in Roswell. Rory says they could try to figure out if there is a pattern to the geyser eruptions. they tried to prove the existence of UFOs. Kevin suggests hemp and its uses. as the notice on the blackboard reminds them. hemp has more to do with botany than earth science. All but one group. that gets deflected. but they keep searching. and so on. which also affects wind and storms. Alex mentions volcanoes. Kevin finally seems interested in pursuing one of the ideas. It doesn’t catch their fancy.” Kevin thinks that may be too much work. oversized flannel shirts and old jeans. They’re still trying to decide. Alex almost always wears a gray knit cap. number of sunny and cloudy days. Last Friday they were supposed to let him know their project teams and broad topics. Kevin moves on to whether suicides in Alaska are related to what he calls the “Aurora Borus. The two of them are part of the “grunge” crowd. have done that. and sometimes finishes off the outfit with reflective wraparound glasses. though.

He has a graduate degree in geology.” This kind of interaction between Rory and his students is not uncommon in this phase of projects. they’ve found the “Yellowstone Home Page. and sometimes Rory gets frustrated. Rory suggests using Gopher to look for Yellowstone in Wyoming. he’s been trying to be more open to students’ ideas. “Yahoo. but earth science also includes atmospheric science. He gives it to them. while Alex and Kevin work on the computer. when Rory had them learn how to use it by searching for earth science information. sometimes the students get frustrated. As Rory told me after class. In the meantime.astronomy” asking for volunteers to mentor students conducting projects in their areas of expertise. They’ve been using the World Wide Web for work and fun since the fall. and they communicated by . as well as search capabilities. He connected several groups in each of his classes with graduate students and PhDs in various fields. and e-mailing him the address of what they found. Rory goes next door and looks up the name of a contact he has on the pattern of eruptions. from a project some students did on geysers the previous year. Within ten minutes. oceanography. Kevin has a favorite Web site.geology” and “sci. and then turns his attention to other groups. It doesn’t always turn out this well—sometimes none of the promising ideas take hold. even when they seem at first like dead ends. and astronomy. because he believes they might be able to turn them into projects that work.” This year he began posting messages to Usenet newsgroups on the Internet like “sci. Sometimes students’ interests lead them in directions in the broad field of earth sciences where he has little expertise.4 He goes to a computer and asks where you could find data on geysers.” which has links to a lot of different places. Access to scientists over the Internet relieves him to some extent of “being the expert on everything.

or . are having trouble with their own search for books on the Dead Sea. But they are having trouble finding anything. Brad. they’d be set. they have high hopes. and has a correspondence going with an Israeli soldier over e-mail. Alison and Sophia’s frustration with the search shows during this period.” Sophia is really interested in her Jewish heritage. and they are investigating the differences between them.” Sophia and Alison. As Rory says.. but within a couple of weeks. Alison. told me yesterday Sophia wanted to do a project on the Dead Sea “just because it’s in Israel. Rory pipes in. rushes in with a . The demands on Rory’s attention continue for the rest of the period.5 electronic mail. . who has trouble working with other students and finishing what he starts. satisfied with the leads they had found themselves. Wouldn’t it be better to have multiple sources? Alison responds. to do Internet searches. though. Kevin and Alex didn’t end up contacting the potential mentor he told them about today. Alison says “if only” they could find one book with good data. who tends to wear dark clothes that complement her black fingernail polish. “Why would they publish a book full of lies?” Rory reminds them of all the books Kevin and Alex found on UFO’s. they type in their word and they don’t find anything. but Alison thinks it will be a black and white answer in a book. sitting to Rory’s right at a computer. either. “finding stuff [on the Internet or in the library] isn’t always as easy as it seems.” Many students need to work on their research technique—they often just “look for the one book that has [their] topic title on it. After the success of their last project on the mineral contents of obsidian. Do they think all those are true? Sophia then suggests exploring “What made the Dead Sea salty?” Rory thinks it’s worth exploring.. The search for data relevant to a group’s chosen topic does not always go as smoothly as Kevin and Alex’s search does.. wondering about the possibility that the “one book” could be inaccurate.. they have learned about a number of salt seas in the world.

He wants Rory to know he hasn’t just disappeared. but is watching a video for information on his make-up project on volcanoes. told me. built around a project paper format. so I asked Rory about it. he spent hours gathering information on water pollution and treatment. When Rory first started doing project-based science in his class two years earlier. and the class learned he’d been sent to a boarding school. Brad was gone. he didn’t have deadlines every couple of weeks as he does now. because “improving how he works with a group would be good for him. He returned shortly after the beginning of the next project. As he tells it: I thought that I was setting them on top of Mount Everest and saying “look.6 status report. the requirements for the project report. “if only we could harness his energy. Brad started out working with Jeff to figure out the dormancy patterns of a particular volcano type. amid rumors he’d run away and hitchhiked to another state. Instead. One day in the middle of the project.” He is referring to one of the components they need for the next “project milestone” they will be turning in.” At times. School counselors have made special arrangements with his teachers for Brad to finish the work he missed while gone. but now he’s working with partners again. the whole world is here for you to look at. were largely left open.” Amanda and Jeff come into the room with a printout from the library on comets. due at the end of the 9 week period. so now he’s working on two projects at once. Jeff says. In the first project after the whole class sand analysis. For his last project. “Now we have to come up with a question. As one of his current partners. for what turned out to be an impressive project. Brad does make good use of his abundant energy. Isn’t that great? Look what you can .” but is glad to see they are willing to try it. That time around he worked by himself. He realizes “Brad has difficulty working in a group. I was surprised to see Brad working with a group again. which sometimes happens. Susan.

In addition to the tensions about the amount of structure and guidance Rory provided students. and yet they were being graded on how they were playing.. Some of the students check their grades every few days. where all the students can look up their status by their school ID number. I’m gonna freeze to death. He also had discussions about how to guide and structure projects with other teachers and researchers in the CoVis project. Arguments and long discussions ensued. “because all of a sudden they didn’t know how to play the game. She had failed the course last semester.7 study. and confronted Rory.” He now maintains a spreadsheet on the computer network with current marks and outstanding assignments according to his records. I’m gonna fall. he encountered related tension about grades.” Again. I thought I was setting them free and they felt like they were being abandoned. and they felt like “Oh my God.. I can’t believe it . two totally different perspectives. I’m gonna fall off the mountain. How could I get the same grade as . I got the lowest grade in the class. especially the other CoVis teachers at Lakeside..” Each section from the introduction to the method and on through the conclusion represents a milestone which the students turn in to Rory for feedback along the way. Together. despite Rory’s efforts to “head them off early. until they put together a final paper followed by a presentation to the rest of the class. I could die up here. And when they felt abandoned they got angry and defensive and resistive. this is horrible. which Rory credits with forcing him to articulate and refine many of his own ill-formed ideas about projects..” And they felt like I was sticking them on top of Mount Everest. shouting at the top of her lungs “I got a C! . The paper format “became almost the blueprint for doing projects. but was working much harder since Christmas. but Jeff and Amanda’s partner Kim hadn’t for some time. Last Friday Kim found out she was getting a C. they developed a paper format for projects that each of them modified for their specific purposes.” Evaluation still causes frequent conflicts.

and hasn’t reappeared yet. The bell ending the period rings. I don’t get this . giving bonus points for assignments turned in early and accepting them late with moderate penalties. they don’t allow enough. there’s never enough time to support the eight to twelve different projects going on simultaneously in each of his three classes. Jeff looks up comets in Yahoo on the World Wide Web. and recommends that Alex and Kevin also check out videos on their topic. they have a double period. He spends many periods going from one request (or frantic cry) for help to another.” It matters to them much more so there’s more pressure on me. his deadlines leave too much time. As he told me at the beginning of the year. carries a bunch of Earth Science books to her desk. and some of the students head out to the hallway to take a break. “um. I’ve never had so many kids needing me so much. But every day is part lab and part office and part lunchroom in Rory’s class—it’s just that on Monday and Wednesday. Later on. For him. I need to talk to you now. He tries to get around this by making them somewhat flexible. Sophia and Alison go to the library to look for books on the Dead Sea.what’s this about?” Here they’re like “Mr. Sophia continues talking with Rory about the Dead Sea project. Christina. For some of the students. Others continue working. Brad returns from watching the video. Wagner. for others. Period 7 continues apace. On Mondays and Wednesdays. who’s looking for information on rainforests. The plasticity of time constantly confronts Rory. And it’s not like when someone has a question in a [traditional] lab and they ask. But giving different deadlines for different people is not viewed by students as .8 people who just sat around and didn’t work?” She stormed out of the room. they have more time. supposedly for labs. Rory helps them find and view a videotape on geysers in Yellowstone Park on a VCR in the classroom.

he becomes frustrated with being unable to . He found that the initial questions students came up with. During the break. He hopes to paste them into a Powerpoint slide show for their presentation in five weeks. Rory hands the book. though. Two years ago Rory hoped students would be able to formulate good. He has brought these books in from home to help students get basic information on the wide variety of topics in Earth Science which interest them. and encourages them to formulate research questions based on what they study. researchable questions directly out of their interests. But he has had to adjust that expectation along with many others. While Rory’s out of the room. before deciding what kind of soil analysis they should do. they are reading books on soil and taking copious notes. were often dead ends. Rory comes back in while they’re still at it. to Christina. Christina asks Rory for a book on rainforests. Christina dutifully follows this model by reading through a number of books on rainforests. such as yards.9 “fair. He goes next door to the cubbyhole he shares with the other Earth Science teacher. Rory’s conversation with Jeff and Amanda during period eight provides a case in point. Jeff finds a FAQ—a list of Frequently Asked Questions—about comets on the Internet during the break between periods. who haven’t gotten along since they were project partners. get in a minor skirmish. and begins looking for some images of comets at the NASA Web sites. as two students in this class are doing. For now. and they desist. Brad and Jeff. landfills. But after a while. He asks them to read up on topics once they have decided what they want to study. and swamps.” unless they are taking the class for higher level credit. who are going to analyze soil samples that Brad is collecting from sites they’ve selected in the local community. as do Sarah and Susan. entitled The Rainforest from Time/Life books. before learning about their topic.

including Elisabeth and Jorge. You need to learn something about comets first somehow before you can come up with a good question . Amanda complains. and comes over a minute later. called a coma. Amanda. “how about ‘why does a comet revolve around the sun?’“ Jeff replies.” Amanda pipes in. The struggle continues. and some other information. Since so many other students are constantly seeking him out. in the meantime.” Rory points out that Jeff already knows that. you could do a comparison of comets’ tails. and begins playing games on the computer. but Rory first asks “What do you know about comets so far?” Amanda says not much. but Amanda is determined. Wagner over for help. “I’m sure that’s already answered. but the idea for investigating the relationship of a comet’s core and tail size takes hold with Jeff.” Amanda suggests “Why they have tails.” Jeff turns back to his game. They spend most of their time near the computer in the back of the room to Rory’s left. and calls Mr. . has been trying to come up with a project question. how big they are. she says to Jeff. “I know. “So size is important. and he continues trying to help Amanda see why that kind of question might be more fruitful and less settled than “What is Halley’s comet?” During period 8. Eventually. Rory finishes up helping Kevin with something on the computer. and rarely seek out Rory’s help. it’s not surprising that Rory’s interactions with them are less frequent. Jeff begins to read off something from one of their FAQ printouts: what comets are made of. “We need a question. which is caused by the sun... a few more students. Rory says.. Amanda begins to suggest a question. “Here’s a question. but that’s all I can come up with.” but Rory says “That’s like asking for your conclusion before you start.10 get in to the NASA servers because of heavy network traffic. ask to go to the library.. about how the chunk of rock has a tail.” Amanda laments. ‘What relation do comets have to the sun?’“ Rory relates that idea to what Jeff has read.

like “Wags. make up their own nicknames. Heather asks “where’s Wags?” I answer “He’s at the library. he has to be reminded of their project topic. and Jorge reappears after about five minutes. plenty of kids are not trustworthy. At one point.” others “Rory. It also means that Rory can allow the students in his class to freely take advantage of the library’s resources. whose family recently moved from Mexico. Rory announces he is going to the library to check on whether the people who said they were going are actually there.” One way Rory has tried to encourage a level of “openness” in the classroom is by allowing the students to address him by his first name if they’d like. so he occasionally goes up to the library to check on them. and frequent offenders risk losing the privilege. He gets the books. After their conversation. and they talk for quite a while. “if kids aren’t trustworthy. Shortly after Rory leaves the room. When they tell him it is waves. The problem for Rory is. and thus access to library resources except outside of class. Wagner. with some English mixed in. And some. Jorge and Alex leave. Some students choose to call him “Mr. he suggests they use some of the oceanography books he already has. Jeff. like Heather. and they look through them for much of the period. Jeff comes back quickly. then what happens?” In his experience.” and a few switch back and forth depending on the occasion or their mood. but not requiring it. Rory says Elisabeth’s joining the class in the second semester has really helped Jorge. I notice Elisabeth reading out topics from the table of contents to Jorge in Spanish. Amanda returns to the room with a friend. which means that students don’t need permission or passes to be outside of classrooms during class periods.” . Lakeside has an “open campus” policy.11 When they ask him about going to the library. Students who are not there when they say they are lose credit for working during that time.

This is a veiled threat that they will be removed as “illicit” on the basis of copyright laws.” but he’s “trying to give enough flexibility within this thing. The students pack up their bags. he hopes they’ll keep moving on their projects.” Rory realizes that. Despite the threat.” so it makes sense to let them get their projects done in a lot of different ways. having completed another day of project-based science in Rory Wagner’s class. making a comment about all the games Jeff has in his folder on the network. who are working together on the rainforest project. Kevin asks Rory to explain how to use a piece of software.” Although he has set up a structure for students to follow. as part of the “Spring cleaning” noted on the blackboard last Friday. and Christina. they continue playing the game for a while. Julia. The milestones he has them turn in along the way provide a “framework for them to work in. Andy says. while Alex continues watching the videotape on geysers. . Andy and Scott return from the library. Heather. ask Rory if they can go to the library. Wagner.12 Just as Jeff and Scott get ready to start a networked Air Hockey game. which he says is like the scientific method in some ways.” He tells his students. He told me later “some people actually work backwards. the bell ending 8th period rings. “are you still working backwards from your presentation?” Andy maintains they’re not “working backwards. In fact. he seems glad these students are working this way. you won’t believe how much information we got. he doesn’t believe “Moses [came] down from the mountain with the scientific method written in stone. “science happens in a lot of different ways. But they’ll pick up from here tomorrow. and agrees. while Rory’s attention turns to other students. Rory returns. [they] just planned it all out and will fill it in along the way. and it works.” Rory asks. and yet have them accountable at short steps. and won’t put the whole thing off until the night before they’re due. As Rory continues joking with Andy. “Mr.” This way.

Cohen. Drayton. teachers accomplish classroom activity with their students in the schools (e. and in recent efforts such as LabNet (Ruopp. Mehan. however. 1992. 1993). 1991. 1963). and have been explored since then in the progressive movement (as chronicled by Cremin. and the support and funding of the National Science Foundation. Fullan & Miles. 1989. With these ideas and tools. ultimately. we hope to create an extended learning community whose participants conduct authentic. & Abel.13 Project-based science reforms in general and in context In recent years. Reder. the creation of technologies or the ideas of academic researchers or policymakers do not determine how classrooms are run. 1993. The Learning Through Collaborative Visualization (CoVis) project follows in this tradition. Ayers. with the aid of high school teachers and computer industry representatives. Ringstaff. 1993). 1986. & Sandholtz. seeking to aid in the reform of high school science classes toward project-based science (Pea. & Pfister. Dwyer. Hart-Landsberg. the search for ways to create learning environments that promote active engagement with scientific phenomena and theories has led to a revival of interest in project-based and inquiry-based approaches. but much of this research has shown that teachers have good reasons for transforming outside ideas for their own classrooms. reforms of the 1960s (e. Schwab. Most of these approaches are rooted in Dewey’s ideas (1902). collaborative scientific inquiry. Above all. 1988. As countless experiences in the past have shown. 1990). CoVis includes a set of ideas and networked computer tools assembled by a group of university-based researchers. Sheingold & Hadley.g. 1961). 1990.g. they are in a better position to understand the particular contexts in . Gal. Cuban. Tyack. 1992. Bruner. Some critics might say that teachers do not accept ideas from the outside simply because they are stubborn or closedminded.

” which involves answering questions like “how do you come up with a problem . Saying that teachers and their students appropriate project-based science methods and networked computers stresses that they must transform them for their specific situation. The way this works depends on many particulars of the situation.. 1992a) rather than adoption to highlight the transformations that teachers and their students must make to such abstract notions. historical. and the individual personalities and needs of the students themselves. 1981. Rory holds particular beliefs about what is important in science and how it is practiced. What’s your . which includes numerous cultural. & Cole..” he wants them to learn something about how to “do science. First. Since he believes science is more than “knowing facts. and where to challenge students the most. Saying that teachers (and their students with them) simply adopt projectbased science methods and networked computers to accomplish them would imply that they use them exactly as conceived in the abstract. Pea. 1989. teachers like Rory must decide what “projects” should mean in their classes. and how they appropriate the ideas and tools in their classrooms every day. and then they must enact their vision with their students using the resources at their disposal. These beliefs affect what kind of projects he would like to encourage. For instance. and social factors. Newman. The April day in Rory Wagner’s classroom described above makes apparent the complexity of creating and maintaining an environment to support project-based science. the vision of CoVis depends on the work of many teachers in particular contexts. I refer to the use of ideas and tools in particular contexts and for particular tasks as appropriation (Leont’ev. Griffin. and then solve it. and that all teachers can or should use them in the same way.14 which they and their students are trying to work. The complexity of particular reform efforts Thus.

The particular culture and atmosphere of the school and community Rory works in has encouraged innovative techniques and technologies. what they should do. The students have to somehow make it their own. [and] how do you prove that you solved it?” There are no “cookbook” procedures or lists to memorize in his class. he must often facilitate students’ use of these same resources before their effective use can relieve the pressure on him. “it’s not enough for me to show them or tell them what is going on. I have conducted in-depth research on Rory’s continuing journey designing and implementing a project-based science class. His particular view of how children learn affects how much he directs students as well—as he put it. . as well as the level of informality acceptable in his classroom. ultimately combine to create the meaning and significance of project work enacted in Rory’s classroom. Finally. enable him to off load certain supporting functions. and more time trying to challenge Alison’s ideas and open her to new ones. All of these particulars. it has also dictated an open campus policy that both benefits and frustrates Rory. the particular tools and resources Rory’s students have access to. In order to gain a better understanding of the challenges and complexities of such an endeavor. just as they would in any other particular classroom.” The particular students Rory works with in every class change the strategies he takes—he spends more time trying to focus Brad’s energy. for instance.” The particular values Rory holds toward student responsibility and student-teacher relationships affect his willingness to prod students who are goofing off.15 evidence. though. Paradoxically. The affluence of the community may at times highlight the importance of grades as levers for getting in to “good colleges. and many more. from the library to data on the World Wide Web to scientists on the Internet. or what they should know.

in reaction to what he tries out and adjusts along the way. retrospective reflection on the projects.. I have been struck by how he has. The 2 I am contrasting iterative design with linear and single-pass design. His desire was also influenced by discussions with other CoVis teachers and researchers. The design of these projects is iterative in that Rory goes through cycles of upfront planning of the activity. and redesign for the next round. Since starting projects three and a half years ago. But as Pea (1993) and Suchman (1987) have pointed out is the case for educational and work activity.” This evolution has included everything from “how to get resources” to “how to convince kids this is a good idea. Let me return to Rory’s class to illustrate these design terms. I believe viewing the structures and practices that constitute projects in Rory’s classroom as the object of iterative. The use of these terms in this context is elaborated below and in subsequent chapters. participatory with solitary design. They don’t prescribe a clear set of steps to follow. situated design may prove useful2 . Rory has completed eleven such cycles. . Specifically. and situated with abstract and general design. with important contributions by other educators and students. and the powerful learning he’d experienced in his own masters thesis project. and see what happens. followed by implementation of these plans with midstream adjustments to the situation as it develops. et al.16 The nature of learning environment design In talking with Rory and observing his class in the three and a half years since he began doing projects in 1993. 1993) chronicling high school physics teachers’ use of project-based methods. and fix things up as you go along. so I thought the only way to do it now is to jump in and actually do it. participatory. Rory described it like this: it was like I was making things up as I went along.” His initial desire for doing projects was influenced by reading the LabNet book (Ruopp. The characterization Rory makes of his work as evolving. “evolved. as he puts it. and troubleshoot. desires which lead to action are often diffuse and illspecified. resonates with ideas in the design literature.

and Jeff. Rory has detailed the paper format in a handout which describes the major sections. in that students hand in milestones and receive feedback from Rory before incorporating them into their final paper. When the students present their projects to one another and they are discussed and critiqued publicly.17 upfront planning consists partially in structuring project activity through the refinement of a paper format that serves as a blueprint for students’ project work. For example. Such adjustments midstream are like “design in use” of the upfront plans (a term borrowed from Allen (1993). ranging from the negotiation of project topics such as those described with Kevin. and to encourage students to find out more about their chosen topic before designating a final “question” to answer through their project (similar to Schön’s “reflection on action”). The design of projects is participatory because it is socially constructed. Alex. The design of individual student projects is also iterative. Rory helps the students transform the moves they make in the research process with limited understanding into more sophisticated moves that neither he nor the students would have originally predicted. Sometimes.” In such interactions. This social construction of design takes place at several different levels. Rory and students like Jeff and Amanda interact to define and implement each and every project. this has affinity to Suchman’s (1987) “situated actions” and Schön’s (1982) “reflection in action. these interactions involve what Pea (1994) has termed “transformative communication. Amanda.”) Reflection on the projects in earlier cycles led Rory to see a need for a structure that students could follow. the “question” that Jeff and Amanda were searching for is part of what Rory asks students to place in the Methods section. to looking for ways to deal with grading conflicts such as the one with Kim. The midstream adjustments Rory makes are countless. Rory has changed this document over time. they are participating in the group’s . and what each section includes (see Appendix E for the handouts).

Designers often talk about the set of given resources and/or constraints in the environment. elaborated by Norman. since “constraints can be turned into resources. though. Thus. and the culture and practices of schooling students encounter outside of Rory’s class. Rory’s skills at collaboratively constructing ideas with students afford building on students’ interests in ways that his experience suggests will be productive and instructive. In Rory’s particular situated work. Usenet News and electronic mail afford contacting and communicating with scientist mentors. The paper format Rory and his fellow teachers constructed affords a way of structuring classroom activity around milestones corresponding to paper sections. Constraints for Rory include the structure of the school day. Network tools such as the World Wide Web afford searching for information and data that can inform students’ inquiry. 1990). Specifically.18 sense of what valid projects are and how to conduct good projects. one aspect of the same environment or task can be seen as . the “Aliens” project conducted by Alex and Kevin earlier in the year became emblematic of how important it is to use data effectively to construct an argument and to question the veracity of information sources. 1988). students’ interests are a resource. 38. students’ ideas for projects often act as seeds or sources for later projects: Rory’s introductory sand analysis project this year grew out of a project that two students devised but had trouble implementing the previous year. affording a means of students making problems their own. Brown & Duguid. limited amounts of time with many student groups working on different problems. each with certain affordances (a term introduced by Gibson 1986. Rory’s input to Kevin and Alex on their geyser project was based on another project from the previous year. about topics such as salt lakes. and resources can turn out to be severe constraints” (p. Finally. Making a distinction between “resources” and “constraints” can be misleading.

1992c). in a manner similar to the concept of spirals of reflection and action in the tradition of action research (Lewin. Sproull & Kiesler. for instance. Designers need to try to optimize for certain purposes. Taking a systemic view implies considering how the components of a system work together. This points to a further reason I believe viewing the work of teachers as designing learning environments can be beneficial. 1982) and iterative. not how any one of the components acts alone. including the meaning and practice of conducting projects in a high school science class. 1985. The “components” of a learning environment are not like mechanical cogs.19 a resource by one person and constraint by another. and are more likely to succeed if their teaching practice is reflective (Schön. recognizing ways in which constraints can become resources and resources can constrain can lead to better design. acts in some ways as a resource which affords freedom of movement for students to accomplish aspects of their projects. Pea. “intentional persons” interact with and transform cultural meanings and social practices (1990). The open campus policy. The benefits of qualitative study of an evolving design What can educational researchers. and designers learn from this study? Looking at learning environments as functional systems can reveal how they work and how they change through the reorganization of activity (Cole & Griffin. but will often be faced with trade-offs (Pea. 1991). in a very important way—many of them are persons making sense of their situation and acting . Teachers such as Rory have the power to effect change at the classroom level. 1980. however. but acts in other ways as a constraint on Rory’s ability to track student activity. Clearly. As Shweder put it. It makes apparent the constructive. or a resource for one purpose and a constraint for another. 1946) and also to the kinds of “design experiments” Collins and Hawkins (1993) recommend. practitioners. intentional nature of the work.

With such works as models. with similar goals of introducing project-based science. Qualitative research in schools. Sara Lawrence Lightfoot (1983) and Alan Peshkin (1986) have contributed to our understanding of schools as purposeful institutions. but different particulars. classrooms. Again. But understanding one such learning environment in all its complexity better can provide important insights for educators. As Erickson (1986) puts it. Ray McDermott and colleagues (1984) to the organization of homework. Understanding Rory’s and his students’ intentions and actions situated in this particular environment will raise important issues we must face in other learning environments. and Janet Ward Schofield and colleagues (1994) to the use of computers for teaching writing and geometry in classrooms.20 on the sense they construct of that situation as it develops. Harry Wolcott (1973) to the work of principals. respectively. and Mara Sapon-Shevin (1994) to the possibilities of classrooms as inclusive communities. the “meaning-interpretations” humans make are causal. I hope to shed light on another . the context and possible meaning-interpretations differ in important ways from school to school. Bill Ayers (1989) and Margaret Yonemura (1986) to the lives and learning of preschool teachers. Alan Peshkin (1988) has pointed out that understanding complexity is a key benefit of qualitative inquiry. teacher to teacher. and even homes have contributed in recent years to a growing appreciation of the complexity of schooling. Bertram Bruce and Andee Rubin (1993). and even from a given teacher’s first period to sixth period class. A rich account can also provide readers of this study with stories and interpretive tools to “think with” about how their own settings work and can be changed over time. and understanding of how it works. Tracy Kidder (1989) to the challenges of elementary school teaching.

and simultaneously set the stage for the action from 1995-96 to be detailed in the following chapters. I will review some historical background on child-centered educational practices and the appropriation of technology to support teaching. in his “expeditions to Mount Everest” with students. In Chapter 4. In Chapter 8. In Chapter 9. In Chapter 3. and the school and wider community. I will detail how the traditional . because an entirely new group arrives each year. I will also describe some early frustrating efforts by Rory to address the bootstrapping issue by a form of modeling. I will show how smoothly running student projects take advantage of the activity structure for projects that Rory has designed. in Chapter 2. In Chapter 7. In Chapter 5. and refined over the years.21 area: the complexity of putting project-based science into practice in an internetworked high school classroom. I will describe how lack of time and perception of time can both cause and enable students to fall through the cracks in Rory’s class. I will detail Rory’s activities introducing new tools and Earth Science content during the first quarter. I will describe Rory’s personal background leading to his interest in projects. and show how they serve as a foundation and a means to transition students into practices different from standard schooling. The plan for this document In the following chapters. I will describe how I developed the questions which motivated this study as part of a larger educational reform effort. enacted. This will include a description of the classroom space. Specifically. I will attempt to describe what Rory has learned in his project work. In Chapter 10. as well as describe emerging views of learning relevant to project-based teaching and learning. I will walk through Rory’s first day of class. the background and attitudes of the students in Rory’s class. I will show why Rory needs to “bootstrap” students in his course into new practices. In Chapter 6. and the methods used to approach the research.

How to judge the winds and unexpected storm clouds. . And above all. Where the key footholds are in precarious situations. What can we learn from Rory? We can learn what paths he has taken. I will summarize the lessons learned for others interested in project-based science. what these heights can look like and feel like to the guide and participants in these expeditions. and how they find ways to improvise their way toward the top. How he has helped his students to work together. In Chapter 11. How to survive the bitter cold of the night. and affects (in mostly negative ways) Rory’s efforts to guide student participation in scientific inquiry.22 culture of schooling changes students’ perceptions of Rory’s teaching practices. What kind of grapples and knots he uses in different situations. In Chapter 12. I will describe strategies Rory uses to try and maintain a balance between taking too much control from students and letting them be responsible for learning. How to find and work with a myriad of guides.

agricultural educators after the turn of the present century introduced the idea of doing “projects” (Alberty. This leads to consideration of the real settings in which the necessary changes will take place—classrooms—and the kinds of research and practice which offer promise to understanding and fostering such changes. and what we have learned from them. begs investigation. and concerned citizens have come to reconsider and reconceptualize the potential importance of project-based approaches to science learning. 1961). Along with this. I will examine some of the ways in which the nature of today’s attempts at project-based science are shaped by historical particulars. The very fact that project-based approaches have been tried before. and yet remain rare today. I will then consider why. and reformers of the 1960s revived it (Ravitch. The historian of education might well ask. showed success. What happened to all these previous efforts? What can we learn from them? Do we have any reason to believe the outcome can be different now or in the future? In the following pages. 1982). 1927). “hasn’t this all been tried before?” And with good reason.” educators. First. 23 . other researchers. The idea of project-based science education is firmly rooted in the tradition of child-centered education spanning two centuries prior to the 1990s.Chapter 2 Historical background: Haven’t we tried this path before? Rory Wagner’s struggle to enact project-based science teaching in his classroom may not seem terribly unique. at this particular “historical moment. In addition. I will begin to address these questions. I will explore related efforts that have been tried in the past. Dewey and later progressives refined the concept (Cremin.

whereas “sugar-coating” of tasks with extrinsic rewards fosters simply the appearance of attention (Dewey. it involves reaching out of the mind” (Dewey. In two treatises on education from the 1760s—Julie and Emile—Jean-Jacques Rousseau stressed the importance of starting with the child’s own experiences and dispositions and building on them. 1964). Emile is better served by studying his own area and constructing his own map (cited in Farnham-Diggory. 42) has much affinity with Rousseau. 1984). Parker later led reforms in Quincy. rather than imposing ideas that are relevant only from the perspective of the adult or society at large (Archer. Dewey’s philosophy that “learning is active . The child’s every whim should not direct the educator’s every action. The importance of interest implies that teachers need to diagnose interests as indicative of children’s development and readiness to learn (Dewey. 1990). Numerous schools and movements have been influenced by these basic childcentered principles.. which Americans such as Francis Parker observed in their travels. p. . Building on children’s natural dispositions implies that all students cannot be treated the same. As Rousseau put it. Instead.. Dewey noted that genuine interest linked to both the means and ends of the task at hand fosters true learning. teachers must work to diagnose and cultivate those dispositions. The importance of children’s interests was stressed by both Rousseau and Dewey. however. 1897). 1895). Froebel and Pestallozzi founded schools in Europe. Learning must also build from the child’s personal experience: instead of learning geography from maps of distant locations. 1902.24 Hasn’t this been tried before? A fundamental insight which has driven child-centered educational approaches is that the mind is active and imposes meaning and structure on experience. but he ought to do nothing but what you want him to do” (cited in Bantock. “No doubt [Emile] ought only to do what he wants.

In the case of the agricultural projects. 1927). the formal principles and organization of the discipline were provided through textbooks and lectures (Alberty. while older children studied formal subjects such as botany.25 Massachusetts. and Pestallozzi (Farnham-Diggory. philosophy. The notion of hands-on projects picked up growing numbers of adherents as well. students participated in a series of cooperative project activities of increasing complexity. the knowledge gained in agricultural projects had more than practical purposes—it was integrated with formal and abstract principles of the discipline. Froebel. after visiting Cook County Normal School (Cremin. but some themes were common. In both cases. and also met the immediate satisfaction of students’ interests (Cremin. Many “projects” involved the use of concrete materials to solve some . which carried on through the 1930s. The application and meaning of the term “project” to other subject areas was debated among progressive educators. and at the Cook County Normal School in Chicago based on the theories of Rousseau. and leadership at the University of Chicago were immensely influential on the progressive movement (Hofstadter. As in Dewey’s projects. 1963). The youngest children worked on practical projects such as building a house or planting a garden. The project activities had both instrumental and intrinsic purposes: they afforded a means to foster intellectual and social growth vital to participation and growth in a democracy. Alberty (1927) traces the first use of term “project” to 1908. when agricultural educators in Massachusetts used it to denote the growing of crops as opposed to studying how to grow crops. 1961). John and Evelyn Dewey founded their laboratory school at the University of Chicago. 1990). and can even result in financial gain. At the Dewey lab school. Dewey’s lab school. 1961). The activity of successfully growing plants has intrinsic interest to the students. he replaced the traditional curriculum with projects more relevant to students’ lives.

to sustain their hold on educational practice requires some explanation. Kyle (1984) reports similar positive findings for the hands-on. as well as a better understanding of scientific concepts. 1927). including project-based teaching. (Kyle. creativity. each consisting of one student from thirty participating progressive schools and one from another secondary school. and precision in thinking. Why did schools and teachers fail to sustain these ideas? An obvious explanation would be that these methods didn’t work. resourcefulness. These measures ranged from academic honors and grades to curiosity. and interests. Students of progressive schools. race. 1984. 1920). home and community background. enhanced higher-level intellectual skills such as critical thinking.475 pairs of students. who were otherwise like their peers from other schools in gender. But by the late 1940s. and many have been offered over the years. was tried on a large scale in the Progressive Movement. p. So it has been tried before—what happened? So child-centered instruction. problem solving. from the progressive era as well as the 1960s. 1942) documented the contrary. age. it had died out. Hofstadter (1963) argues that the importance of interest in Dewey’s theory of education led to serious mistakes on the part of . inquiry-oriented science reforms of the 1960s and 70s: Evidence shows that students in such courses had enhanced attitudes toward science and scientists. analytical thinking. Projects also had to engage student interest— the interest should be high (Kilpatrick. scholastic aptitude. and the students’ goals should match the teacher’s (Alberty.26 problem in a natural setting (Horn. 1925). The Progressive Education Association’s influential EightYear Study (Aikin. 21) Reason one: Misguided implementation of reform The failure of the child-centered and project-oriented reforms. 1961). and process skills. the effectiveness of progressive education was supported. were more successful as judged by eleven separate measures (Cremin. In this study of 1.

Carol Turner3 . Because Carol 3 The names are pseudonyms. But the stress placed on the importance of students’ interests led some progressives to become slavish to student whim: Having once put the child so firmly at the center. cited in Ravitch. consistent with the goals of the reform.27 later progressives. p. (Hofstadter. Sarason (1971) identified the same important issue of teachers’ lack of understanding of a reform effort in the case of the New Math. and tightly structured activity so as to instill them in children. 1983. This fundamental view led her to overlook the possibility of children formulating problems themselves or evaluating alternative mathematical claims. On closer examination. who appeared to run a classroom where children were actively engaged. Carol knew those right answers. 59). 1938. Studies of the California Mathematics Curriculum Framework in two classrooms provide detailed evidence for the importance of teachers’ understanding of subject matter and the goals of reform efforts. Instead. having defined education as growth without end. This critique of progressivism amounts to placing the blame for its eventual failure on misguided and thus ineffectual implementation of the reform. Dewey. it became clear that Carol understood mathematics not as a living and growing domain of inquiry. 1902) stressed that the developing interests of children should continuously interact with the direction they get from adults. p. but as a set of static tools to be learned. 389) As Hofstadter mentioned. 1963.g. Dewey had so weighted the discussion of educational goals that a quarter of a century of clarificatory statements did not avail to hold in check the anti-intellectual perversions of his theory. Deborah Ball (1990) studied a teacher.. . 256). Dewey’s own work (e. Dewey criticized later progressives for “proceeding as if any form of direction and guidance by adults were an invasion of individual freedom” (Dewey. there was always a “right answer” “out there” (p. Classroom discourse was characterized by teacher instruction and questions followed by terse student answers.

. who “revolutionized” her teaching by using a new curriculum and text..” which introduced the concept of platooning to secondary schools (Cremin. These methods include school structures. David Cohen (1990) studied another math teacher in California. Larry Cuban (1984) argues that platooning and other school and classroom structures hindered the spread of child-centered instruction as much as ineffectual implementation.28 was able to foster student participation in classroom discourse. 1979). she “used them as though they were a part of traditional school mathematics . in order to reduce the number of regular classrooms needed. and make creative use of multiple teaching modalities to reach students with different strengths. Oublier. she saw no need to change. 1961). platooning referred to moving students back and forth between regular classrooms and the areas housing shop. Although she was open to and used all these new mathematical topics and devices. laboratory. The large numbers of students needed to be handled in some way. incorporating concrete materials and physical activities. Reason two: Interference of school and task structures with reform Other factors have been shown to hinder reform as well. and isolated . and factory models for moving children through the day with limited resources and optimal order proved useful. such as Carnegie units of academic credits. 1994) to cope with the demand of teaching and keeping in order groups of thirty children at once. age-graded grouping. “education for all” was gradually becoming a reality (Nasaw. Schools and teachers use the various “batch processing” methods that today constitute the standard “grammar of schooling” (Tyack & Tobin. Just when the progressive movement was gaining momentum. and the auditorium. as though mathematics contained only right and wrong answers” (p. An example is William Wirt’s “Gary Plan. 312). In Wirt’s original implementation. the playground. and thus limit costs. Mrs.

and the implementation of reform—partially account for the remarkable constancy in teaching practice throughout this century.29 classrooms. Reason four: The culture of teaching and beliefs about teaching/learning Larry Cuban’s (1984) analysis suggests that the three explanations described above—schooling as social control. p. combined with pockets of change. but in reality often based on social class. Cuban and Cohen argue that the culture of teaching tends to be conservative due to recruitment of . can be at odds with the teachers’ priority of maintaining order. because they increase ambiguity on how to perform to achieve a good grade and therefore increase perceived risk for the students. such as worksheets. however. A strong example is “life adjustment” education. such as desks in rows. as well as the students’ priority of getting an optimal grade. 1979). ostensibly based on intellectual capacity. but his warning did not prevent such factors from affecting his own efforts. According to this view. Reason three: The social control role of schooling Theorists such as Nasaw (1979) argue that schools play a social controlling role in capitalist society. gender or race. 1984). Nasaw showed how “life adjustment” was targeted primarily toward poorer populations. 337) often doomed reforms. and closed opportunities for financial advancement through traditionally elite professions at the same time that it enhanced opportunities in working class careers. school and task structures. whole group question-andanswer dialogues and lectures. 1901. Cuban. The culture of teaching and beliefs about teaching and learning also provide partial accounts (Cohen. Task structures such as projects. 1988. classroom level structures. students are “sorted” in order to channel them toward “appropriate” careers. It is interesting to note that Dewey himself warned that “the mechanics of school organization and administration” (Dewey. textbook assignments. and “task structures” (Doyle.

” The complex demands placed on new teachers also tend to reinforce reliance on remembered strategies and folklore passed among practicing teachers. who more commonly believe knowledge must be directly transmitted to young people and remembered as conveyed. and interactions with other teachers once “on the job. In addition. folklore and beliefs about traditional practices that constitute a “real school” (Tyack & Tobin.” The dynamics . In addition. 1994) are strong among parents and the population at large. Reforms often explicitly threaten the culture of teaching. by demanding changes in practice. But this belief is still a relatively radical notion among teachers (Cohen. Finally. Cuban. business leaders. convey prescribed subject matter to large groups of children. 1990. Primary among these purposes is student participation in social networks represented by social categories such as “Jocks” and “Burnouts. Reason five: The social context of teaching and learning in classrooms The experience of school for teachers and students is not wholly determined by cultural beliefs about teaching and learning. In addition. everyday views and practices outside schools—among parents. however. 1988b). and students themselves—tend to buttress the belief that knowledge is transmitted rather than constructed (Cohen. child-centered instruction rests on the premise that learning is an active process of construction. informal socialization to previously existing practices is accomplished through twelve years of personal experience. and implicitly threaten aspects of the ethos of teaching by encroaching on the vacation time viewed as an essential feature of a profession which lacks significant financial rewards. and evaluate all those children. 1984). Penelope Eckert (1990) has shown that schools are cultural institutions that serve many social purposes other than teaching and learning in classrooms.30 people who affirm rather than challenge the role of schools. New teachers must establish routines so that students are not disorderly and/or confused.

and how they view participation in the courses they do take. cooperative learning where students share information and initiate much of the activity are more highly valued. I claim that the meaning of classroom activity. 253). and do generally hold the initiative. Lave (1990) points out that according to the world view generally held by researchers on learning. can only be understood relative to the broader social situation in which it is embedded. for example. pedagogy. subject. including that based on reform. has shown that students’ reactions can be an important constraint on their teachers’ actions. They thus tend to chafe at innovative and challenging classes. which reforms to project-based science represent. high schools offer Jocks an avenue for performing meaningful social roles outside the parents’ home. rather than passive reception of knowledge. and challenge the value of received knowledge that can be displayed for status. High schools also offer Jocks an opportunity to participate in activities inside and outside the classroom that will help them build their careers. participation in classroom activities is more driven by conservative career-building than by interest in what is going on. Research on science teachers. as Eckert’s research demonstrates. Thus. As Jay Lemke put it. students are not viewed as powerfully influential on teacher. Thus. or the learning that transpires in the classroom” (p. students retain an absolute veto over activities the . In the Burnout network.. According to Eckert’s account. Burnouts may be more receptive to project-based science courses where teachers act as facilitators to students’ active construction of knowledge. on the other hand.. because they complicate climbing up the hierarchy. Learning and classroom activity are socially situated. While teachers ‘officially’ have greater power and authority in the classroom. Building on Eckert’s research. “students appear to occupy a peripheral role as objects or clients on whom services are to be performed . For Jocks. Lave argues that this world view is fundamentally flawed.31 created by these social networks affect what courses students take.

at least at first. 1995). and began limiting his own conception of rewards for good work to grades. 1994). 1989). that is. (Lemke. Although the teacher believed scientists were motivated by the pursuit of knowledge. 1979. his students continually connected classroom activity to the pursuit of high grades. 1990. promoters of progressive education and reforms of the 1960s garnered economic as well as political clout by aligning themselves with powerful foundations (Tyack & Tobin. 1996) and others are again increasingly driving educational reforms and standard setting (Resnick. Even the threat of that veto. Ravitch (1982) and Cuban (1990) have described the changing political climate’s affect on 4 The gendered term is used deliberately. student noncompliance or uncooperative behavior. Doyle. and context.g. Mehan. In turn.. Reason six: Economic and political pressures Economic and political pressures have affected many reform efforts as well. Similarly. the teacher began searching for ways that students experiencing trouble with their grades could succeed. Nasaw (1979) documented how businessmen4 in the National Association of Manufacturers became involved in educational policy during the early 1900s. . because they were in fact men. to ensure a steady supply of appropriately trained American workers. 71) Brickhouse & Bodner (1992) demonstrated that a beginning middle school science teacher’s work with students was strongly influenced by the students’ concern with grades. This finding is in line with the more general insight that classroom activity and success is an interactional achievement of the student. not determined by any one actor alone or the environment (e. by funding the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education. is enough to keep most teachers on the straight and narrow. within the standard classroom routines and activity structures that students have learned to expect and have become comfortable with. teacher.32 teacher tries to impose. business-driven organizations such as the National Skill Standards Board (Houghton. One result of this is that teachers who try to innovate in the classroom can expect to meet with considerable student resistance. Today. p.

and task forces at schools that popularize the use of new labels such as “cooperative learning” for the same old practices.. With the Sputnik incident. Neill. and its eventual obliteration by conservatives on the local and national level. Examples of empty symbolic changes are the purchase of new books that are taught in the same way as older books. and to some extent encourages surface “adoption” of the latest trend (Sarason. . At that time. he concurs that “value differences . Kohl. Ravitch’s account locates the conflict between “progressives” and “traditionalists” since the 1940s. The knowledge that previous waves of trendy new ideas and buzzwords have been ineffectual naturally makes teachers and other educators skeptical of new ones.g. the traditionalists’ calls were heeded. and “excellence” in subjects such as math and science were initiated. 1960) became prominent again and ushered in the “open education” movement. local practitioners often make symbolic and external changes in schools rather than making the substantive changes reforms often demand (Fullan & Miles. 1971) rather than more fundamental appropriation. become transformed by media and political coalitions into pressure on schools to change” (p. Because of such strong political and economic pressures.” and critics began to complain of anti-intellectualism.33 education. Following the cataclysmic events of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.. 8). 1992). progressivism was dominated by “life adjustment education. the work of progressives (e. 1967. Although Cuban (1990) criticizes the pendulum metaphor Ravitch and others use. is a compelling example of politics’ effects on reform. Dow’s (1991) account of the origins of “Man: A Course of Study” (MACOS) in the Sputnik era. despite the fact that it was intended primarily to improve instruction in light of university scholarship within related fields. The “liberal” and “Anti-American” implications that conservatives saw in the MACOS social science curriculum based on cross-cultural studies led to its demise.

But there is potential for change. such as chairs in rows. 1984. Cuban’s description synthesizes many of the insights provided by the partial explanations described above. p. He describes situationally constrained choice as follows: “The school and classroom structures . The structures that dominate. the importance of order. and teachers’ relative lack of autonomy. School and classroom structures serve as constraints on the environment. and textbook assignments. particularly through changes in teacher beliefs. and the number of students per teacher. But putting beliefs about the nature of learning into practice is seriously hindered by the constraints of schooling. worksheets. These structures are influenced by political and economic realities. established the boundaries within which individual teacher beliefs and an occupational ethos worked their influences in shaping practical pedagogy” (Cuban. Effective reform efforts. less flexibility with . because teachers in these settings have less autonomy in curricular decisions. such as the meaning ascribed to them by students.. and the gradual encroachment of the view of learning as active construction on popular consciousness (Cohen. In addition. which in turn influence practices. 1988b) can and have influenced beliefs. 250). and accommodates the additional factors discussed here which he didn’t explicitly consider.. successfully solve the daily problems presented by the task of teaching groups of children in limited time while maintaining discipline. recitations.34 A synthesis—situationally constrained choice Cuban (1984) introduced the concept of “situationally constrained choice” to explain the relative stability in teaching over the past century. amid pockets of change. The structures are also influenced by social realities. such as the acceptability of certain curricular topics. high schools are more highly constrained than elementary schools.

reformers have stressed that computers and networking can perhaps provide vital support for teachers attempting to put project-based science into practice (e. Blumenfeld. many of whom had little math background. 1995). and some teachers make efforts based on their beliefs about how learning occurs. Due to the unavoidable constraints of school structures. Ultimately. and . 1991.. 1993). there were scant resources for supervision and ongoing work with the classroom teachers. 1987. Sarason’s (1971) account of the failure of the new math in a school system provides evidence for the importance of both time and resources. Once the school year began. In order to implement the reform.g. within a short workshop and the few weeks following it before the upcoming school year. 1984. as well as Cuban’s (1986) study of how new technologies have failed to alter teaching practices should serve to temper optimism. and more external pressure due to college entrance exams and requirements as well as job market qualifications (Cuban.35 their use of time. and the lack of extra help or resources in putting complex ideas into practice (Cole. Cuban (1986) documented how several waves of technology in this century failed to significantly alter the practices of teaching. elementary school teachers. The promoters of radio. But the history of reform related above. Can computers and networking provide supportive resources? Recently. Cuban. however.. 1993). Dealing with this frustration relates to two primary reasons cited by researchers for teachers’ lack of change in classroom practice: the cost in time and energy to prepare and deal with the effort. Office of Technology Assessment [OTA]. Pea. et al. instruction occurs in individual classrooms. were asked to learn a great deal about mathematics itself and new ways of teaching it. They were left on their own to flounder or flourish. such efforts meet with some degree of frustration. film.

as entertainment and motivation for their students rather than integral parts of instruction. “when used in educational settings. teachers ultimately had made choices based on their situation: Teachers have altered practice when a technological innovation helped them to do a better job of what they already decided had to be done and matched their view of daily classroom realities. it was not surprising to see them neglected. Trying to schedule classroom activity around a haphazard schedule of broadcasts. But as Mehan’s study of microcomputer use by teachers in language arts classes confirmed. working against the very efficiency they were supposed to enhance. On the other hand.36 instructional television predicted revolutionary changes in the efficiency and effectiveness of instruction through technology. 1986. 66) Thus. have consistently been linked to reforms toward child-centered instruction. argued that the LOGO programming language could put children in an active position of constructing knowledge of how to use powerful ideas from science and mathematics (Papert. and television were intended to provide were more a matter of degree than kind. and seldom described how it fit within classroom life. however. Since these technologies failed for the most part to provide greater efficiency in doing the same thing most teachers were trying to do. (Cuban. The kinds of changes radio. computers and networking. But as with other changes. the latest technologies to be heralded as revolutionizing instruction. In contrast. 1980). film. p. some elementary school teachers used films and television in the afternoon to some degree. as well as signing out and setting up the equipment proved to be obstacles. for instance. Papert’s early work focused primarily on what the computer could do for children. the microcomputer is always a part of a . Seymour Papert. They hoped to offer more efficient and entertaining transmission of information to students. instructional television encountered problems because it lacked flexibility.

1993.5 Once again. are not themselves agents for change. I turn now to a discussion of how today’s efforts to change instruction toward project-based science differ from previous reform efforts. 1989). it’s not surprising that the spread of LOGO in the early 1980s resulted in uses that were in line with the kinds of teacher-centered priorities Cuban has documented. The question of whether and how computers and networking can serve as resources to educators who are agents in the change process remains. like other technologies. Thus. such as inquiry and projects (e. Papert’s group had been roundly criticized for the lack of consonance between the claims made in Mindstorms and the practices implemented in classrooms across the country. due to cultural and historical particulars. of course—for instance. 1993. reformers were reminded that computers. 1990. 1989). Recall Brown & Duguid’s (1990) insight that whether a given “objective fact” is viewed as a constraint or a resource depends on interpretation as well as creativity. There is a renewed interest in child-centered approaches to learning science. . By 1990. 1996). inquiry-based approaches. Mehan.37 larger social system” (Mehan. There is also widespread belief that technology can effectively support changes to such approaches (Dede. Means. Since the same “objective fact” can be interpreted as either a constraint or a resource. teachers and students are (Harel & Papert. A particular historical moment Understanding the context of efforts at change requires looking at this particular historical moment. rather. OTA. National Research Council.g. the claims for transfer of general cognitive skills were questioned by Pea & Kurland (1984). it might be fruitful to consider how teachers have “situationally resourced choice” along with “situationally constrained choice” in environments incorporating computers. The reasons for interest in child-centered approaches. technology use. 1995). and their interconnections are 5 This criticism was not the only kind leveled at Papert.

In other words. Constructivism. see von Glasersfeld.e. In this view. In order for the knowledge gained in a learning setting to be useful in the actual domain under study. et al. all experiences are filtered through existing mental models. language and social interaction mediate learning. and push their individual capabilities to new levels by internalizing the process. shaped by the research of Piaget. Emerging views of learning Theoretical advances in our understanding of learning have transformed the reasons for recommending open-ended projects in a rich social setting. 1989). activity-in-the-world involving multiple people) are transformed into intrapersonal operations in learning (i. political and economic developments which deserve some explication. Collins.g. representations in the mind).e.” in which learners accomplish with the help and cooperation of others (e.. and either alter those constructions or are assimilated to them (for an historical overview of the theory. 1992). Since knowledge is indexed and recalled according to aspects and interpretations of the environment in which it is embedded. Building on Vygotsky’s work. and thinking is distributed across physical as well as social aspects of the environment (Pea. the setting must be consonant with the . teachers) what they could not do alone. authentic settings for learning become extremely important (Brown. 1982). provides an explanation for the importance of active engagement.38 embedded in theoretical. operations which take place on the interpersonal level (i. This leads to the concept of the “Zone of Proximal Development. 1989). later theorists have argued that all cognition and learning is situated in particular environments (Brown.. & Duguid... According to Vygotsky (1978). Vygotsky’s theory of learning provides an explanation for the importance of learning embedded in a social setting.

students learn first to find a problem and then. such as visualization and modeling (Fishman & D’Amico. and communication such as electronic mail (Fishman. tools. et al. 1994. 1991).39 practices.. “offering hints. Sproull & Kiesler. 1989. guided on the one hand by the general goals they set. Brown. so that students can face the task of formulating their own problems. reminders. Teachers can model expert activity and make their tacit knowledge explicit. modeling.” and is later faded so that students can exercise their new skills to perform the activity without teacher support. scaffolding. & Pea. They can also coach students while they carry out tasks.. Collins. which make increasingly sophisticated use of high-performance computing. Scaffolding provides support for accomplishing goals in students’ “zone of proximal development. 1994. Computer technology is important today for political and economic reasons as well. Computer technology also lends authenticity to the practices of science today (McGee.. and new tasks” (p. Gordin. Collins (1990) argues that since computers are so vital to work in today’s world. ideally. they are . 1994). Taking a cue from the practices of craft apprenticeship. In addition. 1996. O’Neill & Gomez. Emerging importance of computing and networking technology One means of promoting student articulation is through shared computer environments (Edelson & O’Neill. (1989) argue that a strategy of “cognitive apprenticeship” is promising for schools. and on the other hand by the “interesting” phenomena and difficulties they discover through their interaction with the environment . feedback. p. 1996). to use the constraints of the embedding context to help solve it. 1989). & Newman. Scardamalia et al. and culture of the domain. 488) Based on the situated nature of learning. (Collins. Polman. This perspective provides further justification for project-based learning. 1994. in projects. finding ways to encourage student articulation of their ideas can push learning. 481). cognitive apprenticeship offers some metaphors for teachers’ work.

but does not concur that such changes will occur in all settings. so schools will face increasing pressure to incorporate their use into instruction. In order to provide students with more “computer time. They also explained their understandings to one another. their continued and committed use will inevitably result in several changes. Skills in working with computers are vital to participation in the emerging information economy. regardless of the purposes. students used one another as resources. necessitate small group instruction instead of whole group instruction.40 bound to have an effect on education. Meanwhile. Two common solutions which Mehan (1989) identified were incorporating computers into small group work for one group at a time.” for instance. the teacher no longer initiated all interaction—the students called for the teachers’ help and coaching when they encountered trouble. and talked through their work on the computer. and coaching instead of lecture and recitation. and sending pairs of students to work at the computer during time set aside for individual seat work. Cuban (1993) agrees with Collins’ (1990) prediction that increased technology use will foster change in some settings. Based on previous research. Specifically. The teacher no longer controlled and directly supervised the students’ work. For example. which caused them to articulate and re-evaluate those understandings in the process. Instead. Collins argues that once computers are introduced into the classroom setting. this argument maintains that computer use will introduce constraints that overpower the standard constraints of schooling described by Cuban. thereby surfacing confusions and conflicts in interpretation. Both these options involved a grouping strategy much different from whole-class instruction—peer interaction. teachers who have a limited number of computers in their classrooms face constrained choices about how to reorganize instruction. In effect. Cuban argues that Collins’ vision will be implemented in elementary . computer use will foster student engagement.

and political pressures from accrediting associations. isolated parts of the curriculum to continue meeting the demands of other constraints. students. parents. and job market requirements. 1991). pressures for computer competence would be forced into didactic. rather than passive direction-followers (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills [SCANS]. McLaughlin (1990) has suggested that beliefs can be . Although it is often true that practices follow beliefs. 1984). over time. even within highly constrained school environments (Cuban. Cuban believes there is enough flexibility and less pressure. The information-oriented and service-oriented sectors of the economy. Finally. businesses have already begun to call for more active problem-solvers.41 schools. but change at the high school level will not be forthcoming due to the greater constraints placed on high schools. and is only slowly encroaching on the more common everyday conception of learning as transmission. more teachers. has begun to appreciate the active contribution all their employees can make (Houghton. it is argued. interaction is possible between new constraints introduced by technology use in classroom. college entrance requirements and exams. But teacher beliefs in more active learning and models of teaching offer another window of opportunity for change. There is some hope that. At the elementary school level. inspired by international competition and changing technologies. 1996). In fact. Cohen (1988) argues that the active view of learning is still relatively new. These constraints are of three types: the economic pressures for training in complex subject matter. and business people will subscribe to these views. the structural constraints associated with limited teacher contact time with students. and teachers’ beliefs about learning and instruction. require such dispositions. Even the manufacturing sector. In this view. which is likely to allow for greater use of computers across the curriculum.

. Teachers in the study began by using computer technology for traditional practices. (Sarason.42 changed by participation in certain practices. Aspirations need to be met in real classrooms I have described several reasons to recommend project-based science learning in computerized. does not mystically change the quality of life in schools. which if reached will in some mystical way change the quality of life in the classroom and school. often led to a reappraisal of beliefs. networked classrooms. 1971. 1987) maintain that teachers do not always have the opportunity to reflect on the relationship between their beliefs and their classroom practices. But ultimately. 1992. et al. p. even if they are mandated practices. 1991). nor the latitude to make all the changes they would like. (e.. these aspirations must be met by individual teachers in classrooms within actual . Ringstaff. The experience of the Rand Change Agent study bears this out (McLaughlin. along with others.g.. solutions are in themselves wrong or inadvisable but rather that they are viewed as ends. and the growing interest in such efforts. & Sandholtz. we would do well to remember Seymour Sarason’s advise about single solutions: It is not that these single . Brickhouse & Bodner. Thus. like the project method of teaching. combined with the uncertainties introduced by the new constraints which computer use put on teachers’ work. This risk-taking. but when they mastered the technology themselves. 1990). Evaluators of the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow showed how regular access to computer technology was indeed instrumental in changing teachers’ beliefs as well as their practices (Dwyer. Cole & Griffin. but rather interacts with the many cultural and material constraints and resources I have described. and saw some of the work their students were able to accomplish. But Dwyer.. 225) Computer technology. they began to take more risks.

Schön. involves some complexities of its own. 1986. the resources and expertise available. Sarason (1991) has argued that it is important to recognize that schools are not just about kids. In other words. see also Shulman’s. and traditions and social circumstances in the school. 1982. Since “the only educational improvement of lasting significance is the result of good teaching. p. The demands of project-based teaching placed on teachers are tremendous: they must be aware enough of the discipline under study to guide students in promising directions (Cremin. concept of pedagogical content knowledge). is hard won. while promising. and they must find ways to effectively use students’ previous experiences and ongoing classroom activities to foster understanding of formal disciplines ( Cremin. political and economic realities. 1990.” (Ravitch.” As the review above has demonstrated. 12). 1992). 1995). local realities determine the outcomes of change more than global policies or visions. 1961. making the best of the resources at their disposal. Gaining facility at introducing students to projects. They must find ways to work within the constraints of schooling. p. 89) we do well to remember the obstacles and complex realities teachers face.43 schools. the local realities that determine “realizations” include teacher and student beliefs and practices. and guiding them through the process of accomplishing projects. Using technology in the process. they must engage in continual diagnosis of student understanding and be comfortable with not knowing all the answers (Brown. Milbrey McLaughlin argues that change is a “problem of the smallest unit” (McLaughlin. 1961. but also the adults that work in them. Educational change takes time in general. Based on the Rand Change Agent study. and changes associated with technology have been shown to take years . Bruce and Rubin (1993) highlight this truism by stressing the difference between an innovation’s “idealization” and its many local “realizations.

require each other. Recent research which intersects the traditional disciplines of psychology and anthropology has proven useful in describing the relationship between persons and cultures. Sheingold and Hadley’s “nationwide survey of teachers who are experienced and accomplished at integrating computers into their teaching” (p. along with specific social circumstances. (Shweder. as well as sociological and educational research on reflective practice. 2) from the world. they serve as a sobering reminder of the difficulty of learning technologies and changing practice. mitigate the applicability of Sheingold & Hadley’s findings to other teachers today. the 608 teachers of grades 4 through 12 took considerable time and effort. Along the way. 1989.44 (Sandholtz. Ringstaff.. Pea. 1992. 1) This cultural psychology is based on the premise that environments are created by the way human beings “seize meaning” (p. person and context. 1990. et al. and dynamically. cultural psychology is the study of the ways subject and object. As mentioned in Chapter One. Although changes in technology and culture. 1992). psyche and culture. p. Sheingold & Hadley. but neither does the sociocultural environment . Newman. figure and ground.” As Shweder describes it. self and other. practitioner and practice live together. & Dwyer. Richard Shweder (1990) describes this hybrid discipline as “cultural psychology. Individual persons do not seize meanings within a sociocultural vacuum. and jointly make each other up. other researchers have referred to this process of “seizing meaning” as “appropriation” (Leont’ev. How do such change processes work? How can such change processes work better to accomplish project-based science? I believe we may gain some insight by turning to research on the relationship between culture and practice. dialectically. 1990). which was seldom recognized or encouraged by their institutions. 1) found that mastery of computers in teaching took generally five to six years. 1981.

45 completely dictate the meanings individuals seize. Such strategies are not always conscious. and in fact often consist of a general “feel for the game” which people bring to bear on situations. and sketched some of the paths of change.. For example. trying frame experiments to see the possible webs of action they spin. The work on cognitive apprenticeship and situated cognition (Brown. Peyton. et al. individuals develop “strategies” informed by cultural norms. and so on. Collins. These choices are affected by factors at many levels. Bourdieu (1990) stresses that general cultural practices are not rules that individuals strictly follow. in practical situations. 1989. in which values and technical capabilities interact to bring about new possibilities. Instead. but rather “matrimonial strategies” that people bring to bear to serve various social purposes in idiosyncratic situations. The importance of examining change in detail in one setting Bruce. To use Shweder’s terms. fortuitous opportunities. So is the anthropological work of Pierre Bourdieu. taking actions and observing their effects. Reflective practitioners navigate among the many competing ways of viewing situations. & Batson (1993) have pointed out how idealizations of reform are realized in particular situations. adjusting to unintended. et al. It is important to remember that such paths are not deterministic—they involve a series of implicit and explicit choices made by individuals such as teachers. he did not see absolute kinship rules. intentional persons and intentional worlds (cultures) interact with and co-constitute one another. as this chapter has illustrated. A “feel for the game” is not unlike the kind of “reflective conversation with the situation” that Donald Schön (1982) describes in design professionals’ work. . 1989) described earlier is consonant with Shweder’s description..

p. By studying in depth a single teachers’ work at a single site. researchers and practitioners should “avoid the understandable but self-defeating tendency to flee from complexity at the expense of relevance” (p. In this endeavor. We can do better by gathering data on particular reforms and tracing their life history in particular classrooms. It would convey the experience of problem-setting and solving. 1982. 1988).46 In Schön’s influential book (Schön. and accumulating despair. Just as practitioners face such complexity. getting a feeling for it and for the consequences and implications of its adoption. 315) Such research is clearly needed on the complex project of putting project-based science teaching into practice. it would help the practitioner to “try on” a way of framing the practice role. administrators. p. 32). he called for research in professions such as teaching that could contribute to what he calls “frame analysis” by providing an inside view of practice. spending energies needlessly. research should. Making “adventurous teaching” (Cohen. that would be inherent in a particular choice of role frame . As Sarason (1971) pointed out years ago. The risks involved with a lack of understanding include pursuing problems with mismatched solutions. I follow the recommendation of Cuban: It is important to policymakers. 12) . 1988b) such as projectbased science work requires complex negotiation of constraints and resources. (Schön. 1982). I will show how he frames and reframes his role and the problems he faces across multiple situations with a wide variety of students.. 1990. (Cuban.. I will examine the implications these choices have for his further work with students. The existing tools of understanding are no more than inadequate metaphors that pinch-hit for hard thinking. Qualitative research is uniquely suited to examining this kind of complexity (Peshkin. the selfdefinitions and the definitions of success and failure. As this review has illustrated. He said: this sort of frame analysis would help practitioners to experience the world they would create for themselves if they adopted a particular way of framing the practice role. practitioners. and researchers to understand why reforms return but seldom substantially alter the regularities of schooling. this will require examining how multiple levels of sociocultural context and situated actions affect his work and his students’ work.

not a blueprint (Fullan & Miles. Blueprints for school reform and other social change generally fail. The description and analysis of this one journey will thus serve as a guide for future travellers along the paths of reform. I will characterize the types of decisions a teacher has made and continues to face in his journey. I will describe a journey. since they assume an ability to rationally plan for all the possibilities of complex and varied situated environments. 1992). the range of possible choices. and the conflicts and interactions between the many available courses of action. the tradeoffs and implications involved in his choices. Suchman’s (1987) work on the difficulty of creating expert help systems for copy machines convincingly shows that such prescriptions are doomed to inadequacy in the face of real situations in myriad settings. .47 In this way.

Yet theoretical arguments and some empirical 6 In 1993. As described in the previous chapter. technology-rich environment. for this case study I have examined a single teacher’s work implementing project-based science in a particular.” CoVis could be described as an educational intervention designed to explore “what could be” in science classrooms if things changed quite a bit from the status quo. I refer to the research I conducted and this report as an “interpretive case study. Thus. CoVis was funded by the National Science Foundation as an “Educational Testbed.” Backdrop: Goals of the CoVis project In 1992. students are not often expected to learn by conducting project inquiries into scientific phenomena. using the latest in computing and communications technology to support project-based science in high schools. CoVis was conceived as a means to create an extended learning community. enacted in local situations. the Learning Through Collaborative Visualization (CoVis) Project was initiated. Louis Gomez joined the faculty at Northwestern as well. Beyond the reasons described in those chapters. Interpretive research refers to any form of participant observational research that is centrally concerned with the role of meaning in social life. 48 . Under the leadership of Roy Pea at Northwestern University and Louis Gomez at Bellcore6 . I believe it is important to understand how this research came to be formulated as a kind of what Erickson (1986) calls interpretive research.Chapter 3 Getting from questions to methods Setting the stage for interpretive research As described and motivated in the previous chapters.

49 studies (e.g. large-scale datasets. 1992). in progress). et al. how to support students in conducting projects. and how to change assessment in light of new practices. 1990). Communication over the Internet can enable students to work with practicing scientists and other experts as mentors (O’Neill. In addition. For instance. Polman. and for scientific visualization of atmospheric science data. 1991). 1942. access to computers and the Internet can enable students to find and analyze real. Kyle.. and serve as a means of breaking teacher isolation through exchange of ideas over networks (e. 1993. Aikin. 1993). 1984) support the worth of project-based approaches. a suite of computer tools for communication and collaboration on projects. Schwab et al. teachers do not often have classrooms equipped with the latest in technology— typically. . and an audience for students’ ongoing work beyond the teacher (Riel & Levin. provide a larger knowledge-building community (Scardamalia & Bereiter. Yet new technologies are increasingly important in the practice of science. The researchers and teachers met frequently to discuss issues involved with teaching science through projects. 1994).. the researchers collected.g.. Realizations lead to questions Pea and Gomez assembled a team of graduate student researchers (including myself) and others at Northwestern. 1992). and in some case created. During the 1992-93 schoolyear.. to answer research questions they formulate themselves (Gordin. such as what constitutes a project. & Pea. schools lag years behind industry (Pea & Gomez. and a number of industry and research partners to construct a reality from the CoVis vision—to move from Collaborative Visualization of an ideal to collaborative realizations in actual classrooms (using the phrase again from Bruce. six teachers at two schools. and they can be instrumental in creating authentic learning environments for project-based science. Bruce & Rubin.

but it often did not. also began experimenting with projects in classes during this time. We were trying to make the computer network work a great deal during the first semester. and Society during the 1993-94 year. . beliefs. but that was also a struggle. and aptitudes. During that 1993-94 schoolyear. who had been conducting project-enhanced science in high school physics courses for several years. these meetings were held with teachers and researchers from TERC’s LabNet project. were used to look at adoption of some of the electronic communication tools available in CoVis 7 Some teachers. the researchers held a summer workshop to introduce the teachers to the computer tools and model the tools’ use in projects. After this year of development and planning7 . such as Rory Wagner. from both the 1993-94 and 1994-95 school years. In order to understand some of what was going on. Technology. Teachers implemented a wide range of strategies and activities. we were trying to make projects work. the researchers and teachers held a workshop trying these ideas out with students who would be taking CoVis classes in Earth Science. We were trying to make students’ learning of the technology work. from a research perspective. as well as discuss how to introduce students to the tools and ideas. including skill with word processors • Academic self-concept • Writing apprehension • Typing skill These surveys. Then. the teachers and researchers became engrossed in trying to “make things work” in many senses. we administered a set of surveys. Most importantly. such as: • Background with technology. Students’ individual responses to the surveys were used as measures of various aspects of their background.50 In some cases. Environmental Science. or Science.

But this result was both interesting and frustrating from the standpoint of research intended to inform educational change. As Sarason (1971). Thus. 59). has put it. et al. not just personal. Finding that teachers mattered a great deal was cause for hope. such as how they introduced and understood technology and how they guided and structured project activity. This indicated that the way teachers created unique learning environments for their students could make all the difference. “the language and vocabulary of individual psychology . 1994. since action in a social setting such as a classroom is interpersonal. We analyzed whether the above measures. we should not have been surprised to find that the factor most predictive of how much students used electronic communication tools was who their teacher was.. But these results really raised more questions than they answered.. however. not just individual cognition. Hutchins’ (1993) research on the use of navigation tools in real-world contexts also points to the need to look at interpersonal action. p. 1995). These complex interactions could all affect . predicted how much students used electronic communication tools. Early answers lead to more questions These measures of individual variation among students did not prove to be the most salient predictors of action in the classroom. in CoVis classrooms. such as electronic mail. not any of the above measures of individual skill or belief. is in no way adequate to changing social settings” (Sarason. This is not really surprising. as well as gender. The “teacher factor” in fact stood as a proxy for many complex aspects of teachers’ classrooms. though.. Polman & Fishman.51 classrooms as measured by student estimates and automated logs (Polman. or the meaning of what was happening. 1971. A simple “teacher factor” in a correlation or analysis of variance could not tell us much at all about the reasons behind what was happening in teachers’ classes.

facilities.52 usage of technology. A few examples beyond the CoVis setting should help clarify some of the gaps in other forms of research that interpretive methods can address. each of which involves individual intentions as well as overt behavior. And technology usage in itself was a proxy. is the best means at our disposal of uncovering the local meanings and actions (Erickson. Interpretive research. and many levels of interpretation by participants. Electronic communication tools are only one aspect of whole learning environments. such as case studies. James Coleman analyzed this data. and training of teachers (cited in McDonald. We are not interested so much in how much electronic communication tools are used. researchers and policymakers hoped the Equal Educational Opportunity Survey (EEOS) would help clarify how to help educate the children of the poor. Prying open the black box In the 1960s. The survey results imply that local meanings in different learning environments lead to differences in project-based teaching. simply knowing the values of a few variables does not adequately describe the reason for outcomes. as in how electronic communication tools aid in the accomplishment of projects. This would have . 1988). What’s the treatment? Asking what is really going on in a classroom is similar to Erickson’s (1986) query “What was the treatment?” In any educational process. 1986) that determine what is really going on in an individual classroom. Accomplishing projects that help students learn something about the conduct of science is what CoVis is about. but survey research will not reveal those local meanings. such as per-pupil spending. An educational “treatment” consists of many actions. hoping to demonstrate that low achievement among minorities correlated with low measures of school resources.

researcher. and their use of the tools played in accomplishing the software design projects. Harel and the teacher held several “Focus Sessions” on design. The software also structured activity to some extent through the LOGO programming language and its focus on representational issues. Adequately understanding the black box leads inexorably to examining in detail the local. 3) In addition. These discussions surely helped define the local . Harel’s work with the Instructional Software Design Project (ISDP) provides another interesting case. thereby learning a great deal about fractions themselves. She gives evidence in the form of changes in cognitive measures that computers can be used in a learning environment that succeeds in engaging students in open-ended problem-solving on fraction problems (Harel & Papert. a routine was established in which student’s wrote in Designer’s Notebooks at the beginning and end of daily sessions. She describes a fourth-grade classroom in which students designed LOGO software to teach younger children fractions. Harel’s qualitative results reveal the kinds of changes students made in thinking and action over the course of the intervention. But the variance in student achievement was completely unrelated to resources—just as many resource-rich schools had problems as did resource-poor schools. The activity was not completely open-ended. contextual experience of classrooms. 1993). Finally. but they reveal a limited picture of the role the teacher. and they were required to spend a specific amount of time at the computer each day. According to McDonald (1988). and math topics.” (p. Students were given the general task of designing a piece of instructional software that “explain[ed] something about fractions to some intended audience. these results have inspired more and more efforts to get “inside the black box” that lie between Coleman’s inputs and outputs.53 validated the idea that the Title I strategy of increasing the input of funding would directly influence the output of student achievement. programming.

This is the direction that the so-called “processproduct” research has chosen to explore. Goals and limitations of process-product research Harel is careful to call her ideas about how this complex system worked speculations and conjectures. 1986. An example is waittime research (e. Rowe. 5) I argue that such interactions are essential to the “total learning environment” Harel and the teacher were able to create. Her research makes important contributions. sat next to them. before interjecting a comment or clue. 1986). because she is unable to reduce them to statistical studies. It is also significant that there is enough description to be able to raise additional conjectures about the learning environment as a functional system. She also does not portray in detail the kinds of interactions she and the teacher had with students in defining and carrying out their design tasks.54 meanings and interpretations of both the activities and the topics. looked at their programs. and speculations about the interrelationships among the factors. including conjectures about a number of factors that may have affected students’ improved performance. (p. and that .. researchers attempt to show how certain values of objective variables correlate to certain outcomes. She states: The teacher and the researcher (Harel) collaborated and actively participated in all the children’s software design and programming sessions during the project: walked around among the students. helped them when asked for.g. One might think that this problem might be overcome by gathering more numerical data on the process students went through. This kind of research makes two problematic assumptions: that the same objective amount of time has the same meaning to all persons in all question-answer dialogues in all classroom situations. In this approach. which has shown that in standard Teacher Question-Student Answer dialogues. Tobin. and discussed with them their designs. and problems in a friendly and informal way. students will learn more if teachers wait longer after asking their questions. but Harel does not present them in detail. programming.

Understanding such a complex problem. The distinction between an objective behavior. Putting interpretive methods to work In my discussion of efforts to put child-centered practices. the relatively extended amount of . we wouldn’t know what the e-mail exchange meant to the student. or an electronic mail message sent. such as time waiting. 126-7). Reasons for this include “being there” personally and with all senses engaged. the many levels that influence what goes on and what it means in the classroom became apparent. Through study conducted in the interpretive tradition.55 if teachers are told they should wait by researchers. it is possible to come to a better understanding of how a learning environment for conducting semi-structured projects is designed and enacted by the participants. In fact. if process-product research revealed that CoVis students who use electronic mail more to communicate with scientists learned how to conduct scientific inquiry better (by some measure). and this is what would cause learning of any sort. into practice. and action. is a unique strength of interpretive or qualitative inquiry. even if they know Johnny in the corner is going to jump in and quash the response Alice is formulating. from Harel’s ISDP classes to Rory Wagner’s Earth Science class in CoVis. as Peshkin (1988) asserts. Similarly. with the kind of complexity and interrelatedness that exists in classrooms. however. such as project-based teaching. they will do so. We also wouldn’t know anything about how teachers could help construct meaningful interchanges between students and scientists. I am using Erickson’s (1986) definition of a behavior as a physical act. and an action as “the physical act plus the meaning interpretations held by the actor and those with whom the actor is engaged in interaction” (pp. is an important one. statistical studies are inadequate to the task of describing learning environments as “functional systems” of actors and actions.

In conducting interpretive research. and interpretive research holds an important place among the plurality of approaches available for educational research. For example. Like Eisner (1993) in his AERA presidential address. so I now turn to an examination of the interpretive tradition and approach as I have put it into practice. his master’s thesis and the lessons he learned from his grandfather and father unexpectedly emerged as themes which affect his classroom work and philosophy. This led me to an interest in prying open the black box the teacher factor represented. I do not wish to make an argument for interpretive research as the sole vehicle for research. I have to get there first. the “teacher factor” mattered immensely. . I believe statistical input-output and processproduct designs can and do complement interpretive designs. I argue that there are different ways to understand the world. and soon found that one factor. however. for instance.56 time devoted to the phenomenon under study. I started this journey with statistical analyses of predefined factors that seemed likely to be relevant to technology and project-based science. emergent themes which are manifestly important to action in situ can be captured rather than ignored. my results could also be used to identify factors of particular interest for conducting larger scale process-product research on similar environments. with a stance that does not require prespecifying everything that will be recorded. in my research with Rory. statistical methods can be used to help characterize particular settings or cases so the applicability to other cases and settings can be considered—I will do this to contextualize Rory Wagner’s students and school in comparison to other CoVis teachers’. but instead encourages a view broad in scope. Thus. As should be clear from the development of my own research. Since one of my goals is to present a more complete model of how a learning environment for project-based science has been designed and implemented.

g. Positivist/behavioral approaches to social science assume that the kind of mechanical causality assumed in the natural sciences. and the interpretive tradition. Erickson nicely illustrates the cause attribution problem with an analogy between the role a billiard ball plays in physics research and the role a human plays in social research. rules of mechanical causation describe its reaction. The German historian and philosopher Dilthey argued for a distinction between the two approaches—human science needed hermeneutic or interpretive methods. such as Newtonian physics. is that meaning is causal (Erickson. Researchers in the interpretive tradition. but rather the person’s interpretation of the physical world.57 The central role of meaning As should be apparent from the preceding section. Erickson traces the primary divide in social science research to that between the theoretical assumptions of positivist/behavioral and interpretive perspectives. a primary assumption of my approach.. the interpretation of meaning is acted upon—the meaning interpretation causes subsequent action. But when a person perceives some aspect of his or her environment. have sought to develop the means to rigorously research social life. When a billiard ball is struck by another billiard ball at a certain angle and with a certain speed on a certain surface. because meaning was causal for humans but not objects. 1984) and Erickson himself (1986). are rooted in the German tradition of Geisteswissenschaft (“human science” or “moral science”) rather than Naturwissenschaft (“natural science”). . also applies to the social situations. physical objective facts “out there in the world” are not what is directly acted upon. Interpretive approaches to social science. environments where human agents interact. from Dilthey in the late 19th century to Mead (1928) to Bateson (1972) and Geertz (1973) to McDermott (e. Arrays of “objective factors” with static interpretations are not adequate to describe complex. Once made. 1986).

Prior to the conception of this study. My relationship with Rory was solidified at that time. Another data collection alternative would have been the radically inductive approach—in this view. and let the experience in the setting dictate as far as possible the emergent conceptions. For this reason. Pratt.. 1994. the researcher admits to questions coming in to the field.g. prior to fieldwork—can be found in Appendix .. In the deliberative inquiry approach. 1988). the primary means of achieving and demonstrating rigor in social and cultural research is by “being there” in the research setting for extended periods. and conceptualizations which shape his or her understandings. I have conducted this research in the tradition of deliberative inquiry described by Erickson (1986). Along with recent writers in anthropology (e. Clifford & Marcus.58 “Being there” for extended periods of time Reviewing some of these methods researchers have developed to rigorously conduct interpretive research into complex social settings is worthwhile. Fieldwork is viewed as progressive problem-solving. 1973. I was present in Rory Wagner’s classroom as a technical aide for one period every day during 1993-94.. and refined based on further findings. where assertions and characterizations of patterns are repeatedly checked against ongoing observation of the setting and probing of informants. and how it is affected by my personal and professional history as well as dialogue with research participants. My initial conceptions of this study—in July. 1989). Time in the setting is the best antidote to addressing the problem of bounded rationality (Simon. and maintained at CoVis meetings throughout that year. According to Geertz (e.g. Ayers. 1986) and education (e. the researcher attempts to completely hold prior conceptualizations at bay.g. 1957)—the limits of human information-processing capability. I deemed complete neutrality to be a quixotic quest. and instead will endeavor to describe my changing position. 1986.

and how do students interpret and use that structure? . In summary. and approach? .What does “science” mean? . and technological resources in the process? .How and why has this structure developed and changed over time (i. The primary questions for the study are based on the refinement of the initial questions through fieldwork and literature review (related to both education and methods).How do they negotiate the topic.How are they constrained by personal beliefs. they are: • What is Rory trying to teach through his course. Along the participant- . and how do students understand his intentions? . and begin the process of progressive problem-solving. Following the formulation in Appendix C.e.What do “projects” mean? • How does Rory structure project activity for students. as shown in Appendix C. the “natural history” of project structure—including turning points—over the past three years) • How do Rory and his students interactively accomplish projects? . This conception was further developed by October of 1994. institutional rules and culture. and technological limitations? My fieldwork primarily took the form of participant observation in one of Rory Wagner’s three Earth Science classes during 1994-95 and 1995-96. and he agreed to participate. institutional. questions.How do they make use of personal.59 B. I began participant observation in one of Rory Wagner’s classes to refine the focus of the study. I discussed my idea for the formal study with Rory.

The most complete and intensive work.60 observation continuum discussed by Glesne & Peshkin (1992).” Thus. 1992. which makes up the bulk of this report. Details of the sources of my field notes from this period are shown in the table below. . In addition. was from the first half of the 1995-96 school year. During that year. In 1994-95. p. I was present for half of the meetings of Rory’s Period 1/2 class from August 28 (the beginning of school) through February 9 (the end of student presentations). my role can be characterized as “observer as participant. I acted “primarily as an observer but [had] some interaction with study participants” (Glesne & Peshkin. I was present on average one to two days per week from October through May in Rory’s Period 7/8 class. 40). I made spot checks that allowed me to gain a sense of development throughout the rest of year and the students’ remaining two projects—a total of 10 days’ classroom observation and 6 phone interviews with Rory. I conducted debriefing interviews by phone with Rory after class about the day’s events on as many of the days when I could not attend as possible. Classroom observation (# of days) Quarter 1 (lectures and technology introduction) Quarter 2 (student-directed projects) Totals 24 Interview by phone Missed days (# of days) (# of days) 6 17 Totals (# of days) 47 28 52 14 20 6 23 48 95 Table 1: Sources of field notes from first half of 1995-96 Following this period.

and reveal that subjectivity to the reader (Ayers. I believe the development of rapport through personal interactions allowed my subjective personality to be used as a tool to better the research. Thus. and rejected those he thought provided little gain relative to their costs. . he appropriated those technological tools he thought could provide significant gains in accomplishing projects. rather than something to be avoided. 1992). Deliberately sampling for a variety of kinds of evidence can increase the discipline of inquiry. Like Lightfoot (1983). Interpretive researchers also attempt to critically assess throughout the research process how their own subjectivity may bias the work. Early on. By being there and developing rapport through personal interaction with participants in the setting. 1989. I have included in Appendix A a brief autobiography focusing on issues related to the conduct of this research. One example of this progression can be seen in the difference between the primary questions as laid out in early conceptions (see Appendices A and B) and those laid out above. Such triangulation of data sources can include observation of events. and following Bill Ayers’ (1989) example. I have attempted to reach ever closer approximations of understanding Rory and his students’ perspectives. For this reason.61 This extended time in the research setting allowed me as a participant observer to apprehend more and more of the admittedly complex structure of events. I had a strong focus on the use of technological tools. Triangulation of data sources A number of mindful means are also available for assessing the adequacy of specific assertions or hypotheses made by the researcher in the course of fieldwork and analysis. but through interaction with Rory came to understand that his focus was on the accomplishment of science projects—technological tools were primarily interesting to him insofar as they helped accomplish projects. Glesne & Peshkin.

. and student presentations—was videotaped. Specifically.62 interviews with participants. and documents produced by participants in the course of their work or life (Patton. 1994-95 and 1995-96 school years. data collection. institutional. • February 1995 interview with Rory on history of project work (see Appendix D for Interview Guide) • May 1995 interview with Rory on issues in running a project classroom. 1995-96. paper write-up and presentation preparation. personal. and Semester I. are: • Fieldnotes from participant observation of a single class. The sources of data I have used to develop an understanding of the meaning perspectives of the various participants. This usually consists in participation in the scheduled class meeting. followed by a “debriefing” discussion with Rory directly after that class. and to triangulate the testing of assertions. • August 1995 and February 96 interviews with Rory around planning and accomplishment of projects (see Appendix F and Appendix G for interview guides). and technological resources and constraints. at least one day during each major stage of the activity cycles in the class— a lecture period. brainstorming topics and doing background research. This insured a more exhaustive record of each stage of activity. 1990). and some more history (see Appendix E for Interview Guide). data analysis. the initial description and discussion of the project assignment. 1994-95. • Video records of selected classes. brainstorming and negotiating research questions.

Ayers.63 • Interviews with four individual students and one pair of students during and after their first projects in 1995-96 (see Appendix F and Appendix G for interview guides). and papers representing ongoing analysis. 1989. Brickhouse & Bodner. participatory learning environment design. and we discussed the aptness of this metaphor for his work. • Student project artifacts from 1994-95 and Semester I 95-96 (the latter including milestones as well as final report. and incorporated them. I have asked Rory to review and comment on the formal proposal submitted in July.8 Since then. . and sections of this report as they were completed. that disagreement would be noted. no such disagreement has surfaced. to see whether the interpretations “ring true” to lived experience (e. Rory attended a “brown bag” talk in February 1995 where I first presented my conceptualization of iterative. For example. • Handouts from 1993-94. To date. with written teacher feedback) • Ongoing email discussions (begun in the Fall of 1994) between myself and Rory Wagner about projects and his class Checking interpretations with informants The adequacy of interpretations can be checked with informants. 1992) and the perspectives of researcher and participant are thus converging (Mehan. I have asked for Rory Wagner’s reactions and feedback.g.. 94-95. 1995 (consisting of drafts of Chapters One-Three). At various stages in the development and construction of this work. and Semester I 95-96. 1978). 8 Should Rory and I disagree about the accuracy of events or their meanings.

the researcher can deliberately search for negative instances or disconfirming evidence in the research setting. I transcribed all interviews with Rory and his students. I have followed Erickson’s (1986) two recommendations for addressing these threats to validity—machine recording and forming tentative assertions while still conducting fieldwork. ones that confirm researchers’ assertions) over negative instances. This process can involve software specifically designed to aid typification (Miles & Huberman. and a second is an undue influence of positive instances (i. In order to use the software package NUD•IST for coding. The process of typification produces important threats to the validity of research findings (Phillips. 1990). By using machine recording techniques. the researcher can return to the different observation periods for further analysis with an eye to questions unformulated at the time. If necessary. and audiotaped the four structured interviews with Rory Wagner and the ten structured interviews with his students. In my case. I videotaped 11 classes at various stages of classroom activity in 1995-96..e. the participant observer can actively question participants in the course of events. 1994).64 Typification and categorization of data and events Interpretive research is usually conducted through a process of “coding”—typifying or categorizing data and events—so the researcher can formulate assertions about what is going on. One of these is an undue influence by early experiences in the setting. or somehow alter the events by performing some active role. thus avoiding any selection bias that may have affected written field notes. These were transcribed verbatim. By forming assertions while still conducting fieldwork. and classroom observation (from handwritten field notes and videotapes for the days available) from the 1995-96 school year. The beginnings of .

Even after fieldwork is completed. learning. Originally. Further analysis and testing of developing assertions—through seeking confirming and disconfirming evidence—continued through the 1995-96 school year. For example. or change the explanation. the researcher can use them to refine or reformulate assertions. or to describe more exactly the limits of those assertions. . and refine my initial assertions. the researcher is obligated to either explain disconfirming evidence away. When discrepant or disconfirming cases are discovered. I had to explain what what going on. I had to either conclude that some students did project work like Rory’s in other classes. and opinions of “valid teaching” after the 1994-95 school year. and resulted in a first draft of Chapter One. I had not planned to conduct such interviews. or she did not yet grasp some of the work involved in Rory’s project. In other words. Combining the student interviews with classroom observations allowed me to better understanding the students’ perspectives on teaching. and decided I needed to conduct interviews with students outside of class to probe these issues. but I found it necessary to supplement classroom observation and spontaneous probing with extended reflection by students outside class. and their particular experiences. In this case.65 my analysis from the 1994-95 school year were completed in the summer of 1995. researchers can still deliberately search through all data records for disconfirming evidence to new assertions. For instance. I found evidence in classroom observations that she did not grasp certain parts of project work in Rory’s class that distinguished it from other classes. I began to formulate ideas and questions about students’ experiences in other classes. when one student said in an interview that doing project work in other classes was more like Rory’s class than I had expected or than other students had described.

the drug trade. Erickson describes particularizability as being achieved by examining “concrete universals” in particular. my portrayal of Rory’s iterative design situated in the classroom should give readers a model for how he has adjusted and refined his particular strategies over time. For this reason. grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss. like urban violence and changing from traditional school practices. 1993) . In my study. the interpretive researcher can begin to indicate what aspects of the concrete case under study may apply to other cases. 1986). For instance. It is worth pointing out that figuring out how to particularize strategies to situations is exactly what teachers like Rory do on a daily and yearly basis. Thus. and housing policy affect the particular lives of two youngsters in Chicago. Readers of this and other such studies are not told exactly how the findings in these cases apply to other settings which share common issues.66 Focusing on particularizability over generalizability Approximations of participants’ perspectives and the structure and meaning of events inevitably remain just that—they never completely equate with the reality as experienced by participants. Ayers (1989) shows how widespread social problems are manifested in particular preschool teachers’ work. detailed cases. In this way. But by gaining a fuller understanding of how the larger issues . 1979) is developed that accounts for a variety of local events and variations. but the applicability of the case studied and described is left to the reader (Firestone. By considering the different layers of context that are shared with other settings. and comparing them with one another. and Kotlowitz (1991) shows how urban violence. But they are better approximations than are otherwise obtainable. Erickson has pointed out that the focus of interpretive research is usually particularizability rather than generalizability (Erickson. I attempt to show how such issues as traditional schooling practice affect the implementation of project-based science teaching.

The one sense in which my research on Rory Wagner’s teaching could be characterized as targeting generalizability is by generalizing to “what could be” (Schofield. and adventurous science teacher attempted to design an entirely project-based science class. I laid out some of the a priori justifications for an interest in project-based teaching as an authentic and promising form of science education. most research (especially in the positivist tradition) aims at studying “what is” in typical settings. studying what could be involves “locating situations that we know or expect to be ideal or exceptional on some a priori basis and then studying them to see what is actually going on there” (1990. there is an additional problem with unusual approaches or environments. reflective. readers are in a better position to apply these findings to other situations. and refine them over several years. 1986) of how projects can be organized in networked science classrooms. is exceptional within CoVis. As mentioned at the outset of this chapter. . CoVis is explicitly an exploration of what education “could be” if teachers appropriated project-based approaches in technology-rich. p. In the previous chapter. 1990). As Schofield points out. but rather what could be the case given certain circumstances. and Rory Wagner’s willingness to commit all of his class time after the first quarter of the year to projects and critically explore multiple ways of organizing his teaching. networked classrooms.67 particularize to these cases. In addition. In addition to the problems of local meanings in multiple settings mentioned previously. we know a priori that the technological infrastructure in CoVis classes is exceptional as an NSF Educational Testbed. In some of these cases. As Schofield uses the distinction. we do not want to know what is typically the case. Studying his classroom allows me to build a more complete model (Erickson. 217). This case study aims to explore “what could be” if an experienced.

such as this report. The kind of “thick description” (Geertz. because they provide richly indexed cases with which people can think and to which they can relate their own situations. Schank. The results of interpretive case study research. 1990). 1990. 1973) included in this report offers some distinct advantages over the standard forms of reporting positivist research (e. The form of the report itself. Bruner. tables of variables and significance factors with analytic discussion). should thus offer important contributions beyond those offered by statistical studies of the relation of input or process factors to outcome factors alone..68 Using the products of research A final word about the utility of an interpretive case study’s products. 1993). 1982.. is designed to aid the reader in particularizing the findings from the study to their own setting (Firestone. Narrative reports may help to influence educational practice in other settings. . it is time to step back into the classroom.g. With these words expressing my hopes about the usefulness of this case study. A range of cognitive theorists argue that narrative forms and cases are primary vehicles for learning and extending understanding (e.g. with detailed narrative cases or vignettes.

. nah. Swimming upstream Like many careers. which led him to venture into project-based science teaching. His interest grew. Rory’s career as a high school Earth Science teacher did not come about as a result of a clear. in her television show. and he experienced early success..” He once compared his life to comments from the comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. I’ve never had a life plan. And I thought. I never had a life plan. But then in his second year.” Before.” I’ve never had a plan. But during his junior year in college a course in geophysics. and I found geology. “how the hell did I get into teaching?” I didn’t plan to be here. linear plan. there was a time when I . 69 . Rory had spent his first year in college as what he calls an “Intro major”—someone who takes introductory courses of all types. I will examine some pertinent aspects of Rory’s life narrative. I don’t have a life plan.” She says. “No. I had no idea where I was going. I have no idea where I’m going. and I thought about that. “That’s me.. . It was a “big. 1989). “I don’t have a plan. And I thought. I didn’t plan to be here for 22 years.” So she went off on a bus to get a plan.Chapter 4 A teacher’s journey: Finding shoes that fit Understanding what Rory does in his classroom requires some consideration of his “life narrative” (Ayers. In this chapter. long. and continue struggling to improve his approach. I just—you know. complex. twisty windy road.. to have a vision. wait. Ellen goes.” but now they revealed fascinating stories about the world. “rocks were things that you threw at your little brother. geology captured his imagination and attention: “I was wandering through the forest looking for something interesting. despite early difficulties putting projects into practice.

and found that he liked them. meteorology. and [he] was getting hit in the head too much” convinced Rory that graduate school in geology was not for him. and here’s plate tectonics. corresponding to the four subfields of Earth Science: geology. In his work as a teacher. including one in which he impersonated an ancient coral. So he considered his options. Here’s how ocean currents move. he’d “looked out at the sky and wondered at how far away the stars were and even further the other galaxies were.” He typically divided up the year into four topics. and explaining how these phenomena work.” When he was taking astronomy in college.70 where “a new PhD .. and what he began doing.. like the paleontology professor who gave great lectures. oceanography. and astronomy. finding ways to get students’ “hands dirty” in earth science. 1984). Here’s what happens in an earthquake. and here’s what happens in a volcano.’ You know. Most of what they had done. such as diagrams of plate tectonics and ocean currents. Rory turned to the model of some of the good teachers he had had. He didn’t have a strong college math background. one of the most powerful sources for teachers’ ideas on teaching practice is previous experience in school (Cohen. was throwing formulas and stuff around the room like boomerangs. He still takes pride in some of the skills he developed—drawing illustrations on the board. To figure out what to do. another class which had “literally broadened [his] horizons.. and decided he could still work in geology if he became a teacher. and he believed at the time that would not bode well for graduate studies. was “telling people about [phenomena] . ‘here’s how things work. 1988. Becoming an earth science teacher would also mean being involved with astronomy.. and maintaining his own interest all proved . and answering students’ questions.” As mentioned in Chapter Two. too. Cuban.” He took education courses. But there were down sides — engaging students’ interests. Rory “wanted to share all the cool stuff that [he] learned.

very standard. Throughout. but he was “frustrated by the nature of the laboratory activities in earth science. ‘cause they have a history test next period. that make kids think. lakes. After beginning to teach with projects. and hopefully some of it works..” Northern Illinois is not a terribly exciting area for earth science study—except for glaciers.. ‘cause they don’t need it.. [and] doing other homework .” The problem was. You grade your labs. You have your labs. You give the tests. like earthquakes and volcanoes. there was nothing much to “get your hands into. You wade through all the paper work. Rory also tried new labs almost every year.71 difficult. To make things work better. and understand how things work.” . Rory tried varying the order he covered topics. But the students’ interests seldom seemed to match his own: And then that leads to all kinds of things like falling asleep. and couldn’t give a *#&% about plate tectonics. and you do your lectures. like every teacher does—that are exciting. You’re trying to come up with activities—you know. depending on “the way things worked the year before. You give the grades.” Rory tried many different ways to get the students engaged and interested over the years. You cover your stuff. and then my feelings are hurt ‘cause they’re doing their history while I’m trying to do my world’s best lecture on plate tectonics. and weather. and most of the time nobody does. You add up all the points. Rory “felt like a fish swimming upstream.” He added in videos and laserdiscs that he found interesting and thought-provoking. were “the basic cookbook kind. You know.. you’re trying not to be boring. Very boring . “you get down to the end. Rory summed up his previous practice like this: You go through the year. and they don’t want it. all within the basic framework of “lecturelab-demo” science teaching.” Even worse—he “felt like a salmon swimming up Niagara Falls. At the same time. and you’re supposed to get something out of it.” And the laboratory exercises that tried to address other interesting issues.

Rory himself “got bored . it is not surprising that Rory was intrigued by the idea of getting students involved in doing science research. the process had become too frustrating. But after reading LabNet (Ruopp. This approach was one that he had not tried. [with] talking about the same thing over and over again. do this. so they had longer to discuss and plan. Rory’s department head suggested he go to the CoVis meetings which had begun the previous summer. Rory was not sure he would be teaching for much longer.. . he decided to throw out his textbook reading . et al. about a particular problem. to see if he was interested...72 Finally..” He had tried for a long time to get the students excited about a subject he enjoyed so much—geology—and a process that he found so fascinating—science.” Fish out of water In September of 1992.” especially with four classes on the same subject in the same day. He had been “trying to get them to think a little bit . But he felt over and over again that the “kids aren’t interested—I am.. Most of them decided to wait until the Fall of 1993 to begin projects. they [will be] more apt to be more energized by that. Rory decided to step out of the familiar upstream struggle he’d been waging.” the students would get to make decisions. that they haven’t ever heard before. At the time he became involved in CoVis. and he felt that “if students are involved with doing things that they pick and design.1993) and thinking hard about what he was trying to accomplish.. and take more interest in and ownership in it. do this. in September of 1992. In the second quarter of 1992-93.” Instead of him saying “do this. After nineteen years. or what’s out there. They don’t care about it.. But he had a dilemma: “how do I explain what I want them to do without telling them exactly how to do it?” He and the other teachers in CoVis discussed this and other issues of introducing projects into their classrooms. Given the background described above. whether it [was] critically.

he was reminded that “things . At the time. because the LabNet teachers had all been working on physics projects. He studied the mineral compositions and fracture patterns in rocks in Wisconsin. then changed the “rules of the game” to a non-traditional model. Now. So I was really—you talk about winging it.” One reason he was “winging it” was that his personal experiences in secondary school and undergraduate studies did not provide him with models for this kind of teaching. and performing the analyses.73 assignments. So instead. He assigned students a quarter-long. He himself had what he later characterized as a “vague” sense of what he wanted his students to accomplish. He would provide mostly feedback and advice. under the guidance of a graduate advisor. “I felt totally like a fish out of water. lectures. He was uncertain how exactly he would go about helping his students do projects. he turned to the model of the graduate research project. As mentioned previously. as his advisor had done. don’t always work the way you expect them to work”—his students felt like he’d abandoned them on top of Mount Everest without a guide. and that they give an oral presentation at the end. however. but felt they would enjoy the freedom of studying almost anything about the Earth they wanted. Rory attributed some of the students’ frustration to the fact that he had started the year out traditionally. and he was unsure how to accomplish what they were doing in his Earth Science class. open-ended project with no formal requirements other than that it have something to do with mapping. but years later he decided to pursue a masters in geology. designing approaches to the problems. You know? This was really winging it. Rory avoided graduate studies right after college. As related earlier. he hoped he could get his students to play an active role in defining research problems. and “cookbook” labs. When he . Because I had no idea what I was doing... he said. much as he had done for his masters.

the students’ parents “were of the type who would call the school and complain that their students aren’t getting the traditional [instruction].” (p. this only further daunted them. As re recalls it. with all playing active but asymmetrical roles. As Rogoff describes. which depends on acquisition of knowledge by an active learner with the teacher remaining passive. The frustration level in the class during that first project was high. To avoid being overly directive.. rather than the role of disseminator of packaged knowledge. “‘We’re only 14 and 15. Rogoff suggests instead the model of community of learners. 209).” . It “is based on the premise that learning occurs as people participate in shared endeavors with others. But he had to become comfortable with that role. Rory’s initial swing away from teacher-directed pedagogy to a student-directed version is well-described in a study by Rogoff (1994).” and he was confident they could do it with him as a guide. but they were also “being graded on how they were playing. But the class was not functioning well as a community of learners.” I vividly recall seeing a red-faced student in those early days shout at Rory. like graduate students. “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!” In addition. When trying to get away from this model.” And they were “very vocal about not wanting to do this. How do you expect us to do projects that . teachers often move to the contrasting model of unguided discovery. Rory often left students completely to their own devises. their reaction was.74 told the students they would be doing real research.. lecturebased classrooms depend on transmission of knowledge from an active teacher to a passive learner. Not only were the students expected to play this new game. scientists are working on?’” He wanted the students “to do all the work.

or use a different size screw . in whatever he was doing... but didn’t have a 220 volt line up there. and this is really hard to do. He just “learned how to do this stuff. Rory spent a great deal of time as a child and adult with his grandfather. 70 years old— you get to a certain pace at those times. chances are you can get it done.” And when his grandfather ran into adversity. and he’s sweating like crazy..” but he persisted because he was committed to the idea of students doing science. but then you keep on trying. I can’t get that screw in.75 Lessons from the “practical tinkerer” Rory still says emphatically “lecture-lab-demo was easier than [project-based teaching]. and you take a break. I don’t think I ever saw him get mad. then he’d try something else.. maybe I better drill the hole a little bigger. you modify. And there’s always a way to do something. It must have been like looking underwater. I don’t even know how he could see. if that didn’t work. and one image that always comes back to me is: it was a hot summer day. You know? And there were really frustrating things. he “drill[ed] a hole in the wall and [ran] a conduit down the outside of the building down to the basement. OK. And things that seem insurmountable aren’t if you take them in small little pieces. “OK. and [my grandfather] was screwing something in. OK. And . He attributes his grandfather with teaching him that things don’t always work right the first time.” When his grandfather needed to have an air conditioner on the second floor. and he’s got these glasses. and it’s like. Rory modified what he was doing to make it work better.” . If you’re patient enough. and we were in this crawl space. whom he calls a “practical tinkerer. then find a way to do it. . but he just never gave up. Like. Rather than abandoning project-based science.. It was like he always seemed to go along at this very same pace. 60. you know. You know? And you get tired. and we were doing some electrical work. ‘cause he had sweat all over the glasses.. he was undaunted: I owned a house in the city for a couple of years. either by watching other people or by doing—just by figuring it out himself. ‘Course he was.” despite the fact that he wasn’t an electrician. And if you want to do it. maybe we were between floors or something like that—there was a false ceiling on the first floor—and we were doing some wiring.

as is everything that I do. so I just—let’s see. self-fitting kind of a thing.76 To this day. It was a course offered to students at Lakeside. he figured out a way to add one: So I went. They start out OK. your feet love it. and “invent something that [will] fix it. remembering his grandfather’s example. you know. he tried all kinds of “store-bought gizmos” that didn’t work.. After the students did some introductory lessons in the classroom. When he needed heat in the laundry room in his house. was that—kind of like having shoes that fit.” His attitude both inside and outside the classroom is to figure out what the problem is. they hurt. Rory works on projects around the house the same way. but eventually made a custom lock out of eight dollars worth of pipe and corners from the hardware store.. So this fits better. So then you get a new pair of shoes that just fit. When Rory needed a lock for the sliding glass doors in his house. OK. I like this fit. perfectly. OK. The way I described it to somebody . but they just. but then they get kind of—you know. I connect this piece to here. The reasons project-based science teaching “shoes fit” Rory relates to the reasons he found a summer “Alpine Ecology” course in Colorado to be “one of the best times” he ever had. They’re still OK. they don’t quite fit right. there’s a crawl space. It was okay. and they never —your feet never get sore. and heating ducts.. but there was no heating vent. He says that project is “still in evolution. You know. and you can walk forever. but they hurt. and the good thing is that it feels much better to me to do things this way. and cut a hole in the floor. I know what heating ducts are.” The hiking shoes fit Rory’s continued interest in project-based science teaching despite adversity has partly to do with personal style: It’s a real shift.. I need this piece. You know. and Rory was asked to simply be a chaperone—he had no official teaching duties. It’s like an intuitive. there were too many rough edges that I couldn’t seem to get off. and this piece to here. that’s the way this feels as opposed to doing it the other way. [but] I’ve never done any heating [work] before” . Rory went with them to the mountains of Colorado for a week of . but it was always quirky. “OK. and your feet hurt after you wear ‘em for a while. [and] put a vent in.

wow. And there was one kid on that trip who was gonna be a biology major in college. this is really neat. and the food chains. As Rogoff (1994) suggested. “Glaciers. I don’t have to know this.. [or] whatever. go climbing in the rocks. and looking at flowers. rather than a disseminator of canned information. “Hey. this came—ice.. and whatever kind of came up . It’s quartz. Because then I’m like a teacher. and we were taking a hike—it was a long hike—and we were going up over this pass. that’s really cool. you know. and he switched to geology because he had so much fun out there. “Oh. See. you know. you know. Rory does play an active and unique role. had that much to do with it. The program involved “hiking.77 field study. kids go.. Not that I. [along with] free time to go horseback riding . It was funny. like you’d find a whole wall like this [gesturing expansively in front of him] that was all polished smooth and shiny from the glaciers. In his class. and I remember one time there was this kid. Learning to wear the shoes of the guide has required Rory to refine his unique role of .” and they’re going “I don’t wanna know this. and I’d stop and look at things that I found interesting. Joe Geologist. you know. “you have to know this. and grow new interests... It’s whatever. and I didn’t want to do that.” and he threw it. “Oh. because of what he saw. and wear them into the classroom. heeeey!” You know? So kids were learning things. and kids are saying “What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?” ‘Cause they wanted to know what the stuff was .” And you look down the valley.” Pretty soon . in him. So I was just kind of like. students can follow up on their interests within Earth Science. “Feld-spaaaar.” or “this is stupid. and I didn’t want to . And kids were asking what these rocks were.. and you go “Wow! I mean. and we’d go on hikes.” And just by the fact that you’re looking at something.. “Eh? Feldspar. force myself on kids as.” So then we went hiking this one day to this old mine—silver mine—and we’re looking at rocks. And you stop. but something changed. this one kid picked up this rock. You know.. that was—that was a great experience because I wasn’t telling them.. and he went.. and the geology. and you just look at it. And so. and the food web. what are you looking at?" [I’d answer]. just some more crappy feldspar.” It’s as if choosing to teach project-based Earth Science has allowed Rory to put the hiking shoes that he wore on that summer field study back on. “See that U shape? Wow.” [The] kids go.” He told me what was so special about it: We were walking around. and the ecology. as a guide and spur to thought. out there.

I turn to the refinement of this role in the next chapter.78 modeling and structuring activities in the classroom so that students can learn to conduct scientific inquiry. .

79 . Say. I want you to explore some part of science. Dave.Chapter 5 The difficulty of “bootstrapping” students into new practices Three weeks into her first earth science project in Rory Wagner’s class. Wagner. Rory has had countless discussions with students in large groups and small about how to begin projects.” It was the fourth year in which Rory had his students designing and conducting their own research projects. or the pattern of volcano eruptions. “Mr. and then focus down.” Well. had never been challenged to take an active role in framing and solving scientific research questions. “Then you go do some more. on volcano lava. and in the past few weeks. you can certainly read about science in a book. I’m at square zero. Say. volcanoes. “What if the question we come up with is already answered?” Rory answered. I need to talk to you about my project. “OK.” Barb retorted. but that is a far cry from doing science. so he had a familiar litany of suggestions. and many of her fellow classmates. He replied. But Barb. “you can just read it in a book. In those years. something that doesn’t have a definite answer. as Rory well knew. “I want you to do science. a bewildered Barb came up to Rory and said. Barb continued. hoping to make some progress with Barb today.” Rory reiterated his most familiar line.” Another student. you need to pick a topic—anything that you’re interested in. Basically. Rory settled in to a more extended conversation. “I’m having trouble understanding the point of this project. asked. You then learn about that.

because you set up a framework of what they have to do. selecting a topic. In the encounter above. Rory initially relinquished almost all control over student learning in the classroom. in which teachers “don’t have to respond” to the students’ interests. 1980). other than. In Rory’s view. the main feature of “lecture-lab-demo” teaching that made it easier than project-based teaching was control. because you realize you’re not driving the direction of anything. With his switch to projectbased science in 1992-93. but you’re just not in control of what’s being learned—other than thinking—and you’re controlling that.80 The need for bootstrapping Rory’s first efforts at teaching science through projects were not easy. The specific topics and questions students like Barb learn about are still largely controlled by the students. This is a significant change from lecture-lab-demo. he referred Barb to the first step in this framework. Although Papert did not use the term "community of practice" in his seminal work Mindstorms (Papert. you are in control. A “model of education” in which learning is achieved through participation in the activities of a community of practice has been extolled by researchers and theorists time and again. It is when you first start doing projects. he described intergenerational learning that takes place in the preparation at a “samba school” for a Brazilian festival. Rory elaborated on the “control issue” in an interview: The control thing is—you know. though. and then you just help them. but now he controls some aspects of what is learned by having all his students work through a common framework. Similarly. it’s not that big of an issue [after a couple of years]. And really it gets to a much better model of education. supporting learning and passing on expertise naturally through the construction of displays and the production of street theater. So you still are in control. and you have to maintain control in the classroom. Lave & Wenger (1991) describe how apprentice tailors gradually learn . other than you’ve laid the framework. and students’ first efforts at understanding what projects are and how to conduct them have proven difficult each year. Experienced adults work with novice children on teams over an extended period of time.

Such teachers using the most “typical” pedagogy will have an easier time at establishing shared understanding of what is expected in the class than those whose . One obvious difference between traditional apprenticeship models and classroom communities is that the group which the teacher leads is entirely reconstituted at the beginning of each year. teachers who conduct their classes in the most typical fashion can take advantage of the shared experiences students already have. coaching. At any one time in an apprenticeship. et al. Brown. and fading as important means by which more experienced members of a community help novices learn to contribute to activities. In a high school class at the beginning of the school year. For Rory’s and his students’ daily work in high schools. students are familiar with common school practices from previous years’ experience. As Rory puts it. and they have no idea what happened the last year. models such as the samba school and classical apprenticeships can seem frustratingly distant from any reality they face or can create with students like Barb and Dave. For educators like Rory interested in fostering meaningful learning in school classrooms. 1994). Thus.” Although the classroom group may be new at the beginning of the year. only one person in the classroom has experience in the specific practices of that specific class—the teacher (Wasley. even though they don’t know the students personally. most of the members of the community have some experience and a few are novices. (1989) have described the general processes of modeling. the most salient community is found in the individual classrooms that change on a period-by-period basis.81 their craft by aiding master tailors in ever expanding portions of work they are hired to do. “when you start out a new year you have a whole new group of kids. however.

The lack of experts and the opposition to the standard culture of schooling create a unique problem for a teacher like Rory leading reform-oriented classrooms: he must create an environment in which students can take actions to begin to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” Modeling a science research project After his first year with projects. the question “how do you do a project?” The steps he laid out are shown in Table 2. Rory knew he faced a challenge in conveying what he meant by doing a project. Teachers like Rory who go outside the norm not only lack the shared understanding of how school works that more traditional teachers use— they must at times actively resist students’ assumption that the class is or should fit their accustomed model.82 pedagogy departs from the norm. . His first step to accomplishing this was preparing and presenting a Powerpoint slide show at the beginning of September answering. among other things.

. 481)..Whatever it takes!!! Analyze your data to see what you have discovered Write up your results in a formal paper. collecting historical maps and data. in which he acted as the “project manager.Original experimentation . magazines. Prepare an oral presentation for the class. Rory hoped that leading them through a whole-class project of his own design would provide them an opportunity to “observe and build a conceptual model of the processes that are required to accomplish the task” (Collins.Libraries . p. 1989). . Collins. 1989.Personal communications . et al. During the first quarter. and along with conducting the activities introducing the CoVis tools. the library. et al.CoVis computer tools . Then. and journals.” In the literature on cognitive apprenticeship. Table 2: Steps to doing a project.. et al. and using this data to analyze how the beach had changed over time. Brainstorm on the topic to find a unique research question Brainstorm about how to find the information you will need to answer your research question.83 • • • • • • Find a topic you are interested in Find one or more people interested in the same topic. Rory decided to orchestrate a model project. he directed them in measuring hills and elevations at a local park to create a • • • . Use whatever “tools” you need to find the information you need. 1989. from slide show After laying out this framework. modeling is discussed as an important aspect of how experienced practitioners can help novices learn new skills and ideas (Brown. Research (read) as much about the topic as you can find Use your text. Rory directed the students in measuring and then mapping the size and extent of a local sand beach.

Questions about the topics: Is all the sand the same on one beach? If it’s different. rivers. he described what he had done for these steps in the case of the model project on the beach: What do we already know about beaches? Made of sand. and creating graphical representations of the data. . He suggested a five step process of brainstorming for the research proposal: 4a) 4b) 4c) 4d) 4e) What do you already know? What other questions about the topic come up? Narrow the topic down to a single idea that you want to explore in depth What information do you need to find the answer to your question? What do you have to do to get the information that you need? In an attempt to make his thought processes and decisions explicit..84 contour map of the land elevation. . which had more detailed descriptions underneath them. For the crucial step of narrowing a research proposal (#3). Brainstorm about your research proposal . Write a paper explaining your project. He also used the model beach project as an example to describe the steps. he described how he brainstormed about the broad topic of beaches. Narrow your broad topic into a research proposal.. Rory gave another presentation and passed out handouts describing the steps they would follow for doing their own earth science projects. Analyze your data to see what you have discovered . such as systematically collecting and organizing data. Etc.. Can be on lakes. were: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) Find a broad topic in Earth Science that you are interested in . (1989). Collect Data. Change shape over time. . People build things on them. Affected by erosion. to come up with a focused research question and a research plan.. Each of these model projects included students working on vital parts of the process.. as recommended by Collins.. .. et al.. Prepare a presentation to the class. oceans. Change seasonally. People affect them. The broad steps.. After the model projects were completed. Find a research partner or partners. Waves affect them.. People try to protect them..... .

85 where and why? Do all beaches have the same sand? What is the slope of the beach? Is the below-water slope the same? Does the slope change? When? Why? Are the sand grains the same below water? Do the groins affect the shape and slope of the beach? How? Does the angle of the shoreline affect the shape of the beach or the sand grains? Etc. and some kids don’t have that vertical view. Looking back a year later on the mapping projects. to compare with its current shape. What do you have to do to get the information that you need? You have to measure the beach and make a map of it’s present shape. Rory decided the following year to do a sand analysis project that focused on two of the other questions he had brainstormed earlier: “Is all the sand the same on one beach? If it’s different. The beach and hill mapping projects certainly succeeded in sending the message that “this class [is] a little bit different” by holding class on a beach and in a park for the better part of two weeks. where and why?” The results of this effort would be graphs that were more like what students typically worked with in their own projects. Rory attributed at least part of the problem to the difficulty of mapping. in which they were responsible for the research design.” which he saw as fundamentally different from original science—mostly due to the lack of analysis of empirical data. “maps are tough. Since these issues may have prevented students from grasping and applying the lessons about doing projects. You have to find historical records of the beach (which may include maps). but instead involved tables of numeric values and graphs of them. Instead.” In addition. . As he said. most of the empirical data students could use in their projects did not require shifts in perspective or heavy analysis of maps. because you’re trying to look at the world from a whole different perspective than you normally do. Narrow the topic: How does the shape of the beach change over time? What do you need to know to answer your question? You need to know the current shape of the beach and the shape of the beach at different times in the past. But it was not clear to Rory that the students were able to transfer the experience to their later projects. And so you’re asking them to shift from a horizontal view to a vertical view. students “started doing your basic library research paper.

They hadn’t ever done a project. . smoothness. and made brief presentations to the class. and introduction to the networked computer tools).. the model project that Rory directed was one of three strands of activities Rory conducted on alternate days (the others were lectures providing an overview of earth science. sieved it to find the amounts of different sized grains. smoothness. grain size vs. and coming to conclusions that the students could later utilize when they were conducting their own projects. Students were able to complete the activities. or roundness of the sand either up and down the beach or away from the shoreline. and examined each different size sample with a hand lens to determine the roundness and smoothness of the grains. grain size vs. how this fit in. and conclusions— the students were not yet in a position to think of the activities in the same way as Rory. Once again. the intention of the beach sand analysis project was to model a process of data collection. But Rory gradually became convinced that his goals for the activity had not been met. They then put the data into a spreadsheet and each group made the same three graphs for the class data. analysis. at the swash line and the middle of the beach].” When students completed their first round of projects. he had “little evidence . They collected the sand [in shallow water. % of total sample.” Although Rory had designed the sand analysis project to “cover” three parts of doing science research projects—data collection. grain size vs. so it didn’t make any difference to them what part of the project it was. that the [sand analysis] exercise had any meaning for the students other than to get it finished. ’cause there was no context. roundness. Looking at a map that showed where the samples were taken from on the beach.86 Modeling a project.. Each group made either line or bar graphs of their data. analysis. He felt at the end that students “were not paying attention to this—they were just doing it. Rory summarized the problem as follows: Most of [the students] were just missing completely. Rory described the project as follows: Student groups analyzed sand samples collected from the nearby beach. they then had to see if there were any patterns in the sizes. take two During the first quarter of 1994-95.

For instance. there was a structural parallel that Rory saw between the model project . Students did not need to consider why the graphs they made were apt. that Rory’s experience with model projects does not necessarily imply that such projects could never prove useful to students. and coming to conclusions in their own projects.” The pitfalls of modeling Due in part to lack of student engagement and transfer. Ultimately. In Rory’s 1993-94 and 94-95 efforts. however. and reaching conclusions about the beach sand. analysis. the model project “never really accomplished [Rory’s] goals. Most importantly. including how the graphs should be labeled and what data should be in them. teachers must find ways to engage students in actively considering the rationale behind the model project while working through it. Rory decided that he would drop the model project strand from the introductory activities in the 1995-96 school year. however. organization and graphing of sand data in a spreadsheet. and students’ experience in the model project must parallel their experience in later projects for transfer to be successful. highlight some of the important pitfalls of this strategy.87 Thus. and were able to follow step-by-step orders without considering how the steps fit into the bigger picture of how to design and carry out a science research project. when the students were asked during the second quarter to do data collection. There was not enough parallel in the students’ experience during this first project that Rory managed and the later projects that the students managed for the students to build a “conceptual model” they could use. the sand analysis project fell into the same kind of trap traditional labs do—students never took interest or ownership. Rory distributed instructions on exactly what graphs students should make. Rory intended students to think about the sand data collection. Rory’s experience does. I would note.

They had challenged students to map a complicated plot of land using only string. For instance. In these projects. the teacher could supply students with a driving question for which he or she had considerable expertise and/or resources. he believed. meter sticks. and their own wits and bodies. and explain why the sand size might . and instead supported student decision-making by asking questions based on their own knowledge of map-making and the issues involved. Rory and a colleague had conducted an activity like this in previous years. with somewhat better success. and have them help decide how to answer the question. Rory and his colleague consciously held back from offering their own solutions.” rather than supplying a canned procedure. but students did not necessarily see the parallel because they played very different roles at the two times. In fact. The teacher would also challenge students to think about how their decisions along the way fit into a larger plan to answer a research question.” he would ask students to figure out “what do we need to answer this question” and “how are we gonna collect this data?” After they had the data. graph it. Rory flirted with implementing a strategy like this in the 1995-96 school year on the beach sand theme: the focused question could be “what is the sand size distribution on the beach?” Focusing on just one variable. Alternative forms of modeling Model projects could be designed and conducted to address the pitfalls Rory encountered. figure out what the graphs meant.88 and the framework for student-designed projects. and never building a conceptual model of research project design. The teacher would then challenge students to “think about the question. would allow him to concentrate on the process of research design and implementation. he would work with them on how to organize the data. “Instead of giving them the step by step of how to do it. Such a strategy could avoid the pitfalls of students never taking ownership of the problems.

89 be distributed the way it is. so that students would not lose the context. In this way. he would ask important questions. . He would not provide the answers. In the end. and maybe share with the class and brainstorm together” about each of the parts as each group considered how to design and carry out the research projects they owned. he would model subskills and provide scaffolding embedded within the larger activity of conducting a student-designed project. In effect. though.” And Rory could “work with [the students] a lot. Rory opted to jump directly from the earth science lectures and activities introducing the network tools to the students’ first project. the class would “get to the real stuff instead of talking about what they’re going to do.

Sure enough. Rory meets me outside the cinderblock “cubby hole” office he shares with the other Earth Science teacher. in clusters of three or four at the seven long. and the printer is not working. He shuffles through his briefcase after we enter. and talks to me about the upcoming class with nervous excitement. as well as the display on the overhead. Another CoVis teacher calls and informs him their Internet connection from the classroom is not operational. large-screen televisions. late August day. even though it worked fine for Rory when he tested it the previous day.Chapter 6 Setting the stage in a new year The first day: Introduction to the setting and actors Another school year begins on a hot. The room is much wider than it is deep. since as of this year he is the “Technology Coordinator” for the CoVis classroom and network at the school. The bell rings at 8:40 to begin class. He is still finishing up his handout on “expectations” for the class. Rory plans on giving an electronic presentation about the course. Rory tells her he will try and get it up and running before her class. he is trying to make sure the program and file will work. with the “front” 90 . remembering similar plans gone awry in the past. and it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time before the period to get ready. “Things are crazy. but he quickly finds a workaround. and. Plus his email account is not working. It’s been a while since he had a first period class. Twenty-eight students are scattered about the room. movable tables. Before school.” Rory says. The technology problems are up to him to fix. he has trouble opening the file at first. We go into the classroom next door a few minutes before class.

They range from casual— skateboarding shorts. with a touch of the outdoors Rory loves. . Although the students’ attire leans heavily toward the casual. permanently attached demonstration table with a sink and a stool behind—clearly. the teacher’s base. He is tall. baggy flannel layered over t-shirts. Rory is wearing brown corduroys.” In front of the blackboard is a tall. torn jeans.91 defined by the blackboard and maps on the north wall facing the hallway (see Figure 1). students around the room are attired in a colorful array. His looks and fitness make it difficult for students to discern his age. worn baseball caps with college logos—to intermediate—khakis and button-down shirt—to dressy—flowing silk pants and blouses that look like they are out of J Crew. On the blackboard the students see the class name: “Earth Science 114 & 119. and dark black hair. a blue chambray shirt and a wolf tie—casual for a teacher. with ruddy skin.

Looking up from his writing.. he continues “this is Earth Science 114 and 119 . Rory says.92 tv Demo table tv A1 A2 A3 B1 B2 B3 C2 ledge Key: computer small TV with videocamera tv large overhead TV Figure 1: Lakeside’s CoVis classroom layout Right after the bell.. welcome back. “OK. and a schematic of each class in a plastic sheet on which he indicates students’ daily absence or presence with erasable colored markers. “OK.” Three more students walk in late and find a place. easily projecting his voice so the whole class can hear. getting no comment. and Monday and Wednesday we have a double .. Rory opens the three ring binder in which he keeps class lists. attendance and grade sheets.” Gesturing to the board. bring them up.. if anybody’s got more schedule changes. so if you just bear with me . he says. I’ve got some additions to make. We meet every day Period 1.” Then he smiles wryly and adds “I’m sure we’re all glad to be here.

who is African-American. Thomas prefers “Tom. Rory’s classes routinely consist of 9th through 12th graders. and if you’d like to be called something different. and it’s inevitably a difficult process . Emily.. The Period 7/8 class I observed in 1994-95 had a large number of freshmen and sophomores. As I go through your names. whose parents are Asian. I’ll try to learn all your names by the end of the month. but this one is mostly older students: one ninth grader. or “Mr. but individual classes are skewed one way or another by the fact that students in a given year tend to have similar schedules. I’ll respect nicknames if you prefer them . 4 tenth graders. Most of the students raise their hands and say “here” when their names are called. let’s do attendance.93 lab period.” Timothy goes by “TJ. are considered “alternative” science courses and are taken by fewer students than chemistry and physics. suburban school.” As in the rest of this relatively wealthy. but I want you to think of us working together.” I’m trying to break down some of the barriers to open communication. The students wait quietly while Rory goes through the list of names. he has slightly more older students than younger students.” and Jesse prefers “Jess. As far as my name goes. in contrast to the Period 1/2 1995-96 class described here. let me know if I pronounce them correctly. If I pass you in the hall and don’t say “hi” it’s not because I don’t like you—it’s because I don’t recognize you yet.” He continues: OK. and 10 twelfth graders are taking this class. I’ll be handing out a paper tomorrow explaining the expectations for the class. most of the students are white—the exceptions are Cheryl. Where the students are coming from Interest in science and this class At Lakeside High School. I’m still in authority. The core sequence of science .. Wagner. whose parents are from the Middle East. Throughout all Rory’s classes.. you can call me “Rory” if you’re comfortable. and Mark. Some ask him to call them by a nickname. I’ve got 100 some to learn. I need to begin learning your names. 13 eleventh graders. the Earth Science course.. along with some other courses such as Anatomy and Environmental Science.

8 26% 3. 5=agree strongly 1=definitely not. chemistry. and physics.94 classes are biology (which most 9th graders take and all students must take at some point). 3=neutral. 5=definitely yes 1=definitely not.8 57% 2. 3=maybe.4 36% 2. 1=I am NOT a “science” or “math” person 3=Neutral 5=I AM a “science” or “math” person 1=disagree strongly. 3.0 49% 2. . 5=definitely yes 1=definitely not. To see how the students in Rory’s class compare to other students. 5=definitely yes Mean (µ) % most negative response All other CoVis classes (n=1592) Mean (µ) % most negative response 2. it is informative to compare the results of their responses to a few survey questions we asked 1662 students at more than 30 urban and suburban schools participating in CoVis during the Fall of 1995 (see Table 3).2 16% 3.7 28% 3. Rory’s classes (n=70) Item Scale Meaning (all are 1-5 likert ratings) Circle one number for the scale.0 19% Table 3: Mean student responses to survey items on science interest. 3=maybe.5 10% Can you see yourself becoming a scientist? Can you see yourself majoring in science in college? Can you see yourself using science in your career? 1. 3=maybe.2 16% I enjoy classes in science.0 56% 2.

Patti does not like science. he didn’t expect to enjoy biology as much as earth science—he hoped they might “go out in the field and use geologist hammers” and so on in this course. some of the juniors and seniors in the class. Although they are not required to take the class. along with Adam. and more than half say they will “definitely not” become scientists or major in science in college. was . but doesn’t consider herself good at it. the freshman in Period 1/2. Rory’s classes come out below the means on all these survey items that relate to students’ enjoyment of science. Steve. and most freshmen take biology. In addition. Since Lakeside requires two science credits to graduate. Nevertheless. Since he is a freshman. is one of the few. who come in with a strong interest in science. are taking the course to get their final science requirement and avoid the other choices they and most of the other students in the class perceive as more difficult. and Physics). and participation in scientific activities. students in CoVis do not express much enthusiasm for science or science classes in the survey. whereas Beth says she likes science. like Patti and Beth. too. expectations about future use of science. and one of them must be in “physical sciences” (which include Earth Science. Cheryl.95 In general. Steve didn’t know much about the course or the way it was taught before arriving today. larger percentages of Rory’s students give the lowest possible ratings on these survey items: 26% are emphatically NOT science people. He signed up because he wanted to do something different. Patti also took the class to be with some friends who were signing up. most students tend to sign up for Earth Science less out of interest in science in general or earth science in particular than a variety of other reasons— from getting credits out of the way to doing project work to working with computers. Besides. Chemistry. My interviews with focus students in Rory’s class provide a closer look at the reasons students have arrived in this room on the first day of class.

. Dave considers computer skills “something he could really use . Beth says her father and brother are very much “into” computers. and is “not really interested in [Earth Science] as a subject”—but who is taking the course with an eye toward college more than any other factor. you think your natural opinion is good.. which she sees as more like professors in college than typical high school teachers..” By this she means Rory “doesn’t dote on you all the time.9 out of 4.” When I ask Dave why he likes group projects. but she was never comfortable with computers and would like to learn more.96 attracted to the earth science course in part because she expected less math than the AP science courses she saw as an alternative..1 in all other CoVis classes. In addition to getting her fourth science credit so her college applications will be stronger. Competitive colleges are said to prefer more science credits than the two that Lakeside requires. [And] it’s just nice to have a bunch of people in the same boat. whereas it is 3. both Rory’s . he says. a lot of times . Beth and Dave had all been attracted to the computer component of the class.” pressuring you to get assignments in.. Also. Cheryl is also an example of a student who is definitely not a math or science person—she is a senior much more interested in English and theater. It’s good to have a bunch of different opinions. working on the same thing....” Even though Rory’s students are less enthusiastic than many other students about science. Cheryl. you know . that’s gonna be more valuable to [him] in the future than anything [he’s] done in any other science course.. but his reason was different—he “like[s] group projects.. and then . Dave also liked the prospect of doing the project work for the class. you’ll get another idea from someone else that’s just as good . their academic confidence and performance is almost the same as the larger group of CoVis students surveyed at other schools The average self-reported GPA of Rory’s students is 2. Cheryl thought the course “sounded just like what [her] friends described college as.

the students last year felt they had wasted the money on a book they weren’t necessarily going to use. or that you don’t need to remember... You may want to get a used Earth Science book from anytime in the last 10 years. Seeing a textbook as a repository where facts can be looked up when needed rather than a set of facts to be memorized is one of the changes in viewpoint Rory anticipates from the standard form of schooling to which the students are accustomed. It’s a reference book for this class. should they need to look up some term or find a basic explanation for a phenomenon. So this year. and asks them to try and choose a place where they generally sit. so he can find them for attendance. Rory notes where students are sitting on his schematic drawing of the tables. The content of Earth Science is the content of this course . It can be another edition besides the one we use now. He will not be assigning seats. You may want to refer to your book.. Last year. From his .” Nevertheless. or that you don’t know. We’re going to have intensive lecture for the first month. but if you need to look ‘em up.97 students and other CoVis students average just slightly above neutral in their agreement with the statement “I do very well in my science classes. with “facts that you don’t want to remember. he decided to give students the option of acquiring any fairly recent earth science book to be used as a reference. since it will probably have the important information in it. I can’t find it right now. He then announces: There’s a textbook somewhere for this class [looking around room] . but I’ll warn you right now. Rory is trying to anticipate and head off problems he has had in the past. don’t be upset.” Experiences in other science classes As he goes through the attendance list. they’re there.. but I’m warning you now. some students kept asking him during the year “why don’t we ever use our textbook?” He tried to explain that he intended them to use it as a reference. the textbook is not something you’ll read and do assignments out of every day. so if you notice later you haven’t used it.

More than half the students (53%) have taken chemistry in addition to biology. the five students I asked describe their previous science classes as more lecture and textbook-oriented. . step 9 This survey data was kindly provided by Laura D’Amico. turn in a lab report. Patti says. and like. possibly complete worksheets. where they have to build their own interests into a research study they design. hear lectures on the topic where they are expected to take notes. you know. students do highly structured lab experiments that are “all laid out for you” on the two lab days during the week. Instead. About her biology class taught in this style. A small number (21%) have also taken physics. read about the topic in the textbook. it seems to Rory that students haven’t “ever done a project” like the ones in his class. Friday is designated the “science test day” at Lakeside. what those science classes were like. I explored what previous science classes students have taken. including Rory Wagner’s. from a survey on teachers’ goals she administered to several classes. the overwhelming majority of the students (95%) have taken high school biology previously.98 experience. To see how Rory’s perspective matches with the students. and then have a test or quiz on Friday.” He wants them to be able to go beyond just saying “here’s what I know” to adding “here’s what I don’t know” and addressing “how do I figure out what I don’t know. and how do I make that into something I know?” This is a general impression Rory has built up over time. In interviews outside of class. the freshman. and go beyond what they read to make their own scientific claims. Rory also has a general sense that research projects of various sorts and group work are going on at the school. A “normal” or “usual” science class at Lakeside is considered by these students to be one in which students work on one topic a week. The only exception is Steve. and whether students had done projects in any other classes. he feels most students have done “descriptive” reports where you “find out all you can about a subject and [then] report on it. According to survey9 responses. “It was all like very constructed. During that week.

at which point she would learn more about the differences between empirical science research reports and English reports. like. An example is the project Patti did in an integrated history/English class a few of the other students had also taken. during December. .” In her opinion. students have to turn in note cards and/or outlines in specific formats.” because they were just copying things down. especially the “Junior Theme” each student at Lakeside has to complete. the Junior Theme involves long-term research and results in a similar “expository paper. and asked to answer “what culture clashes were 10 The statement was made in response to a question during Cheryl’s first interview with me outside class. The students were given the topic cultural diversity in the U. All the students do not view their other science classes as negatively as Patti. All the other students I interviewed pointed out that projects for other classes. however. like English and an interdisciplinary English and History course.” in her opinion.”10 As I will discuss later. As far as project-like work in non-science classes.S. Cheryl’s statement about the similar nature of Rory’s final report with Junior Theme was made prior to the completion of her first earth science project. For the projects in those other classes. at this stage Cheryl has not yet grasped the importance of original data analysis to Rory’s goals. not long after she made the statement “I don’t see why we can’t write a report on [UFOs] if people have written whole books on it. are less open-ended than the projects in Rory’s class. students differ somewhat in their experiences and their perspective. Like Rory’s project.99 by step by step. She had not yet turned in a complete project report. hand-feeded you. and in many cases are given topics and specific subquestions. as very similar to the projects in Rory’s class. but the differences Rory expects between his class and the other science classes students have taken were echoed by all the students I interviewed. she “didn’t learn anything from that class. It. during the 1800s. except for the fact that they are completed individually rather than in groups. I did not repeat this question in her second interview. Cheryl saw work in their English classes. basically.

” Beth echoed Rory’s intuition that students had not been asked to play a role in figuring out how to answer a research question. 2% black. In addition.” The school and community context Lakeside High School is a public high school situated in an affluent.100 there between groups like the Indians and English. and 2% Hispanic.sunspace. and less than 1% American Indian. mostly white. Eskimo. community in the suburbs of Chicago.” As Beth put it. The “campus. Although there is an average student/teacher ratio of 12/1.000 students at the school is $12. Beth echoed Rory’s intuition about how his projects were different from those in other classes when she said she had “never had a project where there hasn’t been like really an answer. or Aleut.” and the word aptly describes the grounds. the size of Rory’s classes over the past three years has ranged from 15 to 28 (28 is the enrollment of the class described here). “the teacher tells you [everything] to do to complete it. Beth and Dave pointed out that the primary work in their projects in other classes was finding and organizing facts that others had established about a topic—what Rory terms “standard library research.com).000 (Krieg & Wheelan. 11% Asian or Pacific Islander. 1995). Students who arrive at school carrying Starbucks coffee cups do not look out of place. 1995). although the buildings were built half a century ago. is large and well-apportioned. According to the 1990 census. The average spending per student for the just under 3. the students at Lakeside as of 1994-95 (the most recent year available) were 85% white. Steve. the average per capita income in one town in the district is $62. or someone who’s already found the answer. According to demographic information available on the Sunspace Internet site (http://www. The difference between Rory’s course and the overall average is in part .000 (Krieg & Wheelan.” Again.

some schools. the student newspaper will publish a list of all seniors’ “destinations.101 because of a variety of specialized courses that have much smaller enrollments. and Wisconsin.” one is taking a “year off. 1943. four are explicitly not attending college or university (one is “working. 1993).” one is taking a “year off to work. This history.” The top ten in 1996 will consist mostly of Big Ten schools such as the University of Illinois. included students from this region. Zilversmit. Most will attend college. and 40 are “undecided. Michigan. As Rory said. the Eight Years Study mentioned in Chapter 2. but also includes Northwestern. combined with the high teacher salaries. 1942). where everybody who is teaching biology is essentially on the same page. 1995). Drama is one of the areas of excellence for which the school is known. such as those in the drama department. In addition. may help contribute to an atmosphere among the faculty and administration of acceptance for a multiplicity of teaching practices .” and one is taking a “year off in El Salvador”). students ranging from first to fourth year in high school will pore over the list and comment to one another about their peers’ futures. Roughly 80 percent of residents in the enrollment area are college graduates (Krieg & Wheelan. Like a number of public schools in Chicago and its suburbs. and there is an obvious expectation that all students should attend college. which documented the success of students educated in progressive elementary and secondary schools when they went on to college (Aikin. including the progressive movement (Progressive Education Association. On one day later in the year. there are some places. doing the same lecture. It’s all . Lakeside and its community have a long tradition of involvement in education reform efforts. as well as a variety of community colleges and small liberal arts colleges.” On that spring day. A number of students will go on to Ivy League universities or Stanford and Berkeley. Of the approximately 700 student destinations listed in the column. doing the same lab.

Techniques. but there will likely be important similarities in how interest and student voice work as motivators. Nevertheless.. I view this conclusion as erroneous. . As mentioned in Chapter 3. and they all give the same test at the end of the unit. 1994. and big ideas can and do transcend all of these personal identifiers.. For example. and the strategies of interaction and guidance described in this study can apply to other school settings.” . . 9-10) My inclination is to encourage readers to think about how the structures for classroom work and organization. personal reflections. and you know what’s important in your discipline. We deeply cherish this right to do whatever it is we wanna do. and side with teachers in the Coalition of Essential Schools who have pointed out that it is possible to learn important lessons when we put aside the notion that one can learn only from teachers who teach in the same kind of school.. You’re a highly educated and well-paid professional. college-bound atmosphere reigns.102 lock step. I feel obliged to address one possible conclusion some readers might draw from this description of Lakeside’s district: that the affluence and overwhelmingly college-bound student body make the lessons from Lakeside completely inapplicable to other settings in urban or rural communities. and who work with kids from the same economic background. there may be important differences in how grades act as a motivator for students in some other settings compared to the students at Lakeside (where a competitive. “yeah. pp. where students have a lower socioeconomic status. structures. the same aged kids. ’cause I can’t speak for all the departments. if anything. (Wasley. albeit to a somewhat lesser degree in Earth Science class than AP Physics). the same discipline. you do whatever you want. Lakeside on the other hand. I ultimately leave readers to make decisions about what. And that way— that’s their way of quality control. and go for it. at least in our department. we’re kind of like.. strategies. they can learn from this study and apply in their own setting. to make sure that every kid has the same experience.

CoVis is something from the Northwestern University School of Education.. He says.” will continue to be conveyed and realized in situ throughout this day and over the next few months. for that matter .. the class. followed by the title “Earth Science and CoVis Project. CoVis means we’ll be using a lot of tools ..” The use of multiple technologies is not an accident: on this and other occasions Rory wants to “model for the kids using the technology as a tool” within the everyday activity of the class. Rory then explains the term CoVis: The “Co” stands for “collaborative” and the “Vis” for “visualization. and an animation of an approaching globe plays. The television screens are set to display the image from the computer monitor.. Rory turns to a presentation he prepared about the class last year.. take a survey or two. “I have a little presentation to give. It’s about trying to change teaching from lecture/lab/demo—the way most classes are taught—to doing more long-term projects that interest you . Rory’s particular appropriation and realization of CoVis will differ in important ways from other teachers’ or the abstract vision. Rory’s particular appropriation. . This sketchy summary glosses over a host of complex issues.” and goes to his office next door to get something. He opens up the Powerpoint slide show on the computer in the front right corner of the room. Rory turns on the large televisions which hang above the class.” You are automatically part of it by being a part of this class. funded with National Science Foundation money. but it begins to indicate some of the ways in which the abstract ideas of CoVis have been appropriated by Rory to fit his own particular circumstances and goals. As was mentioned in Chapters 1 and 2.. or any other earth science class at Lakeside. He returns with a remote computer controller that works like a television remote. and projects Once attendance and the other preliminary comments are completed. which focuses more strongly on the “Co” in CoVis than the “Vis. That’s it. You’ll have to sign a couple of forms.103 Where they’re going: Overview of CoVis.

He only briefly mentions the technology. It’s kind of like sports—a lot of people aren’t satisfied just reading about sports and studying them..Weather/Climate . technology. CONTENT . “you can lead a horse to water.Maps/Mapping . I’m constantly amazed that many students see high school as a holding pen before going to college. In this class I’m more interested in the process—how you go about getting knowledge. but like the saying says. They want to do them.104 Next. “There are two parts to what scientists do: the body of knowledge.Universe . Most classes concentrate on just the body of knowledge. but we use computers a lot. saying it is “a tool to help you do projects. I’m trying to change that. which split activities up into “Content” and “Process” (see Table 4).Oceans PROCESS . that’s one of the shifts I see in this class. I do recognize that you often don’t want to do much at all .Classify . This is not a computer science course..” Rory then goes on to explain that as part of CoVis. not what I want..Create Theories .” He talks somewhat longer about projects: Projects are what you want to do.” The definition of projects on the slide is “collaborative investigations of earth science ‘phenomena’ of your choice.Measure .Describe .Make and Test Models Table 4: Rory Wagner’s breakdown of “Earth Science” He says. not just learn facts . and collaborations.. Rory moves into the next set of animated slides on Earth Science.Geology . but . My job is to light a fire. his Earth Science class involves three things: projects. and how they go about getting that knowledge.Observe/Collect Data . Scientists want to do science. Teachers don’t usually. and make high school more open and interesting to you.

That’s the way scientists work—they work at different times and in different places on different parts of the problem. they have a suite of technology in the classroom. organizing and structuring scientific inquiry developed by the CoVis staff. that’s your choice. Other technological tools besides these tools for communication are mentioned on his slides. a tool for storing. But your grade won’t be so good. . you will be partners with other students on projects. the U of I [the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]. even students in other places. including myself and the other teachers here at Lakeside. instead focusing on communication tools. such as Northwestern. and you can use these for project work as well as personal communication with parents or brothers and sisters at college. including tools for visualizing weather and climate data. In order to collaborate over the Internet. You’ll also be able to use news and gopher.” If you don’t want to work. Later this week. and the Collaboratory Notebook.. the U of I.” But they will not only have the opportunity to collaborate and communicate with their peers: You will also collaborate with scientists. Rory then goes on to describe the different collaborators possible. and the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco. As it turns out. For example. Rory says. You’ll have personal accounts. he will show them the Web and the Netscape™ Navigator browser they use. Northwestern. But as is the case during the rest of the year. which was a virtually unknown entity 12 months earlier when he made this slide show.105 you can’t make it drink. For communicating with others. “you’ll be using tools like electronic mail.. You also have access to the rest of the world through the Internet. and scientists from other partners. you could have a lab partner in Ohio. “Collaboration can be with other high school students .” He doesn’t mention the World Wide Web. Rory does not highlight the latter technologies in this initial presentation. and the Exploratorium are not any more partners for you than the rest of the world.

kind of like the presentation I’m making now. Rory says no..” but what the work is is negotiable. and have a quiz on it. You don’t have to fill your brain with useless 11 Note that at this time.” He simply reads aloud the steps detailed on the slides. a sand lab would be a small. One student asks if they have labs. Lack of time undoubtedly made the decision to forgo mini-projects easier. but he later decides against these activities for the reasons detailed in the previous chapter. and I’ll try and nudge you to using technology like this to make a more compelling presentation.106 Next comes the series of slides he had laid out the previous year answering the question “how do you do a project?” (see Table 2). he describes the way the year’s schedule will go: The first quarter will include an introduction to the tools.” A number of students. 40 minute long procedure. 3. as well. Rory says students at the more difficult level have “higher expectations” in the form of doing “extra stuff. It’s materials to demo things in real life without taking you there . and 4. I wanna replace traditional labs with doing projects. “3level” credit. but a little better. and you’ll do mini-projects11 . Rory is still considering one or more mini-projects. He does not dwell on this section either. it is two. In quarters 2. I’m not interested in you memorizing facts. so Rory tells them deadpan about quizzes and tests: “there is at least one. to try and find an answer to questions you come up with about it. There are no more questions. self-contained. Then Rory opens up the floor for questions. say “for the whole year?” He reassures him that is what he meant. Rory elaborates what their grades will be based on: We’ll have lecture at the beginning. The rest of your grade is based on the work you’re doing.. Another student asks about the difference between taking the class for “4-level” vs. you’ll listen to my lectures. For example. “this is jumping ahead a bit. sort of a mix of objective and subjective. . but a sand project might compare sand from many beaches and analyze it. and describes his position on labs: In my opinion lab shows you a few little things. saying. The projects will culminate in a formal paper and presentation. and when a student presses him for the “maximum number” of quizzes and tests they would have. but we have time. Finally. you’ll do projects of your own choosing. disbelieving. A lot of students use graphs and posters.

or available someplace.. Beth had friends who gave her similar warnings about the independent work and falling behind: They [her friends who had taken the course with Rory] say it seems like an easy course. you just need to find it .. Some of you will think this is easy. some knew about these aspects of the class beforehand.. I had this model from a couple of years ago. Some of the kids felt like I was abandoning them in the cold and the wind without a guide. You really have to be responsible for yourself. You can look it up.” As mentioned before. and you have to keep working on them. but you create the problem. but maybe you will later.. and some will think it’s too hard to do science. and I wanted to set kids up there to see what they could do in science. or you’ll be in trouble. Everest. It’s kind of like Mt.. and he told me that Mr. Wagner seems cool. Cheryl had friends who had described how independent Rory let the kids be. So students have different reactions. you remember. They could fall off the mountain. Katrina put it this way: “My brother took this class. Kind of like the OJ trial. and then find out you’re getting a D. I’m here as your trusty Sherpa guide. It needs to be someplace between the extremes of me abandoning you and telling you exactly what to do so you don’t have to think. He may not think you’re doing well. and you’ll see that it’s worthwhile . The tension caused by the students’ greater independence and the associated greater risk of failure is one of the ways in which the traditional school culture undermines the culture of . You may not see the relevance of this to you now. trying to figure out what is the best evidence and what it means. It’ll catch up with you. You have really long assignments due in a long time. It’s sort of like driving. So. Science is about thinking logically. but then he comes down on you... but knows if you didn’t keep on top of things you can be surprised by your grade. I’m trying to get you to solve problems. examining evidence. She views it as good preparation for college. ‘cause he lets you go off on your own. The class seems easier than it is. You may think you’re doing well. but you have to work hard. and many of them did not like that. Because it’s hard to tell how well you’re doing. Although many of the students are surprised or shocked by the absence of quizzes and traditional labs..107 stuff. . the information you need is readily available. It’s not fair for me to abandon you. You remember how to turn the wheel and do the clutch and all that . Things that are valuable to you. Some of the kids liked it.

The 40-minute class is finished for the day. . as will be discussed at greater length in Chapter 10. I say a few words about my research and role.108 guided participation which Rory is trying to foster. and explains that I am a graduate student from Northwestern doing research on the class. and let the students know that they will be kept anonymous. Just before the end of class. and I will be around a lot. Rory introduces me.

trustworthiness. For a more complete discussion of Network Use Policies for the K12 classroom. The majority of the first quarter is spent on Rory’s “lecture tour” and videos about the “content” of earth science described in Table 4.” 109 . and for reading and sending electronic mail message and Usenet news posts. but it seemed like a good idea. courage. Kinda like all the other stuff I've been trying the past couple of years. which ends the first week of November. These include a few periods discussing classroom policies on attendance and assignments. This guy has done some research and found out that this is the kind of list you'd come up with [the list includes responsibility. I thought that'd be better than telling them ‘you can't do this. As Rory put it. fairness. the idea for the discussions was notable for being yet another innovation.. grading. 13 The discussions about values will not be examined at any length here either. and citizenship] .edu/AUP-archive/AUP1. Rory conducts a series of alternating discussions and activities intended to “lay the groundwork” for conducting projects during the following three quarters of the year. He was talking about how people generally avoid discussion of values in schools in this country.html). Nevertheless. Table 5 shows the breakdown of periods spent on these various activities for the class periods during the first quarter (each week has seven 12 Some classroom policies will be discussed in Chapters 9 and 10. and appropriate use of the computer tools and network12 . I'm not sure how it'll work. and we’d talk about what behaviors in school and the classroom fit into those values. I thought I'd list them and talk about them. But if you discuss it enough you can come up with a list of values that aren't controversial.nwu. you can't do that’ . but Network Use Policies will not be examined in depth in this report.3. see Fishman & Pea (1994)..Chapter 7 Laying the groundwork for projects Overview of the first quarter Throughout the first quarter of the year. respect. because they assume it's associated with religion and controversy. as well as a discussion of how fundamental values can be played out in the classroom13 . see the CoVis web site (http://www.covis. and on activities introducing students to the computer network and Internet tools for browsing the World Wide Web. For the text of the Network Use Policy Rory Wagner adapted almost verbatim for his classroom. and I haven't thought too much about it.. “we had a speaker on the second day [of inservices] ....

a program used to browse the World Wide Web. He explains how to get around. he shows the students Netscape Navigator.110 periods. .5 37.0 9. and work with windows. Rory led his students through a series of activities designed to give them a basic familiarity with the Internet applications on the computers in the classroom. This year. during the second week of the quarter. grading & network use) and Values GRAND TOTAL Table 5: # of periods spent on activities during the introductory quarter Computer activities: Learning to use new tools Starting two years ago. and the CoVis classroom is the only one at the school currently hooked up to the Internet. again using the overhead televisions to show the whole class. open applications. Then.5 9. on Monday and Wednesday): Category “Content” Subcategory Lectures & Exam Videos Total Content Periods # of Periods 28.0 21. including three single periods and two double “lab” periods. switch between applications. Rory gives the class a demonstration of the Macintosh. open and save files.0 Technology Teacher Demos Student Activities & Exams Total Technology Periods Discussions of Policies/Procedures (including assignments.0 68.5 19.5 2. Students come into his class with a wide range of computer background and skills.

” On reflection. And so. and they would learn how to use the program more because they would be using it more.. You have to keep that part of it focused. browsing on Netscape isn’t always the easiest quickest way to find things. instead of getting right into “let’s do school stuff. and also I felt . So I thought if we could get them going on looking for fun things.. Because. He encourages them to browse for anything they are interested in on the Web—not just science—saying “you can look at the science stuff [but] it’s sort of boring. so that later they will know how to browse scientific sites. so it was hard to do ‘cause it didn’t make any sense. But then what that says though is that you have to have the willingness to say. Rory: Yeah. and one student later told him “he wished he could spend more time [using Netscape] on the stuff they were really interested in.. . or bands. they have a tendency to not have the patience to look further than the next thing. So it just seemed easier to let them do this other stuff.” During the previous year. Cool Stuff.111 Afterward. “OK.” ‘Cause we aren’t ready to do that stuff anyway yet. because you’re still learning how to do something... he gives the students open time with Netscape on the six computers. it’s OK to play with this.. Joe: That’s back to this idea of having them play first instead of having them look for data first. His attitude is that they can best develop initial comfort with this tool through browsing Web sites they are intensely interested in. simply. why don’t you look at the New Stuff. But it’s still OK to just be looking for music lyrics. You will have plenty of time to do that. Rory introduced the Web only through an assignment in which students had to find scientific data. And reading what’s there . whatever it is. and Yahoo. For now. they would spend more time doing it. and still educational way. and didn’t have to spend it all on science. the dating home page—you know. “Why am I looking for data? What the hell is data? Why do I need data?” [You] don’t. And it doesn’t make any sense to them. that seemed to be a good way to use that time. how else do you find out what’s out there? It’s part of exploration. He told me in an interview: Rory: . when they otherwise may have. Rory felt the exclusive focus on science in the beginning prevented some of the students from getting excited about the technology. You know. Exactly.” To really play with this in a recreational. they would get more into it. and [so you need to develop] student patience with browsing when you’re looking for something. or you know.

112 He had intended to give a version of the data searching assignment later this year. and I couldn’t help them with their questions: “Why is this program doing this?” or “How can I do this?” . reply to a message. and initial experience thinking about the relationship between data and research questions in science. This demonstration is followed by a student assignment: I’m going to give you a little assignment to help you get started. In his first year of using the computers and the Internet. As the students gather at the computers and try to open their email. I had to help kids use the computers. and write a new message in Eudora. but he ends up dropping the idea due to lack of time. Rory demonstrates the electronic mail program they use. You can help one another. Eudora. As Rory described the first year afterward. During the third week.... but that’s OK. because I didn’t know what I was doing. . all run into a technical problem in the setup of their accounts on the network. His plan was to ask each student “if you had to find data to answer this question [from the list of possible project questions he has compiled].. I didn’t know what I was doing. use the programs. Your vacation or almost vacation or whatever it is . as well as some conventions like including text from a previous message in a reply. some little personal thing about what you did over the summer.. Rory found such situations extremely difficult to handle. The pressure of 4 or 5 groups of students urgently calling for help with computer problems was difficult enough in itself. two years ago. I had to help kids search on the computers. and at the beginning of the year. edit text.. and using emoticons. and that created a lot of frustration . I want you to tell me something. what would you do?” He figured “that would kill 2 birds with one stone” by giving students further experience searching the Web. He shows students how to read a message. but it was exacerbated by Rory’s own lack of comfort with and mastery of the tools which were new to him as well. You won’t all finish today.

he did not expect or ask students to respond. the Web. As a result of the experience last year. kind of retracting some of . Genuine people. Funny people. It really may come down to the personal relationship between the student and teacher. I always liked the teachers that seemed to think the same way I did. When he did this the previous year.” One reason he was doing this was that he felt different teachers ‘get’ the kids in different ways. By the beginning of the fourth week. Northwestern staff had filled this role. we could no longer provide full-time support. he is much more confident in his ability to work through or around problems that arise. but with a growing effort in many schools... Relaxed people. but he ended up beginning ongoing dialogs with a few students in a forum which allowed him to “learn about [the students] as people” in a way not common during class. and although he is not always able to immediately fix problems. Due to his personal interest and growing command of the technologies. and the teacher’s genuine desire to ‘share’ instead of ‘dictating’ what they know. and Usenet news outside of class for school and personal activities. and they continue the activity with scarcely a hitch. Rory has taken on the role of technology coordinator for the CoVis classroom at his school this year. Rory has sent a personal response to each of the students by email. This result fit in well with his general goal of “be[ing] a little more open in [his] own personal dealings with the students . and makes frequent use of email. Rory has maintained a strong personal interest in the computer tools. his knowledge has grown immensely.113 Throughout the past two years.. In this case. Rory asks all the students this year to respond back once to his messages. the defenses and walls that [he’s] put up over the years to isolate [him]self from students. Rory fixes the problem with the students’ email accounts in less than five minutes. in which he asks elaborating questions on each . Consequently. In years past..

When Rory learns that Beth spent the summer with her aunt in New Mexico who studies wolves. Although he knows almost nothing about the music she enjoys. because he went there with his father to repair the bowling machines years earlier.114 students’ anecdotes about their summer. Tom F mentions having fun working at his father’s produce factory in the summer. and then the two get into an extended exchange about the rewards of teaching. She relates how she danced and howled with the wolves. a program to read and send posts to Usenet newsgroups on the Internet.” and making a difference through community service. much like Tom’s summer loading produce on trucks.” After a week of concentrating mostly on lectures. Barb talks solely about punk shows she was able to see in the summer in her initial message. during the course of exchanging multiple messages they discover that she saw a show at a bowling alley Rory knew. saying this will also give them practice at responding to messages. or going to summer camp. As he had done in . Sonia relates how she taught four-year-olds during the summer. he shares his enthusiasm for wolves with her—he has poster-sized prints of wolves all around his home. Many of the exchanges do not go much beyond simple description of summer activities like mountain climbing or white water rafting. and he and Rory discuss how hard work can be fun. and they bring in pictures to share and discuss the Alpha role in the pack and “wolf psychology. especially when you work with friends. but a few are more extensive. working in stores or mowing lawns. the two continue to discuss it throughout the year. just as Rory’s sister does. TJ talks about his lacrosse playing at a national tournament during the summer. Rory introduces Newswatcher. and since Rory used to coach the sport. For instance. so Rory asks her about who her favorite music groups are overall and in the area. her sense of guilt associated with growing up “privileged. Rory had spent a summer loading boxcars.

Finally.oceanography—and note the location from which five articles in three different threads have been made. the students have to .astro. Rory says “by looking at the ‘locations’ [the articles] came from. In addition. The assignment provides a means for the students to relatively efficiently learn to use the program.115 the previous year. he will stick with this basic assignment. and take seriously. in order to continue to “foster use of [email] as a communication tool. and some said they couldn’t find anything they were interested in. he asks the students to open up one of the earth science oriented newsgroups—sci. I think it has something to do with the presentation. the students learn the basic terminology—news “articles” can be posted. He told me he tried just letting [the students] browse in Newswatcher like they did in Netscape. Finally. Netscape is so graphical. Rory is somewhat dissatisfied with the “artificiality” of this Newswatcher assignment. it might give [the students] some sense of the worldwide communication available. Most of them stopped [with Newswatcher] after looking for 5 minutes. Out of 750 groups! Until Rory finds a better way of introducing Newswatcher as a tool.geo. in weeks nine and ten. but that didn’t work. and sci.” Rory has the students turn in the assignment by email to him. sci. and worried about students’ lack of intrinsic interest in it. During all these activities.meteorology. and learn how to use two programs—Newswatcher and Eudora—on the Macintosh at the same time. In the process of completing this assignment. sci.” Since Rory will be encouraging students to post articles requesting information or leads later on in the course of doing projects. and Newswatcher is just text. he wants them to know.geo. become familiar with the scientific newsgroups they may be posting articles to later. and follow-ups to an article are arranged in threads—and how to get around within the interface of Newswatcher.geology. the scope of the communication. Rory encourages the students to help each other and work together at the computers.geo.

116 complete individual “competency exams” on the computer. Rory lets the students know what they will need to do, and then puts a sign-up list on the board for them to indicate they are ready. On the first of six days he spends administering the exam for some period of time, Julie, who was out with mono for a while, asks to watch and take notes while others take it. Rory indicates that is fine. Cindy, who has no previous computer experience, asks to watch other students on the third day. She stands silently by as Rory sits down next to Debbie. Rory says “OK, send me mail—you kinda have to log on to do it.” Debbie logs on to the local Macintosh file server, and opens up her personal folder and then doubleclicks her custom settings file for electronic mail. She goes smoothly to the Message menu and chooses the “New Message” command. Since she’s shown she knows what she’s doing, Rory then interrupts, saying, “You can stop here. OK, now let’s do Netscape.” Debbie quits Eudora, and opens up Netscape using the “Launcher” window set up on the machines. She gets lost for a moment because someone left the program running on the machine with all the windows closed. Rory helps her by suggesting she choose the “New Browser” command. He then prompts, “Say you wanted to find something on volcanoes ...” Debbie executes a Net Search and follows one of the resulting links. Rory asks her to save the information she has found to her folder on the file server, and she does that as well. Finally, she demonstrates that she knows how to read and make posts in Newswatcher. In the end, he asks her to “close up and put away ... [and] don’t forget to quit the programs.” Afterward, Cindy remarks, “I’m starting to get this by watching.” Rory replies, “Do you have it written down? I don’t know if you know this, but you can follow your notes.” She begins to take notes, but watches eight more students do the exam over several days before taking the plunge herself. Rory asks once if she wants

117 to do it, but when she says she’d rather wait, he assents, saying “I don’t want you to do it until you’re ready.” Gradually, she progresses from asking students taking the exam questions about what they are doing when Rory is distracted, to offering suggestions, and then sharing Rory’s frustration knowing what people need to do but seeing them flounder. When some time passes between days of computer exams, Rory has to reassure her that she can use her notes if she gets stuck. When Cindy finally takes the exam after class one day, Rory says she “passed with flying colors—she didn’t even use her notes.” Lectures and videos: Content, scientific practice, and seeds for projects By the third week, some students are wondering why Rory’s class is called “Earth Science.” They have spent most of their time discussing policies and values, and have just begun the email activities. On the way out of class, one student says, “Is this class all about computers? I thought we were gonna do something about the earth.” During the first week of class, Rory had begun his series of videos and lectures by showing an episode from James Burke’s “Connections” series. But the program was not about earth science, and instead focused on how various technical inventions were historically connected and interdependent. Rory told the class the reason he was showing the “Connections” video was that it shows “how things develop through time. The reason I think this is important is that it’s a metaphor for how science works. It builds up, and leaps in science are putting ideas and things together. But they don’t just come out of nowhere.” Rory had discussed his plans to show the “Connections” video with me in an interview the previous Spring. He said the video follows how this guy did this, and this guy took that idea, improved on this to make something else that he needed, then this guy over here took that idea and improved it to make this, which led to this, which led to this, which, you know [trails off]. So it starts out with water wheels lead to laptop computers, you know, and it shows how you can take an idea, and you can use something that’s existing to make something that you need by just modifying it slightly, which leads to

118 something else that somebody else could use. And that ... the guy who invented the PC didn’t sit down and go, “Well, I think I’m just gonna invent a laptop computer, OK, here we go, integrated chips over here, and let me get some of this other.” You know, you don’t just do that, because somebody invented all of those other things first. You know, what the last person did was just put them all together. Now, he didn’t even invent the computer, because somebody else invented that. It’s like, “how do we make it smaller and better?” So, but if it hadn’t been for the space program, and miniaturizing things for that, then all of those pieces wouldn’t have been available that small, which is why computers were as big as this room to start with ... So, I don’t know, so that just seems to be, another one of those thinking kinds of things: see, here’s how people think, and here’s what happens when people think, so if you all think a little bit, maybe you can do this. Later in the third week, Rory begins somewhat more traditional material with lectures on astronomy. Although these do not yet deal with the earth (the full title of the course would more aptly be “Earth and Space Science”), the lectures are closer to “what [students] expect from a class,” as discussed in Chapter 6. Lectures and videos as means of covering standard content On a Tuesday in the fourth week of class, Rory is preparing to give his fifth lecture on astronomy, after having shown a video about solar systems the previous day. He tells me, I think I’m gonna follow up on the solar systems stuff. Some things kind of flew by in the video. I think it’d be a good idea to go over them and solidify them. They will probably generate questions, too. An example is an astronomical unit, equal to the distance between the earth and the sun. They explained [in the video] how if it took one second, to go one astronomical unit from the sun to the earth (which is faster than the speed of light) then it would take 40 seconds to get from the earth to Pluto. I want to make sure they get that. One of the reasons Rory tries to “explain at least the big picture about how everything works” through lectures and videos is that “kids have misconceptions” such as the one he is worried about here—that the massive scale of our solar system makes Pluto that much further from the sun than the Earth. Through the lectures, he hopes to “make them at least think about [the materials] a little bit.” The breadth of material in the fields of Earth Science

119 which he covers in lecture over a brief portion of the year necessitates a somewhat shallow presentation. This contrasts with the greater depth the students will learn about the specific topics they research during their three projects later. Clearly, Rory’s lectures are partly done out of the traditional notion of “coverage”—he figures that his Earth Science class and the other teacher’s are so different that students’ experiences will be largely different, but “they ought to at least learn some of the same stuff.” As he said at one point, “I just think someone who took Earth Science should have seen rocks and pictures of planets,” and some of the students would miss certain topics altogether if they were doing projects all year. Like most experienced teachers, he does not do strict lesson plans for his lectures, but instead has a general plan that he fills in somewhat improvisationally, drawing from years’ worth of notes and experience. As Rory puts it, he tries to give them this big picture, a big picture of everything and how it works, starting at the origin of the universe, and going up through geologic processes and geologic time, and oceans, and weather, and everything, and how they all fit together, and how they generally work. Right now he is at the solar system, so he walks in to class and writes “Today: Solar system notes” on the board. He mutters his way through the attendance. Marie asks if they get to work on the computers today, and Rory says they can read his responses to their email during ten minutes at the end of class. He goes to the board and says, “We’re gonna go over some of the solar system stuff. Put some flesh on the bones you got from the movie yesterday.” He draws Figure 2 as he explains some things about each of the planets. “Where life evolved, where we are, is just a matter of accident. We’re at the optimal point ... if the sun were hotter or cooler, conditions might have been better on Mars or Venus for life to evolve.” When he gets to Uranus, he chuckles, saying, “The name of Uranus was changed to be PC when Voyager was approaching it. They didn’t want to have to have people saying Ur-ay’-nus on the radio, so they call it Ur’-uh-nus.”

120

mercury sun venus

earth mars

jupiter uranus saturn jovian or gas planets Figure 2: Diagram of solar system neptune pluto charon rocky

terrestrial or rocky planets

Marie asks, “Have we seen Pluto?” Rory replies, “Yes, with telescopes.” Marie follows up, saying, “What do we see?” “Light reflected off it.” Still wondering, Marie says, “What light?” Rory clarifies, “from the sun,” and Marie nods. Rory goes on to explain what the “plane of the ecliptic” is, and how Earth’s orbital plane and all the other planets except Pluto are in this same plane—Pluto’s orbit is 17% off that of the others. In addition, he draws a view from above the planets, showing how Pluto’s orbit also crosses the orbit of Neptune. He then explains, “both of these facts led to speculation that Pluto and Charon were moons of Neptune’s that broke off here [where the orbits cross]. They created a computer model that calculated the orbits forward and backward in time. It doesn’t appear they crossed in the past, so we still don’t know what happened, and it doesn’t look like they’ll cross in the future.” Danny asks, “how long does it take Pluto to go around the sun?” Marie ventures a guess of “like 200 years.” Rory says, “let’s see,” and looks it up. “What was the number you said, Marie?” Marie replies, “200 years.” Rory replies, “it’s 240 years. You were close.”

121 Interlude: Dialogue sequences punctuated by student questions, not teacher questions When Rory first described his lecture series to me at the beginning of 1994-95, I would not have predicted that Rory’s lectures were as interactive as they in fact are. He told me they were “boring,” perhaps in part because he viewed them as much more traditional than his project work. Based on research conducted elsewhere, even this more traditional aspect of Rory’s teaching differs from “standard” instruction. In Hugh Mehan’s (1978, 1979) groundbreaking work on standard interaction sequences in school lessons, he identified the dominant structure of discourse to be what he termed “Initiation-ReplyEvaluation” (I-R-E). In such a sequence, the teacher initiates an episode by asking a question about an established fact or idea he or she wants to convey; students reply with bids for correct responses; the teacher evaluates the responses, and may initiate another round. Jay Lemke (1990) conducted research following this same tradition on discourse patterns in science classrooms, and identified the same basic structure as dominant, although he preferred to call it “Triadic Dialogue,” or “Question-Answer-Evaluation” (Q-AE). In such a sequence, the teacher opens with a question, a student answers, and the teacher evaluates. In Rory’s lectures, this sequence is rare: out of fifteen class days I observed in which Rory showed videos and gave lectures, he initiated only three Q-A-E sequences. The fact that a substitute teacher showed the last video in the tour, and immediately initiated a Q-A-E sequence after stopping the VCR, only highlighted the difference between Rory’s style and “standard instruction.” The I-R-E/Q-A-E pattern is well-adapted for situations in which the teacher is trying to simultaneously maintain a high degree of control in the classroom and also probe students’ current understandings in order to bring them to grasp a set of clearly specified concepts. Consequently, Rory may not be

122 proactively detecting as many student misconceptions as he would if he used I-R-E or Q-AE. On the other hand, Rory’s lectures are punctuated by a significant number of what Lemke terms “Student Questioning Dialogues”—a total of 99 over the same fifteen periods. A Student Questioning Dialogue is “an activity structure in which students initiate questions on the subject-matter topic and the teacher answers them. [It] often includes a series of questions by different students” (Lemke, 1990, p. 217). Examples are the episodes above beginning with questions from Marie, Danny, and Mark. When they are given the opportunity to ask questions like this, students have more responsibility for monitoring their own understanding, and control over their learning if they take advantage of the opportunity. According to Lemke, many teachers use a variety of strategies to discourage student questions, and privilege the I-R-E/Q-A-E format, precisely because it keeps more control in the hands of the teacher. Rory planted the seeds for this altered situation on the second day of class, when he told students they were going to have an exam on the lectures worth 25% of their first semester grade, but that it would be “open notes.” It became the students’ responsibility to make sure that their notes were complete and they understood them, so that they could use the notes during the exam. Rory came up with the idea for the quiz or exam with open notes the previous year (1994-95), as an inducement for them to listen and take notes. He told me “the important thing [about the exam] was, that they listened to me while I tried to explain it to them .. you know, and if they needed further clarifications, they would ask questions, or I could point out the sections in the book to read.” He is especially pleased with classes, like this one, and students, like Adam, who habitually ask good questions very relevant to the material, although he has noticed that some students and classes tend more towards “borderline” questions that may simply be

and it is not yet complete. As mentioned in Chapter Two. Powerpoint presentations he makes. the view of learning as transmission from teacher to learner is the dominant traditional view. using various combinations of technology such as videotapes. project work in Rory’s class is much more dominated by “true dialogue” and “cross discussion. and the underlying metaphor for learning. The metaphor of learning as construction of knowledge. in contrast to constructivist and Vygotskian models of learning. and/or “cross discussion” among students without the teacher. laser discs. just as the teachers in Mehan’s and Lemke’s research did. As will become apparent in subsequent chapters.” But the groundwork for the projects is laid in part through teacher lectures and videos punctuated by student questioning dialogue. easiest way to transmit the basic information” (my emphasis). on the other hand. In the three years he has been conducting this video and lecture tour of Earth Science. As Lemke’s analysis implies. that is one cost of relinquishing some control over their learning to the students. Rory has no illusions that everything he says goes directly into heads of the students.123 ruses whose purpose is to waste time. but he is trying to at least get the information “out there” so that students can pick up some of it. In addition. “who’s doing the talking” most of the time. . is better served by what Lemke (1990) terms “true dialogue. the purpose of the lectures is primarily to “transmit” information about science content. Despite this difference between the dominant structure of dialogue in Rory’s lectures and “standard” science lessons. and chalkboard lectures. there are some important senses in which Rory’s lecture activity and standard science instruction are the same: specifically. In Rory’s lectures. he talks the overwhelming majority of the time.” where teacher and students ask questions that don’t necessarily have already established answers. he says he has been “trying to come up with the quickest.

a revolution is bigger.. the spin is called rotation . If it took one second to get to earth. to try and get clearer on some aspects of the solar system. He says. As he is speaking. it’s a big event like a revolution in history . Then he goes on to the numbers. counterclockwise. He tells them that one clue a segment is actual video footage is the appearance of a spacecraft in the picture. So—these are the nuts and bolts. and we don’t know why . [and] in this table I’m putting the A. he says. Venus rotates in the opposite direction.. I’m going to put some numbers on the board. Rory then moves “on to other things..” After shuffling through his notes.. “I’m going to create a big table of the planets . It’s equal to 93 million miles. and the anomalies tell us what other things happened. Rory elaborates on the motions of the planets: All the planets move in the same direction around the sun . the North pole faces the same direction the whole year. In science we look over all. come up with the rules that are followed. Rory draws diagrams of what he is describing about the rotations. He goes on to discuss a question Patti raised yesterday about a section of the video which showed sun flares. the direction of rotation and all that—these exceptions—scientists like to ask why these things are that way. so at different points in the orbit.. “So half the planet [Uranus] never gets sun?” Rory hesitates.. different parts of the planet are facing the sun. saying.. because a section of the spacecraft on which the video camera is mounted is visible. distance from the sun to the objects. “let me check. see the large patterns to see how things work. Things like these—these exceptions of the orbital plane. She was wondering whether it was a real video taken from a spacecraft or an artistic rendition. Pictures are good.. like the earth. Mark then asks..” He . looking down on the north pole.. most rotate left to right with their north pole up.124 Lectures and videos as means of conveying how science is practiced Back in today’s lecture. the orbit is called the revolution.. all the planets but two rotate in the same direction ..” He continues with the point he told me he wanted to make before class: The distance between the earth and the sun is called an astronomical unit. Uranus has the North pole facing toward the sun..U. but we want numbers to get clearer—it’s not always clear what is real and what is not real. so it rotates differently too. No.U.. it would take 40 seconds to get to Pluto . or. or A.

Table 6 is constructed over the next few minutes.0 Pluto 39.125 briefly explains that “A.5 Uranus 19..4 Table 6: Distance of planets from the sun (in Astronomical Units) Then Rory goes on to tell a story: Somebody [yesterday] asked “can you see Pluto without a telescope? . distance Mercury . Before we had telescopes.U.—so far they’ve found no planet..U. They looked for it and they found [the asteroid belt]. Venus. and “are currently looking for Planet X. scientists eventually found all the planets we know of in our solar system. but some comets.0 Saturn 9. Mars. at around 80 A.8 Jupiter 5. from the sun. Jupiter. An early astronomer noticed the progression of distances from the sun.7 Earth 1. and it is a convenient unit of measurement based on the distance between our sun and the Earth (which is 1 A.U. you could see five other planets—Mercury.. equivalent to 93 million miles).U. Saturn.U. See how they sort of double? And then he predicted there should be another planet around 3 A. about twice as far away from the Sun. Using this technique. Rory went on to explain how they looked for another planet beyond Saturn. and found Uranus. At least my understanding of the way some of the . amidst explanation and questions about the asteroid belt: PLANETS A.” refers to astronomical units.0 Mars 1.0 Neptune 30.” Rory told me in interviews.5 Asteroids ~2.4 Venus . “I’m trying to—at every chance I get—to show examples of how scientists do science.

and then they had to figure out how to distinguish . was . it’s like Bode’s Law was the important thing .” but he “understood that that’s something that was probably gonna be valuable/useful” down the road when the students are doing projects. as opposed to what scientists did. But it was really. “Bode’s Law. [laugh] It’s like. What’s important now is that there’s a pattern. and that scientists are people.” That’s also why he mentions the “nuts and bolts” like looking for anomalies—Pluto and Charon’s revolution off the plane of the other planets. Bode’s predictions gave the scientists an idea of where to look. I mean. “you should know Bode’s Law. Here’s Bode’s Law.” That’s why the first video he showed was Burke’s “Connections. and somebody saw the pattern.” He “didn’t start out with [focusing on how science is done] as a goal. Rory says this change in emphasis was “almost an unconscious shift.. and used the pattern to find out something else. So . the way that used to be presented. there’s a guy named Bode. and blah blah blah. that’s the shift. and his predictions.” Bode’s Law. Bode’s Law is not the important thing.. It’s like..126 things work. Here’s how it works. and show the planets.. and their distances.. but it colors the way he presents material such as Bode’s law. he said “I might have told stories [in the past. and the direction of Uranus’ rotation—as well as large patterns that show rules that are followed— the approximate doubling of the distance of each planet in our solar system from the sun. Trying to keep them thinking about doing science. It clearly does not dominate all he is saying throughout his lectures..” You know. I would make this big table on the board. and that they think. and they create.. before doing projects]... and that there should be something here and here. Which is what science is. you know. and he was the one that discovered that there was some sort of a progression . Well. who cares? Joe: Right . You were telling them this so they would know that particular thing? Rory: Exactly... When I asked him whether his lectures had always been peppered with such examples of science in action. blah blah blah blah . and explain how Bode’s Law works. straightforward.” He told me the way he would have presented the same information about the distances of the planets from the sun: Rory: Well. and boring. but not with that express goal in mind..

127 planets. So Rory describes how scientists discovered other planets: “In the sky stars twinkle. Planets don’t because they just reflect light. ... The planets would be observed in one place relative to the stars, and then they’d move to being in another place [relative to position of others - all this is drawn on the board as well]. They were called ‘wanderers’ because of this.” During the next session on the planets, Rory will mention how one of Mercury’s days is as long as 59 of ours, whereupon Tom M asks, “Who, like, made that up?” Rory replies, “They didn’t. This is how they did it: they would find a crater on Mercury’s surface, and track it until it appeared again.” A couple days later, Rory will show a video on Halley’s comet, and after stopping it, emphasize the process of work done by a scientist in the video: “Yeoman came up with a model. That’s what scientists do ... he used supporting data to prove that his model was correct.” On other occasions, Rory relates how two scientists figured out that you can use the spectral type to tell the chemical makeup and temperature of stars, and how “looping” patterns like those of air in our atmosphere and water in our oceans recur often in science. He also mentions his own experience as a geologist, while discussing the difficulty of determining grades of metamorphism in rocks to reconstruct their history. Lectures and videos as seeds for later projects Rory closes the lecture period for the day, saying, “OK, let’s stop here. You can read you mail or whatever you want.” From September until early November, he spends 26 periods on such lectures and almost 9 showing videos. The topics range from the origins of the universe; to stars, galaxies, the solar system, planets, and comets; to the origin of the earth; to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock; to plate tectonics and geologic history; to weathering and erosion; and finally oceanography and meteorology. In

128 his first year of doing projects, Rory did not give any lecture tour like this, and he felt that was one of the ways he “cast students adrift without any framework.” When he asked them to do Earth Science projects on anything in the field “that interested them,” he was “presupposing” that they knew enough of “what Earth Science is all about” to see what they might be interested in. In 1994-95, when he decided to give the lecture and video tour, he did so because if you want students to explore science they have to know something about it. [Before] I assumed they weren’t living in a vacuum, which was probably an incorrect assumption. Actually, when I think back to my own high school years, if someone had done this to me, I would have been as clueless as my students, even though I was interested in science at some general level. So, they need to have some background. The “big picture” [to] flesh out at a later date. Rory’s hope was that once students had been exposed to this introductory material, it would “give them some framework on which to say, ‘Oh, that was kind of cool, maybe I could do a project on that.’” Indeed, some of the students specifically mention getting the idea for their projects from the lecture. Dave and TJ, for instance, were beginning to think about what they should do for their first project at the end of the lectures. As Dave put it, after having all those notes on all those different aspects of earth science, it was easy to pick a topic. And you could also see which sections you thought were interesting while you were taking the notes, and which you didn’t. So that would help in picking your topic. I think that was helpful. When Rory described hurricanes, they latched onto that as a topic. During the lecture detailed above, Rory mentioned speculation that Pluto and Charon were once moons of Neptune, and that the plane of their orbits around the sun were odd; Adam, who was very interested in astronomy, chose to follow up on these comments by doing a project later in the year on Pluto’s status as a planet (or not) in our solar system. Steve and Rich, who did a project on moons, also found the seeds of their project in Rory’s lectures. Rich said the lectures “gave [them] kind of an overview ... of what we could do ... to basically

129 figure out our subject,” and Steve added, “we just saw what interested us.” Patti concurred that the lectures and videos gave her “an understanding of which areas [they] can go into, to look for a subject of research.” Because students are using the lectures as springboards for projects, Rory has become careful about how much he emphasizes certain topics. An example is black holes, which are an interesting phenomenon in astronomy, but extremely complex. In years past quite a few students had become interested in the topic through Rory’s comments in lecture, and had no luck completing successful empirical projects, so this year, Rory did not bring the topic up. When a student asked “What’s a black hole?” one day, Rory simply said, “It’s theoretical thing, based on Einstein’s relativity. It explains some things, but it’s really hard to see,” and then changed the subject. Nevertheless, Adam and Jane choose to do a project on black holes during this year, and the negotiation of this and other research topics will be discussed in Chapter 11. Besides giving students an overview of Earth Science from which to choose project topics, Rory wants to avoid students having to “start from ground zero” in their project inquiry. In years past, when he had given no lectures or just a brief few, he felt students “didn’t even know any of the names or the terminology about the stuff they were working on” when they began projects. He hopes the more extended lecture tour will prepare them better. Among the six focus students I interview outside of class, Patti and Dave are the only ones who finds the lectures very “helpful” in this way—she feels they provide her a basic level of knowledge about the topics, which helps in starting more in depth research for the projects. She says “you also have like background information, so it’s like in the back of your head, just like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that.’” Dave felt “a lot of the meteorology [they] did [in lecture] was helpful.” But other students, such as Steve and Rich, find little information in lectures beyond what they know from elsewhere about their

130 topic, moons. The extent to which Rory’s lectures help provide students basic knowledge about Earth Science content inevitably varies based on (1) the extent of each students’ incoming knowledge base, (2) the depth of Rory’s coverage of each topic, which varies based on student questions and Rory’s own interests (Rory’s preference for astronomy and geology over meteorology and oceanography is mirrored in the amount of lecture time devoted to each subtopic)14 , and (3) the extent of the students’ engagement during the portions of lecture and video which end up being relevant to their later projects. Limitations and pitfalls of the groundwork activities The third point above brings us to the limitations and pitfalls associated with the activities Rory uses to introduce the computer tools and the content of Earth Science. The “stability” of the “groundwork” inevitably varies. For instance, just as students enter the class with varying degrees of computer expertise and experience, they complete the activities with varying degrees of competence. Throughout the course of project work, Rory will still have to remind some students, such as Pamela, Sylvia, and Marie, how to send him or others email; he will have to help numerous students conduct Web searches; and he will help students daily with small printing, saving, or document layout problems. A perhaps more severe problem is associated with lectures and videos: student boredom and lack of engagement. As mentioned before, Rory is fully aware that students “aren’t paying attention” at all times. In fact, there is a marked tendency for student questions to diminish as the lecture tour continues, as shown in Table 7. Although the decline in questions may be partly attributable to students’ interest in astronomy as a topic, Patti mentions in interviews that the lectures started to get “boring,” and Dave said he was “glad to get the lecturing over with ... it’s nice to get that set aside.”
14 In 1995-96, Rory spends 11 periods lecturing on astronomy, 13 on geology, 1 on oceanography, and 1

on meteorology.

131

Lecture Topic Stars Solar Systems Planets Rocks Rocks Rocks Metamorphic Rocks Metamorphic Rocks Plate Tectonics Geologic History Erosion & Weathering Oceanography/Meteorology Weather

Week Number 3 4 4 7 7 8 8 8 8 10 10 11 11

Number of student questions 15 9 17 2 3 4 6 6 2 4 3 3 7

Table 7: Number of student questions in observed lectures The problem of student engagement is to some degree inevitable given most students’ relatively passive role during lecture. As Patti says, “I get annoyed [at lectures and tests], and then I’m like, ‘well, this is boring.’” She goes on, if you don’t pay attention, you don’t learn as much ... It goes back to the whole thing, like, if you write it down, or if you actually, like, act it out, you’ll like learn it better than if they just tell you. ‘Cause it’ll go in one ear and out the other. And you’re just like, “Oh, whatever. Nice class.” To reduce the amount of student disengagement, Rory tries a number of strategies. First, he tries not to spend too long without breaking up lecture with other activities such as the introduction of computer tools. On Mondays and Wednesdays, when the class has a double lab period, only one period is spent on lecture. Second, he tells them they will be given a written exam at the end of the lecture tour, during which they will be allowed to use their notes taken during class. As mentioned before, this places responsibility on the

132 students for taking effective notes that they can use later. A further aspect of student notetaking which Rory could more explicitly emphasize is students using them as seeds for later projects, perhaps by asking them to take note of those topics which most interest them on a daily and weekly basis, or by asking them to note down potentially interesting project research questions which arise. Third, Rory tries to mix up the media he uses: beyond standard “chalk and talk” at the blackboard, Rory tries to provide more “pizzazz” by showing some good videos, and from time to time using multimedia presentation tools. He has found that the latter—whether it be commercial CD-ROMs or custom presentations he prepares in HyperCard or Powerpoint—have the pitfall of making his own presentation slower. And paradoxically, “if it’s that slow, the kids start to just tune out.” Although he thinks multimedia is particularly well-suited for showing certain things, like the process of plate movements in plate tectonics, he has concluded that their use needs to be limited, or the technology dictates the flow of presentation and discussion more than he and the students do. During his sessions on plate tectonics, for instance, Rory uses a CD-ROM and finds it difficult to not follow the program’s slides sequentially, rather than jumping around and following up on student questions; consequently, the “lecture” extends over three days, with little student involvement. As Larry Cuban (1986) has pointed out, one of the reasons blackboards are used more often than computers in most schools is that they are easier to fit flexibly into the flow of activities such as lectures (at least for most people with the current state of the art). In addition, students have a great deal of experience taking notes off the blackboard, but don’t necessarily have a sense of what to write down during multimedia presentations. After recognizing this difficulty during his presentation on rocks and minerals, Rory addresses the issue directly before starting his presentation on plate tectonics:

133 You should take notes, but not every word—and I know you do that when I write on the board. [During this CD-ROM presentation] you try and take notes on the important stuff, and I’ll try and point them out. Nonetheless, the graphics may remain a problem: the images and animations are sometimes informative and compelling, but difficult for students to deal with in their notes, compared to the schematics Rory draws on the board. The difficulties Rory has encountered with multimedia presentations remind us that computer technology is not a panacea for content lectures any more than any other part of instruction, but instead introduces tradeoffs and unexpected complexities. Beyond students’ interest in the lectures, Rory’s own interest plays an important role. On the negative side, he finds it frustrating to essentially repeat a lecture on a topic with multiple classes during the day. As he told me several times, “the only way I could make [that] better would be if I could have that big lecture section where I took all my classes, and lectured them all just once, on one topic, and said, ‘here’s what you need to know.’” On the positive side, his enthusiasm for the Earth and Space Science material can carry him away at times. This is one explanation for the fact that although Rory figured he “should” need around “4 days of astronomy, 1 day for oceanography, 1 or 2 for meteorology, 5 days for geology ... maybe around 3 weeks altogether” for lectures, he ends up spending 27 class days on lectures. By late October, when he has yet to talk about geologic history, erosion and weathering, oceanography, and meteorology, he tells me, “I’m thinking maybe I spent too much time on astronomy.” He considers it a dilemma: ... How do you get all that information in? Maybe the problem is that I can’t get it all in. I’ve been trying to go over things in different ways so that more people will get them, but the bottom line is they’re not all going to get it anyway ... So maybe I should go back to broad brush strokes. It’s frustrating because I want to show them all the cool stuff there is. But I can never do it all. Even if I was doing lecture-lab-demo, I’d run out of time. I used to run out of time every year.

they involve more student questioning and student control than is customary in traditional classrooms.134 Conclusion: Groundwork activities as a transition I will close my discussion of Rory’s introductory activities with an observation: the tools and “content” activities detailed in this chapter can be seen as an attempt at transitioning students from more traditional modes of instruction to the projects commenced afterward. Given the prevalence of traditional teaching practices and the . he has reinforced his comment by encouraging students to create notes to use on their computer competency and science content exams. but also narratives and concepts of scientific practice. And although the lectures are dominated by teacher talk. the “content” of these lectures is not only established. scientific concepts. Rory has told the students that he is less interested in their “memorizing facts” and “telling facts” than “thinking scientifically” with whatever tools and resources they can create or find. such as LabNet. Finally. 36. factual. et al. Teachers in other reform efforts toward project-based instruction. (Ruopp.. the lectures have served the dual purpose of “covering content” and simultaneously describing the practice of science students will attempt to participate in later. Such practices are in line with Pea’s (1992) suggestion that “a principal aim of education ought to be that of teaching for the design of distributed intelligence” (p. italics in original) that is not just in students’ heads but also in the tools and artifacts around them. 1993) have conducted similar lecture tours intended to “prime” students for conducting projects. Although Rory leads the students through lecture activities rooted in a “transmission” model of communication. Thus. but they are in some ways a gradual step in the direction away from traditional schoolwork. These activities do not constitute the same level of “guided participation in a community of learners” that is represented by projects.

. Further research on the complexity and implications of designing and conducting such activities is needed. As Rory told his students. But just as it was eventually time for Rory to move on from somewhat lengthy introductory activities into the primary work of doing projects. as opposed to me telling you everything I know and you just listening. it is time for us to move on to the project work. such transition activities take on a great deal of importance. “Now you guys get to do. as we will consider in the next chapter. [and] I get to help.135 difficulty of change for students.” One way Rory helps the students to successfully do projects is by the design of the project activity structure.

since we don’t know. And they realized also from the background stuff that they’d come up with. “Well. because .Chapter 8 How structuring activity works An example of how to do a project On Thursday. “Do you know if anybody has ever done that?” And I said. Instead of pretending that we’re doing science by doing little lab experiments that duplicate things that have already been done by a lot of people. November 9. He passes out two handouts. Volcanoes are in a lot of places. then.” And I said. And I said. So. and if you don’t know. they said.. “OK. and things like that. the first of which is “How to do an earth science project” (see Appendix E for the full text of the handouts). let’s find out!” 136 . they started out with a very broad thing—volcanoes—in the whole world. and they wanted to do something on volcanoes. and they found out all about volcanoes. have you come across that anyplace. Volcanic eruptions are good.” And. and how long they last. he describes an example of a good project: For an example. and then they started narrowing it down into smaller and smaller and smaller clumps. we’re gonna try and do some things that are maybe new. Then they realized that. Rory officially begins the first round of research projects. Maybe things that people haven’t looked at. last year I had some people doing some projects.. What they finally came up with was. And maybe we should just look at a small subset of volcanoes. people write down when they occur. and they wanted to do something with like volcanic eruptions.. there are a lot of volcanoes all over the world. “Well then. OK.” To give the students an idea of what he is talking about. “Well. Volcanoes are good. that’s nice. Instead of reading aloud what he has written about doing projects. you know.” And they did research on volcanoes.. what you can see is. He reminds them “what we’re trying to do is really do science . and they decided to only look at one kind of volcano. Rory focuses the students’ attention on some of the main issues. in anything that you’ve read?” And they said. I don’t know. another good step. that there are three different kinds of volcanoes. and eruptions. and see if there is a pattern. why don’t we look at the pattern of eruptions for this one kind of volcano. “No.

and when they erupted—to see if there were any patterns between these different kinds of volcanoes. find that there were some long scale patterns. on “which group of dinosaurs lived longer. And they actually did. So what they did was. Rory then briefly describes another example project. they looked at. Rory is available at any time to help them. where the students said “we’re gonna try and predict the effect of global warming of the earth’s atmosphere on the population in the next century. they started to take when the volcanoes erupted—lots of different volcanoes.” Table 8 summarizes the milestones and due dates Rory distributes for this second quarter of 199596 (see Appendix E for full text): . a big problem.137 And so what they did..” Such projects are “way too unmanageable” says Rory. you know. As he talks about narrowing the topic down. The key is focusing them down. you know.. the carnivores or the herbivores?” Milestones as a guide to “cooking up science from scratch” The second of the two handouts is on “Project Milestones and Due Dates. was. The students aren’t on their own in figuring out whether their projects are focused enough “to be doable”. and there were some shorter scale patterns . He contrasts the narrowness and tractability of the volcano project to another project. Rory stretches his hands out wide and then brings them together. and then kept narrowing it down until it was something that they actually could do. even though they can sound appealing.

11/22 Fri. and when I want it done. and then that week before it’s due everybody will say. in doing experiment after experiment from grammar school up to now.. 1/19 Table 8: Summary of planned milestones and due dates Rory tells the students the reason for the milestones is his experience from the past. “I’ve done science.. you have. 12/1 Fri. that I couldn’t just say. Somebody will taste the sauce and go.. Not only does Rory indicate that projects later in the year need not necessarily follow so strictly the sequence of steps he has laid out. “Wait! we don’t have enough time. And we know that happens because that’s human nature..” Because what will happen is. And. “OK.. Da da da da da: “mix it up. There are things that you have to do to do science. 12/22 Fri. it suggests that there is a sequence of steps that you go through when you do science. He says: I realized a couple of years ago when I started doing this.” And that makes a difference. put it in here. but there is no step by step by step fashion. you’ll get the right answer and boom. that you’re led to believe. “No. 1/12 Fri. The old scientific method. I’m very specific about what I want done. Boom. he also expresses some of his misgivings about the sequence: What I don’t like about this is.. and then over Christmas break a couple of you will get together and start working on it. yeah.138 Project Milestone Group and Topic Background Information Research Proposal Data Collection Data Analysis Paper Presentation Time needed 3 days 2 weeks 1 week 2 weeks 1 week 1 week 1 week Due Date Mon. it needs a smidge of that.” Whatever. Here’s how it came . on the first project. at least to them. everybody will sit here and play video games. and talk. let’s go out and do research. and the week after Christmas your paper will be due. We can’t get it done. So. But it’s the difference between a cook who cooks from scratch and a cook who only can cook from following directions. 11/13 Wed. in all reality the scientific method doesn’t exist.” Oh. It’s procrastination to its nth degree. or a cook that can only heat up things in the microwave.. that if you just follow the right steps. 12/15 Fri. and chat. in order to have that not happen. As opposed to the person who just follows the directions. go for it. There are different degrees of culinary expertise.

Instead. Traditional lab steps give such detailed directions for every step that students can almost blindly follow them and “get the right results. I’ve given you the steps that I want you to follow. And there’s an artistic difference between scientists also. which is very hard to capture. provide a framework that breaks the 11-week project activity down into more manageable steps. . And then we can go on.. Along the steps of these paths. and tell you step by step how to do it. on the other hand.” So there’s a difference there.. and do other projects. they turn in intermediate artifacts that require them to “use complex thought” (Blumenfeld. But the exact steps each student group will follow is not determined beforehand. at least for this first project. Soloway. in order to start. Marx.. there are multiple paths that students could follow to reach well-reasoned empirical conclusions about topics in earth science.139 out. Part of the effective use of this activity structure is the way it provides occasions for Rory to do the equivalent of “tasting the sauce” and discussing with the students what spices or adjustments might be advisable. Guzdial. though.. I will describe two projects that make effective use of Rory’s activity structure. traditional labs involve the whole class in the same lockstep activity. & Palincsar. But we have to start someplace. 1991) rather than the more trivial fill-in-the-blanks and prompted questions found in traditional labs. and so. that’s what the directions said to do. um . The series of milestones Rory has laid out are different from the recipe-like labs students may have conducted in other science classes. I don’t care what it tastes like . In order to understand how the framework of milestones helps to structure student activity. whereas Rory’s students work on different problems of their own design and choosing. Additionally. there’s an artistic difference there. There are no “right answers” in the sense that many traditional labs have right answers.” Rory’s milestones. Krajcik.

On the first day of projects. Right after Rory’s presentation and discussion about how to do a project. their topic must be part of earth science. as Rory had expected. it should be something that you’re interested in. As usual. He told the students in his introductory discussion that they can request an exception to the sizes he recommends—but they have to convince him they have a compelling reason. and Dave in jeans and a casual crew shirt. their eyes are nearly obscured by worn baseball caps with college logos.” Besides being something they’re interested in.140 The hurricanes project: Cooking up science by following the path Who are the cooks: Choosing project partners TJ and Dave are two experienced seniors sitting in the back right corner of the room with Amy and Julie (at Table B-1 in Figure 1). They are wearing one variation of their standard attire: TJ in jeans and a sweatshirt. and Dave is a somewhat slighter hockey player with short hair. but Rory wants students to work in groups of at least two and not more than three. but there are not too many in the group so that students end up sitting around a great deal while someone else does something. Jennifer had asked whether earth science included diseases. Since the four students have no reason to give Rory for exceeding his recommended limit of three people per group. Dave and TJ have to choose their topic... It can be a lot of different things . What’s for dinner: Choosing a topic After choosing partners. Rory told the students “You gotta figure something out that you want to study. they form two groups of two. so Rory described some rules of thumb for what their research can include: . Rory thinks three is ideal because they can break ties by voting. they decide to work together on their project. They had discussed working with Julie and Amy. TJ is a stocky lacrosse player with long brown hair.

When I ask them what interests them about hurricanes. or in . it probably is an earth science topic. you know. their enthusiasm serves them well. TJ and Dave choose hurricanes. and plate tectonics. and volcanoes. to be honest. And so. So that’s basically everything that we’ve talked about already. so they can learn more about their chosen topic of “patterns and destruction of hurricains [sic]. As mentioned in the previous chapter. or never been alive. For their project topic. TJ says. and currents. how it’s going.141 . “the destruction. A general guideline that I use. anything that’s in an Earth Science textbook. plus anything else that you’d find in there. oceanography. they began thinking about what they might want to do for a project when Rory was giving some of his final lectures—they latched onto hurricanes during the weather lecture. We talked about oceans.” On the first day of projects. We also wanted to know how they fly into the storm. But you need to have it . Rory had told the students: After you get a partner.” Right away. “we’re doing hurricanes.. pretty cut and dried: if whatever you want to study is alive.you need to clear it with me in the first place.. Background preparation: Learning about the topic Dave and TJ spend the first two weeks of the project diligently reading books about weather and hurricanes. the second day. We talked about mountains. We emailed it to him—we got our 10 points. That’s where you start finding out all you can about the . They had noticed Rory’s comment that they get bonus points for turning in milestones early. meteorology. they tell me. When I ask them on Friday.. then you have to do background research. That’s how they track them. and after you get a general topic. and galaxies. all of that stuff would be project topic material. any of those sciences that interests you. it’s probably not an earth science topic. and planets. It it’s dead. they begin a pattern of turning in Rory’s assignments in a timely fashion. by sending their topic to Rory by email a day early.. We talked about stars. We talked about astronomy.” Although they find out later Rory only gives bonus points for turning in the last four milestones early (the first of which is the Research Proposal—see Table 8). And we talked about storms and weather patterns and climate. and geology.

or I have a whole stack of books next door. why they erupt. when you’re done with that. You need to turn that in. As an exemplary piece of what Rory terms “traditional library research” their background information report earns the pair an A+. and also begin to track down some hurricane resources on the Internet. so that you know how volcanoes work: where they are.” after seeing his students flounder in 1993 when faced with ten-plus weeks and a paper to turn in at the end. has been for the most part “traditional. Read everything you can in the textbook. What you do is read everything you can about volcanoes. Then. Find all the stuff on volcanoes. synthesized from the reading they have done. Dave and TJ are the beneficiaries of a set of initial milestones Rory has refined over the past few years. and the destruction they cause. The original milestones Rory laid out in the Spring of 1994 to getting the project done were: (1) choosing a research question. Everything that you can. like that of the other students in the class. As he mentioned on the first day. TJ and Dave’s work. in approximately two weeks. Their report contains a descriptive overview of what hurricanes are. find other geology books. I generally would like you to start in your textbook. OK? So let’s say you pick volcanoes. Interlude: The development of milestones and the paper format Up until this point. Read it. and it is worth reviewing the development of the milestone assignments. That’s your background research .” with the possible exception of adding Internet research to the traditional library research. then. and they include the image in their Background Information report they turn in a day early during the second week. why they don’t erupt. how they arise.. whether they’re on the shelf over here. Rory has broken the long-term process of conducting science projects into a series of interim milestones that provide a “framework for [students] to work in.. (2) doing background research on the . on your particular topic.142 information. They borrow the books from Rory’s collection in the classroom. They ask Rory to help them save an image showing hurricane paths they find on a Web site. You have to become a mini-expert on volcanoes.

Therefore. (4) analyzing the data. if necessary. learn more about.” such as Amanda’s query. (2) it lets students apply the familiar model of “library research” or synthesis of established descriptions of a phenomena (which they may have learned in other classes. But for the first project in 1994-95. students did not turn in Background Information reports such as the one Dave and TJ have done. Later in that year. especially English and History). and (3) it makes explicit the fact that they must go on to do something different in subsequent milestones and the final report and presentation. “why does a comet revolve around the sun?” In order to come up with more ultimately productive “wonderment questions” such as Jeff’s “how does a comet’s core size affect its tail size?” students need a little more background on the topic area than they typically have. He encountered one major problem with these steps immediately: he found that students with little previous background were simply unable to come up with much beyond what Scardamalia and Bereiter (1991) term “basic information questions.” or else you will not get far. in Chapter 1. Rory added the report as a formal milestone to focus the initial period of learning about the chosen topic area. Too . Rory adjusted the milestones for the 1994-95 year such that Step 1 did not include deciding on a research question. but instead a general topic area which students then have time to read up on and. Then they could come up with a focused research question by brainstorming. This is particularly crucial since Rory also found that one of the “critical” parts of doing a science research project is that you “have to come up with a question that you can work on. and (5) writing up the final paper. (3) finding or collecting data that would answer the question. rather than relying on informally giving the students time to learn about their topic. The Background Information milestone simultaneously serves three purposes: (1) it gives students an interim goal around which to focus their background reading and research on their topic.143 question.

. But that’s what’s different about science. basically . Synthesis of known information is what Dave and TJ have done to this point in their project. This can become kind of complicated. At the beginning of this year. you then need to focus it down—just like I gave you that example with those kids with volcanoes—into something that you actually can do some research on.144 often in previous years. Now Rory wants them to move beyond that step to carry out original empirical research: they will examine data to answer a research question they formulate. but decided to hold it when all the groups were about to put their research proposals together. Up until this time. and they’ve done it well. to try and answer a particular question that you have. it’s like taking a tree trunk and trying to whittle it down into a toothpick. you don’t just take all the information you can find from all the different sources. How to whittle that down—you know.” That’s part of it. On the first day of the project. He figured that would provide for optimal participation and . Rory saw students get bogged down gathering and synthesizing information about their topic—whether it was from books. . Because. “Voila! Here’s everything that I know. you know. with his help..” I think this is a very hard step.. in a lot of papers. and say.. OK? Constructing your own recipe: Brainstorming and refining research questions Since this whittling down to a research proposal is so difficult. There’s more. and like. everything is pretty easy and straightforward. you’d be done after [the “background information” milestone].. cut and paste and put them all together. Rory tried to come up with ways to give the students more support. after the Background Information was returned. about a topic. So that’s [the next] step: “narrow your broad topic down into a research proposal. It takes a while sometimes. Something where either you can do an experiment. Rory decided he wanted to try brainstorming research questions and proposals with the class as a group. or look for data that somebody else has collected. Once you know a lot . journals. Rory told the students: You know. He was at first not sure when to hold the session. though. or the Internet—and they ended up with final reports that synthesized that information..

our next deadline is Friday. For instance. It just kind of all fills in around there. So those are the three parts. This is. Rory asks them to choose a question to pursue further.” Finally. then everything else is kinda like. and how they could construct a research report on it. Rory suggests. Then you have to find the data. in an effort to focus down on a more answerable question. but all are “too broad. the dressing. This is where the problem comes in ’cause we’re all staying too broad and what we need to try and do is focus down very specifically. and asks the class “what are some questions that come to mind” based on the photo. this—I see three critical parts. saying Remember. Pete suggests “How do they choose the new leader of a pack?” Rory then asks the class to generate more questions that would help them answer this question. one example would be—somebody was talking about sizes of packs—a project you could do would be “what is the average size. Rory gathers the class together. doing science—one is that you have to come up with a question that you can work on. They try some alternatives. to doing projects. many of which are basic.145 interest. like “Where was this picture taken?”. since the discussion should help the students get in their next milestone (the Research Proposal). very specific question based on your topic. or the size distribution of wolf packs in Minnesota?” Or. he asks them “what would we need to know to answer one of those questions?” They realize it could be hard to come by data that would help them answer the question about the leader. And then you have to analyze that data to get an answer. After the class generates a number of questions. You need to have a workable. researchable. and once you do those three parts. He then holds a whole class brainstorming session on research questions. Finally. He brings in a photograph of a wolf pack from next door. you know. based on their limited knowledge of wolves. So on the Monday after the Background Information was due. basically. North America? Some students wonder “How do we write a six page paper on that? What is there to write?” But they discuss what data they would need to answer this question. doable. He describes a possible report as follows: .

” That was your answer. To ask questions about your own project. or what information you would need to answer any one of those questions.146 You have the introduction. and the average number. Nobody said six pages is what you have to have.” If they figure that out soon enough. Questions about questions.” He also warns students they will run into trouble if they “have a good question. We counted the number of wolves. a very focused kind of a question at the end of this process. Now. Try and keep it all on one sheet of paper. from last year. It probably wouldn’t. But it might. What is the average number of wolf packs. and divided by the number of packs. But “in the very worst case scenario. you have your analysis. we got information from databases. Even if you don’t find an answer. And you make a graph that shows the number of wolves in each pack. That’s still a scientific investigation. you can’t turn anything in to something.. And then you make a little table that shows you the number of wolves in each pack. and then we averaged it out. so it doesn’t get lost. you know. You would talk about wolves in general—where they came from. It all depends on what you find. how they’ve evolved. then you state your problem . but can’t find the information [to answer] it. It could be a lot less than six pages. but one asks “What if you get all the information you can. we counted the number of packs. The students seem somewhat reassured. Uh. so there you have your introduction. “we collected information from wolf experts. I don’t know what you’re gonna find. you absolutely can’t find anything. and seeing—trying to write down. and then you come up with your conclusion. I just said the average was ten. wolves in a pack in Minnesota? And then you would go about telling how you did it. does that take six pages? Probably not. This is your job. Rory asks the students I want you to continue to do this with your own projects. keep in mind that you want to come up with a very focused. and that’s OK. you can still report on what you did. And. and. you have your data.. We divided the number of wolves per pack and added them up.” In the end. you have your graph and your chart and your table. and that’s still valid. . This is your deadline for Friday. and then continue asking questions about all your own questions. And then. Well. they can try to adjust their question to a more manageable one. but you have like a lousy question?” Rory tells them “I’m gonna try and not let you down the wrong path to start with. which is your finish. and then that gave us the average. Nobody said ten pages.

neosoft. “What are the patterns?” is a good one.edu/hurricane. the addresses are http://banzai. What about the sizes of them over time.station. it could become relevant too. and Dave asks Rory. a university-based scientist who specializes in atmospheric science and climate.html. there are hurricanes every year.noaa. Dave and TJ are excited about all the maps and pictures they have found. Dave and TJ get a response from their mentor within a day. I’d say the patterns one is the best. which they show to Rory.net/~kenf/tcc. Rory: And why is that? You could look at how many there were every year. but this year it seems like there’s more.nhc. A short discussion ensues: Rory: You’ve got some good things here. they propose answering “Is there a preferred pattern of hurricane movement in the Northern Hemisphere?” They propose gathering data from the Web site over a period of years to establish the patterns. So. Like. he sends them a number of library book references as well as Web site addresses about hurricanes. TJ and Dave have generated a list of questions. at http://thunder. what are the patterns over time? Dave: Yeah. TJ and Dave explore the Web pages he tells them about15 . After Dave and TJ tell their mentor they have access to the Web.purdue. Dave: OK Rory: I hope I helped At about this same time. http://www.. and also this one [about size] is kind of related. and they follow links from these pages to other hurricane sites. Eventually they find a historical dataset of yearly hurricane activity from 1880 through 1995. which showing among other things the paths hurricanes have taken in the Northern Hemisphere.com/citylink/blake/tropical.html..gov/.html. Rory assigns Dave and TJ a mentor. . “Do we have the Web?” Rory explains that “the Web” is what they are looking at when they are using Netscape. At the end 15 If you are interested in exploring yourself. and it might expand to how many at what time of year. or in any particular season? .atms. but if one of the others is related. so they do have it. For starters.147 By the next day. Specifically. and http://www. they decide to propose a research question on the paths. Rory asks the student groups to introduce themselves to the scientists by email.

and as they begin their data analysis. TJ and Dave’s proposal is approved by Rory. They turn in a set of data just before the end of week five. since he collaborated in its construction. The students generated the initial idea of examining “patterns” of hurricanes after the brainstorming session and their Background Information report.” But Rory holds back. Over the next two weeks. Rory challenges them to go on to the . It takes them a while to download images for a set of years. TJ comes up with the idea of tracing hurricane paths by hand off the computer screen onto transparencies. Dave and TJ figured out where their data would come from while deciding on their proposal. which can be laid on top of one another. and lets them see for themselves what it takes to work with the images that show hurricane paths. Gathering and organizing the ingredients: Data collection and analysis After agreeing on a research proposal. They think it’s a 5 minute process or they already have it. and they learn how to manipulate the images in graphics programs so that they can change the background color from black to white. and the students refined their idea to focus on the patterns of hurricane movement. Now that they have gathered a body of data. Rory liked the idea and added the prospect at looking for patterns over some period of time. which is gathering the information and data they need to answer their question.148 of week three. which is not surprising. after finding images showing the paths of hurricanes with the help of their mentor. Rory tells me early in week four “I have a gut feeling they don’t know what they’re looking for. they realize they need to find a way to compare the paths on more than one image. Rory had told the students they need to “figure out where to get the information” they need. so they move directly into the next phase of the project. Like some other students. TJ and Dave work diligently to gather hurricane data off the Web.

We worked with igneous rocks. the students have gotten a definite impression of what the data says about how hurricane paths tend to be shaped. “You have to talk to the rocks and the rocks will talk back to you. and then they die in the Atlantic. he draws the following: Figure 3: Dave’s drawing of common hurricane paths As he is drawing. He said. Dave explains: . When I ask him to show me on paper how the hurricanes tend to move.” You have to poke it. organize it. [they] start southeast of Florida and east of the Caribbean. In an interview outside of class. who was a petrologist. and it’ll talk back to you. Dave tells me: We really are finding mainly that most of them are starting in a .149 next step of the project. It reminds me of my masters advisor. They make a little semicircle. About his masters project. Through the processes of “poking. sift it. Rory told me: [data analysis] is hard. for all of us. though. and then kind of like they’re really making a swoop up towards the United States. and organizing” all these images. in his smiling brown face.. and tracing their paths.” The image of “talking with your data” comes from Rory’s masters advisor. and the rocks became your data. sifting. figuring out “what the data says..

They just barely get the assignment together by the end of class on the due data. he pushes the students to not make claims. and the number of each hurricane category .... Dave: Some—that’s like the general.. But maybe the average is not in terms of numbers. then use those .. and 11 . in electronic form and traced on transparencies. 10. In this conversation. Joe: Right. that these are average years.. You can’t just say it. They kind of like start here [southeast of Florida]. you have to convince me they are all apples . However. “we thought we would compare average years. TJ and Dave turn in four separate maps of hurricane paths for 1899 and 1993-1995. and then they kinda swoop like that [along the East coast]. you know Joe: Oh. “how do you define average years?” I was trying not to shoot them down. just as it does for most of the rest of the class. yeah.. such as TJ and Dave’s contention that the years . you know [draws one going over Florida. and one into Texas/Louisiana]. he tells me afterward: I asked them why they picked those [years]. and then some of them occasionally. those are the ones that blast over there. And so there always doing that [I draw a C swooping from southeast to northwest to northeast] Dave: Pretty much.150 . Rory is unsatisfied with their use of the data to support conclusions. There’s also the number of storms. and some have gone up the coast of Mexico. Other years had 5. and hurriedly compose an ad hoc “conclusion” in the email message to which they attach the map images. You can say you have 4 apples. For their data analysis milestone due at the end of week 6. tropical storms. 8. and generally some—you know. Joe: And there’s more of them over here [in Atlantic off coast] Dave: Yeah.. we’ve had a couple that have hit Texas. Rory sees TJ and Dave’s picking so-called “average” years based on no explicit criterion as an example of “generalizing a conclusion from inspection” of data. Maybe you can see which years are average. maybe it’s in terms of paths..” So I said to them. You know.. or the reader. so I asked them “How did you figure out they were average years?” “We looked at maps” “You have to prove it to me. and they said. but if 3 are red and one is green.” How do you define the average year? Maybe with frequency? Someone in another class is looking at the number of hurricanes per year. figuring out how to turn this general impression into an analysis of data proves difficult for Dave and TJ. There were 21 hurricanes last year.

Instead. you’re going to be assembling parts of your paper as you go along. so you could use 3 you’ve done already?” On this advice. is. “OK. So it’s not like. since that is not the main thrust of their project.” Rory is also modeling the scientific practice of generating alternative hypotheses with means of disconfirming each. then I have to start writing the paper.” unless they can back them up with reference to the data. the students concede the point that their sampling procedure of discontinuous years is questionable. the next step is putting together the research paper.” however.151 they chose were “average. and by the time you get to [writing the paper]. and what the answer is—then you can write your paper. In this case the discussion does not lead to further analysis of what constitutes an “average year. It’s analyzing. Students’ written milestones thus serve as first drafts they can revise and combine to create a draft of their final report. So Rory makes a suggestion: “Why not twist the project to the last 10 years. I’m gonna do all this work. TJ and Dave use the sample from 1985 through 1995. Rory has designed the milestone assignments for the project so that they correspond to sections of the written research report. so they need an alternative strategy that they can act on with only a week to put together their complete research report.” This is actually designed for you to do parts of your paper as we go along. He told the students: Once you’ve done data analysis—you should have a pretty good idea of what your question is. separated by the qualifier “but maybe. . it’s putting things into final form. Table 9 shows what milestone assignments correspond to sections of the paper (see Appendix E for Rory’s handout on the paper format). Actually. it’s basically just finishing things up. When he generates the two possibilities that average years could be determined by the number of hurricanes or by the paths. what you’re going to be doing. Serving the meal in a “spaghetti bowl”: Putting it all together in the research report As Rory mentioned on the first day of projects.

199).152 Milestone Broad topics and partners Background Information Research Proposal/Question Data Collection Data Analysis Paper Research Report Sections Introduction Method (expanded) Results.” Rory has designed and led the students . and Conclusion (Combine above. multiple class meetings can also have a structure or sequence: the typical five-day sequence at Lakeside. p. Mehan.” Hugh Mehan (1978) described how lesson activities are organized as sequences of events at various levels. followed by topically related sets of sequences to cover instructional material. including restrictions on the order in which they can meaningfully occur” (1990. Lemke. 1978) embodied in the milestone assignments and the “artifact structure” embodied in the format for the written report. as described by students. but multiple I-R-E sequences are often put together to form a “classroom lesson”—opening sequences to begin the class period. part B. In his observational studies of standard classroom “lessons. Extending this model. is “Lecture-Lab-Lecture-Lab-exam. expand where necessary. 1990. part A Results. The I-R-E sequences described in Chapter 7 are an activity structure at the most basic level. Jay Lemke points out that activities in the classroom are “structured” in the sense that they can be broken down into “functional elements [that] have specific relationships to one another. and closing sequences that end the class period. and precede by Abstract) Table 9: Correspondence of milestones to report sections The design of project activities that Rory has developed for his class is powerful in part because of the synergy between the “activity structure” (Doyle. 1979.

The process proves difficult for TJ and Dave.153 through an alternative activity structure with rich dependencies between the parts of the sequence. Rory asks them what the general pattern of hurricanes is. et al. they create a composite image showing all the hurricane paths from 1985-1995. as becomes apparent at this juncture in the hurricanes project. with a day to go before the research report is due. Rory suggests they think about where the hurricanes occurred—they could define the rectangular area that defined the boundaries of the hurricane paths. On Thursday during Week 7. Guzdial. he also suggests the possibility . 1991. The students and Rory come to refer to this representation of all the paths together as a “spaghetti bowl”—there is so much data covering other data in the image that it is difficult to make sense of the whole thing. Borrowing inspiration from the constituent mineral analysis Rory had done as part of his masters in Geology. just as it does for most of Rory’s students. The milestone artifacts are “shared. At this point in the project. is mediated by interim artifacts. with conclusions supported by data analysis. critiquable externalizations of student knowledge” (Blumenfeld. Some of the interdependence between parts of the activity. TJ and Dave have to figure out how to put their burgeoning knowledge of hurricanes. and TJ shows him the “C” shape Dave had described to me previously (see Figure 3 above). they trace them onto transparencies. After TJ and Dave download the remaining images for each year from the Web. written report. as well as the support Rory provides throughout the activity. Dave and TJ have a long conversation trying to solidify data analysis techniques. 1995.. April) that Rory uses as occasions for feedback. In an effort to get an overview of all the data. and their impressions of hurricane paths into a coherent. but is nonetheless new and at times difficult for the students to carry out. The activity structure “works” in an abstract sense.

Rory notices that not all the hurricanes follow the “C”-shaped path Dave and TJ had described.. He tells me after class. “there are a lot of things you could squeeze out of what they did instead of just the paths. The whole schedule is revised now. Adjusting the seasonings for a new course: Revising the paper Rory returns bleary-eyed the following Tuesday.. Maybe they knew what they meant. Then. They get into this verbiage where they’re trying to sound like they know what they’re doing. and put a morphological name on each hurricane. As they continue to look over the “spaghetti bowl” of data. and announces to me. Rory finds Dave and TJ’s report riddled with problems. Like most of the other reports. count up the frequencies of each shape.. and calculate the percentages. and look at my grade. should have taken place last week. but it’s not clear. to see where the highest “hazard potentials” were for the 10-year period.” The only problem is. Today is damage control day. Dave and TJ’s incorporation of these ideas is only cursory in the report they turn in on time the next day. Some are straighter than the standard C. I worked hard on this and thought I did a good job. “the conversation [he] had with them . He tells them he believes that analysis would be “valuable. the hurricane group got a 51%..” The conversation about data analysis was extremely productive. and say. He then suggests they could devise a categorization scheme for the shapes of paths. I was up ’til 2 am last night working on this.” Not surprisingly. after a long weekend. They’re gonna get these back. It generated more ideas.154 of dividing the map up into cells of equal space on a grid.. “geez. and it’s a great project . They need to revise this work . but there [is] no more time. Presentations will then have to be in the 2nd semester . I can’t believe this. .. they could count up frequencies of the hurricane paths through each cell of the grid. and Rory is excited about it. but it doesn’t make sense. They could go back to each year.. and others appear erratic.. I can’t make them do [presentations] on Friday. It’s really hard to figure out what they meant.” For example.

they don’t know what the “Abstract” and “Method” sections are.” (2) “Data Analysis extremely weak—but fixable!.” and (3) “can’t support Conclusion from the Data Analysis.. For instance. They’ll have until finals to turn in a revised draft . Rory tries to be encouraging. then a week of creating presentations.” He points out specific examples.. How you did what you did. and then the following week to give them . You can’t do that.” These major problems. They have to fix it up. he begins with “Outstanding Effort! Don’t quit now!” He tells them the “good things” are that they have “excellent data collection and manipulation. the abstractJulie: It’s a summary of that Rory: What she said. east of the Caribbean and made a C-like shape . compounded by a few minor formatting issues. you just recount everything. But. as exemplified in the conversation which ensues during class. saying ‘here it is. how you’ve done things? Rory: How you did what you did. “We found that most of the recorded storms began in the Atlantic Ocean. The neglected Methods section was not merely an oversight.. TJ: I thought that was the abstract.’ and you made statements in this analysis section without referring to the data once. In his extensive commentaries written on the paper. The group’s statements in their Data Analysis are still not supported well by the data.155 Almost across the board there was no Method or incorrect method.” but the “bad things” are (1) “No Method. On the front page. you just packaged all the data into a pile. Rory: No. TJ and Dave had written. and what you did. Rory’s comments on this section of their paper begin: “You have lots of good data to analyze. TJ and Dave are clearly unfamiliar with certain aspects of the scientific research report writing genre. have resulted in the low grade of 51% (the highest grade in the class was 64% on this draft).. and how they differ: TJ: So is the method.

late in the game. He points out that a complete analysis of “hurricane paths” also include issues of location and not just shape: where the storms begin and end. Back up what you say with your graphs. . the boys carry out many of Rory’s suggestions. They categorize each storm as having one of three path shapes. and how often each cell in a grid dividing the total area was hit by a storm. They also produce a pie chart showing the percentages of each shape (see Figure 4). You need to show. perhaps where they turn if they turn.” For their revised report. what the boundaries of the “spaghetti bowl” of storms are. how you came up with your Conclusions/Results. such as the C-shape they mentioned. Which diagrams show this? Of the total # of storms over this 11 year period. Which ones are ‘doable’ in the available time? You decide. Rory ends by writing. After these comments. “Bottom Line: Lots of ideas. exactly how many (and then.” Rory comments: In this statement.156 towards the United States and finished back east of the northern United States. in step-by-step fashion. you need to show/prove this is true. how they could classify each storm in the time period as having one of a set of path shapes. Rory proceeds to expand in writing on the various analysis strategies they had begun to flesh out together during class the previous week. what %) of the storms had this “C-shape” path. First of all. and give the number of storms within each category among the 83 storms over the period.

Dave says they learned “a lot about hurricanes . from revised report The hurricane group’s revised report is a significant improvement over their first draft. just.. and when you come to your presentation. all this time that you’ve been working .. Rory gives a sample project presentation using Microsoft Powerpoint viewed on the overhead televisions. I mean. with a Methods section and conclusions supported specifically by data analysis.157 Hurricane Paths 27% C-shape 51% Straight-C Irregular 22% Figure 4: Pie chart of hurricane path shapes. Final presentation of the meal The final phase of the project is the presentation. the improvement is reflected in a revised grade of 91%. and what they found.. and finish their first project pleased with all they have learned. and ask Rory if they can borrow the program over the weekend to work on it. They complete an impressive series of slides explaining their research over the weekend. “each group has to do an oral presentation to the class. Dave and TJ become excited about the program. you just really know what you are .” During the following week.. As Rory told the class the first day of projects. telling the class what they did.. it’s just second nature. I mean.. you get that much time to do your topic .

when you’re actually doing stuff so much better than really trying to memorize how to do stuff. doing—like. I mean. I think. but not quite so smoothly. The activity structure facilitates these students’ work as well. and the Internet. and it seems like . I think it’s definitely one of his strengths. Like. you know.” And along the way.” He feel this has happened because “we do it so much” and “you just learn stuff. you know. and so he.. All the other members of this class are juniors and seniors. you know.. I felt real confident. I guess that’s one of his strengths. in our papers . he knew we could make ‘em better. it was—we made such an improvement. Just from all of his comments. which kids would think are probably—you know. got into a jam. was just filled with more ideas. we—from our first draft to our second. Now that we have seen a pair of savvy seniors “cook up science” by following the path laid out by Rory in the activity structure. I mean. a quiet freshman into skateboarding.” As Dave said. I mean. quiet sophomore. He says “coming in here I had no experience [on email and the Net]. And each page. Rory creates occasions for the students to “learn by doing. bad. I feel like an expert now.. . and Rich. or an example.” He thinks he learned more than he would in a traditional class because “you’re doing stuff that you really wanna do. a straitlaced. let’s turn to another case.” They also learned along the way about computer tools like Powerpoint. are the “youngsters” of the Period 1/2 class. Rory acts as a resource and facilitator as needed: Whenever we. The “Moons” project: Asking “why?” over and over again Steve. It really helped..” By guiding Dave and TJ through the activity structure he’s designed for conducting projects in the classroom. and explaining everything. that’s annoying. or something new to do. I mean.158 talking about. it seems like he can solve any—answer anything that comes up. he always has a solution. I mean. let us all redo ’em. and that you really wanna learn about. But. “he leads us into whatever we have to do very nicely.

Steve and Rich look both in library books and the Internet. So. and gases. and Uranus’ moon Miranda.159 Steve and Rich spend the first couple of weeks gradually focusing in on their topic. surface appearance. sizes.” Along these lines. Rory suggests they do research on moons to find some specific ones for which they can gather ample information and data. and then decide they can gather enough information to do something interesting with the Earth’s moon. and then the moons. to the solar system. Rory had seen groups focus in too far before making sure they could gather data on a topic. As Steve put it. .” Rory has begun calling it a “Research Proposal. Saturn’s moon Titan.” The last step is a crucial one: once they decide to focus on moons. descriptive information. The library books prove useful for general information. just general. For example. such as “Do red dwarfs account for dark matter in the universe?” They never tracked down data on red dwarfs or dark matter. such as temperatures. and then we picked some moons so we could get some information. They collect some of the facts and figures into an outline for their background information report. instead of calling the milestone “Research Question. “we first picked space. Although most of the projects in Rory’s class are based on “questions”—like Dave and TJ’s “Is there a preferred pattern of hurricane movement in the Northern Hemisphere?”—some successful projects are not really based on questions. Rory tells them they have a “good start. so we narrowed it down. with a section for each moon. On Rory’s recommendation. In previous years.” The next stage is the research proposal. Matt and Courtney in 1994-95 went through three different proposals focusing in on astronomy topics for which they were never able to find relevant data. but that was kinda too broad. while the Internet is a good source for specific data. and end up without anything to analyze.” One type of project students in the past have had success with that isn’t really a questions is “compare and contrast.

first in Microsoft Word. and the students follow his advice. Eventually. they’ve constructed a good table of variables. the size of Earth’s moon.astro newsgroup trying to find out the core materials in the cores of Titan and Miranda. Rory begins to try pushing the boys into considering what they can learn from the data. mass. the students have trouble getting beyond stating simple comparisons and contrasts to figuring out what they can learn from the differences—how the moons are different and why. Organizing and filling in the gaps in the data takes them a few weeks. and Titan is shown on one graph. It includes size. At this point. The two boys begin laboriously organizing their data into tables. and then Rory helps them learn how to make graphs. volume. “Why are the moons the way . while Steve has a PC at home. In an effort to fill one gap. Rich has almost no previous experience with computers. so they learn to use a spreadsheet for the first time. including horizontal and vertical bar graphs. Rory introduces them to Microsoft Excel. Taking advantage of the flexibility of the graphics in Microsoft Excel. and materials/composition. Steve asks Rory to help them construct a list of variables to contrast. for instance. In the data collection phase. however. line graphs. While they are working on their data analysis in class. Their research proposal is “comparing and contrasting moons in our solar system. orbit time period. and they generate one together. and 3-D graphs (two examples appear in Figures 5 and 6 below). which proves too awkward. Rory talks with them about the variables. but end up doing without these pieces of data.” In Steve and Rich’s case. in the sixth week of the project. The pair of students end up with a graph for each variable showing the value for each moon. they post a message to the sci.160 Rory recommends Steve and Rich consider comparing and contrasting moons. Steve and Rich make their graphs in many different styles. distance from planet. Miranda.

” as Steve put it. build models. Rory covers the same territory. ‘They’re different.. “What was frustrating about it . they show Rory a draft of the conclusion they are writing for their complete report. but they aren’t sure how to find them. “Why are they different from each other? That’s what we really want to know.. making more and more graphs. though. saying “Always think of why. Steve says.. As Rory comments to me. Rory had stressed that science does not happen in a uniform. but having trouble making sense of it all. Not just report what’s there.. But then Rory “kind of helped [them] out a little bit...’ OK. . Because we can . They tell me later they are desperately looking for relationships in the data by this time. ’cause there was really no pattern” that they could see.. “tell me how . it was really hard to analyze them. But what do they prove?” Later. What are the connections? . by helping them transform some of the work they turn in. This is new territory for Steve and Rich. but “there are things that you have to do to do science. They are really trying hard at this point. Rory writes in his comments: “Nice graphs. after we made all the graphs—we couldn't really analyze them.” Rory’s reaction is to reiterate. Ask the why question instead of just listing things. So what? Why are they different from each other?” After Steve and Rich turn in their data analysis milestone the following week. you know . instead. but their implications not described.” This is one example of such a meta-scientific issue: it is not enough to just list facts. or determine causal relationships. you have to do something like make connections.. In the course of discussing the final revision of their written report.. step-by-step fashion as they may have learned previously.. with many separate graphs of each variable assembled.” Recalling the first day of projects. look at why” the moons are the way they are. look at pictures of them and say. digging through their data. and they still haven’t gotten far.161 they are?” he says. their conclusion “basically [says] some characteristics are the same and some are different.

27. For instance. the students once again include only graphs of single variables. 1.5 2 2. they write.4 days. while Miranda has the shortest orbital period.32 days.5 3 3. “the graph [of orbital period] shows that Earth’s moon has the longest orbital period. and then list each graph’s interpretation separately.” Another one of the eight graphs shows the density of the moons: Density Moon Miranda Titan 0 0. they include the following line graph of each moon’s orbital time period: Orbital Period period (days) 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Titan Miranda moons The Moon Figure 5: Orbital period of three moons from Final Draft In the text.5 1 1.162 In the final draft of the paper.5 Figure 6: Density of three moons from Final Draft .

except in the statement that “Titan has a short orbital period in relation to its mass”—upon which they do not elaborate. this allows the students to participate in a new way . with graphs combining variables. and shows Rich and Steve how they can directly test it using their data. They have written. “We have come [to] the conclusion that both Titan and Earth’s moon [have] a much greater mass and density than Miranda. But at the very end of the paper. He sketches a number of graphs like Figure 7: 3. something more like a testable claim appears.5 2 1.163 Similar graphs in different styles are included for mass. put another way.5 1 0. buried in the conclusion. In the “Data Analysis” section of the paper. Rory sees how something the students have done can be transformed to a more successful “move” in the “language game” of science (Wittgenstein. 1967) . surface temperature.5 3 2. and that this could be why both Titan and Earth’s moon have longer orbiting time periods.” Rory latches onto this claim about how mass and density could be related to the orbital period of the moons. Steve and Rich do not mention relationships between variables. and distance from planet.5 0 0 10 Period Luna Titan Miranda 20 30 Figure 7: Rory’s sketched graph of two variables (“Luna” is Earth’s moon) As in several other successful projects.

that is why they put the comment in their conclusion. Interestingly. Seeing relationships. Pea. the graphs they have in their data analysis are not conducive to checking the relationships the students themselves mention in their conclusion—as shown in Figures 8-3 and 8-4. the students get a chance to use this insight in their presentation. between the mass of a moon and its distance from the planet. When Steve and Rich get the final version of the paper back. Rich and Steve have developed a sense that this relationship exists. As we saw in the Hurricanes case. Rory suggests the students can create combination graphs for all the possible pairs of variables from their separate graphs. they end up drawing graphs by hand on a poster. Using similar methods. And that was .164 in “talking science” (Lemke. however. but not between mass and time period. As Steve put it.” In this case Steve and Rich do not know how to construct a graph to directly test their claim. Instead of using Excel to make the graphs. and it has talked back to them.. Excel’s interface may have 16 A more complete discussion of such “transformative communication” will be included in Chapter 11. with the patterns. 1990. Although there is no provision for revising their paper again. they are excited. In fact.. In this way. one graph is horizontal while the other vertical.16 In the course of working with the data. . You know. we got all this information. We finally saw. you know. by looking at those graphs. Recalling the image from Rory’s masters advisor. Rory sketches graphs of one variable against the other to directly check the claim: it appears that in the students’ data. and we finally saw what we wanted to see. a relationship between density and orbital period is supported. giving some direction there. a clear analysis technique may be difficult to find even after the data “talks back to you. 1992a). what we were trying to find. Wagner. and looking at the graphs over a period of time. another apparent linear relationship is revealed. now. a good thing. Steve and Rich have talked with the data. With a little help from Mr. and one is a bar graph while the other a line graph.

Rory’s written comments on the group’s paper speak to these pitfalls: Part of your graphing problem seems to be “different graphs. the tool made it very easy to create many different and interesting looking styles. This is a case of a general tool having embedded affordances (Norman. 1988.” They talk about this in their presentation to the class: Rich: . As I said. Seeing these relationships is important to the students because it allows them to “come up with an explanation of why there [is] a pattern. (Pea. sometimes. you know. Which also means it has a greater density. We found [a relationship] between mass and distance.” I know you were trying to graph everything you could to find things that were connected. but it’s really not your fault. did not want to show me the data in this kind of graph.. density and orbit time [he points to their drawn version of Figure 8-5]. suggesting instead putting density and orbital time period both on the same axis. that that might affect its orbit time. the graph you choose is the most important “feature for success.” which automate graphmaking from tables. In addition. in a grouped bar graph. Um. but showing mass on the y-axis and distance from planet on the x-axis. comes from. But the variety made it even harder to find relationships. does the graph show a “meaningful” relationship between 2 variables? If you start trying to compare line graphs with scatter plots with bar graphs (in more than one direction!) you are increasing the confusion about what the relationships are between the things you are graphing. we were trying to find some patterns between certain things. You can see here [he points to a graph like Figure 8-5. But. trying to show the relationship between two variables. Valiant effort to analyze the data! I think your “inexperience” in graphing and analyzing was the biggest negative factor here. no. and we did. we—between distance. Also. I encountered difficulty in constructing a graph of the form shown in Figure 8-5. increasing on a nearly linear basis]. Microsoft’s “Wizards. .” You sometimes (always?) need to think about what you are graphing and how you want the graph to look. meaning that it has a greater orbit time. uh. In preparing electronic versions of the graphs for this write-up. 1992c) that do not easily match the task for which they are being applied—in this case.165 discouraged them from the kind of graphing they needed in the first place.. Then. we— that means that maybe—we think that if a moon has a greater mass that might affect its distance from the planet that it.

. albeit tentative and somewhat awkwardly stated ones. they are making their claims with the aid of particular types of inscriptions—in this case.. Rory had told the class “I see three critical parts. . As in the scientific community. Rich mentions a follow up project could “compare even more data. and see if [the relationship they saw] relates to the other moons in the solar system.. In addition.” Steve and Rich used the general strategy of comparing and contrasting objects or events.” Steve adds that he would “go into more depth on the . and ensured that they could find data on their choice—moons in our solar system—before finalizing their selection. they are able to see possible extensions of the work they’ve done: unprompted. and a smaller density would contribute to a faster orbit time.” Steve and Rich are much less outgoing and experienced than TJ and Dave. basically. similar. put them together.166 Steve: You know.. to doing science . Rich: And those were the only categories that had patterns. you have to come up with a question that you can work on. but their project worked because they turned milestone assignments in and took Rory’s feedback to the best of their ability and growing knowledge. With these statements about one factor “contributing to” or being “affected by” another. you know. somewhat crude graphs. to doing projects. The graphs make their claim more compelling and understandable (Latour. They had a great deal to learn about gathering. Rich and Steve have finally moved into the realm of making empirically warranted causal arguments. And then you have to analyze the data to get an answer. and look for advice from Rory at critical times. a larger density would contribute to a longer orbit time. [and] see if there’s a pattern. Then you have to find the data. or data that were. They used the activity structure Rory had set up for projects well. but the youngsters are consistently diligent throughout the project. graphs that we made. 1988). organizing. and analyzing data.

and serves as the basis for the “Introduction” section of the final research report.” First of all. The graphs or other representations follow the tables and/or maps in the “Results” section of the final research report. Rory has identified three critical steps that students often have trouble with. and is punctuated by interim deliverables that map into the “artifact structure” of the final written report. Within the overall project activity. turned in. he scaffolds students with an activity structure that flows logically from one phase to the next. during which time they may develop a sense of relationships or patterns in the data. which results in graphs or other representations that support claims about the data. the paper is assembled. This sense of patterns in the data should be further pursued in the Data Analysis phase of the project. The research proposal serves as the beginning of the “Methods” section of the final research report. and the claims about the phenomena constitute the beginnings of the “Conclusion” section of the paper. The Background Information phase of the project results in a written report on the students’ selected topic. In the final phases. and need further scaffolding: Students have to (1) “come . and requires students to work with the data. and points to the data needed in the next phase. students prepare an oral presentation for the class based on their revised paper and any additional feedback they receive from Rory. The Data Collection results in data tables and/or maps that will be included in the “Results” section of the final research report.167 Summary: Lessons learned and prospects for future research and development The Moons project and the Hurricanes project show various aspects of how Rory scaffolds students doing projects and “doing science. then. and returned with feedback for revision. It also provides sufficient knowledge of the topic to formulate investigable “wonderment questions” for the next phase.

” and this is a fertile area for future research that would contribute to inquiry-based and project-based teaching. In regards to the list Rory put on the board. he asks students from time to time what they know about their topic. specify and test out possible causal relationships. to use as props for conversations with him about potential research proposals.” (2) “find the data. He has the students then generate lists of questions. Although Rory tells students that research proposals don’t necessarily have to be formulated as questions. Rory generated a list of prompts or heuristics students can use to begin research proposals. During 1995-96. he suggested students Think about A) How does it work? B) Why doesn’t something work? C) Compare “A” to “B” (alike/not alike) D) How is “A” related to “B” E) Look for “patterns” F) Look for “anomalies” Developing further heuristics and prompts that point to some of the exemplary ways science is practiced could prove helpful for scaffolding project inquiry.168 up with a question that [they] can work on. he picked up a thread from the Period 1/2 class and discussed wooly mammoth questions). In addition.” Rory has developed a number of “question discovery scaffolds. and what they find interesting about it (we will see this strategy at work in Chapter 11 in the Plesiosaur project). as an alternative to questions they generate solely from their background knowledge. In the course of these conversations. other ways of encouraging students to make connections. and questions about those questions where possible. or build models are possibilities. Rich and . Rich and Steve’s case illustrates one pitfall of heuristic C. Rory had some success with whole-class brainstorming sessions such as the one described briefly here on wolves (in a class later that day.” and (3) “analyze that data to get an answer. In his note on the board.

169 Steve’s simple comparison of three moons was not adequate. When all the students did was list how the moons were alike and not alike, Rory had to repeatedly push them to answer some questions, such as “why” the moons are alike and not alike. Ultimately, research that offers scientific explanations answers questions of “how,” “when,” or “why” even if those questions aren’t explicitly asked in the original formulation of the research proposal. Rory also scaffolds question refinement and focusing. If we imagine a sliding scale from very broad to minutely focused, Rory has to help students find a productive place for scientific inquiry on the scale, since they lack experience at such inquiry. Students in Rory’s class have a tendency to believe a place on the scale nearest the broad end is most appropriate. In 1994-95, this resulted in proposed research questions like “is the greenhouse effect true?” In another case, Mike and Jorge said they were doing a project on hurricanes, and when I asked them “What about hurricanes?” they said “everything.” As indicated by the students’ concern about how they could write six pages on Rory’s question on wolves during the brainstorming session, students may lean toward the broad end of the scale out of a desire to sweep everything they find into the “reports” and “projects” they have typically done in other classes. Rory’s tendency is to channel students more toward the highly focused end of the scale. In 1994-95, Jeff was worried at the beginning the volcano project Rory ultimately used the example of a well-focused project on the first day of projects in 1995-96. Jeff asked Rory, “is the dormancy and eruption pattern of volcanoes too specific?” Rory had to reassure him, that “no, specific is good.” It is possible to be too focused too early, however, as the students who scoped in on the relationship of red dwarfs and “dark matter”—but could find no data on either—illustrate.

170 The pitfall of being too focused too early points to an important dependency between Rory’s step (1), coming up with a question to work on, and step (2), finding the data—students need to formulate questions that are answerable with accessible data. The Hurricanes project described in this chapter illustrates particularly well how the research proposal and planning can be situated in the search and consideration of available data. The students and Rory had settled on the idea of looking for patterns related to hurricanes over time, and when they found data showing hurricane paths, they decided that focusing on patterns in the movement of hurricanes would be interesting to them and empirically investigable. Rory has been informally encouraging groups like the Hurricanes and Moons groups to focus their questions based on data they think or know they can get. A perhaps beneficial refinement in the design of Rory’s current activity structure for projects would be to formally incorporate in the Research Proposal milestone a delineation of data needed to answer the question and the planned source of that data17 . Such a design change would be akin to Rory’s changing various other aspects of projects from being informally encouraged to formally required. Specifically, Rory used to encourage students to gather background information before trying to formulate a research question, and now he requires a formal written “Background Information” milestone; he also used to encourage students to assemble tables of data as part of their Data Collection, and graphs as part of their Data Analysis; now he requires students to include these features in these milestones
17 Coincidentally, this change would make the Research Proposal milestone a more complete first draft of

the “Methods” section of the final research report than it currently is (see Table 9). It could also help clarify the Methods section of the scientific research report genre for students. As Kevin O’Neill (1996) has pointed out, students have a tendency to include a rhetorical function in the Methods section that the science research article genre does not normally include: an implicit argument for a high grade on the paper based on the hard work they have done. Rory has to repeatedly discourage such “tales of woe,” as he calls them, and asks the students to instead explain in their Method what data they needed to answer their research question and why they needed that data. In the Spring of 1997, when I asked Rory to review this chapter, he told me by email the next week, “I liked this [proposed change to the Research Proposal] so much that I'm already using it on this project ... We'll see if it makes a difference.”

171 unless the specifics of their project preclude such representations (in such cases, the representations are replaced by whatever else is appropriate, such as TJ and Dave’s maps instead of tables). Finally, the projects described in this chapter point to the need for scaffolds for Rory’s third crucial step to doing projects, analyzing the data to get an answer. Students in both these projects (and others not yet described) have considerable difficulty gathering their knowledge about their research topic into coherent reports with conclusions supported by data analysis. Scaffolds could be provided in the form of “cognitive tools” ranging from the kind of heuristics described above to computer technologies. In particular, computer tools which better help students like Steve and Rich check for particular sorts of semantic relationships among variables, when they don’t know where to begin, could be effective scaffolds. One means for such tools to work would be by suggesting particular representations for particular kinds of relationships, such as Rory’s graph in Figure 8-5 to check for covariation of two numeric variables. An example of a cognitive computer technology designed specifically to scaffold exploring the relationships between numeric variables in dynamic systems is “Model-It,” developed at the University of Michigan (Jackson, Stratford, Krajcik, & Soloway, in press). Such a tool could prove useful in a classroom like Rory’s. Overall, the Hurricanes group and the Moons group succeeded in part because they made effective use of the scaffolds and support available to them.

Chapter 9 Time problems and falling through the cracks

Introduction Rory is not only acting as the facilitator and guide for the hurricanes project and the moons project during the second quarter, though. Ten other student groups are conducting projects, to varying degrees of success. Barb’s project on UFOs and Aliens, and Pete, Pamela, and Mark’s project on the Zodiac are two projects that run into trouble. Their problems are in part attributable to issues with time. Time is a fundamental aspect of schooling tasks (Ball, Hull, Skelton, & Tudor, 1984; Schwab, Hart-Landsberg, Reder, & Abel, 1992), just as it is most cultural activity (e.g., Hall, 1976). Stephen Ball and his colleagues have pointed out that in schools “it is time that is the determining factor in the organization and structuring of tasks” (1984, p. 41). Jerry Schwab and his colleagues (1992) have pointed out how teachers’ limited amount of time is an important constraint on teachers’ work during and between classes. In the previous chapter, I examined how Rory has broadly structured time in the project activity by segmenting the 11-week period of projects into phases, many of which correspond to interim milestones the students turn in. In this chapter, I will examine how problems with time arise in the individual class periods “between the bells,” and how students’ perceptions of “time passed” and “time remaining” (Ball, et al., 1984) in the project also lead to difficulty. The UFOs & Aliens project: Falling through the cracks Barb is a quiet junior, who enjoys underground, punk-like rock in Chicago, as Rory found out through his email exchange with her. She is Asian-American, with short 172

173 hair. She comes in to class wearing black-rimmed glasses, four choker necklaces, and a black crewneck topped off by a baby-blue cardigan—looking somewhat like members of the band “Weezer.” During the first week of the project, Barb spends most of her time reading and writing personal email during class. When I ask her, she says she is usually writing to a friend at college in Boston. For the first project, Rory requires students to work with at least one other student, but Barb gets approval from Rory to work with a friend at another nearby high school who is not even taking earth science. After some hesitation, Rory agrees to the arrangement, largely because a similar group the previous year ended up quite successful: the partner was not the taking class, but became progressively more involved, until Rory convinced him to sign up and get some credit for the work. That student was at Lakeside, however—Rory never meets Barb’s partner at the other school. Midway through the second week of the project, I ask Rory what’s up with Barb. He says, “Barb’s been there, but she hasn’t been very conversive ... let me write a note to myself here to check on her.” He is unable to that day, but then at parent-teacher conferences the next day Barb’s mother approaches Rory and says her daughter loves the course and the computers. Rory finds the comment ironic, because Barb is already one week late on the first and simplest assignment, picking a broad topic. So the next day Rory asks her to email her topic to him. She spends the whole 40 minutes in Eudora reading and writing email, so Rory assumes she has sent the assignment in. At the end of the period Rory asks her about it, though, and she says, “I forgot.” Rory resolves to be more observant. The next week, Barb approaches Rory and says “Mr. Wagner, I need to talk to you about my project. I’m at square zero.”

174 Rory reiterates some of what he has explained in the past, saying, “OK. Basically, you need to pick a topic—anything that you’re interested in. Say, volcanoes. You then learn about that, and then focus down. Say, on volcano lava, or the pattern of volcano eruptions.” Dave, who is well on his way doing hurricane research, interjects, “What if the question we come up with is already answered?” Rory answers, “Then you go do some more. I want you to explore some part of science, something that doesn’t have a definite answer.” Barb continues, “I’m having trouble understanding the point of this project.” Rory reiterates his most familiar line, “I want you to do science.” Barb retorts, “you can just read it in a book.” Rory tries to clarify by explaining, “I want you to take it one step further, and do something new.” Barb astutely points out, “I think right now we’re putting information together, not doing research.” Pleased, Rory agrees. “Right. You haven’t gotten there yet. First you do the background, and then you do more. Let’s go back to lava. You might be wondering about how fast lava flows. You might see in a book that there’s a range of speeds. Those are some facts. But what are the factors that affect the speed? Maybe the slope. Maybe the chemistry. What exactly is the relationship between chemistry, temperature, slope, and speed? Maybe you could do an experiment on syrup. Is that a good model for lava?” “OK,” Barb says, “yeah. Now I understand. Right now we’re just doing our topic. I can’t think of anything. Do you have any suggestions?”

175 Rory tries to help Barb find “anything in Earth Science” that she’s interested in from what they’ve talked about in the class, but they are unable to generate an idea together. So Rory goes to get the three large binders he keeps with all the previous projects students have done. He asks Barb to look through the archives for ideas. She spends close to an hour in the double period combing the reports intently, while Rory works with other students. Then Barb brings the binders back, announcing, “Mr. Wagner, I’m gonna do research on aliens.” Rory’s crestfallen face speaks volumes. Barb continues “... if they exist.” Rory tells her, “That’s just a real tough one. Some people say they do exist and others say they don’t. Some people say that there’s a cover-up, and others say that there’s no cover-up. There are just all these accusations.” Barb is undaunted, and Rory is not sure what else to suggest to her, so he decides to give her a chance to try and make it work: “Why don’t you look and see if you can find anything. But be aware that you need data.” Unfortunately, Barb doesn’t necessarily know what “having data” entails at this point, and regardless, she ends up spending most of the rest of the week working on personal email and a journal. During the next few weeks, Rory begins to lose track of Barb again. She does not turn in her first milestone assignment, the background information on her topic. A couple of days before the second milestone—the research proposal with a specific question—is due, Rory tells me he “really needs to find out what she’s doing,” but then he doesn’t get to it. The next day he says, I always plan on talking with her, but forget. There are people calling me back and forth, and then I realize at the end of class that I haven’t talked with her again ... I have no idea what she’s doing.

However. and the computer-oriented ones can result in valuable incidental learning.” (to borrow Jackson’s. but somewhat peripheral to the science in projects. 1968. Besides non-project related topics such as other activities in the school. especially when there are a number of other topics which frequently arise. Thus. and if at all possible before a long weekend or break such as Winter break. Other teachers who have implemented project-based science instruction. such as the use of computer tools. some project-related topics are focused on assessment . These procedural issues are often essential to the completion of the projects. Some of these topics are procedural. and the problem is compounded with project-based teaching. assessing open-ended writing assignments is extremely time consuming. he feels compelled to get them back as close to the next school day as possible. it can be difficult for Rory to spend much time with many groups discussing substantive issues around the science in their projects. phrase). there are other topics related to projects. Scott (1994) also pointed out that part of the time problem for projectbased teaching is during class. “there is not enough of it” even when teaching using standard methods. the completion of assignments. As Scott put it. such as middle school teacher Carolyn Scott (1994). Rory tries to make milestones and papers due before a weekend at minimum. since the following stages of the project are generally dependent on the previous stages. such as the collection of books Rory has gathered to support students’ research. and “doling out resources. 82). Finally. Scott pointed out that part of the time problem is outside of class.176 Rory’s limited time and its allocation As I attempted to show in Chapter 1. and when Rory receives them from students. In 40-minute periods. Rory’s work supporting projects in the classroom is often characterized by a high number of interactions with different students in different groups. For example. have encountered and described the “trials and tribulations of time” (p.

students experience delays and must take turns. give them further direction. p.177 issues such as due dates and grades received for assignments. those where “students have considerable freedom to move about on their own” (p. if the questions are more involved. Rory’s class bears important similarities to some of the classes Jackson described—specifically. they are an aspect of most classroom tasks (Doyle. One of the most typical social arrangements in such settings is that in which the teacher is chatting with one student or examining his work while two or three other stand by. the students wait their turn. or. Rory almost inevitably pauses to address some other students’ quick questions. because the teacher controls the . “Mr. Rory feels “the stress is higher” in project-based classes than in lecture-lab-demo classes. talking to one or two students who have approached him about their project. waiting to have the teacher evaluate their work. and a few are waiting to talk to Rory. or in some other fashion enable them to move along. For this reason. 14) Rory’s class is frequently akin to Jackson’s characterization: Rory is at his demonstration table at the front of the room. answer their questions. 1968. the teacher himself often becomes the center of little groups of waiting students. books and papers in hand. In such classes. “in a minute. If the conversation continues. although these are not essential in any sense. Meanwhile. he pointed out that the “daily grind” in most classrooms is in part characterized by teachers doling out resources. Jackson said. He might sit down with them and begin a more extended conversation or walk them through some procedure. Wagner. 1979). (Jackson. he goes across the room to talk to the students at a computer who asked for his help. From time to time a student across the room calls out.” Once Rory is finished with the students already waiting at his table. six groups are scattered around the room working at the computers on the perimeter. 14). can you help me with this?” Rory tells them. a few are at their tables. In Philip Jackson’s classic Life in Classrooms (1968) .

but instead represent a sampling of days distributed over each phase of the project. and he’s gonna lose all this stuff that he just found [e. I need to talk to you now!” It matters to them much more. And if you’re doing something else. they’re like. In one of our interviews. Wagner.178 pace more in the traditional mode. or is worried that a—I don’t know. But he’s panicked. he may get very angry. this kid got very angry at me because I wouldn’t come over right away and show him what to do. and a few were reported to me by Rory in debriefing conversations by phone after class (65)18 . it is crucial to remember that they do not reflect an exhaustive account of all interactions. “Mr. For Barb. and he wants you to come over right now because his crisis is huge and immediate.g. As he put it in 1994. but nothing [bad] is happening right then and there—but. But. . and doesn’t have to respond to so many varying demands. Figure 8 shows the same data in a bar graph.. In order to better understand the dynamics and constraints related to Rory’s interactions with groups. so more pressure is on me. I performed a number of analyses on the 474 interactions I recorded over the 10 weeks of the project. as well as ones 18 To interpret these numbers of interactions and their types. The actual numbers are not as informative as the relative numbers within the sample. in the manner of some time and motion oriented research. searching on the Web]—he doesn’t know what to do. The majority of these interactions were observed directly by me (237 recorded with written field notes. he doesn’t know where he’s saved stuff. And to him that’s a very important personal crisis. the science-oriented discussions include the ones related above about what projects are and what she could do for her project. And it’s not like when someone has a question in a lab and they ask. the procedural discussions include ones about having a partner at another school and Rory’s request for her to send in her topic. And this is what happened yesterday. Rory reflected on this issue after an incident with a student having trouble on a computer: When a kid doesn’t know how to restart a machine. “Um. What’s this about?” [in a sort of ho-hum voice] Here. so he’s not actively losing anything—but he’s just sitting there looking and he doesn’t know what to do. I’ve never had so many kids needing me so much. 172 from transcribed video). Table 10 shows the number of interactions each project group in the class had with Rory coded by topic type. I don’t get this.

179 about problems with the printer in the classroom. The Zodiac group. an example of a non-project discussion was when TJ and Rory discussed lacrosse coaches and tournaments. one would expect the Moons project and Barb’s UFOs & Aliens project to encounter similar levels of trouble. For the admittedly small sample of twelve projects in the class. As I describe later in the chapter. half of their interactions focus on science issues. two facts become clear: Rory has an appreciably different number of interactions with different groups in the class. interacts slightly more often with Rory than the Moons group. on the other hand. the hurricanes group interacted much more with Rory than the Moons group or Barb (the UFOs & Aliens project in Table 10). and their project turns out quite well. Looking at Table 10 and Figure 8.01. in fact. If overall number of interactions were all that affected differential success. Examples of assessment-oriented discussions from Dave and TJ’s Hurricanes project include questions about the grade they received on the methods section of their paper and how much their grade will improve based on possible changes they could make. the Zodiac group also experiences difficulty in their project. a regression model based on the number of discussions between Rory and a project group about science issues predicts 58% of the variance in the final grade on the project (p<. but this is not the case. Although the taciturn Moons group do not interact often with Rory. and discussions focus on procedural issues more frequently than science issues. coefficient=2. With regard to overall number of interactions.3) . but almost always around procedural issues (most often computers and Netscape).

because some discussions cover topics in more than one category .180 Project-related Group Hurricanes Moons UFOs & Aliens Zodiac Earthquakes Sun Dinosaur Extinction Plesiosaurs UFO Sightings Wooly Mammoth Black Holes Eclipses Science Procedural Assessment 15 12 3 2 31 7 10 16 21 14 13 13 34 12 7 19 35 9 18 31 40 22 22 32 3 1 0 5 15 4 7 7 16 6 7 9 Unrelated to project 3 0 0 9 8 8 3 15 11 7 5 12 TOTAL 19 51 24 10 28 66 24 32 60 75 45 38 57 Table 10: Observed number and topics of groups’ discussions with Rory 19 This number is not equal to the sum of the previous columns.

There is an ebb and flow to the overall project activity. varies over time. such that Rory is stretched the thinnest in the beginning of the project and the end of the project.181 Eclipses Black Holes Wooly Mammoth UFO Sightings Plesiosaurs Project Group Non-project Dinosaur Extinction Sun Assessment Procedural Science Earthquakes Zodiac UFOs & Aliens Moons Hurricanes 0 10 20 30 40 Number of Interactions Figure 8: Observed # and topics of group discussions with Rory The degree to which Rory is “in demand. At the beginning students are trying to .” however.

by showing the mean number of separate interactions Rory had with students during each of the major phases of the project: # days observed Project Phase Background Information Research Proposal Data Collection Data Analysis Paper Paper revision Written 3 2 2 2 2 2 Videotaped 1 1 1 1 0 3 Mean # interactions/day 21 25 16 13 19 27 Table 11: Variation in observed teacher-student interactions throughout project 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Background Research Information Proposal Data Collection Data Analysis Paper Revision Project Phase Figure 9: Variation in observed teacher-student interactions throughout project . During the middle phases of data collection and analysis. Rory is not as busy. use the tools most intensely for the first time. at the end.182 get their research started. Table 11 and Figure 9 show the differences. and get their research proposal formulated. students are trying to bring everything together.

As Schwab. some teachers involved in CoVis choose to organize much of their time around regular meetings with students. In order to achieve this logical limit. the perceived immediate urgency of tasks tends to determine which tasks will be fit into time constraints. In order to maximize their ability to discuss fundamental science issues with all student groups in a class. Rory does. for instance making the rounds to all the project groups every other day. because they are deemed peripheral to the core concerns of the class. he would be limited to twelve discussions (the number of groups) lasting three and a half minutes on days with single periods (40 minutes). and it could also damage students’ attitudes toward these tools Rory believes can support students’ work. procedural. but Rory sometimes cuts them short to move on to other issues.183 Rory’s reactive stance and reasons for it Clearly. and he does not want grade discussions and disputes to deter him from supporting the conduct of projects. however. there are limits to the number of quality. however. and twelve discussions lasting 7 minutes on Mondays and Wednesdays. et al. .(1992) have said. especially with computer tools they are mastering in the course of their project work. however. chooses to support students in a mostly reactive fashion during projects. extended discussions touching on science. In practice discussions of grades do occur during class. Rory. and assessment issues Rory can have with students in a given class period. ignoring the incidental procedural issues would clearly deter much of students’ work. If he were to spend a maximum amount of time with each group on a daily basis. Rory would have to ignore all the incidental issues and “personal crises” which arise naturally in the course of students’ diverse work with diverse tools. In Rory’s case. discourage students from discussions purely about grades during class.

A total of 348 of the interactions (73%) were initiated by students. teacher-initiated interactions by group 20 The columns in Table 9-3 do not add up to the numbers in the paragraph above because of multiple groups’ involvement in some conversations. were unknown because not noted in written field notes or indeterminate because reported second-hand to me by Rory). .. broken down by group20 : Studentinitiated Group Hurricanes Moons UFOs & Aliens Zodiac Earthquakes Sun Dinosaur Extinction Plesiosaurs UFO Sightings Wooly Mammoth Black Holes Eclipses 36 12 6 21 51 14 26 43 54 34 34 47 Teacher-initiated Unknown initiator 6 7 1 5 4 4 3 7 11 7 2 4 TOTAL 51 24 10 28 66 24 32 60 75 45 38 57 3 3 1 0 6 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 6 2 2 2 5 5 3 9 9 4 1 5 interactions Followup Non-follow Table 12: Observed student. and 53 (11% of the total) were initiated by Rory with no direct prompting from students.vs. I coded the same 474 interactions between Rory and the students by who initiated the interaction. but delayed by Rory until after he finished something else).184 To see the degree to which Rory’s support of students is reactive rather than proactive. or 12%. Table 12 shows who initiated the interactions described. previously initiated by the students. Of the 68 interactions initiated by Rory. and 68 (14%) were initiated by Rory (58 interactions.e. 15 of them (3% of the total) followed up on discussions begun previously in the class (i.

and the supposed government cover-up of alien research in Roswell. Rory decides to send her email saying they need to talk—he knows she looks at her email. And I’m not offering to help. In order to determine how and when exceptions to Rory avoiding initiating interactions with students might occur. So I avoid it. UFOs. She sends email back saying she will turn in the assignment the following week. that he never gets to students whom he would like to proactively help. It’s often a case where I don’t know how to help. Am I feeling uncomfortable with them? And them with me? The people who are really floundering are not asking for help. but Rory is occupied with other students . The day before Winter Break. after all. over half my observations note Barb doing personal email and other non-science work. The followups have a standard pattern: students attempt to initiate a discussion at some point in the period. Her assignments are still coming in late.185 As his experience with Barb illustrates. I looked more closely at the incidence of the interactions initiated by Rory (see Table 13 for a summary of the topics of the observed interactions that fit this category). The squeaky wheel does indeed appear to get the oil. Rory sends a “low scholarship” notice home to her parents. After Christmas break. but she also begins to spend substantial time doing research on the World Wide Web related to aliens. Over the next few weeks. He tells me: There are people I don’t know what to do with. though. in addition. the wheel that squeaks about science issues tends to get the good grades. Rory realizes that avoidance of discussing her project goes both ways with him and Barb. most of the time there is so much demand on Rory’s time to reactively support students who have solicited his help. Compounding problem: Avoidance Since he has had such trouble to this point getting to Barb during class. I think there’s something weird in my behavior. If there’s a problem I don’t go over. New Mexico.

given the similarly daunting time constraints of participant observation. because I did not record many of the requests for re-entrances in written field notes. most notably the Earthquakes group—Julie and Amy—who accounted for 6 of the 11 science-related and 4 of the 5 assessment-related followup discussions. He also initiates a high number of interactions with students about non-project-related issues21 —these are usually short interchanges about issues such as “re-entrance” forms the students are required to submit (and Rory is required to inspect and sign) after an absence. This could in part be due to what is immediately visible to him. . concerns about the students’ health. which Barb is not inclined to do. or students appear lost in a computer program. they are also mostly procedural. These particular interactions tended to be very short and nonintrusive of time constraints.186 and tells them he will get back to them later. generic greetings. he can easily notice when a computer is frozen. From either vantage point. and comments about students using the computers for illicit game playing. Instead. not surprisingly. with the remaining interactions in this category being of the nature described above. the requests for re-entrances noted here are mostly from days with videotaped recording. Thus. These incidents. the students go work on something else rather than waiting in line for Rory. he tends to stand at his demonstration table in the front of the room or wander around the room. compared to the project-related categories. and Rory gets to them later in the day. when Rory does initiate discussions with students. tend to happen at the busier phases of the projects—at the beginning and especially the end. Such incidents obviously rely on attempts at initiating discussion by the students. When students haven’t approached Rory to initiate discussions. these followups are predominantly with the same groups who most often initiate interactions. and I did not deem them necessary to record exhaustively. 21 The number for the “Non-project-related” row in Table 9-4 is most likely skewed to appear lower than its actual proportion. As Table 13 shows.

One discussion with Debbie. after he went home and ruminated about a discussion he had had with the group the previous day. Rory offered to help the Zodiac group. the final two discussions were initiated by Rory with the Moons group and the Earthquakes group in the latter stages of the project. or had he been able to glean more promising seeds for . One discussion with the UFO Sightings group was initiated by Rory after they turned in their research proposal milestone and he had feedback for them. was an outgrowth of a non-projectrelated discussion. and the Plesiosaur group each on one occasion with a Web search. Rory’s tendency to avoid Barb could perhaps have been overcome had their been other doors open to begin more extended discussions. but they can be seen as indicative of the ways in which such instances occurred. who did the Sun project. As mentioned in footnote 1 of this chapter. Three of the seven were outgrowths of discussions that began with procedural issues during the background research phase of the project—specifically. and it led to issues about searching for information and the group’s understanding of their topic. these 7 instances should not be taken as an exhaustive compendium of science-related discussions initiated by Rory during this project. Similarly.187 Discussion topic Project-related Science Procedural Assessment Non-project-related 11 7 6 0 7 23 3 18 18 30 9 18 Followups Non-followups TOTAL Table 13: Topics of observed discussions with students initiated by Rory The few instances of discussions initiated solely by Rory that dealt with science topics are worth examining in more detail. the Wooly Mammoth group. initiated by Rory in response to Debbie’s despondence following her friend and partner’s suspension from school.

“Yeah. could you look at how many were identified and how many were not identified? You could show that a certain number hadn’t been disproven. like Cheryl. as he says. because. ‘do aliens exist?’ . Bruce.” Rory says. Rory says. She meticulously glues pictures of aliens and spacecraft on sheets of paper to include with her report. as many of these other groups did. She begins putting together her project report. “I picked a hard topic. Not only did .” That. There is only one problem—as she tells Rory.” Over the final few weeks of the project.” Barb laments. “I have my paper. rather than turning it in without data..” Rory says. “your question is. Rory makes a renewed commitment to intervene with students like Barb.” Barb replies.. You have to say they do or don’t based on some data. she writes: “Our conclusion is that there is not enough ‘real’ information to prove that UFOs really are flying saucers..” Rory suggests she turn it in a couple of days late with a minor debit in points. but when he gets it. Rory finds that she still has no data to support a claim. But the combination of a difficult topic and avoidance of discussions with the teacher about the project spelled trouble for the project. was Rory’s fear from the beginning. they have a good discussion about what it takes to make empirical claims. but no data yet..” There is not enough time to salvage Barb’s project. and has a version ready on the due date. “You could take a look at the Condon Report. If you have the Condon Report.188 ideas from her in milestones or ideas she brought to him. Afterwards. and Sylvia have done . of course. Rory and Barb do talk slightly more often. “you mean take sides?” “Yeah. and in the final draft of her paper. “Why wait? It’ll just get worse.

As a result. This works for some groups such as Dave and TJ. he has tried to build in some flexibility for the milestones. as the Zodiac case illustrates. The three of . combined with students’ beliefs about how long project work will take. can cause problems. Pete is a tall. as compared to Pete and Pamela’s mostly Bs).” His discomfort with deadlines has to do with the fact that his students are so different from one another. because of all the pulls on his attention and the fact that he wasn’t sure how to help. and the topics they choose and research projects they develop vary as well. however. Pamela is a razor-thin senior who likes dance but is constantly in trouble for not completing her other school work. Rory also avoided her for much of the time. Rory has set up the interim milestones in the project to help push students along. The Zodiac project: It seemed like plenty of time In addition to the problems of Rory being stretched thin on a daily basis. or have a slightly easier research design. By offering bonus points. Given these realities. but he is still not completely comfortable with the “artificiality of deadlines. and wears heavy flannel shirts and a down vest in the winter time. but at least one group last year admitted they would just as soon like to fill up the time and goof around as get the bonus points.189 Barb avoid Rory’s attention for much of the project. Students aren’t absolutely required to turn in their milestones on the due date. to turn milestones in early. confident senior who tends to wear button-down shirt and khakis or jeans. the students can turn in milestones late with deductions for each schoolday after the deadline. or simply have more serendipity. He is somewhat rough looking. Mark is an earnest but less academically able junior (he gets Bs and Cs. These concessions. Rory tries to encourage those who can work faster. there are problems that arise with students’ perception and resulting use of time. In addition. he knows it is natural for different groups to take different amounts of time for their work.

some of the students are concerned about the size of the assignment. A couple of these document some of the Zodiac’s development. in 1994-95 a student named Alison had done a moderately successful project on the scientific accuracy of astrological predictions. which the group turns in late. is unperturbed: he says to Marie. They spend some time playing games like Wolfenstein and searching the ’Net for musicians like Louis Armstrong. where they can often be seen talking. in contrast. “You’ve got like 3 months to do this. yet another describes the .190 them sit near the back center of the room (at Table C2 in Figure 1). but he is a little worried about it and warns them they will need to make sure they use astronomical data. Since the Zodiac was based on the constellations. On the day when Rory introduces the projects. Pete. and Pamela. and makes a suggestion to them that they search for “constellations” in Newswatcher rather than just “zodiac. He is disturbed to find he has few books in his personal library on the constellations. another describes the twelve signs. Rory figures it should be doable. They decide to team up for their project. He also helps them to try using Newswatcher. but at least it was empirical social science. Rory hopes to harness their enthusiasm for the topic. they turn in printouts from five Web sites on astrology. and discusses with the class how to do projects.” The group decides they want to do a project on the Zodiac.” In the early weeks of the project. For their “Background Information” assignment. the group interacts very little with Rory. but they also gather some information from the Web on the Zodiacs. Pete. based on agreement of surveys of class members with predictions. which Rory agrees to as long as they relate it to the constellations. In the case of Mark. In addition. The main problem Rory had with Alison’s project was that it did not concern earth and space science. and the fact that it involves a big paper and presentation. So he sends them to the library.

Pete is adamant that they deserve a B. I know.191 Chinese Zodiac. Pete insists it is not for his own sake. and the last answers some questions about the Zodiac’s relationship to the actual astronomical position of the sun in relation to the stars. They assumed if they were allowed to turn in notes. they could get a decent grade for them. Rory tells the group.” The students were probably not used to a teacher who bothered to describe an alternative less than the ideal. Rory concedes he said they didn’t have to have a detailed outline. Let me get the [rubric] sheet. they would ideally have synthesized them. because he would accept it. although it would affect their grade. But I changed my mind. After Rory turned back their Background Information. in hopes of clarifying his expectations and the consequences of various possibilities (see Appendix E for full text of the rubric handout). Part of the group’s confusion stems from the way he had described their assignment. Although they could turn notes in. Pamela reminds Rory he said they didn’t “have to” have that. and Mark about their grade.” She had noticed Rory marked out what was a B at the top of their paper. Pete. Rory had told students they could turn in unsynthesized notes for the milestone.” He tries to show them why what they turned in fit in the “C+” category. Although it would require a “very detailed and complete outline” to get an A. “Yeah. and maybe we can figure it out. “We had a B. In response to Pamela. Pete reminds Rory. because they have some good notes from a number of sources. saying. and changed it to a C+. “what you got on your grade was based on what you turned in. He had distributed his first attempt at a rubric for the assignment. “I thought you just said notes” were fine.” he says. since he has already applied to . Nonetheless. “But. a long conversation ensues with Pamela. Pamela approached his front table.

and he is unable to match the group with a mentor.” In the next couple of weeks. “this is only a small part of the project. in between discussion sessions in the back of class and playing games. “it’s kind of organized. Naturally. but it is almost completely unrelated to improving their project. partly because. it is a negotiation for a grade. but Rory is short on astronomy mentors due to an error in his Usenet news posting requesting mentors—his post did not get distributed to the astronomy newsgroups. Nevertheless. so they change their proposal to “an analysis of the relationship between astronomy and astrology. In week four. the group continues to get little done. Rory reminds them. They do some library research and gather some useful materials. In the end. as Pete puts it. and Rory reminds them they will need it if they intend to compare the astrological zodiac to the astronomical position of the stars. For their research proposal. they have no astronomical data.” and partly because. the group suggests “How do the fortune tellers (people that write astrological fortunes) relate the stars into the zodiac and tell people what their future holds??” Rory pushes them to focus more explicitly on astronomy related to the Zodiac.” This turns out to be the most in-depth conversation the group members hold with Rory during the entire project. . Instead.192 college. “you need lots more [data]. according to Rory and my observations.” specifically by comparing astrological claims about star position relative to astronomical findings. The students immediately turn in their “Data collection” milestone (already one day late). as Rory puts it. but instead for Mark’s sake. Pete expresses interest in getting a mentor for their project. they continue to focus their information gathering on the Zodiacs and largely ignore astronomical sources on constellations. Pete convinces Rory to bump their grade back up to a B. At the end of the conversation.

and on the Web. I don’t know if you were there any part of . and then we went to get prom tickets. where Rory helps Pete with a journal database. In a 9-level course. He can’t find them in the library. “we went to the library.” Lakeside has a modified kind of tracking for the Earth Science classes: the class is called a “9-level” and is open for students to take it at 2 different levels of credit.” Rory’s response: “Oh yeah. and one day in Week 6 Rory goes up to check on them. Rory continues. and teachers are expected to vary the work. Early on.” Mark seems chastened and agrees. Excellent.” Pete retorts. The group continues to search for relevant resources in the library. and Rory relates how he couldn’t find them. students can take the class for 3-level or 4-level credit. “Well. Mark admits. Rory referred to him as “the 4-level genius. so marks them off for not working on Earth Science (see the section “Work grades: A tactic for decreasing teacher and student risk” in Chapter 10). “Well. “4-level” courses are the most academically challenging. and Rory has said he is the strongest student. Way to go. and Rory asks them “Where’s the astronomy?” They say they’ll find some more. they turn in some more summarized information on zodiacs. The following day. and “3-level” courses are the standard track. and you weren’t there.193 Pete is clearly the group leader. how do I know? I went to check on you . it’s not like we weren’t there. the students and teachers appear to be thoroughly versed in their nuances and implications. Although the system sounds confusing at first to an outsider like myself. Mark asks about the absence.” But Rory is not going to be convinced this time. and most elect for 3-level. Their search for astronomy data takes them to the library. For their “Data” milestone at the end of week 5. saying. “So that’s like not being there to me.

Pamela and Mark had to pick up the pieces. part of the period. Rory let this group slide in part because they did not bring issues to him. and they turn their first draft in on the final deadline for revisions. Rory had tried to give them three—the Data Analysis milestone. but they would have had a better chance had they turned interim artifacts in. the first draft of the complete research report.” They had particular trouble understanding what he wanted in the “Method” and “Data Analysis” sections of their paper. and Mark and Pamela put together their first draft the following week. none of the period. and they get the lowest grade in the class. “you should be more specific what you want. . a 38%. When Rory asked the students for feedback at the beginning of the next project. They do not get their full paper in on time for the January 12 deadline. OK? How can I trust you?” Mark says contritely. Since the Zodiac group never turned in a Data Analysis milestone. all of the period—whatever. and didn’t turn in their final paper until the due date for the revision. “Maybe we should have told you. and the revision of the research report. they finally look up the constellations. By missing most of the milestones. but made very little progress for lack of data to work with and time to locate what they needed. Overall.” During that week. Their paper is a near disaster. but by Week 7 Rory is afraid they are “crashing and burning unless they pull something out of a hat.” As Rory told me in retrospect. Mark works more diligently. and that is supposed to be half of their data. Pamela says. they only got one try at putting together a research report of the sort that Rory is trying to foster. while Pete expressed quiet confidence they would work it out every time Rory tried to push them. Rory spends part of a period sitting with Mark and Pamela putting together their still meager materials.194 the period. “they didn’t know what they should be doing. So don’t do stuff like that. January 24.” The rest of the quarter.

the group only found out they had not done the kind of inquiry Rory was requiring when it was too late for them to salvage the project. the stuff doesn’t come just like boom . Pamela. the group finally began to see that they were going to be in trouble. one half of the quarter grade). Rory told the students on the first day of the projects that he was not just telling them to “go out and do research” because he knows they will “procrastinate to the nth degree. They were unable to gather data to support any claim about the correspondence of astrological claims and astronomical reality on the position of the stars. their final report is a classic example of what Rory terms “going informational”—just synthesizing reported findings of others. In the final week of paper revision. But Pete. partly through discussions with Rory about putting the paper together. But they still had to learn what it took to complete an earth science project. In the end. Rory knows that the necessary work to do a good. but they also knew the overall worth of the milestones paled in comparison to the worth of the final paper (one quarter vs.195 they also avoided the natural opportunities Rory set up for students to learn about conducting empirical science inquiry—the feature that made all the difference for the Moons project. and Mark played it as loose and cool as they possibly could. with no new analysis. As mentioned in the previous chapter. they could get by. and didn’t need that much time to complete it.” So he tries to tell them as specifically as he knows how “what [he] wants done. and when [he] want[s] it done. Thus.” But the flexibility Rory has retained in the deadlines works against his best intentions in a case like the Zodiac project. figuring they had done reports before so knew what he wanted. As long as they did fine on the final paper and the one milestone they turned in. and Mark knew they would lose points for late or completely missed milestones. Pete. Pamela. original project often takes a great deal of time and effort—“doing [projects].

also fall into the trap of believing they have plenty of time and can get by while missing a few assignments. and Mark don’t take Rory’s milestones seriously enough. As Julie put it. But the bigger problem turns out to be students’ perception that there’s all the time in the world. Pamela. Conclusion Barb’s UFOs & Aliens project. But some of the students. and Mark’s Zodiac project received the lowest grades in the class—40% and 38%. even to the extent they ultimately realize what they could do to improve their project. they do so too late. Rory has set up the milestones to structure time and give the students deadlines along the way. “all I do is sit around except for a couple days which is what I use to write my paper. “the time factor” is a key aspect of how Rory structures projects to support students. Rory’s practice of discussing the key issues in students’ projects when . In order to help prevent this from happening. Pamela. But when students like Pete. Rory almost decided to make projects even longer than the approximately 10 weeks they had been. and Pete. they confound the primary means Rory has designed to cope with his own time constraints in supporting multiple groups working on a variety of topics. given the extreme demands and constraints on Rory’s time. which results in turning in milestones late or not at all. because students were routinely running out of time just as they got to the interesting issues.” At the end of 1994-95. like Peter. their difficulties were due to a lack of the kind of interactions with Rory along the way that kept projects like the Hurricanes and Moons on track and making progress. The pitfalls described in this chapter could perhaps be mitigated by a number of design changes. In part. The fact that students are susceptible to falling through the cracks like this is understandable. respectively. Many students don’t really get down to work until a deadline is looming.196 boom boom boom boom. Thus.” For this reason.

” After a pause and no response from the students. he continued. when he had a conversation with Steve and Rich during class one day. Rory finally had a free moment. Rory told me he thought Patti and Carla needed more help in coming up with promising research questions relating to dinosaur extinction. however. it also provides a certain degree of efficiency in Rory’s use of limited time. he could require them to meet with him to discuss where they are and how they plan on finishing. Near the end of that days’ intense class.197 they indicate they are ready (by approaching him) is successful in many cases.” . and at first didn’t know what to suggest. “We’re talking about how cards relate to projects. “Do you wanna talk or play cards?” Kat replied. “OK. who show signs of falling through the cracks. But perhaps Rory should force some minimal number of discussions with groups like the Zodiac and UFOs & Aliens. since students who approach him are primed to take advantage of his support. He went over and sat down with Carla and Patti. but talking more with students about their projects tends to give him ideas about how he could help. Rory then said. An incident in the Dinosaur Extinction project is illustrative in this matter: before class one day during the Research Proposal phase of the project. Such was the case with the Moons project. We saw in this chapter how Rory avoided Barb and other floundering students because he did not know how to help. for instance. If students don’t get a milestone in by the deadline. and gave the students some new ideas the next day. Rory thought about it some more overnight. who had begun playing cards with Marie and Kat. in which he had 47 separate—mostly reactive—interactions with students. let’s talk about your project. Such discussions could serve the dual purpose of encouraging the students to reflect and articulate—which would help their own monitoring of where they are—and providing Rory with seeds to think about and offer advice. There is no guarantee that students will be receptive to Rory’s proactive moves.

or choose not to. Rory said “OK. 22 This comment was made by email in the Spring of 1997. he was approached by a student who wanted his input. Before he got there. but won’t be able to. In addition to such outright rebuffs. follow up. The subject of grades brings us to the topic of the next chapter. after I asked Rory to review this chapter. in which I will discuss how grades and other aspects of school culture constrain and to some degree undermine project-based teaching. and perhaps back up their importance by assigning them more weight in the final grade.” 22 Besides such meetings with groups who have not turned in milestones. Rory pointed out to me when he read of this idea that “once in the spotlight they might have the tendency to say whatever they have to in order to get you to leave them alone again. Rory could also stress to the whole class on a more regular basis the importance of getting milestones in on time.198 With that. if you don’t want to.” and got up to head back to his table at the front of the room. . He also said he was “less sure of” the promise of this idea compared to the suggested change to the Research Proposal milestone related at the end of Chapter 8 (which he immediately incorporated).

In Chapter 5 I described the difficulty of bootstrapping students into new practices. students’ ineffective use or perception of time in their project can result in difficulty learning how to “do science” in Rory’s class. institutional expectations and students’ reactions to classes impose constraints on teachers’ actions. “No way! We don't have a final in here?” 199 . Rory mentions repeatedly that there will only be two exams in his class—one on the lectures and one on computer skills—but a week and a half before finals period. As Brickhouse & Bodner (1992) found with beginning science teachers. Katrina says.Chapter 10 How the school culture affects guided participation Introduction As described in the previous chapter. Despite the efforts at transition. For students. it can be difficult at times to even “hear” Rory’s descriptions of what will happen in his class until those descriptions have consequences for their own action. other aspects of school culture play a significant role in the meaning of project activity. But time is not the only cultural factor which constrains and molds project activity in Rory’s classroom. the norms of school culture color students’ interpretations of Rory’s class. and in Chapter 6 I described some of the ways Rory’s class differed from “standard practices” in science classes and other classes that conduct project-like activity. Marie and Katrina will be shocked to find out they have no final exam. In Chapters 7 and 8 I described some ways Rory attempts to aid the transitions to new practices. For instance. whether he wants them to or not.

They sit in the back right corner of the room with TJ and Dave (at Table B-1 in Figure 1). the Sun project. They are attracted to the idea of earthquake prediction. I will describe how elements of schools’ culture affect students’ projects.” Each year.200 In this chapter. soft-spoken senior tennis player with long brown hair. and pair up as a group right away. and both of the group members tend to wear dressy casual sweaters or Polartec fleece. Julie is not shy about raising questions and concerns. as have other teachers who conduct inquiry-oriented classes. Julie has straight platinum hair. because she was out with mono. Julie is a senior friend of Amy’s who joined the class a couple of weeks late. Part of her misgiving about working on earthquake prediction is that she is not sure they can “discover something new. but Dave and TJ have already selected that. Earthquakes: shocks and aftershocks of angling for the grade Amy is a tall. Amy comes up with earthquakes as an alternative. Throughout Rory’s class. and Julie asks Rory “are earthquakes reliably predicted?” He tells Julie they are not. They consider hurricanes as a topic. Rory has encountered this lack of confidence that “mere teenagers” can conduct original science research. he tells her they will have to focus in on specific kinds or locations or sizes. by examining some of the action in the Earthquakes project. which goes well. This conversation is in the midst of their Background Information. and the Dinosaur Extinction project. For example. When she asks him whether “earthquakes” is too broad a topic. Wasley reports that teachers in the Coalition of Essential Schools “discovered that [their] first task was to teach the students that they could use their minds well. but they are eager to focus in on a question early. They literally panicked when worksheets were .

especially since “geoscientists have been working on earthquake prediction for years” and haven’t done that well up to this point.. we’re high school students.. and not simply reporting others’ analyses. or what was the evidence for.. We’re talking about exploring little phenomena. Their anxiety about coming up with a . He tells her they “could look at earthquakes someplace and compare [them] to earthquakes someplace else. Julie combines his idea with her idea of looking for patterns that might help with prediction to come up with the question: “Is there a pattern of earthquakes as far as when they occur and where they occur?” She relates this question idea to Amy. Rory reassures students: . and get an answer to questions. on the first day of projects. In this spirit. You know.201 replaced with less familiar ways of learning” (Wasley. that I get from people is. I’m not asking you to split atoms. Rory suggests Julie think about some kind of comparison. 166) . They do “not always [have] to answer a different question that’s never been answered. The key issue is putting together an original set and analysis of data that has never been done exactly the same way before. as in the Moons project. 1994. You know.” After her discussion with Rory. how can we do stuff that professional scientists can’t do?” Well. p. or do black holes really exist in space. or comments. who types the phrase “pattern of earthquakes” into a “Net search” within Netscape. Rory encourages Julie to not be concerned about coming up with a completely generalizable. I don’t expect you to . reliable earthquake prediction model.. we’re not talking about things on that level. you know. plate tectonics occurring. Things that are small enough for people to research. yeah.” In order to operationalize a researchable question. Because one of the big complaints.. do something new. I’m not asking you to do that. or find out what happened four seconds after the creation of the universe. unravel the ultimate mysteries of the universe.” and although Rory agrees.. or when do tornadoes occur. For this reason. “wait a minute. that does not imply that they should just learn what facts they can and regurgitate them to him. Julie tries to tell him “anything I discover is new to me. but . and does not come up with an answer. handleable phenomena.

“Is it A+ material?” Rory wonders. A few minutes later. says “the answer is no according to our research so far. Julie mumbles “Really?” After getting interrupted by someone else. Rory explains. Julie approaches Rory to ask. “Is this good?” . Julie returns with a possible revision. and says.” Julie. “Why are you worried about the grade?” Julie explains.” Julie then asks. It might be too broad. On one day during the Research Proposal phase of the project. let alone time and magnitude.” Rory tells her. “Maybe there are too many things you’d need to do to answer this. “Yeah. You could start with looking at the bigger earthquakes. manifests itself in repeated requests for reassurance. is this a good question?” On her piece of paper is written “Are there any similarities between earthquake patterns in time and patterns in magnitude on different continents?” Rory reads it. Wagner.” Worried. “We’re competitive in this class.” Julie goes back to her desk.202 “doable” question that is also “A+ material. “I think it’s a good research question. “Mr. “Yeah. She says.” as Julie puts it. perhaps still wondering how you could write more than six pages on earthquake patterns in time. Both the patterns in time and the magnitudes is a lot.” Rory thinks about it a little. and says. The guys [Dave & TJ] got an A+ and we got an A minus on the Background Information.

“can’t we just look at the data and tell you what it says?” The fact that they manage to get the milestones in on time. allows them to . Like the Moons and Hurricanes groups. to the degree that classroom tasks can be seen as “an exchange of performance for grades” (p. As Doyle (1979) has pointed out. 1979. 194) Doyle goes on to point out that many student strategies in classrooms may be directed toward reducing ambiguity and risk. p. and now wants to know what length of paper is optimal. But Rory’s classroom activity structure is neither familiar to the students nor rote. Ambiguity and risk vary according to the classroom activity structure—if the activity is both familiar and rote. Rory’s answer of “whatever it takes” is discomfiting to her. the Earthquakes group has difficulty with Data Analysis: Julie and Amy fall into the pitfall Rory has identified of data analysis “by inspection. Classroom tasks that require the generation of original solutions to previously unencountered problems would tend to be high in terms of both ambiguity and risk. Julie is preoccupied by how long the paper should be: she did not believe at first they could write 5 pages on the topic. “there’s no need to change your question.203 Rory tells her again. so he agrees to calculate the average length of papers he’s received in the past for her (it turns out to be 10 pages). (Doyle. 194). as Rory does in this and other cases. ambiguity and risk are low. classrooms. You can leave it as it was. But the teacher may try to help out as well. which are invariably socially complex. just as Julie’s actions do. she has good reason for her actions. Increased ambiguity and risk in project-based class Although Julie’s pushing Rory for clarifications and reassurances may seem over dramatic or unnecessary.” After Amy and Julie begin their data collection. though. As Doyle says. are “fraught with ambiguity and risk” (p. assuming the teacher holds the students accountable for the quality of their solutions. 192).” Julie says to Rory when they are starting the Analysis phase.

But I just. I can’t believe this. but eventually do so for an extended period. they make scatter plots of earthquake size vs.” Rory tells them he knows he forgot on Monday of the . and this is horrible. “You’re trying to teach us. I didn’t—I didn’t do this just to like blast everybody. and my project’s terrible. “Yeah. I got an F. and get it back with a 60% mark the following Monday.” Rory says. Julie and Amy question his grading along with may of the other students. “We get it.” The students say. Julie and Amy seek frequent feedback and reassurance from Rory that they are on the right track. Initially. I know you get it. “We know that. years for each continent. and begins it by saying: So. All along the way. “Some of you get it. Even though Rory is giving everyone in the class a chance to rewrite the report for full credit. All goes smoothly.’ and they’re not [terrible]. ‘Oh. and say. some of you don’t get it. I’m giving this stuff back to you.” but the complaints begin as soon as Rory passes out the papers. “OK. First Amy points out that Rory did not include the “Methods” section in his first reminder on the board about the “parts of a paper. because I give these things back and everybody goes. and Rory suggests combining all the continents on one graph to directly compare them. Throw this out. they interact more with him than any other group in the class.” Rory replies. Whether you like them or not is irrelevant. but I tried to make suggestions.204 get feedback from Rory on what kinds of graphs could help their analysis. I just fear this day. “This sucks! This is terrible! This is horrible! Blah blah blah. They have to wait a while to talk to Rory. and as mentioned in the previous chapter. until they turn in their completed research report. Da da da da” Laura replies.” Laura tells him. and blah blah blah. at least read the comments. Please. Please read the comments. I am. If you don’t do anything at all. Rory does not look forward to class that day.” but he is unconvinced. I’m trying to show you how to make it better.

is directly related to students’ tendency—exhibited here by Julie and Amy—to nit-pick about points. we wrote something down. if they can get a decent grade without doing the work to fix them—and Rory knows the changes Julie and Amy need in their Analysis and Conclusion will take some thought and time. Julie moves on to more substantive parts of the paper. but corrected it the day after that. They think otherwise.” Rory tries to clarify. It does not matter at that moment that they know how to get the other two points—simply add the date to the title page—and will get full credit for them when they revise the paper. so that’s how it works out. if we were writing something down?” Rory replies. The analysis. Next. “Well. I mean. and for the Method when it is not adequate. I know what it says.” Rory tries to explain that the title page only has three parts. but Rory’s experience has taught him that could backfire. saying “Yeah. Outside . We have a lot. Rory explains to them later. but you didn’t do it. It’s right there. calculating students given a chance to revise settle for leaving problems they acknowledge. Rory’s reason for giving the students zero out of 20 for the Conclusion.” Amy retorts. but he tells them it was on the handout he gave them a while back anyway. Too often. as well as the Black Holes and Sun groups. How can you give us a Zero.. and so those two are connected. and make it difficult for them to ignore his comments.” Ironically. Julie tells Rory that she thinks “you should get extra credit for doing it” at all. and copies are always available if they lose them. “It’s not all [missing]. but you didn’t do it. saying “listen. but still focuses on the points..205 previous week. that he is just trying to let them know that the changes they need to make are important. the Conclusion . Julie is outraged that they “only got 3 out of 5 [on the title page] for not having a date. because you didn’t analyze the data.

which is to not accept anything less than that in their papers. he is not trying to say that what the students have done is worth nothing. “Well. but it worked. and really go to an all-ornothing kind of a thing—grading system—like I did with data. you know. another CoVis researcher] suggested last year. It seems so harsh. I got smarter. He said he decided to do what Laura [D’Amico. Rory explained to me that one reason he was trying this strategy was that a similar strategy worked in pushing students to assemble data the previous year. What this means is that “assistance is likely to be requested for just those aspects of the task that [children] are not quite able to . he already had a chance to tell them what should be changed. they can greatly improve their paper and their grade. Rory replies. so. So in this and some other cases. Ulterior motives for seeking guidance After looking at Rory’s written comments some more. Julie says. and now you want us to change them all!” She is referring to the fact that Rory spent the better part of class and the period afterward the previous week helping them put together graphs for their report. children guide adults’ guidance. he found that students took his comments seriously and turned in revisions of much higher quality. because that sure did get ’em going on getting data. Barbara Rogoff (1990) has pointed out that in situations of “guided participation” with a more experienced adult and a child learner.206 of class. She figures since he was there. instead. and had implicitly indicated they were good enough. he is trying to give the message that if they take his comments and suggestions seriously. why not try it again? When he started giving students a zero on their Data section if they didn’t have adequate data. “Change our graphs? After you sat with us on the computer while we did our graphs. or that he thinks it represents no effort. what do you want me to do?” This turn in the interaction brings up another complication.

simply because the teacher did not correct students earlier. the writing and line of reasoning must be 23 An example comes from the Plesiosaurs project to be described in the next chapter. like Julie and Amy. In other cases. students who are unsure of what to do may avoid teachers to keep the teachers unaware of the students’ “deficiencies. and Rory explains that such pictures are not included in scientific research articles. of a car crushed under a building in the San Francisco earthquake of 1989. and Beth did not want Rory to think Cindy’s confusion reflected a general problem in the whole group. a Methods section is needed so that others can attempt to confirm or falsify your work. but they should be included. Rory tells them they “didn’t need it. March. 109). the abstract may seem to cause repetition with later sections. Students will not only recruit teachers’ help to aid in completing a task they could not complete alone. O’Neill. Julie’s effort to appeal to Rory’s work with them on their graph points out how grading in classroom situations complicates the normal dynamic of guided participation. . Beth told me in interviews she did not want Cindy to ask Rory for help because Cindy didn’t know what was going on. he tells Amy “It’s like a tattoo on your forehead to make yourself look better—if you don’t need it. see (O’Neill.” but not in a formal article such as they are writing in his class. In this case. and above all. but it is useful nonetheless. Pictures that are interesting but not substantive may be included in a “popular science article. 1997. 24 For a more complete discussion of students’ learning and appropriation of the scientific research report genre. don’t put it there.”23 Learning the science research article genre Amy then asks what is wrong with the picture they have included on the final page of their report. he says.207 complete independently” (p. in progress). they will hash out quite a few ways in which the scientific research article genre24 differs from standard essay writing: the actual numbers behind the graphs may seem boring.” Over the next couple of days. they might recruit the teachers’ help to increase the likelihood that the teacher will “buy-in” to the students’ tactics and approve their actions (in this case in retrospect) with a high grade.” The inclusion of pictures to which they never refer in their text is a common mistake by students.

you know. and you have to dissect like that. uh. OK? The example I used yesterday would be . And. Otherwise it would be ridiculous. see (O’Neill. because he has found that they otherwise do not do so. et al. but the research report is only going to be turned in to him and not read by a wider audience25 .208 explicit and logical.. like. For example. Therefore. but at this point in Rory’s use of mentoring. how he wants it done. on something about Hamlet. like. you don’t have to re-tell the story of Hamlet. and disprove this. from the data that you have to the conclusion. 1996. you know what I mean? . writing papers where your audience already has the prior knowledge of stuff. O’Neill. Bruce & Rubin (1993) have shown how correspondence by electronic mail among students in different geographic locations results 25 Part of Rory and Kevin O’Neill’s reason for interest in mentors is that they provide another audience besides the teacher for students’ work. in progress) . he has not really been able to foster much sharing. like. In later quarters. Other research on writing instruction has indicated that writing which has a communicative function beyond demonstrating competence to the teacher is more motivating to students. if you’re writing the paper on. That’s. like.. Rory discusses it further with Cheryl and Julie. I think that the reality is someplace in between writing for a kindergarten. what you’re trying to do is convince the reader that [pause] how can I say this? . and say. That there’s a logical.. This last point is summarized by Julie when she explains to the even more exasperated Debbie. and you throw them all up on Ito’s desk. Acquit us!” You don’t do that. Rory responds. For a discussion of this aspect of mentoring. because you’re assuming they already know the story of Hamlet. let’s say you’re. OJ Simpson’s lawyers. step-by-step process from. because—and the difference is. “You know what? You have to write the paper out like you’re writing it to a kindergarten.. your books and stuff. Julie points out that “This is only for writing. Or you say. In English class. you give them to the jury. Even though everything is in there.. Not only that..” After Julie makes this comment. “there’s all our stuff.. Cheryl points out that I’ve been writing papers where it’s assumed that your audience is already—already had some prior knowledge of the subject.. they have to laboriously go step by step and prove this. . and writing for a very enlightened audience. he begins to ask students with mentors to send updates and papers to their mentors.” Rory cannot change the fact that the stakes are not analogous to a murder trial. and you walk in with your stacks and stacks of briefs..

Julie may be following this strategy during one of the long conversations after getting their paper back. when seen in a certain light. It’s just like I want to know what I can do to make it better. the activity tends to be high in terms of both ambiguity and risk for students. 194). but Rory continues.. The situation of the students is much different. In addition.209 in the students having authentic reasons for trying to make themselves clear. 195). “It doesn’t.” Julie concedes the point. From my first year of presence in Rory’s classroom. scientists who use the scientific research report genre have much different motivations for working within the cultural norms of science: they want to get published and advance their careers in their chosen field. One form such efforts take is students simply trying to convince Rory what they already did was good enough. like. but just show me. saying. Otherwise you haven’t done your job. and make you happy with. you know? .” Julie assents. “just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!” Like the teachers mentioned in Doyle. but Rory cannot make it the same. “But this is the way science is done! It’s the same idea. logically. Doyle described how research shows students in such situations argue “that they had a right to be told explicitly what they were expected to do. you don’t have to have four thousand volumes or four thousand pages.” out of a sense of fairness. you know. Rory’s curriculum changes increase students’ levels of ambiguity and risk. with our report. but she explicitly denies it. I can recall students entreating him.. The impossibility of providing crystal-clear instructions Since producing documents written in a totally unfamiliar genre falls into Doyle’s (1979) characterization of “generation of original solutions to previously unencountered problems” (p. and also “generate efforts on [students’] parts to reduce these factors” (p. how you get from step 1 to step 2 to step 3.” A . So he says simply. “I’m not trying to say that we don’t want to do anything else.

as well as Patti and Carla who did the Dinosaur Extinction project. “I hate to yell.” Dave agrees.” Julie doesn’t think it is fair. “if you just rolled with the punches. saying. Amy and Julie. it would be OK. After receiving their first draft back from Rory with extensive commentary.. and he says no. but this paper is worth a lot. “because he didn’t understand our report. “I think everyone complains too much.” Julie indignantly replies..” So he looks at what he said previously. They ask Rory if he wants their old version with the new one. “we made all these changes that you told us to. “I think you guys complain too much. They say. plus. But I hate to tell them something and not follow that. .. and now you’re telling us other things.” TJ asks Julie.” TJ follows this up with the comment. Julie belies her statement to Rory in a conversation with Dave and TJ out of Rory’s earshot. and discussing their changes and revisions with him in extensive discussions over the next week. just as he does with Carla and Patti. though..” Rory tells me after class. follow this strategy. TJ says to Julie. ”why not have to do it?” Julie answers. When they get the paper back.210 few minutes later. “I told them I don’t want to compare the papers line for line . and gives them more credit for addressing it. they turn in a revised paper.” Another form such efforts take at reducing ambiguity and risk about grades in Rory’s class is treating Rory’s commentary on returned papers as explicit instructions and a kind of contract for what to do to get a good grade. and also thinks it shows he is inconsistent. Julie says. Our paper over again. they are outraged that their changes were not sufficient. I see new things when I get a new one . “we might not have to do our report again.

all attempts at exhaustive instructions for situated actions will fail to account for all contingencies.211 Afterward. Rory tells me “There’s no fix [for this problem] except to give it to them and let them argue . They are part of her comparative study of assessment infrastructures and the role they play in four project-oriented science classrooms (D’Amico. they receive the highest grade in the class. . Within the new whole created by a revision.. 26 The survey and response were kindly supplied by Laura D’Amico. Rory “gives the students a voice” and encourages them to break out of their passive roles. Rory also indicates that he respects their well-reasoned arguments. As Wasley (1994) has pointed out. But in the case of producing such ill-specified and organic documents as scientific research reports. what would you change?” Julie writes: My teacher is unclear on what he wants from these projects. the strategy of holding Rory to “the terms” laid out in his original markup proves a fruitful strategy as far as raising her group’s grade—with a curve. For readers interested in the project-oriented assessment issues raised in this chapter. “If you could change the way grading is done in this class. He gives us a low grade for things that we did. D’Amico’s research should prove informative. 28). in progress).. a 102%. Julie’s expectations for clarity from Rory are expressed at the end of the year in a survey response26 to the question. For Julie. new issues that are virtually impossible to predict and plan exhaustively for will arise. the idea that Rory’s commentary on a draft can serve as a contract specifying in detail the necessary and sufficient conditions for a quality revision is absurd. however. because “coherence [is] based on local interactions” (p. After we explain that we did what he told us. that he asked for and then gives a low grade saying it was wrong. as Lucy Suchman (1987) has argued. In this way. is there anything you would change about it? If so. and take some control. giving the students such voice can be powerful.” He sits down and tries to fix his inconsistencies when the students challenge him. 2 periods worth. today was for arguing. he gives us an absurd grade like 107% on a project.

they find that determining “what constitutes a pattern” is not as straightforward as they had once thought. But eventually she and Jason settle on investigating a topic Jason is interested in: what will happen to the earth when our sun “explodes” and our solar system “ends. And they learn some analysis strategies they adjust and apply in a later project on lightning strikes. and it may contribute to problems encountered by less proactive groups.. Even Julie. The Sun project: From cooperation to explosion In Rory’s most extreme period of discussions with and challenges from Julie during paper revisions.. Through such conversations.212 Despite the important issues their case highlights. in contrast. such as the Zodiac group and the Sun group considered next. It’s a discussion..” With Debbie. “this is difficult . The seeds for anger Debbie is an opinionated junior who has a tendency to wear rumpled layers of clothes. They begin to learn to write in the new (to them) genre of scientific research reports. Debbie expresses interest in doing a project on the Bermuda Triangle at first. . the proportion of Rory’s time this demands is considerable. what makes it bearable is this is not like Debbie.. But as the analysis presented in the Chapter 9 showed.. who has the angriest edge. he says to me. She chooses her boyfriend Jason—a student from another period of Rory’s class—as her project partner. Julie and Amy make progress throughout their project. not an argument. Maybe ’cause they have another chance .” After researching background information and learning more about the topic. perhaps in part because their extended conversations with Rory shuffle consistently between arguments for assessment points and sense-making conversations about scientific points. It’s sort of playful. and she discusses some promising ideas related to the area’s geomorphology. conversations frequently degenerate into arguments.. is OK .

“OK” and then just leaves. For a discussion of the dynamics of some flareups in CoVis’ networked school community.” he is suspended for a period and can not complete the project 27 I should note that every year since the Internet connection was installed at Lakeside. The annual recurrence of such issues is one reason Rory has the students and their parents agree to a Network Use Policy based on Fishman & Pea (1994). Debbie and Jason are not getting their work done in a very timely fashion. and that it was all an “accident. When such transgressions are dealt with openly and firmly.” They sit down and work on what they need to know: the temperature of the earth. and probably records of what happens to others stars. No one noticed when he signed up for Rory’s class. but eventually he gets into trouble. another student reports some questionable activities. He suggests they could look at how far it will go. just books with equations. see D’Amico & Polman (1994). the size of the earth’s orbit. Jason also happens to be a “hacker” of sorts. and where the earth will be. It’s about what happens when the sun explodes. usually involving students posting offensive messages. Although Jason and Debbie maintain his innocence. with the most powerful computers and only Internet connection in the school. Debbie simply says. who had been banned from taking computer courses at the school because of incidents in previous years. the range of what would happen. the temperatures and sizes of the sun at various stages. and Rory discovers that Jason has found and mailed himself the file with all the students’ fileserver and electronic mail passwords27 . Unfortunately. And we found out it won’t. “I haven’t been able to find any information. . Our project sucks. Like Barb and the Zodiac group. At the end. She approaches Rory one day and says.” Rory reminds her the sun will expand into a Red Giant. She has been trying to begin her Data Collection. how hot it will be. they have rarely recurred in Rory’s class until the following school year. at least one major “Netiquette” transgression has occured. In the beginning of the group’s Data Analysis. “We have to talk. and discussed with the rest of the community. so says. as they have reported. Other transgressions have been less serious than Jason’s. and then their problems escalate when Jason gets suspended from school.213 Debbie becomes disheartened.

The syndrome of “finding the answer in a book” is a recurring problem in Rory’s class. and he has. After the incident. we’re done. Rory approaches Debbie about these issues. so it’s pointless to even do the project. Rory takes his usual tack of looking for ways to salvage it. He describes it like this: So. that you can’t do this. as Debbie suggests. It’s going to swallow up all the planets to earth. I’m angry. Rory tries to discuss this with her. “OK. Everything’s gonna suck. All the water’s going to dry up. Or “well here. it can’t be done. He tries to suggest again data she could locate . they’ll get research. somebody’s already figured it out. Now he’s not gonna pass high school this year. and they begin by talking about Jason. possibly expelled him. Debbie becomes more hostile toward Rory. We can’t do this” or “It’s already been figured out” or “now what do we do?” Instead of abandoning the project altogether. and you suspended my boyfriend. “I don’t care.” Debbie tells Rory. and this is the first year he passed in. and stresses that people have to take responsibility for their own actions. Eventually. nobody has figured it out. the answer in the book said exactly what’s going to happen. “I found the answer in a book.” Efforts to fix problems The conversations turns to what to do about the “screwed-up project. whom she blames for Jason’s problems. so. you screwed up my project.” Rory asks. and more despondent about their project. The sun’s going to expand.” And they go. Everybody on earth is going to die. but she says. All the other planets are going to get very hot.214 for credit. he took driver’s ed for the third time. Earth is going to melt. and. since 8th grade. Debbie says. here’s what the answer is. And. Debbie agrees that it is not really Rory’s fault. or what’ll happen is somebody will tell them. now he has to go get a full-time job. what happens is. “What’s the answer in the book?” Debbie replies.

you have to think about it. “well. then you would have the answer again. you know what Jupiter’s made out of.” Rory counters. Debbie comes up to Rory. certain temperatures?” Exasperated. “I didn’t say it was gonna be easy. Think about it.” Debbie’s response exhibits her lack of understanding of the process Rory is trying to get her to participate in.” Debbie replies.. What happens when you heat those materials to such and such a temperature? Well.215 to make an empirical case for how far the sun will expand. Debbie says “that is impossible to find. Then. you know. Debbie says. So Rory says. and you would be right back where you are now. ’cause if you could find it. saying. it’s what’s gonna happen to that planet then .. . “but I don’t have anything even remotely like that. yeah. Rory presumes to work on some of these ideas. it’s impossible to find. and how the components of different planets will react to that heat. She is only familiar with finding the answer. How hot is the sun gonna get? How far away is it gonna be away from Jupiter? What happens? You know what the clouds are. not the sun Debbie goes off. “Well. saying “You made me do this topic. Still discouraged. that’s impossible. well. Referring to the lack of data analysis.” Rory tries to encourage her. Rory says she could look at “What happens to the atmosphere in Jupiter when you heat it up to. As an example. but explicitly left the choice up to her. You have to analyze the situation. Debbie says.” He points out that he offered suggestions. as synthetic library research projects require. how hot the temperature will get. He doesn’t want her to find the answer. Once again despondent and angry. Her grade is an abysmal 45%. he wants her to make a claim based on an empirical argument.” Debbie explodes. but she turns in her first draft of the complete research report with no data analysis.

they inevitably meet with some amount of such resistance.” Debbie claims. because. and see if you agree with what they said. Some of the students in his first year “felt betrayed and were appropriately angry. so there was no data analysis to do . “No. that students have an absolute veto power with which to threaten teachers. you don’t show me anything about how big does the sun get. saying “Somebody says this is what’s gonna happen. Lemke says such “noncompliance” and “uncooperative behavior” keeps many teachers from attempting innovations. “But I do.. “Fine! You try! You find it!” She slams her paper down loudly. but Debbie’s anger is insurmountable at this point. You just say ‘here’s what happens. “Have you ever tried looking up this topic?” When Rory says no. Based on his experiences in the past. Rory tries to clarify. But when teachers like Rory do conduct their class differently. as well as some with Julie.” . Rory is aware of this danger. even if they proved successful in the new system—the anger hung on with them. How hot will it be?” Rory persists in elaborating these possibilities.’ And that’s it. is to go in and look at the data. What your job to do is . mentioned in Chapter 2.. And you don’t. saying. Eventually. if I find the answer? It says right there [in her report] what the sun is going to do. Wagner.” and gestures mutely at her paper. However. Get very big. I found the answer in a book. It was written right there. he is also aware from his experience that “the anger generated when the students [feel] ‘cast adrift’ from the ‘traditional’ style of education they worked hard to master for success” can be difficult to shake.. and then it’ll fade to red then white then blue. and re-construct it. and storms out of the room. and then it’ll get a little bit smaller and turn into a white dwarf. recalls Jay Lemke’s (1990) assertion. Debbie yells. and then it’ll get smaller and smaller until it fades out.216 Mr. she shouts. Rory elaborates further.. What is there to analyze. This incident. you don't.

in the Method. and how it can be improved. And you get it. I gave you why I was looking for it. You know. they really wanna be directed. And it seems to me that the kids you get those criticisms from the most are the kids who are having the most trouble doing it. He asks what her question is.” Rory goes on to explain about the grade. I think. She showed the paper to her advisor as well. Consequently. and this is good. He sees himself as having to promote his teaching practices: This has been my experience—now it may not be everybody’s experience—but you kind of have to convince them to play the game. “you’re not teaching us anything. to work on their own. “You have to redo it. he could not gain any level of cooperation with the angry students. some of them—will think that you’re just wasting their time.” Um. tell me what to do.” End result: a wholly adversarial relationship As Debbie’s project continues. I gave you the process I did to do my research. and so that’s kind of hard to live with sometimes—you know. That this is new. Everything here [in the report] is exactly what you said to do here [in the handout]. and it’s frustrating when you get the “you’re not doing anything” comment. and they don’t wanna really work on their own. and she says: Nothing. They wanna be told what to do. and so they’re angry. At one point.217 Henceforth. and approaches Rory. and I don’t think it was fair for you to give me [less than the full] 20 points. My question is that I think this grade blows. the criticism. Because you’re not just learning facts. Debbie returns with her paper. Julie enters the conversation. the arguments and anger escalate. but don’t let me think about what I have to do. not to mention zero out of 20 points. that’s consistently who it’s from. And it’s kids who aren’t unintelligent. And as I think back. because I did exactly what you told me to do. Why I needed it. How I went about trying to find it. I was very specific. but they’re being asked. why argue over the points?” . Rory is wary of student anger. and so it’s your fault that they don’t get it. it’s a switch from learning facts to learning how to think creatively. I mean. and I can do it. and he treats students’ complaints with respect. And they think—a lot of them. They’re more passive learners. sympathizing with Debbie about including pictures not cited in the text. You know. and tells Rory the advisor agreed that “that grade really sucked. because that’s too hard for me. Julie says. and this is better. The next day. for whatever the reason. it’s like “fill me up.

and I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that I had an A in the class [in the first quarter.” Julie just says. I mean. and other students that the nature of the work is completely different in these quarters. as mentioned in Chapter 1). so the means of achieving high marks must change as well. The point is that I worked so hard on this. Both common ground and differences in perspectives and ideas are needed for communication. Sylvia—who got the highest grade in the class first quarter but whose group struggled at the beginning of the second quarter—asked Rory “how can I get the same grade I did last quarter this time around?” Rory has to tell Debbie. Rogoff points out that guided participation relies on a certain degree of “intersubjectivity” between the teacher and the learner. and there would be little impetus for partners to develop greater . as did most of the students] and then he gives me a 39% on the paper. Debbie goes on to surmise that a student she knows who turned a one-page paper in probably got a better grade (just as Kim had done the previous year. She says: Although a degree of sensitivity and ease in establishing intersubjectivity are important. Sylvia. The fact that the difficulty of achieving a high grade in Rory’s class increases significantly from the first quarter of the year (when introductory activities are done) and subsequent quarters (when projects are done) is another recurring complaint of students. Continuing her rant. they must be balanced by sufficient challenge to allow and encourage change.218 Debbie points out. the kind of adversarial relationship Rory and Debbie have developed appears problematic. and she just wants to get a better grade. Rory wants to focus on how to fix things. communication would not be necessary or interesting. Otherwise. “Oh. For instance. Returning to Rogoff’s (1990) characterization of guided participation. “But I don’t want to redo it. most people didn’t even hand it in! I should get more credit than that just for handing it in.” Debbie continues.

however. Patti and Carla are two juniors who sit in the far corner of the room (at the table labeled B3 in Figure 1). p. saying “never mind. (Rogoff. according to Rory. worn clothes that announce her affinity for the Grateful Dead (she tells Rory in her email exchange with him that the . projects can encounter difficulties and may fail. But Debbie rebuffs him. Patti wears a “grunge” outfit of dark. Carla has frizzy.” The Dinosaur Extinction project: Just trying to get by I have tried to show in this chapter how some contentiousness in instituting scientific inquiry activities is inevitable. 202) A primary difference between Julie’s and Debbie’s situation is that Rory was able to maintain a cooperative relationship with Julie that allowed for some intersubjectivity along with challenging differences in perspective. some students’ work may prove disappointing because they choose to do as little as possible to get by. Rory tries to discuss an interesting scientific issue that led to a faulty assumption in one of their analyses: even though the total amount of energy given off by the sun increases. Jason ends up salvaging the project to a C. which for some reason attracts the students with the most “alternative” bent every year. Near the very end. beat-up clothes. Even when those pitfalls are avoided. The Dinosaur Extinction project provides an example. If the contentiousness spins out of control or time creates problems as described in the previous chapter.219 understanding or to stretch to develop a bridge between alternative views. 1990.level by performing some of Rory’s suggested analyses. Somewhat unfamiliar patterns may play an important role in forcing children to stretch their understanding. shoulder length brown hair and wears earth-toned. while by the end he and Debbie had trouble reaching any common ground. its surface may end up cooler than before if it has expanded far enough. ironic commentary. Even though he is suspended. and often provides the class with witty.

On the advice of the mentor Rory assigns them (an expert on dinosaurs and ice ages working at a university). Student responsibility for work During the four weeks between their Background Information report and beginning to put their final report together. they put more effort into it than they would have had they not “misunderstood what [Rory] wanted for the [Background Information]”—they thought they had to give him the final form of the Introduction to their paper. Rory sees their project going in the wrong direction—specifically by “going informational” and just relying on reporting what others . who is willing to help. They have trouble finding any more information beyond “the basic overview of the theories. Rory’s suspicion that “maybe our introverted girls aren’t taking advantage of the resources they have” turns out to be correct when it comes to their mentor. however. Carla’s interest in dinosaurs leads the pair to choose dinosaur extinction as a topic. things don’t go as well. and show how one theory is superior. they send email to their mentor looking for library or Internet references. Although Patti has little interest in “dead animals. After this first milestone. During the data collection phase of their project. but keep forgetting to look for responses. They are both more interested in English than science and math. socializing. In addition. their Research Proposal is to choose two of the theories for the dinosaurs’ extinction.” but they are not overly concerned.” as she puts it. but they’d just as soon try to quietly get by doing as little work as possible. Patti and Carla spend the better part of their time in the back corner of the room.220 highlight of her summer was seeing the Dead’s last concert before the death of Jerry Garcia). and thus it is not surprising that their Background Information milestone is very well-written.

. But like. “Yes. He just feels firmly that students must take the initiative themselves. because like it makes us responsible for like what we do and don’t do. It’s mixed. freaking out at you. She tells me she prefers a project-based class like Rory’s to traditional classes with lectures. in class work and stuff .. “So you’re—you’re willing to take the responsibility that [you were] blowing off part of the time?” Patti says. like. But if it’s like. I don’t care. like sitting around class talking about whatever . tests and stuff..” Patti also likes the fact that “it’s a very. “Oh. I’ll actually do it... like. And like. because if someone’s like lecturing me..” She goes on to elaborate that the relative lenience is good for some people and bad for others. you get held accountable for like what you do and don’t do. labs and tests (like her Biology class was).. but I also like think that’s good. he is not indifferent.” Despite the fact that Rory is not “freaking out at” students like Patti and Carla who are not working hard during his class.” I mean. I like it that way. and take responsibility for their own actions. like. his efforts to interrupt one of their card games are rebuffed. I don’t do well. But. and testing me. .. like. “I don’t need this.” Patti says she “like[s] the freedom” and is willing to take the responsibility partly because she prefers a class that is “more laid back—you’re not always like. what are you doing? Blah blah blah.. ’cause you don’t have someone like breathing down your neck constantly. I then ask her. but not that much. Like. ’Cause like.. stressing. and like basically your grade’s on like how you work.’ Like. .” . so he tries to push them. I have no problem with it. ‘you gotta make this deadline. it’ll detract from our grade. if there aren’t like. and then I’m like. “well. Exploring Patti’s perspective as related to me in interviews outside of class is enlightening..221 have said—and also sees them getting little done. ’Cause like. I get annoyed. this is boring.. and making me do experiments. . As related at the end of Chapter 9. Like. I mean. but I guess like teachers and stuff might not see it as very good. we completely just get away. and . lenient class. it’s just like. I mean. I’ll own up to what I have to do. if they’re constantly testing me and stuff. however.

you see like. if the outcome that matters—here. She tells me that as a student you see how far you can get. I probably would have gotten like a B minus. Patti’s comments make clear why David Cohen (1988b) has described teaching as one of the “impossible professions”—because the success of teachers’ work depends ultimately on students’ actions. then it doesn’t matter really. then yeah. And like. I’ll admit I don’t work very much.” You know. Cohen further described the allocation of responsibility for success as a possible resource for the practices of professionals. but she is only willing to take as much initiative as is necessary to get what she considers a good enough grade.. most often by some measure such as test scores or grades. But to the extent that teaching practitioners bear responsibility for the positive results of practice. In such cases. ’cause like obviously you can’t pull it off. some people. I figure if you can make the grade. this means they try to adjust the grading system so that . But if I can still get the B minus and not work that much. If I like made up some of my like missing days. how much. In a teacher’s case. The prototypical example Cohen discusses is psychotherapists. which only the students themselves can control. So. I’m not working. Like. In other words.. how little you have to do to get like a relatively good grade . screw off as much. what that means is that expecting hard work and quality work from the students is a rich resource. ’Cause it’s not gonna happen. and still like. “Oh no. like. like. I don’t know. practitioners such as teachers may try to redefine success in terms acceptable to the clients on whom they depend for success. people like me. it’s not like—I’m not like. do what you. the teacher will be given the blame. whose complete success is impossible because their clients must ultimately take the actions which define their therapists’ success—psychological health for the client. In the teaching profession. I’m not the person striving for straight A’s. she is willing to take the responsibility. I’m getting a C plus at this moment.222 As Patti points out. student learning—is judged unacceptable. it does matter. yeah. high expectations become a poor resource. I mean. like. like. But like if you’re getting like a D or an F.

” But I thought. for instance by introducing and refining the milestones. and so that’s what I did. how can I give them half credit just for something they don’t have? Just because they looked? Maybe they didn’t even look. at some point the poop has to hit the fan.223 students can pass. that I’m gonna get killed. but I have to do that. it is possible for projects to end up with poor quality products despite good efforts.. and then I’m in trouble. I sat there and I went “I can’t. complain to the advisor-chairman. and I’m gonna have to start guiding this in the direction that I want it to go. He told me when he realized a large portion of that class was failing according to his standards. and they did all the things that I thought they were gonna do. analysis of that data. and many students were not producing quality work. But they didn’t have it. he must take some other tactic besides making paper grading more lenient. if they don’t have data. Besides creating risks for him as a teacher. I can’t give them all F’s. and they’re gonna come back. And they all exploded. maybe I can give them like half points for data .. complain to my boss. but I didn’t want to kill them. and conclusions supported by that analysis in order to have reports judged to be good.. and Rory was not pleased with the results. They really don’t have data. because they’re gonna explode. “What the hell are you doing here? You’re failing everybody. Since Rory does not want to compromise the terms of quality and success he’s established for projects as scientific inquiry. well. Rory was well aware that projects are an intersubjective achievement of the student groups combined with his own guidance. That was the year when he developed an adversarial relationship like the one with Debbie with a significant portion of the class. He did not want to compromise the terms of quality and success he’d established for projects as scientific inquiry—he wanted to demand that students have data. so how could I give them credit for something that wasn’t there? So I thought. either I have to . . Like. Still.” I mean. because I knew as soon as I do that. Ever since. Rory was faced with this dilemma when he first instituted projects. So. but they don’t have any data. he has been improving his support and guidance. and they’re gonna all run home.. But in the first year most of the class was not getting to that point. and complain to their parents.

It was all being done in class.. knowing that I wasn’t asking them to do anything outside of class. It’s like. in this class as long as you work as hard as you can in the class. He told me: I started honing in on the work ethic kind of idea .” You know. Students will get all the points at stake for the work grade if they come to class every day and work on their project. and before he began having the students turn in milestones.” Twenty-five percent of students’ grades for each quarter while conducting projects are made up of the work grade (and the percentage was higher in 1994-95). you know.” To address the problem I have been discussing. Rory has instituted a treaty with the students something like. You know. That kids often think they work really hard but get a C. they can make up the work day outside of class. “come to class and work while you are here to a decent degree.. “I couldn’t have worked any harder. What good is that? So if you work as hard as you can. you know.” He puts this treaty into practice with what he calls “work grades.. and you are unlikely to fail. kids often say.” These are what Patti was referring to when she said she could raise her grade if she made up missing days.. “Well. but a lack of total success mode. & Cohen. I was trying to play on the work issue. and as long as you work. even though you’re doing all you possibly can. What else can you . And so I was trying to address that issue and I was trying to use that as kind of a hook. so how could I ever get a B or an A?” So you feel crappy about yourself.. or maybe not even a failure mode. like “Don’t ask me to work too hard and I won’t cut up in your class. If students are absent. I worked my butt off in this class and I got a crummy grade. Rory adopted this idea from another teacher. So you’re kind of locked in this continual failure mode. Farrar. “Geez. OK. And the concept I was going with was. that’s a big chunk of your grade. 1985) has pointed out. and everything else probably will take care of itself. so what’s important is the work that you do. because you’ve done everything you possibly could . then you’re OK.. teachers and students are used to treaties which allow them to be more passive. and you only get a C. look.” That’s where kind of the evolution of the big chunk of the grade coming from the daily work came from . is that fair? It’s back to that.224 Work grades: A tactic for decreasing teacher and student risk As Arthur Powell (Powell. and that sitting around and talking will “detract from [their] grade. after the anger and adversarial relationships of his first project.

You don’t have to walk on it. ‘Great! Crap!’ You forget about it. students who work well at home but not during class will be punished. I think.” In order to maintain evidence of students’ work. may be unwilling to take advantage of the opportunity to raise their grade by working on their project. and Rory has changed the way he does work grades in some way almost every project cycle over the past four years to try to make it work better.” She added. On each day. and have brought along some unintended consequences. like. with no teacher being. students need to monitor themselves although they are not accustomed to doing so. Rory makes notes of what he observes the students doing. “I couldn’t [just] say well. But work grades have been difficult to implement. the work grades are meant to help students to succeed and get decent grades in what Rory recognizes is a difficult class. you know. we’re high school students. if you give us that much freedom. half. high school students have learned to depend on teachers to hassle them when they are not working: “you’re given like all of this free time. [and] got an A for work.” The final negative consequence is that Rory has to have evidence to back up claims that students do not deserve credit for working on a given day. we’re naturally going to screw up. we’re gonna like take advantage of it. treading water would probably be good enough. like. Along with the positive implications for students’ grades come some negative ones as well. We just have to learn not to. so-and-so worked. or no credit for a . ‘Work!’ And all of a sudden [when your grade suffers] you’re like. Rory has instituted the practice of keeping a notebook with a work log for each group. As Patti points out. “I mean. As Rory said. and gives them an overall plus. Problems with work grades: time and affordances of assessment practices So. One issue is that students who like to socialize at school. like Patti and Carla. In addition. Also. as students like Julie have argued. and so-and-so got a B for work.225 ask somebody to do? Walk on water? You know.

Bobby over here reading English. and so that’s not good. when you have to have a grade for students. and so.. you have to have a grading system. Because it wouldn’t be just the whole group work.259.. The time Rory spends discussing students’ ongoing work with them. So. And what I started do was tracking the groups by writing down in a notebook. you know.. you know. you know. or marking up milestones or papers they have turned in serves both a guiding function and a judgment function. And then when you’re questioned. because I think so. “you get a C. and Rory still admits it is imperfect. my quantitative beginnings. In particular.” Umm. There are times during class when Rory wanders around the . you know. so you get this” . It is often difficult to tell whether students working on a computer are doing their projects or something for fun. Rory told me . some people can just sit down and say “A. the more precise and numerical you can make it. you know. geez. Even more importantly. and I would justify what I was doing. I went through that part of my career where everything was based on numbers so I could justify it. but that’s not on science... if you’re gonna grade on. on the other hand. if you’re gonna grade work. then you have to have some way to show people what you’re—when you work.226 work day. “well you had a 97.. You know. we know from the previous chapter that Rory’s time is already at a premium.. while Susie and Sally are working on the project—and they would all say they’re working. so that’s where that whole thing evolved. A” .. “why is my grade that?” you have to have a reason for that . when—and I think everybody goes through those—you know. I think it is important to realize that assessment can afford both judgment and guidance.. But you know. and if you’re really worried about it ... [the more] you can say. The practice of keeping such exhaustive records is unfortunately time consuming. serve only a judgment function. this kind of goes back to my. Yeah. and saying what each group did on a daily basis... just give ’em a grade .. B. “you know. you can say to that kid who’s got that 45 per cent. nothing wrong with that.” just simply on that criteria for a day. ad absurdum. if you just say. Given the fact that grades are a reality that is not going away in Rory’s school and therefore his classroom. ’Cause they’re not gonna believe you. That way the whole thing can be added up and more objectively judged. Accountability. if you only had 5 more points” . you could have. “work” [or] “no work. The work grades Rory marks in his book. I want to consider them as a design constraint with certain affordances. then.

In the Earthquakes and Hurricanes projects. it becomes clear teachers should try to maximize opportunities for assessment for guidance. TJ. Julie actively resisted working every day. Amy. Rory has reasoned . In the Zodiac project. again to the detriment of the scientific nature of classroom tasks. 1979) in students’ minds. for instance. on the other hand. Part of the problem for Rory is that students’ entire grade can’t be based on one assignment turned in at the end of the grading period. Given this distinction between assessment for judgment and assessment for guidance. but the product [isn’t] everything. Mark. but blatantly ignored turning in some of the milestones. and the only result is a mark in his work grade book.” Rory wants to “accentuate the process. their focus on the milestones helped them. Peter. Julie. or else the situation is just too risky for both the students and Rory. the judgment aspect of the work grades may overemphasize the “performance-grade exchange” nature of classroom tasks (Doyle. Even though Julie and Amy were somewhat preoccupied with the performance-grade exchange. and the product. and in fact contributes to Rory’s lack of time to do assessment for guidance. and Dave were luckily more concerned about turning milestones in than monitoring their work grade. in fact. and then the opportunity to “assess for guidance” is only retrospective. Rory recognized this when he told me putting all the emphasis on the final report would imply “that you’re accentuating the product as opposed to the process. looking over students’ shoulders to see what they’re up to.” In order to emphasize the process. and Pamela made sure to come in and make up days they had missed getting work credit for.227 room. In addition. and took as much opportunity as she could to socialize with Amy and her other friends in the class while still getting the milestones done. Such assessment for judgment does not help students accomplish scientific activity in any direct way.

Seeking teacher buy-in over scientific disagreements Patti and Carla turn in the first draft of their complete research paper in time to get some guidance from Rory. This is not necessarily a problem. however. and it’s OK. with increased grading emphasis on the milestone assignments. that’s OK. One portion of the discussion is particularly interesting: Patti: I think we had miscommunication here [gesturing to paper] . Rory: Where? Patti: Everywhere. After they get their paper back with extensive commentary from Rory. Patti: But you’re grading it.. Rory: I’m digging deeper because maybe where it was mattered. Once I make these comments. Because. and milestone assignments afford assessment for guidance of student participation in scientific activity. But.” This recalls Julie and Amy’s earlier attempts to get buy-in from Rory on the graphs they made. My analysis suggests the design change of replacing the work grade with increasing importance of milestones seems promising. Rory has considered replacing the current work grades. because such discussions afford .. I’m just trying to bring more stuff out that maybe we should know. so you have to work. Even though Rory says students should ignore comments he makes on drafts if they know they don’t matter. they have several discussions of some length about it. Rory: We have different opinions. I don’t have any quizzes. the seas were flooded. how else am I gonna grade you? You know.228 you gotta show me what you can do while you’re there [in class]. The first important aspect of this discussion is Patti’s statement that “you’re grading it. as we saw in the Earthquakes and Hurricanes projects. Rory does have milestones. just ignore them if they don’t matter. But if you can’t. you can make some decisions. I don’t have any tests. which I have argued afford only assessment for judgment. Patti: It’s not clear in the book.. It’s my job to get at those . Rory: Since it’s your paper and you know more about it than I do. such actions will likely affect their grade if they don’t discuss the issues with him. I don’t have any homework. Researchers can have different opinions..

David Cohen (1988a) characterizes the dominant epistemology with the phrases “teaching as telling” and “learning as accumulation [or absorption] of facts” (p. in order to .” Rory’s epistemology of teaching and learning. 257). I’m not teaching them to memorize facts. most often with the claim. Facts you can always find. and learning is constructing knowledge and solving problems. Many of Rory’s students espouse the notion of teaching as telling to some degree. 1980) with Rory than Patti or Julie may miss such opportunities. [but] I am teaching them how to do other things. if you’re not teaching them anything. then how are they supposed to learn anything?” Well. on the other hand. is in line with Cohen’s characterization of the roots of inquiry-oriented instruction: teaching is facilitating or guiding. 1994). Opposing epistemologies of teaching and learning Rory’s statement that “it’s your paper and you know more about it than I do” relates to an epistemological conflict which sometimes causes problems in Rory’s classroom.229 opportunities for important scientific sense-making. One corollary. “you haven’t taught us anything. parents. The traditionalists’ epistemology of “teaching as telling” and “learning as accumulation of facts.” which I will refer to as the “transmission epistemology” because it implies that knowledge is transmitted directly from the teacher’s mind to the students’ minds (Pea. so students who have less “interactional competence” (Mehan. “Well. He told me that such “traditionalists” are likely to say to him. which Patti seems to espouse. and other adults can lead to problems. as I have previously mentioned. Rory recognizes that the disparity between his beliefs about teaching and those of more traditionally-minded students. has several corollaries. and it can be used to accuse Rory. is that teachers should have all the knowledge of their field stored in their heads. But the importance of students bringing such issues to Rory is not explicitly mentioned by Rory.

Joe: Talking about what? Patti: Talking about the stars. looked it up again. he doesn’t even really know. “whoops. As the teacher.. “OK. and perhaps discomfort with being asked to move away from a more passive role. the transmission epistemology meshes more smoothly with traditional teaching practices such as lectures and exams. I was wrong. and that he cannot know everything about all the students’ projects. how to do his class better .. you’re not doing anything. completely... Anything like that. like. I just think it’s frustrating. it is only natural that he look up such random facts rather than memorize them all. “nope. he’ll just be like. She says to me. and a clear understanding of the major conceptual knowledge within Earth and Space Sciences—not necessarily every minor detail.” . Debbie is a student whose anger. which Patti emphatically rejects as ineffective. Patti mentions to me in hushed tones one shortcoming she feels Rory has: Patti: I think occasionally he needs to know his information better. you know. This is the right thing. but she does not recognize the conflict. I was off by like 5. push her to ..” In the “knowledge as problem-solving” view espoused by Rory. he’s learning . Not coincidentally. whatever..” The belief in the transmission epistemology of teaching and learning that Patti and some of the other students voice. ‘well. like. so you must be really stupid.” Or something like that. Did you just start doing this?’” For instance.. the key is that he has considerably more expertise in sound scientific practices than the students. ’cause there are times when he’ll be like. how to do this class. and then that became. I was wrong.230 be deemed knowledgeable and competent. he’ll be like.” And then a couple days later. has led to problems in Rory’s experience. And you’re just like. Rory related to me in interviews that some students “lost some of that faith in that the teachers know everything.. Like. ’cause . “it seems like he’s learning at all times. Patti also finds it questionable that Rory is a learner as a teacher. “Oh. During an interview with her outside of class. specifically. that he is constantly trying to learn how to teach his class better. or something like that. this.

Julie states within Rory’s earshot that he may not have understood their report and she had to clarify it for him during a classroom conversation. Similarly. when Rory does not immediately know the answer to one of her questions about how to make a particular change to a graph in a software program. Sophia did not recognize this form of learning as valuable. how can we do it?” A second corollary of the transmission epistemology is the belief that doing science inquiry is much less valuable than telling and memorizing science facts.. she conceded “Well. in 1994-95. Patti said to me. On another occasion.” Sophia clarified.” When I pressed her. “sometimes you just want like. Another corollary of the transmission epistemology is the idea that Rory must not have told the students what he wanted in his assignments if they didn’t understand what he wanted. Her response is: I don’t like it. “Are we doing this again next semester?” Rory replied.. like they really learn in class. I would have liked that better . the implication is that Rory’s knowledge is lacking. I mean when are we going to learn something about earth science?” Despite the fact that they had begun to learn how to research and perform empirical analysis. Thus. and taking tests. later in 199596. Sophia then asked. Sophia confessed she thought “We don’t learn anything in this class. I will ask Cindy what she thinks of projects. “If you don’t know how to do it.. They do labs and take notes and take tests and everything. making up a period. proper explanation. we learn something of course.. and using the textbook.” Similarly. and I wish I was in the other class . I mean. I wish we just had a normal class like with taking notes from the board. Julie says. Like I was in here one day during second period.231 confront and at times accuse Rory. Rory mentioned at the end of the first project that some students who were disappointed with the results of their project could do something better the next semester. ’Cause they do more things. “Hopefully you’ll do a different project. “No. . Later in the year.

because there are too many contingencies.” And she felt he wasn’t telling them exactly how. Like. They gather data on tornadoes and deaths caused by tornadoes. because she had participated in one round of projects. the activity of guided participation in projects provided the opportunity to “bootstrap” her understanding of scientific research. acceptable. and construct graphs which provide evidence that although the number of tornadoes appears to have increased over the past fifty years. with “exactly . They had learned something to build on. Like. yeah. if I can like remember that. She continued. But. I’ve got it on paper somewhere. like.232 that’s what we’re here for. like. Patti told me. she works with Diane and Tom F (two other students who have difficulty during round one) on a project about tornadoes.” Because of her epistemology of learning. Looking at learning from an epistemology which values problem-solving and participation in scientific practices. what he expects. To reiterate the point I made in Chapter 5. But like I didn’t really learn that much. I learned a few details about it.. possibly how big they are. The difference was that her understanding of his instructions was more complete. despite the fact that Patti and Carla’s final report was “informational library research”— as Patti put it. .. she did not recognize that instructions on how to do open-ended projects cannot be exhaustively complete. For her second project. it “was just basically just taking information out of a book. “I didn’t learn anything” in the Dinosaur Extinction project. I see Patti learning more in Rory’s class than she herself does. learn exactly how to do things. where the craters are and like. to like. Like Julie. although she did not attribute the change to her own learning. like. saying all she learned was basic comments on it—the asteroid theory is the theory that is most. and tossing it around. She believed Rory gave them a new form. But Patti did recognize that she knew what she was doing the second time they did projects.” But the form was the same.

we like [pause] prepare for it. we have like all these tracking devices. The ambiguity manifests itself in the impossibility of teachers giving clear and exhaustive instructions to students for inherently complex and open-ended tasks. Whereas now. there are more tornadoes now than there were in the 50s or like the 40s. Instead. she tells me they have developed a “theory on it. and so they just like died. it was completely out of surprise. like. so like. Have special like drills and stuff in case a tornado comes. Joe: OK Patti: But there are less deaths now than there were back then. Patti’s ability to contribute to a scientific inquiry shows signs of increasing over time. Yeah. The inherent . Like... Both students and teachers experience increased ambiguity and risk in such settings in terms of grading. So there are more tornadoes now.” The following exchange ensues: Joe: OK. they didn’t. When like back then. or 1940-something. In conversations in class. so if a tornado hit. Summary In this chapter. Since. I have described and illustrated a number of implications that the culture of schooling has for project-based science. In an interview. our. and like give warnings and stuff. there’s been an increase in tornadoes. Does that make any sense? Joe: OK. Rory discusses with Patti’s group how they could try to support their theory with the data they have or other data. to like track tornadoes. Nonetheless. including writing research reports in the scientific genre. not as many people die... I get it Patti: So then. like. which differs from the English essays to which students are accustomed. When grading is a part of schooling (as it is in most schools in this country). classroom tasks involve to some degree an exchange of performance for grades. So can you explain it to me? Patti: OK. their analysis only goes so far as to demonstrate the trends in tornadoes and deaths.233 the number of deaths caused by tornadoes has decreased. our idea for that is the fact that we have like . as opposed to then . we’re technologically more advanced. like. but the students do not get to the point of establishing causal evidence in the time they have. 1950. So.

that opportunities for learning are compromised. Giving students daily grades for working or not has proved difficult due to the ubiquitous time constraints on Rory. Although learning will not take place if student and teacher already have complete agreement. some of which are positive. Rory has tried instituting a system of work grades. and more negative. students may become so angry and frustrated at the ambiguity and the difficulty of accomplishing a project. But they can also be tilted so far towards students sycophantically seeking buy-in from the teacher. some common ground is necessary for interaction to succeed. students like Debbie may accuse him of “making them do a topic.” They may also accept only as much responsibility as is absolutely necessary. Typical school culture is not characterized by students having as much responsibility for their actions and consequences as they are given in Rory’s class. and they may try to return the responsibility to him to reduce their risk of failure. The ensuing discussions can involve valuable scientific sense-making when they involve students and teacher coming to new understandings from different perspectives. Thus. Students’ angling for grades can push them to seek Rory out for guidance on how to conduct scientific inquiry effectively. At the same time. In addition.234 ambiguity of project-based instruction means that students’ risk of getting poor grades is increased. as happened with Debbie. Thus. teachers’ risk of giving large numbers of poor grades due to poor quality products—which reflects negatively on their teaching practice and effectiveness—increases. students like Patti may choose to do only as much as they have to do to get by in his system. that they are no longer able to reach any common ground with Rory. To encourage student responsibility and decrease the risk that students will fail. The increases in risk for both teacher and student have a number of implications. the work grade system also affords .

In The Sciences of the Artificial. the only American to receive the Nobel Prize in Psycholody. students espousing the transmission epistemology of teaching and learning may have difficulty accepting the pedagogy of project-based science. Finally.” The same students who find fault with Rory’s knowledge of science may judge scientific inquiry as less valuable than being told science facts. in this way.235 only a judgment function. Rory’s position is supported by such luminaries as Herbert Simon. without providing any guidance for the students. they may not see the value in the inquiry skills they themselves may be gaining. but instead knowing how to find needed information and use it in inquiry. . Students who believe that “teaching is telling” and “learning is accumulation of facts” may find fault with Rory because he is open about not having all Earth Science facts stored in his head. I suggest they could prove ultimately more productive without the system of work grades. Simon (1981) proclaimed that knowing in the information age has been redefined as “knowing how to find” rather than just “remembering. Since the milestone assignments afford both a judgment and a guidance function. because they perceive that they don’t recall the kinds of broad but shallow facts that they value more highly in school. Notably.

As Rogoff describes. and guide the “discovery” process into forms of disciplined inquiry that would not be reached without expert guidance. 169) By considering the projects described in the previous chapters. where students are ripe for new learning. p.” (p. not putting yourself in Introduction: A tree swaying between extremes Educational reform efforts directed at fostering project-based learning have a tendency to substitute entirely teacher-directed pedagogy for entirely student-directed pedagogy (Rogoff. unguided discovery depends on acquisition of knowledge by an active learner with the teacher remaining passive. (Brown. 1994). It takes clinical judgment to know when to intervene. This implies that they must play a unique role of structuring and guiding student activities in the classroom without taking away the students’ active role.Chapter 11 The balancing act: Coaching. Successful teachers must engage continually in on-line diagnosis of student understanding. 209). who must model. Some of 236 .” For example. Guided discovery places a great deal of responsibility in the hands of teachers. In contrast. the complexity of structuring and guiding students in their project work should become apparent. Teachers like Rory interested in fostering inquiry learning in their classes need to try to create a “community of learners” atmosphere. with all playing active but asymmetrical roles. foster. Ann Brown says Guided learning is easier to talk about than do. However. lecture-based classrooms depend on transmission of knowledge from an active teacher to a passive learner. the model of “community of learners” is based on the premise that “learning occurs as people participate in shared endeavors with others. They must be sensitive to overlapping zones of proximal development. Some researchers refer to this “middle ground” as “guided discovery” or “guided learning. 1992.

And a few. he can “feel sort of like a tree swaying between two extremes of providing students with structure and allowing them to do it all themselves. respond very easily and agreeably to the structures and supports Rory has devised. Different students in the class need different levels and kinds of support. such as Barb. Plesiosaurs: Inspiration and combustion Three juniors who sit at the middle table (labeled “B2” in Figure 1) during the first quarter of the year team up for their first project. such as Dave. or by coaching—supporting and guiding students’ work along the way. Some. and Rich. Amy. TJ. such as Julie. and how he strives to balance between the extremes of providing too much scaffolding of this sort and providing too little. In this chapter. as Rory put it. 1989). Pete. so Rory had her watch others as he gave them the test. do not seem to have received the kind of support they needed (either because of time constraints or because they rejected it). is usually quiet and somewhat mousy.” One way to conceptualize teachers’ new role in such classrooms. mentioned in Chapter 2. and Debbie. and they also end up getting different levels and kinds of support. After watching more than six .237 the students. by structuring activity as I described in Chapter 8. When Rory was going through computer competency tests. Matching the kind and level of support students need with what Rory gives them is a difficult balance to maintain. I will consider some of the coaching strategies Rory uses. Scaffolding can occur either by modeling as I described in Chapter 5. seem to be reluctantly aided by Rory’s structures and supports. and Patti. Cindy. Steve. on the other hand. Beth and Laura are both gregarious. Cindy was the one student most concerned that she could not pass. and have participated frequently in class discussions during Rory’s lectures. Brown. Consequently. & Newman. is by scaffolding student work (Collins. though.

Along the way. which he feels must be out there. since the plesiosaur is a major type. They find a couple of books with nice pictures but only “sketchy” material on the plesiosaur. Search follies During the first week of the project. . they end up discussing how the Mesozoic period is subdivided into the Triassic. Rory said she “whizzed through it” with no mistakes. like volcanic islands. which some legends say is descended from the plesiosaur. Rory sits down with them for most of a double period to help them search the World Wide Web for information on plesiosaurs. and then focus in specifically on the Plesiosaur. relishing the way it sounds. Jurassic. They try searching for the word “plesiosaur” and don’t turn up much that looks promising. Afterward. their search for background information on the plesiosaur is not very fruitful.238 other students do the exam. saying “isn’t he cute?” when she sees a picture. After one week of difficulty. but was still nervous until she finally did it herself. After toying with a couple of different topics for their project. but is quickly just as enamored of the creature as the others. But Rory points out that “sometimes you just have to go to those [unlikely looking] things. and they show anyone who is willing to look pictures of the dinosaur which lives in the sea. with Rory discussing with them the type of dinosaur and the time period to make decisions about where information on their dinosaur might be. and has a long neck somewhat like a brontosaurus.” Then they look through a number of linked pages related to dinosaurs. Cindy and Laura settle on dinosaurs. and see what’s there. and see what you can get. Beth is absent the day they make the choice. it looks like the fabled Loch Ness monster. In fact. and Cretaceous periods. I hear them repeating the name “pleee’-zee-oh-saur” slowly. Cindy knew it cold.

when Julie brought a potential research question to her. many students figured that research would be very easy. and type in their question. assuming that students’ “search methods” will be sophisticated—either using traditional means such as the library or new means such as the Web—is a mistake. It can also manifest itself in students typing all or part of their research questions directly into a Web search. Amy provided an example of this inevitably ineffective strategy in the Earthquakes project. Just plug in a “keyword” and a world-wide search would bring all the information you need right to your computer within seconds. Too bad it doesn’t work that way. and have downloaded every piece of information that can be useful for their project. Rory says what they want to do—there are two things they want to do. As Rory found out when he first started doing projects. and so there’ll be one hyperlink that will take them to someplace that has all that stuff. including all the data. Julie suggested “Is there a pattern of earthquakes as far as when they occur and where they occur?” So Amy typed “pattern of earthquakes” directly into a Web search. In fact.239 This discussion is interesting in that it provides a significant degree of opportunities for incidental learning both about science topics and the World Wide Web. When students first begin searching on the Web. Once [students] learned how to use the network. but it is also important as an illustration of students’ difficulties searching for information. They want to either go to a search page. but did not find answers or useful data sources. As Rory puts it. This can manifest itself in students like Cynthia in 1994-95 typing “hurricane” into a Web search and being overwhelmed by the thousands of hits returned and not knowing how to begin to refine her search. the introduction of the often over-hyped Web can bring problems as well as provide solutions. People often also view the Web as a “superlibrary” of sorts. so they can just use it. or they want to click on a button. but the kind of basic information on the topics students choose—what they need for their Background Information research—is often much more difficult to locate on the Web (at least with .

saying. Rory has a brief discussion with the students about the credibility of the information they find there. ‘hey. and when you get to the end. write stuff down. You know? What that reminds me of is like doing labs in other science courses. to which she replies. just follow this list. “That’s always a possibility. “here’s all the stuff you need in this little box. made up stuff .” Laura joins in: “Yeah. where it’s like.240 today’s state of the art) than in Earth Science books. that they put abstract art of a plesiosaurus on .. You know. let’s try this.” as he does with Beth. as Rory says: They want you to find [the information they need]..’ And it could be wrong. I mean. Clean up. they may not be willing to “take the time to look” and “collect bits and pieces” of useful information unless Rory encourages them. like. if that was like. Cindy. books in the school library or Rory’s personal Earth Science library ...” Boom. and you go home. legal. and Cindy asks Rory. it doesn’t matter. give ’em all the pieces they need. Once they do move to the Web. show it to them. We could like. and say “well. here’s the recipe. “I know. we found our information.” . “Really? So none of this could be like—so if we get it from here it might not be true?” Rory replies. and we could be like. make it easier.” and “let’s try this. They can’t like.” Cindy is flabbergasted: “It could be. as the Plesiosaur group has done at his urging. and Laura. For this reason. print it up. In the course of searching the Web. It is often helpful for him to sit down with them. Rory asks the students to exhaust printed sources before moving to the Web. Part of the problem may again be their experience from other classes. do anything to you. but if you like print something fake in here. “Is this just information that people put on?” Rory tells her it is. Their search turns up some pages of abstract art with plesiosaur in the title.” Cindy is worried about the implications. you’re done.

In the case of the abstract art it was from Berkeley. since they often “want to find that one book that has everything they need—the perfect resource. Rory misses the opportunity to point out that appearance in a book does not guarantee the accuracy of the information either. when they were looking for the “perfect resource” that would provide them with all the data and information they needed on obsidian and later on salt lakes. Get all of the information from like one book. but you can’t like find it. Rory talks about the fact that somebody put all the pages together. ‘cause it’s so complicated?” The group’s search with Rory for information on the World Wide Web that day does not turn up much directly . But Cindy follows up. I want a book just on that information. In this incident with Cindy. saying “And that’s something you always have to worry about. however. The students become frustrated.” She and Rory laugh at her melodrama.241 Rory agrees. “Yeah.” On this occasion. Just on the plesiosaur. Cindy continues venting frustration: “Don’t you hate the fact that it might be someplace here. but come back to the issue a couple of minutes later.” They continue their search and scanning of Web pages. and they can usually find out who it is and where they are. “I want a book on the plesiosaur. Rory does mention the strategy of bolstering the credibility of information found on the Internet with corroboration from multiple sources. Rory had stressed the idea that multiple sources would be better with Alison in Sophia the previous year. saying.” As related in Chapter 1. because it is hard to tell the editorial priorities of the publisher. Rory finds it necessary to point this out to students from time to time. and Beth laments. He mentioned questionable books about UFOs as an example of books that may be published with motives other than providing accurate information.

They seem genuinely excited when Rory tells them their report is “great” and gives them an A+ grade. Later. which describes the age of dinosaurs. but they do manage to find a couple of promising library references. After the group has completed their background information report. Thank you very much. unique features of the plesiosaurs including its long neck and arms used for swimming. they have to learn how to use the tool.242 useful. we will appreciate greatly any help you give us.” In this way. As Cindy put it.” When they talk to him. though. We have been searching for information on the Plesiosaur throughout the Internet and librarys [sic]. Rory helps Laura and Cindy compose and post a message entitled “research project on plesiosaurs” to sci. In order to find more information on plesiosaurs. Over the next week. “Right—which is why we have to talk. they are able to use the information from library books to inform their Background Information report. and then leaves them to work on it themselves. He coaches them by giving them some suggestions on the general gist.. “To find stuff you have to know all this stuff we don’t know. So far we have found general information on the appearance and habits of the Plesiosaur but we need additional general information so that we can come up with a specific research question.” Rory responds. urges them to make it clear what they have already done. or places we could search on the Internet about our topic.. Rory has a general policy of asking students to show him questions they are going to post to Usenet because he has found that they may “use [newsgroups] . he approves their final message before they send it out to the world: We are students at [Lakeside] High School doing an Earth Science project. We would appreciate any information you could send us. and what newsgroups discuss dinosaurs. As with Netscape. way inappropriately. Rory has suggested they post to Usenet newsgroups concerned with paleontology. it creates the kinds of opportunity for learning on demand that he is trying to foster.geology. and theories of dinosaur extinction. he retains the metacognitive role of monitoring.geo. which students can later take .

” and asked people to send the information to his email address.. and tell them off. and became interested in how obsidian could be different colors. and they’re looking for lots of general data. what are you trying to explore? Because there’s too much stuff out there on coral reefs. And so then the people out there either ignore them. Not only do students rarely get good information from such poorly formulated requests. it might have been coral. but they might get “flames”28 telling them to shape up and go to the library.. a student in 1994-95 sent a post saying “I have a science project I have to do. which led them to an analysis of varying mineral compositions in differing obsidian deposits. or both of those. ahh. And the kids don’t know what they want to explore. Rory recalled another post: . and how that affected the color. they’ll post something on a newsgroup when they only have a general question. coral reefs. coaching. Collins.geo. 1991). but also give them suggestions . can anybody tell me where I can find data?” Well. I need to know everything on volcanoes in one week. & Newman.geology.243 on for themselves after gaining experience.. “I’m doing a project on coral. 28 Flaming refers to the name-calling and hostility which may erupt in computer-mediated communication such as electronic mail and Usenet news (Sproull & Kiesler. In an interview. You know. or get pissed off at them and then write to them. like one kid posted something about. Sophia and Alison in 1994-95 saw a posting about “pink obsidian” on sci. ..g. Rory’s monitoring of student posts to news is in part spurred by experiences in earlier years. and monitoring. 1989): learning on demand.. we thus see examples of several strategies recommended by the cognitive apprenticeship literature (e. For instance. Brown. when some students tried to use the newsgroups as a means to avoid doing work they should be doing themselves. and so they don’t really know what they’re looking for. In addition. browsing Usenet newsgroups proved in one case to be a resource for generating a project idea. or get pissed off at them. so they haven’t developed their question yet. In the Plesiosaur group’s Usenet News post.

244 Despite the fact that Laura and Cindy’s posting is less directed than is ideal, they receive several responses by email, including one from a graduate student in paleontology who agrees to be their mentor. He gives them some references, and they write him email asking for more. After they begin to focus in on a research question, however, Beth tells me they do not find their mentors’ suggestions as helpful as Rory’s, and stop corresponding with the mentor. As Rory told me in an interview that fall, he has higher hopes for a richer relationship with the mentors, but is frustrated with what happens in many cases: ... the way kids use their mentors ... is pretty much like reference books, or search engines, and it doesn’t ever develop into a relationship where people are kind of like working together to find an answer, ’cause kids just don’t quite get it, ’cause their minds aren’t shifted to a new paradigm yet. In the first project cycle of 1995-96 I am describing in this report, student interaction with mentors is focused on the kind of searching for references Rory finds problematic, although one student the previous year, Susan, continued to exchange email with her mentor about science-related issues even after the project was over. Rory continues to work on ways of fostering such richer relationships with mentors throughout the 1995-96 school year29 . Negotiating a research proposal During the following week, the group has to come up with a focused research proposal. As discussed in Chapter 8, Rory conducts a whole class brainstorming session on research questions around the topic of wolves, a personal interest he found out he shared with Beth through their email exchange—she had spent the previous summer at a
29 For a discussion of lessons from these experiences of mentoring efforts over telecommunications

networks in Rory Wagner’s classroom, see (O’Neill & Wagner, 1996, November). Kevin O’Neill’s dissertation (O’Neill, in progress) provides a more comprehensive discussion of “telementoring” as a means of supporting project-based science, as well as empirical research on Rory Wagner’s and another teachers’ efforts at implementation.

245 relative’s out west, who worked with wolves. Not surprisingly, Beth generates a number of ideas in the course of the discussion. After the class discussion, students begin working in their own groups generating questions about their topics. The next day, Beth and Cindy approach Rory, announcing they have a question. It is “Are accumulations of Plesiosaurs associated with areas of high marine productivity?” Rory sees a number of problems with the question. Although it suggests a “doable” empirical analysis—comparing the number of plesiosaur skeleton findings in locations to fossil records which indicate high marine productivity—the results would most likely be dubious because the fossil record is spotty. The problem is, the number and location of plesiosaur fossils found is so spotty that those records may not reliably indicate the relative numbers of plesiosaurs living at those locations in prehistoric ages. Fossils do not form as easily in some locations as others, regardless of how many animals lived in the locations, and fossils are not as easily found in all locations. To avoid these pitfalls, Rory asks them to step back, saying “What drew you to plesiosaurs in the first place?” Cindy talks about their long necks, and Beth about how they swim. That reminds Rory of a comment Beth had made while looking at library books two weeks earlier. She had announced, “This [book] says they flew through the water like sea turtles, and sea turtles swim very quickly ... This [book] says they didn’t swim very quickly.” Rory had only said “hmm” at the time and was interrupted by a question from another student. The group had not mentioned swimming speed in their background information report, but Rory had apparently filed it away in his mind. Rory asks Beth “Didn’t you read a debate about whether they were fast or slow swimmers?” Beth says, “Yeah. Some of them said they were fast and some said slow.”

246 Rory suggests, “Maybe you could do an analysis of swimming motion. Like how fast they go. You would need to know how animals move and how they swim.” Rory stresses that they need not follow his suggestion, but Beth and the other members of the group like the idea. As Beth says, “it reminds me of the reanalysis of dinosaurs that they did, and whether they were slow or fast—Jurassic Park was more accurate than the old picture of lumbering dinosaurs.” Rory’s effort at making sure to leave the students room to make their own decisions here is notable. He does not want to wrest control away from students, because even though that might sometimes result in a more impressive looking end product, the process will not be as good a learning experience if they are not challenged to think for themselves. As Rory says to Julie when she complains about one of Rory’s criticisms of her paper, “It’s not like you’re a puppet and I’m trying to pull the strings.” Besides opportunity for learning through a greater level of student participation, Rory’s policy of not forcing students to follow his recommendations is part of his general policy of leaving a large amount of responsibility with the students. If he makes students follow his recommendations, students are likely to claim he alone is responsible if their efforts do not turn out well, as a way of weaseling out of making improvements. But if students work together with him in earlier stages and have a strong voice in decision-making, they can establish co-ownership (Pea, 1997) . With co-ownership of the project, students are more likely to be willing to work together with Rory to figure out productive alternatives if they encounter difficulties. Since Rory is “not driving the direction of anything, other than [laying] the framework,” dialogue with the students becomes much more important, as when they seek guidance. Rory’s policy of leaving final decisions up to students does have its pitfalls, however—most notably, students sometimes choose against a course

247 which Rory sees as particularly promising. One example is the promising research question “what color was dinosaur skin?” generated by some students in 1994-95, which they did not pursue because one of the group members was not interested in dinosaurs. A second example is the idea of comparing the similar ecological niches of elephants and woolly mammoths (despite unrelated evolutionary lines) that Tom F, Diane, and Tom M generate during this same period in 1995-96, and choose not to pursue. Following the discussion where they decide to focus on the swimming motion of plesiosaurs, the group members go off to review the relevant sections in the library books they have gathered, and Beth returns a few days later saying incredulously, “Mr. Wagner! Do you know whether the plesiosaur moved by rowing its flippers or flapping them like wings?” One of her library books states that Plesiosaurs swam with a rowing motion, and another book states that they swam by underwater flight, flapping their flippers like wings straight up and down in the water. Neither book mentions a controversy. As Beth tells me later, “I thought he was like all-knowing. That he like knew there was this controversy. But he didn’t.” Beth is looking for the answer, the kind needed for a library research project. She tells me she “had never done a project where there hasn’t been really an answer, or someone who’s already found the answer.” Rory shows Beth that her question about the swimming method can be the question in their research project—they can assemble evidence and figure out which swimming motion they think it is. Interlude: Transformative communication This exchange between Rory and Beth provides an example of a key strategy, which Pea (1994) terms “transformative communication,” for supporting students in accomplishing unfamiliar activities. Pea’s notion of transformative communication helps explain how learning and activity in Vygotsky’s (1978) “zone of proximal development”

248 (ZPD) can be accomplished. Vygotsky’s model of learning holds that learners accomplish activities with the help of more expert others in a social setting (on what Wertsch, 1991, terms the “intermental” plane) that the learners could not achieve on their own. This social activity helps learners advance their own understanding, on what Wertsch terms the “intramental” plane. Applying the model of the ZPD to teaching can prove elusive, however. How do teachers’ know where students are? And what do students’ contributions look like? For instance, when Rory is trying to help students formulate research questions for scientific inquiry, he has a dilemma: Finding the question, for me, is one of the hardest parts. I need to negotiate with them without taking over. I don’t want to give them the question. I want them to generate a question. But how do I help them to do that? There’s no clear path. What is needed is some kind of interactive process which allows the student to be an active inquirer and the teacher to be an active guide. Transformative communication is one such process, and it provide some explanation of why some paths prove productive. Pea contrasts his view of communication as transformative with views of communication as transmission and as ritual. The dominant view of communication as transmission was discussed in the previous chapter, and it tends to encourage either an active role for the teacher and a passive role for the learner, or a passive role for the teacher and an active role for the learner. The view of communication as ritual tends to encourage active participation by all parties, but in activities with already shared meanings—the generativity needed for education is lacking. So he suggests the transformative view of communication. According to this view, the initiate in new ways of thinking and knowing in education and learning practices is transformed by the process of communication with the cultural messages of others, but so, too, is the other (whether teacher or peer) in what is learned about the unique voice and understanding of the initiate. Each participant potentially provides creative resources for transforming existing practice ... (Pea, 1994, p. 288)

249 Transformative communication is achieved through mutual “appropriation” (Newman, 1984; Pea, 1992) by participants in social interaction to create meanings that neither participant alone brought to the interaction. In a project-based science classroom like Rory’s, designed to support students in carrying out their own original research, a general framework for transformative communication is: (1) Students make a move in the research process with certain intentions, limited by their current knowledge. (2) The teacher does not expect the students’ move, but understands how the move can have additional implications in the research process that the students may not have intended. (3) The teacher reinterprets the student move, and together students and teacher reach mutual insights about the students’ research project through questions, suggestions, and/or reference to artifacts. (4) The meaning of the original action is transformed, and learning takes place in the students’ zone of proximal development, as the teacher’s moves and a reappraisal of the students’ move is taken up by the students. The above interaction between Beth and Rory fits well into this framework. (1) Beth approaches Rory looking for the answer to a fact-based question which she expected her “all-knowing” teacher to provide: did plesiosaurs swim by the “underwater flight” or rowing motion? If she can get the answer, she intends to include it in her report on plesiosaurs, which she may have been seeing still as a library research project like she had done in other classes, with established facts about a topic synthesized and described. (2)

250 Rory does not know the fact Beth is looking for, nor does he even know there is a debate about plesiosaur swimming motion; but he does know that part of the game of science involves marshaling evidence to support one of several competing claims such as the ones in the books Beth had found. (3) Rory reinterprets Beth’s move, saying “I don’t know. Why don’t you have that be your research question?” They talk about how she and the other group members could contribute new evidence to a scientific debate rather than just report others’ findings. (4) Beth’s fact question has been transformed into a research question, as evidenced in her subsequent practice. As mentioned in Chapter 8, there are three key phases of projects—formulating the research question/proposal, finding the data, and using data analysis to reach an empirically supported conclusion—and of these, “the beginning of the project and the end of the project parts” are the hardest for students. The middle phase, finding data, is important, but its success seems to depend less on episodes of transformative communication than the others. I have identified key episodes of transformative communication taking place at the first and third of these phases. The Plesiosaur project and the UFO Sightings project to be described later in this chapter provide examples of transformative communication during research question formulation. The Moons and the Hurricanes projects provide examples of transformative communication at the data analysis phase. In the Moons project, recall how Rory found a claim dangling at the end of Rich and Steve’s conclusion, unsupported by data analysis: “We have come [to] the conclusion that both Titan and Earth’s moon [have] a much greater mass and density than Miranda, and that this could be why both Titan and Earth’s moon have longer orbiting time periods.” This was the first time the students had attempted to answer why the moons behaved the way they did, but the students’ claim was not clearly supported. In this case, Rory

by determining what percentage of the total number fit the shape. Rory sketched example graphs. using the data they already had. and mass.251 appropriated what the students had done—put together separate graphs of orbital period. The boys did not take advantage of the suggestion after that discussion. Rory saw that all the hurricane paths were not shaped that way. and a vertical 3-D graph of the moons’ mass. and suggested Dave and TJ categorize the different shapes and code all the hurricanes to determine the percentage that fit the C-shape. .. that they needed to “show/prove” the statement true. in his written comments. and turned in their report with no numerical counts of the shapes to support their claim that “most of the recorded storms . and the students used their own versions to support claims they made in their presentation. Steve and Rich had constructed a line graph of the orbital period for the three moons. and an associated pie chart to support their claim. and after working with the data for several weeks. had been able to come up with an intuition about relationships between variables. Dave and TJ understand the suggestion this time.” So Rory suggested to them again. a horizontal bar graph of the moons’ density. and make a claim based on the same data elsewhere—and showed them how it could be transformed into graphs more conducive to checking the relationships the students mentioned. but Rory helped them to see how they could directly check the relationships with graphical representation of two variables at a time. The students knew they could make graphs to represent single data variables. In the Hurricanes project. and perform the coding. By looking at the “spaghetti bowl” map. recall how Rory asked Dave what patterns the hurricane paths in the dataset they had constructed generally followed.. create a table. made a C-like shape. but did not know what to do with this idea in the data they had. density. Dave was able to articulate the idea that most of the hurricanes followed a “C-shaped” path.

95). such as architects. in real-time or written discussions. but he often needs to help them see how what they know can be used to accomplish scientific inquiry. In these cases. working alone. Whereas Schön was talking about reflective practitioners of design. Architects are “likely to find new and unexpected meanings in the changes they produce [in their drawings] and to redirect their moves in response to such discoveries” (p.252 In these interactions. but the important things is that both teacher and student participation contributes. Rory helps the students transform the moves they make in the research process with limited understanding into more sophisticated moves that neither he nor the students would have originally predicted. they do know important and useful things about their topic and data as they get further into their topic. 1982. To borrow a phrase from Donald Schön (1982). 103). but in this case it also allows them to engage in a conversation with each other. As Rory tries to tell the students. p. 103). but Rory and his students are likely to find new and unexpected meanings in the changes they produce in one another’s interpretations and the situation. thus leading to mutual insights. the process of transformative communication enables both Rory and his students to “engage in a conversation with the situation which they are shaping” (Schön. The activity structure sets up the students’ desire to formulate a researchable question. Rory and the students “come to appreciate and then to develop the implications of a whole new idea” (Schön. and Rory makes suggestions which help students see how the work they have done and knowledge they have gained can help them get to the . p. we can see how the activity structure for conducting projects helps Rory to support students through transformative communication. the process is remarkably analogous in these social interaction between teacher and student. or an analysis strategy that will help them to answer their question. The interactions can take place over an extended period of time.

his students. Rory helped Beth see that claims about the phenomenon of plesiosaur swimming motion need not be accepted as simple “fact” or “fiction. and return to the action of the plesiosaur project after the formulation of their research question. With this peek into the future. Again. and the activity structure work together as a system. the Vygotskian notion of the ZPD suggests that the activity which Beth and Rory accomplished on the intermental or social plane could result in learning on the intramental or individual cognitive plane. with no prompting from Rory. . Rory. Although the focus of my research is not on individual learning. After doing further investigations. Beth chooses underground nuclear testing as her topic. she suggests. 30 The interdependence involved in transformative communication described here recalls Pea’s (1992) point that intelligence is distributed. and soon encounters claims from environmental organizations and the French government that such testing causes geologic damage. In the plesiosaur project. In her next project. students learn on a need to know basis—“they won’t care [about data analysis strategies] until they have to do it.” But when they do have to do it. As Rory found out in his frustrated attempts at model projects. to achieve a higher degree of intellectual activity. I will conclude this interlude on transformative communication.” and together they figured out some strategies to attempt to independently confirm or falsify claims about the claims by assembling independent data.253 next stage in the activity structure or complete the stage they are working on more adequately30 . they can more readily recognize how the strategies Rory is trying to teach them can be helpful. I would like to point out some evidence of how transformative communication such as that demonstrated in the interaction between Rory and Beth can result in individual learning. In this case. that these organizations are making catastrophic claims without data to support their conclusions. She even goes so far as exploring the idea of making a Web page to publicize her position.

they are still having trouble finding information on the swimming motion. This series of events is remarkable considering the fact that Beth told me in her first interview she was “not a computer person” and she “learned how to use the computer” for the first time in Rory’s class. But they know of another expert on the East Coast. After her success with the paleontologist in Montana. From this woman. McNeil Alexander (1989). and is told their plesiosaur expert is on sabbatical in Cairo. She found what she was able to do after a few weeks in her .254 Digging up plesiosaurs successfully: Developing fluency with a variety of tools With a strong research question grounded in what turns out to be a heated debate among paleontologists about how plesiosaurs swim. She finds his university affiliation in the “About the Author” section of his book. and she’s an expert on ichthyosaurs. Beth tried [that expert]. but they are unable to get there by closing time on weekdays. and finds their Web site with Alexander’s email address. For weeks. and excited to talk with her . Finally. As Rory tells it. But in the second week of data collection. This person was delighted [Beth] called. She then searches the Web for the University of Leeds. Beth decides to try and contact other experts including Alexander. whom Beth calls.. Laura has talked about visiting the Field Museum downtown in Chicago. they begin having more success in tracking down useful references and experts. Beth finds out that there is indeed a big controversy around their research question. including a book entitled Dynamics of Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Giants. and then hears from him several weeks later. and she’d gone to Montana [on a dig]! So then she calls this woman in Montana. the Plesiosaur project is headed in the right direction. One day after school Beth calls the museum on the telephone.. largely driven by Beth. by R. The articles eventually lead to more useful references. in magazines like Nature. She writes him email. She gave some references to her.

Another strategy . just going—like. Going beyond the library in what way? Beth: Well. but new media in combination with old media such as books and the telephone. Beth: . however. ’cause if you [go] beyond your library [trails off] You know. You know. Rory wrote: The Internet is a lot like one of the final scenes in the first “Indiana Jones” movie. just like library search skills. Rory’s goal has clearly been met to a significant degree with Beth.” She has her first email account in Rory’s class. and it is worth pointing out that heuristic strategies such as Beth’s location of the author in a print literature review have proven useful to Rory and his students over time. paid dividends in terms of “developing familiarity. which is to get students to think for themselves and give them the basic instruction in how to find the answer to any question they might have sometime in the future. who are experts. I think I really learned that . ever. who says in her final interview. In a draft of an article about his teaching (Wagner. through her successful search efforts.. like. Clearly. who know what they’re talking [about]—you know. may not be an easy proposition. as quickly and easily as you want it. And like thinking and going beyond the library..255 project particularly pleasing since. “I never was on the Internet before. the introductory activities in Rory’s class. 1996).. just. you know. While I could do all the searches to find data for my students. figuring it out. finding what you want. or perhaps try to find all the data sites for them and put them in one convenient place. not like stopping your research at the library... Reformers such as Resnick & Rusk (1996) have pointed out the importance of helping children develop “fluency” in new technological media. are acquired skills. Who’ve written the books that are in the library . Beth demonstrates fluency with not only new media. as she said. and while everything looks stored in neat stacks and neat rows. neither of these ideas addresses the real objective of this class. Joe: Uh huh.” as Rory had hoped. The room is vast. my research for the [project] helped me in my other classes. Search skills on the Internet. Finding information on the Internet and the Web can be difficult. where the Ark is moved into a huge government warehouse for storage. along with those frustrating sessions searching for plesiosaur information. and like talking to people. you know..

just knowing what universities. and eventually track down someone who has archived avalanche data.. Andy noted the email address at the bottom of the Web page. Eventually he found a page referring to some promising sounding data.. His principle of accomplishing the project “by whatever means necessary” frees the students to work with any resources of “distributed intelligence” (Pea. language. . Rory explained to me. when she seeks out the British Museum of Paleontology’s Web site. and wrote the scientist directly. By following such a lead. culture. he started by performing a general Web search on volcanoes. For example. but was unable to access the data.256 which one of Rory’s students (Andy) suggested to Rory in 1994-95 is finding promising contacts’ email addresses on the bottom of useful Web pages you encounter. because you can search for their Web sites and then use them as a base for beginning to browse. and expertise in science. though. and museums have expertise in a given area of science can be helpful. knowing that the University of Arizona has expertise in astronomical imaging can be helpful to students.” Rory suggests this strategy to Dave and TJ in their second project of the year in 1995-96. because she finds out “they’re supposed to have a great plesiosaur skeleton. they send email to contacts found on ski resort web pages. In addition.” Beth’s episodes of search success also illustrate how Rory encourages the use of diverse resources to aid in project work and problem-solving. Beth also adopts this strategy in one of her searches. research centers. it was amazing the chasm crossed—distance. when they are searching for avalanche data. “by the end they were practically on a first-name basis with [the Japanese researcher] . Andy got some valuable help from a plate tectonics expert at the Ocean Research Institute in Tokyo Japan. 1992b) that he or they can locate or create. and then browsing through a number of the links.

You’re in charge. twenty. Rory’s allowing students to access a wide variety of resources and people does not guarantee success or “delivery” of the needed support. and whatever lab handouts and equipment they receive as resources. and networked hypermedia to tools such as search engines. so that he can become less essential to their later success. whatever. are to a very large degree autonomous. Rory himself has to find ways to facilitate students’ learning how to use and access such external resources. or telling them what to do. very self-reliant. but helping students learn how to access these resources and other sources of expertise allows a teacher like Rory who is spread thin to make a project-based class work better. I need a project. you know. and say. or monitoring.257 The resources Rory encourages students to tap range from artifacts such as traditional print media. you’re God. Um . especially other people who provide valuable expertise.. their assigned textbook. This is in stark contrast to science teaching environments where students must work primarily on their own. you don’t dial up a curriculum service. this change in orientation from isolated cognition to using any resources that will aid thinking was begun with Rory’s open-notes exam on the lectures and computer competency. and you know. And. As mentioned in Chapter 7. I need an experiment for Thursday. you’re like Mom. or coming up with things. and—what do I want to say—very self. that’s what we do. with only their teacher. And there’s nobody that comes in and helps you. videotapes. what do I do?” Importantly. because. kids. But Rory’s time spent . can be a difficult change for teachers who are used to greater control and thus a greater degree of the credit for success: there are personality conflicts. when you’re in a room with. and there are communications roadblocks. graphing programs and presentation programs to people such as scientists who read Usenet news or work on projects related to students’ chosen topics of study.. As with other aspects of Rory’s teaching. openness to such distributed resources. “OK. forty. Paradoxically. And you’re either running the activities. in that teachers in general. thirty.

Rory expresses his concern about depending on Cindy for crucial data they need for their analysis to Beth and Laura. and write up the group’s data analysis section. and some use underwater flight. But Cindy frequently hangs back in class when the others go to the library searching for information. “Should we turn in both those conclusions? Should we compare rowing to underwater flight?” Rory replies. based on our analysis they swim the same way. they can use it as evidence for which motion the plesiosaur used. Shortly after Rory becomes concerned. Group difficulties and combustion At the same time as Beth’s successes in finding information. and I’m not sure how to put it in. Beth and Laura decide to “make Cindy do something. does not understand how to talk about the plesiosaur debate... saying “you don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face. this controversy. which have similar flippers to the plesiosaur’s.” Her task is to find data on sea turtles to compare to the plesiosaur. ‘the plesiosaur swim like this .” But they insist on trying it. She says to me. turtles swim like this .’” Cindy focuses on what to put in the write-up: “What about underwater flight? We have all this stuff on it. The data analysis plan that Beth and Rory have worked out goes like this: they will compare plesiosaur fin anatomy to sea turtles’. saying. and Laura is making efforts to contribute as well.. left on her own.258 early on helping Beth and her group paid off when Beth was able to take some of the lessons and accomplish impressive research digging without Rory’s direct support. Some sea turtles use a rowing motion. Rory begins to worry about Cindy contributing to the group.” . “What you should be saying is. Beth has clearly been driving the process. If the group can show that plesiosaur fin anatomy is more like one type of sea turtle.” Then she approaches Rory. Cindy.. “the scientists came to two different conclusions.

Instead of waiting for feedback. she goes home and works late on another draft. Beth conducts a real-time “chat” with Alexander.” Rory.. That was amazing. she says she had taken his. “of course. “If they’re not the same. It is the group. to see her come in and say. and announces: “I did a new [paper]. McNeil Alexander in Leeds. With the complete research report looming. who she sees as not helping but instead hindering their progress. but it appears to have little effect. It was this really warm and peaceful blue water. I had a dream last night I was swimming with a plesiosaur.” And to see the look on her face.” Rory is impressed by the transformation the next day: . Beth finishes a draft of the paper late that night. but it turns out to be more of a description of the swimming motions of rowing and “underwater flight. who is a geneticist familiar with the Internet.” Cindy writes up an attempt at data analysis. Rory calls her out of the room. and asks her what is wrong. “And how was it swimming?” . The next morning she comes in before class.” with no data on sea turtle anatomy to compare to the plesiosaur anatomy. “I talked to R. and we were just swimming along together. in an effort to cheer Beth up.” Rory asks. The expert tells her she “sounds very knowledgeable” and provides a needed boost. Beth reaches a low point. To see her depressed and then go home and work on her own. Seeing her frustration. and turns it in to Rory the next day.259 Rory continues. Beth coincidentally receives an email message from R. and with the help of her father. And why you believe it’s more like the turtle’s rowing. though. Cindy is looking for “stuff on plesiosaurs” when they need “stuff on turtles. say why they’re not that way. lets her know he has been very impressed with her research and communication skills. When he asks Beth if she has taken a side.. McNeil Alexander in a chat. That night.

I can’t fail this class. Beth is not worried. the group’s preliminary grade is very low (again. “Yeah.” .” She continues.” Given their recent clashes. They have not added anything. it is an interesting turnabout that Beth comforts Cindy. I can’t fail this class.” Their paper is impressive in its explication of the debate and the types of motions. Oh my God. nearly hyperventilating in the back of the room. “I’ll get them to you tomorrow. It was a message.” As a result of lacking an original contribution based on data analysis. Several days later. “Is that how you think they did it?” Beth replies. she is supposed to bring in a book with sea turtle information. “Do you have that turtle book?” Cindy says. As Rory writes in his comments: “You need to have ‘turtle data’ to compare plesiosaurs with turtles. but Cindy is more taken aback. She arrives at class when first period is almost over. you are just agreeing with an ‘expert. saying “it’ll be OK. She repeats. Cindy continues her “errant” ways.” Beth begins by making the minor changes needed on the paper. but then I knew. Different group members react differently to Rory’s reassurance that they have a chance to rewrite the report and improve their final grade. so is the grade of most groups). McNeil Alexander’s line of reasoning. saying “It was flapping its flippers like wings!” Rory says. Beth asks her. “Shoot! I forgot. “Oh my God. Otherwise. as Laura describes them.260 Beth grins.’ and not doing science. somewhat tentatively. The next day. and misses the others at the library. but it has some minor flaws and one major flaw: the claim about plesiosaurs swimming with underwater flight is simply a recapitulation of R.

” You know. Beth and Laura both assess Cindy’s contribution as minimal. however. but we’re getting it back today. What!? You know.. ’Cause I was just on overload. I mean. “I can get it. And I said. you should let me know. I mean. they didn’t do anything. finals. all the group members benefit from the grade on the report. You know? And he said that he really liked it. You know. but I needed stuff on turtles. like. Rory’s strategy of rewarding the group as a whole for good work. I couldn’t like do turtles.. it was like.. “Well. at the end.. I’m just gonna turn it in how it is . it just wasn’t right in front of them. is supported by other researchers (e.” Cindy never brings the book in. But if you don’t think you can do it. he feels the excellent work of Beth especially warrants a better grade. You know. The way Rory deals with it was by slightly boosting their grade to a B on the report. Cohen. In the group’s self-evaluations.” Cindy assures her. Rory is faced with a dilemma when he grades the paper and finds that the group’s grade comes out just below a B. As with other groups.. combined with an effort to make each individual member accountable for his or her contribution. Our car’s still in the shop. And I was then. and thus her individual grade suffers.g. Like. I mean. and I was just—it was in my head that they had to do turtles. Someone can compare it to a turtle. like. Wagner can deal with it how he wants to deal with it. You know. “OK.261 Beth replies. And I’d been telling them—and like the excuse was that there wasn’t anything on turtles. I was so frustrated with my group at that time.. 1994).. and Beth turns in the paper without the comparison. Cindy. Beth tells me: I was just . You know. and Laura. Research on cooperative learning and group work in other classrooms sheds some light on the problems encountered by Beth. Mr. and it was everything. if no one gives me the information. Other means besides Rory’s chosen strategy of group . ’cause I would be madder if you said you would and didn’t than if you just said you couldn’t. I’m doing the entire report. I’m not going to the library again . even though Beth did the majority of the work.

Examples include individual performance on a learning assessment. Cindy falls further behind Beth). The problem with the latter strategy is that it prevents the students from dividing up the work and making presentations in tandem with others. One means of addressing the problem of differential participation. The differences cause considerable problems.e. 23). Beth has more opportunities for learning) and the “poor get poorer” (i.. 1984). which would match to Rory’s as-yetuntried idea of asking each student in the group to extemporaneously summarize what they have learned at the end of their project. is by assigning students roles within the group. in Complex Instruction (Cohen. and then choose one student at random just before the presentation. which is a complex and useful skill.e. and increase their opportunities for learning. Beth and Cindy’s differential contributions make sense in light of the distinctions in status Cohen describes. where “low status students interact less frequently and have less influence than high status students.. students are given roles such as “facilitator” and “reporter. Cindy is clearly a student of lower status in terms of both academic confidence and performance. and thus differential opportunities for learning in a group work setting. Another strategy used by another teacher in CoVis is to ask each student in the group to be prepared to give the oral presentation to the class at the end.” and status is defined as “an agreed-on rank order where it is generally felt to be better to be high than low rank” (p. In the plesiosaur group. 1994) and reciprocal teaching (e. Such efforts have been shown to increase low status students’ contributions to group efforts.” and trained in how to perform the roles. As a practical matter of implementation in the .. thus mediating against situations such as this where the “rich get richer” (i.g.262 self-evaluations have been used to try to foster individual accountability. For example. while Beth has higher status. Elizabeth Cohen (1994) also points out that “status factors” can affect interaction and performance in small groups. Palincsar & Brown.

One of the reasons he was attracted to group work in the first place was that students can help one another. and in fact Beth agrees. As Dave put it... research in other settings (e. must be designed and facilitated by the teacher. too.. there are ways to work around some problems. he said.. Rory still thinks it is worth it. Rory thinks Cindy and Beth both need to work on their collaborative skills. you know. and you have complete freedom within that assignment— you can accomplish it any way you want. somebody gives you an assignment.. [plus] it’s just nice to have a bunch of people in the same boat. [some] people are better at it than others.. I guess. it’d be better if everybody were better at it. or you work at a job where . .. you’ll get another idea from someone else that’s just as good.. 1989.. generally speaking. I asked her afterward what the most frustrating part of doing projects was. students do complement and support one another well—TJ and Dave are a prime example of a pair who divided up work well and collaboratively discussed many of the issues they encountered along the way. When everyone’s giving their ideas and stuff .. In many cases. I mean. Because we live in a collaborative society. Despite the difficulties often encountered fostering group work. you don’t always get your own way.. 1992) has shown that such dyadic conversation among peers fosters learning... When I asked him why. Um . a lot of times . I mean. so I [try] to just show people. and then . And you know.. working on the same thing. Roschelle. and where you have complete freedom within that. you’re your own boss.. Rory feels some struggle to improve is warranted.263 classroom. things turn out better .. and that gets into the whole area of interpersonal skills. the problem with the role assignation strategy is that it. You know. Even when students’ skills working in a group are not as well-developed as Dave and TJ’s.. and. and work with people at some point. he “really like[s] working in groups” because: it’s good to have a bunch of different opinions. you can’t always do it by yourself . we all have to interact with people..g. you think your natural opinion is good. unless you’re independently wealthy. that you can . Mehan.. Mafia hit man would be one of those .

for my data analysis. You know how abstract an abstract was supposed to be. Beyond just giving an example.” Rory tells her he was “worried about wasting paper. I had all my data analysis. though. however. but instead only the beginning sections. Beth does not have any model for the problematic data analysis section.. when he said abstract [in the handout describing the report format].. I want things done my way too. but then I didn’t understand.. I don’t know how to do a science project.. When Rory asks the students for feedback about how he can help them accomplish projects more successfully at the beginning of the following cycle. saying “but I also have to say. Beth’s suggestion reminded Rory of his own masters thesis: I was thinking about my thesis and how my advisor gave me a copy of a similar thesis. The whole time I used it as a blueprint for what I was doing.. and wasn’t sure people would use it. ’Cause I had all the information.” Someone like Beth clearly would. I found that it really helped me see what he wanted. Thus.” She continued. and Beth tells me that Rory’s distribution of the beginning of a sample research report from a project is extremely helpful to her: the rough draft .. and then there was like two sentences on what he wanted from the abstract. ’cause I looked at the sample . like I figured out. wasn’t what he wanted.264 and unhesitatingly she said “my group.. but she would like to get better at working in a group. ’cause I’ve never done a project like this. Using a sample write-up as a model Beth is able to improve the Plesiosaur research report to some degree. it was on like hurricanes or something. you know. that the abstract in it was on like.. I just didn’t know how to put it in the right form. and then. I just didn’t know .” By providing more context and making explicit the goals that ... like. I’m a very . Rory considers annotating it with “the text on 2/3 of the page and comments on 1/3. But what really helped me was. or volcanoes. I had all this information. Beth suggests it “would be a good idea to give an example paper. Or. But the sample paper that Rory had distributed is not a complete report. And I had all the information I needed. Or one of those things . And I’m the kind of person that really likes that I can compare things and go do it right. You know.” She finds it hard. just changing words and terms where it made sense.

like. The strained relationship between Beth and Cindy comes to a head in a shouting match one day after Beth and Laura return from the library again and find Cindy in the classroom by herself.” Rory’s excitement about and interest in the plesiosaur project is relevant in light of the fact that teaching may become routinized and teachers lose interest in the material intellectually. draining. Beth complains that Cindy hasn’t done anything. Sarason (1971) refers to a survey of experienced teachers. and “it’s really nice when you’re teacher. doing nothing. an annotated example could perhaps make it easier for students to use the example as a tool for case-based reasoning (Schank. They are able to divide up the work for the presentation and get through it. 163) One reward teachers can get is involvement in intellectually stimulating problems. 1990). is excited with what you’re doing. After the rewrite of the report is done. to sustain the giving at a high level requires that the teacher experience getting. while Cindy complains the group doesn’t talk. sense of mission.. Thus Sarason calls for efforts to make schools a more interesting place for teachers as well . however.. 163). Postscript to Plesiosaurs: Scientific interest and professional collaboration for the teacher Beth told me after her project that one of the things she really liked about Rory as a teacher was that he “got as excited as I got” about the plesiosaur project. He goes on to point out that “teaching is giving.265 are being met with the text in each section. The annotated example report is a promising adddition for the future. p. the group still has to prepare a presentation to the class. taxing affair that cannot easily be sustained .” and constant giving in the context of constant vigilance required by the presence of many children is a demanding. excitement. (Sarason. Laura tries to moderate. in which “without exception those who have been teaching for five or more years admitted that they no longer experienced their work with the enthusiasm. 1971. and challenge that they once did” (p.

and he’s helped dig up 3 of them.. Rory convinces another group to work more on the plesiosaur. He asked why they were interested in the sea turtle comparison. Like many students over the three years Rory has been allowing students to choose their own research topics. Bruce.. I just realized he was the same person . UFO Sightings: Balancing student voice with teacher advice The table to Rory’s right (labeled “A1” in Figure 1) and the adjoining computer are where Bruce. Rory experiences the rewards of thinking about intellectually stimulating problems in the Plesiosaurs project.. Rory had been frustrated at all of the previous efforts. Then I got the journal with the articles he was talking about. had already referred me to Anderson . Rory: Yeah. I guess he’s the number one authority in North America on this .. Rory’s access to the Internet. and suggested checking some Robinson stuff ... plus Everhart’s wife already has a Plesiosaur discovery. e.. and begins to become involved with the wider intellectual community studying this aspect of paleontology. including hers. with short brown hair. [in response to a Usenet news posting he made about Plesiosaurs] . Cheryl. Rory tells me during the third quarter: Rory: I received email from this guy Kenneth Anderson..266 as students. et al. and Sylvia spend most of their time. It’s wild.. because the students had been unable to design a . and Sylvia express an interest in UFOs and aliens. Cheryl. In fact. Cheryl is an outgoing senior who is dramatic in her manner. combined with working on diverse and unexpectedly interesting questions like plesiosaur locomotion. skinny. blonde-haired senior who is graduating early in December. quiet and somewhat rumpled junior. and I realized that Mike Everhart. Bruce is a tall. Thus. a paleontologist/biologist I had spoken to.g.. I responded to ask him what the references were. 1992): teachers are generally isolated from interaction with other adults. helps overcome another common problem with schools pointed out by Sarason (and others. Sylvia is a tall... which is not surprising as she is involved in theater. to help sustain teachers’ work.. during the following quarter. Schwab. Joe: You have an inside track on the plesiosaur community ..

Um . the question is. maybe I can do it better. but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t work if you did it.267 research project on UFOs that relied on empirical data and argumentation. if it’s part of earth science. we can say. even though I might know that maybe there isn’t a good way to actually come up with a project. is—if there’s any way that you can do it. And so I have to let you explore. I’ll generally let you go with it..” And so you say. it gets very iffy as to which direction you go with that. since he maintains that he cannot predict all the promising avenues students might uncover or generate. Motivational benefits of openness to student ideas The reason Rory makes a conscious effort to remain open to what may seem at first outlandish ideas from students is that it provides motivational benefits to the students when they get to work on something they are interested in as well as when they have more ownership of their projects. I have no problem with that.” One example of how a project that appeared problematic at first worked out is Andy and Rob’s project from 1994-95 on “controlling the movement of the earth’s continental plates” at a location on the San Andreas fault. Now. and it didn’t work. In the class discussion about “How to do a project. even if I think that maybe it’s not gonna be successful. But it’s OK. [hesitantly] It’s OK to start. Now. that you wouldn’t think of. essentially. And that’s the beauty of this. or they did do this when they should have done this. that’s a possibility. Patti: But if it’s done in the past.. it didn’t because they didn’t do this. “Kids can come up with some interesting projects . and this is frustrating to people.. and he said he would have rejected the idea in his first . “well wait. he decides to let the students run with their topic. so I have to let you explore it. ’cause I don’t know that you can’t do that. Let’s say somebody did a project in the past. Because people can do things that I don’t know they can do.. “well. like last year.” That would be OK. Despite his misgivings. ’cause it’s astronomy. to see if it is. and it didn’t work? Rory: You know. Because I’m not 100% sure it’s not going to be successful. ’cause I don’t want to discourage [trails off] The thing I do. Trying to stop plate movement seemed silly to Rory.” Rory addressed the issue of students’ work generating unpredictably promising paths in an exchange with Adam and Patti: Adam: Can we do like the possibility of life on other planets? Rory: The possibility of life on other planets. maybe by looking at that project.

et al. Having the students work on problems directly related to their interests is one motivating strategy. but he decided to let the enthusiastic group try and develop their idea. et al. because all you hear is the teacher’s voice. & Gurtner. Mumme. you know. how do you engage them in that conversation? ‘Cause they’re not. to pull things out of kids. 1991.. Woolverton.268 year. et al. they’re talking about verb tenses. and they’re like reconstructing. and even his own class when lectures or videos are not well-received. they hadn’t read it last night. it’s like a whole discussion table. you know. In contrast to some other classes Rory sees at the school. sometimes I hear. and they ask their friends before class what it was about. like “they’re” and “their”—where do you use this one. but only one . Rory tries to address all these aspects of motivation with his project design.. Blumenfeld. And it’s funny. but it is supplemented by other aspects of project work. and Lepper. Other proponents of project-oriented instruction (e. giving students a greater sense of personal control or voice in decisions is recommended by some researchers concerned with motivation (Blumenfeld. and I listen to the classes going on across the hall—the English classes—and it’s just like. he wants to get the students engaged. it’s funny. or he’s trying. and they’re talking about the parts they read last night.. also point out the need to balance a sense of challenge for the students with enough self-confidence that they can meet the challenge to remain motivated. or when do you use that one? Or they’re having discussions about. 1991. and they’re watching a video. It’s like a discussion.g. and everybody’s in a big circle. they’re like guiding it.. how many of those kids are really watching this video? Or. and hear their real voices: You know. 1895) have pointed out the motivational benefits of project work. and it’s like— you know. a class discussion about a novel. Dewey. For instance. sometimes I sit . these kids are sitting there—first of all. or words. and learned about how structures can withstand shearing stresses based on structure and the material from which they are made. and “what do you think about this?” And “what do you think was the main part about that?” And I’m thinking that.. and the teacher’s up there. you know. et al. I just wonder sometimes. as she’s trying. 1993) Blumenfeld. They ended up doing an interesting inquiry in which they determined the size of historical earthquakes at that location. Lepper. they’re doing Romeo and Juliet. I sit and I listen.

Or this time we’re doing volcanoes. stress was the word that popped into my head. Um. and so there might not be enough resources. but there’s a whole lot of different things that I’m trying to help people find... which we can do here. or all oceanography books. So you could be doing plate tectonics. because. because you’re kind of focused on the same topic. And then if I have three different classes. basically. I guess is the idea. because sometimes you can’t find resources to help people out. Or. But. Maintaining student motivation is not the only relevant concern. as usual. people can share resources that way. As a teacher. But then everybody’s trying to glom the same books. it creates a lot of—I don’t know. do you wanna give project topics out? And say. you know. it’s a very weird thing. “OK this time we’re doing this. that’s helpful in your resources. as he told me: . and have them in the classroom. You know.269 person is discussing. the teacher’s motivation matters as well. Rory himself finds the fact that his students are working on so many different topics at once motivating... Which is good and which is also frustrating. in that you can bring in all geology books. maps. if you can borrow them from the library. since everybody’s looking for the same thing. there is a tradeoff involved in the design decision to give students a high level of control over the decisions in their projects. it would be easier for him to manage resources. or something. and [help] people.” You know. poor choices and misunderstandings If Rory weren’t so open to students working on different topics.. teachers have to ask themselves: how do you structure doing a project. or project topics? You know. unless you’re comfortable with all of those topics. have more to bring in. you know. but thinks that everybody’s discussing. You know? I’m talking about 10 [different topics in a class]. It helps everybody. and I’m doing dinosaurs. you’re gonna find yourself not able to support . What it does is. Pitfalls of student ownership and control: Resource use. I find it interesting to . Now. there’s going to be some overlap in topics. so that the teacher then can narrow the search for resources to a certain topic. and somebody else is doing nebulas .. As he said in an interview. Everybody in the class is gonna— every group is gonna do a project on that. because then I’m not just talking about “volcanoes” for 10 weeks. but I don’t know that it is—for the teacher. the opposite extreme would be to have—which is what I do—is to have everybody do whatever they want to do. and maybe bring. to have to jump from all those different categories. if you’re on the Internet. His interest level is higher with such variety.

so it is a less ideal option. in the case of the UFO Sightings project and the Black Holes . If not. In addition. have a diverse enough background to do that. so they could help one another better. and Tom M were considering doing something on woolly mammoth extinction or how the woolly mammoth and the modern-day elephant occupied similar ecological niches. or know when they’re on the right track or not.270 some groups. On the other hand. At the end of the Woolly Mammoth project. and there is less natural opportunity for cross-group collaboration and pollination of ideas. Rory thought the latter idea was much better. He could still have them work on the same topic. provides even more opportunity for the majority of students to hone their search skills. but Diane and Tom F’s preference for the former led them to pursue it. he would remove the opportunity for students to learn those skills. Lepper.” In Rory’s class. Opening up to so many topics. then. decisions about topics and research questions fall into this category. But if Rory did that. as previously mentioned. perhaps. Diane. In some cases. means that they are free to make decisions the teacher does not think will be best in the long run. you know. (1993) mention. giving the students real choice on matters that are fundamental to their work. To address this problem. such as the Woolly Mammoth and Barb’s UFOs & Aliens project. you steer away from that. So hopefully. as Lepper et al. Rory can see in retrospect that they “got derailed in the beginning” from an idea that probably “would have come out better” than the one they chose. or give them suggestions. Tom F. So. Rory’s suspicion that the project will go badly is borne out. you know. say expert tutors limit student choices to instructionally irrelevant choices and situations “in which the tutor is not certain what would be best for the student. but it means that he is less able to support some groups’ topics well. limiting the topics that students could work on would increase the number of resources the teacher could bring in or find on the Internet ahead of time. That’s not a problem. et al. teachers. as Rory has done.

it is impossible to tell. students may once again fail to “hear” Rory’s recommendations about topics to the degree he intends. but if I had told you not to. and can’t until they understand the context better. I would have been wrong. Another problem is related to the discussion in Chapter 10: students who are unaccustomed to being given key choices may not realize that their teacher would actually let them pursue a course that might not work out well. Sylvia is horrified to find later in the UFO Sightings project that Rory discouraged the group from choosing the topic they did. and Marie’s group all from doing UFO-related projects. Rory discourages Barb. Rory: Yeah Jane: Why didn’t you tell us? [i. ideas that Rory suspects will be problematic. As the mixed success of the projects indicates. Rory and I have discussed this in interviews: . Of these groups. result in successful projects. Near the end of the project.271 projects. These are examples of selective hearing: Rory tried to discourage them early in the project. Similarly. For instance. In a closed-ended curriculum or lab. it is clear beforehand what will fit the recipe. the problem. This is because the students don’t really know what they are getting into at the beginning.. and he discourages Adam and Jane from doing a project on black holes. the following exchange takes place: Barb: I picked a hard topic. as Rory points out. You made something out of it. Cheryl’s group. that’s why I try to discourage people from doing UFOs and Black Holes Adam: But there’s more on black holes. the only one of the students to heed his warning and switch topics is Marie. Thus. but that doesn’t have the same weight as it would later. Rory: Yeah. why didn’t you tell us not to do black holes?] Rory: I try to subtly steer you. but in open-ended projects. because they had been tried unsuccessfully by numerous students in previous years.e. and I wouldn’t have thought you would. with starting from students’ interests is that it is “awful hard” in many cases “to transform something you are really interested in to something you can do” as scientific research.

things like that. that same project. As Rory described it. you wanna kind of lead them into that. .. but even though it is often messy from scientists’ perspective to have students involved in the whole process. or forever. or the five major industrial cities of North America. pick Peoria. perhaps comparing a large city with several smaller cities in the same climate area or nearby. “I don’t think we can do that.. and will be for a long time. and Chicago. The difficulty and pitfalls of student participation in the whole process of research has been recognized by a number of student-scientist collaborative efforts. do this as a project. Transformative communication can prove useful in maintaining this balance between student ownership and the teacher finding ways to guide students in potentially promising directions. and that’s where I have trouble still.. which is negotiating. Galesburg. kids wanna [study] the effect of the greenhouse effect on the safety and the well-being of the civilization of the earth for the next thousand years. And sometimes—[and] this gets in to the negotiating thing—sometimes they get real close to something. I mean. and . sometimes [students] come up with things that are really creative that I would have never thought about. something similar to that. which then lead me to think of other things that might be doable. Edelson. it’s like. Rory wants to ensure that students participate in such research design decisions so that they can learn about research design. you know. or have a neat idea. Again.272 . and you’ve got different size cities. or.. You know. so then. “keep projects focused. as opposed to solving the greenhouse problem. You know. and helping kids either turn their idea into a legitimate project. and compare temperatures or whatever over a period of time. Rock Island. to see if all the effects of the weather are the same on everybody. We’ve talked about this. that brings [me to] a skill that I’m working on. as I have been stressing. Gordin & O’Neill. you know.. and kinda different places. it is not a matter of the teacher simply telling the students what to do. that’s where I get into my dilemma of [taking over and saying] “Well. how do you turn that into something that is doable? Sometimes they do it.” You know. For effective teaching and learning.” So you have to focus that somehow. sometimes I can do it. Here’s what you should do. in press). Instead of proving the greenhouse effect.” I think is probably the bottom line on that bit of advice. the same latitude north. it is educationally significant (Pea.. however. And that’s hard. since both parties make crucial contributions.. Gomez. show how the greenhouse effect has affected Chicago. Obviously. because it—you know? It’s brainstorming. or something like that . or how to focus what they have into. . but it’s not doable.. but you’re talking in a local area. but not that far apart. Fishman. you know.

Two days after he gets the Background Information reports.273 An example is provided by the way Bruce.” Given the problematic nature of UFO projects in the past. and other known phenomena. the interaction with the . In their interim report of background research . the only official study of UFO sightings put out by the US government. Rory says to me before class. Along with the other groups. before deciding on a specific research question. Sylvia and Cheryl’s project moves from being a project about “whether UFOs are alien space ships” (just as Barb’s started out and ended up) to a project about confirming or supporting natural explanations of UFO sightings. Bruce and Sylvia are obvious candidates for providing with extra support. Rory attempts to initiate a similar discussion with the Dinosaur Extinction group. So during class that day. he and I discuss the fact that Condon’s analysis took an empirical approach based on supportable or refutable claims about alternate explanations for UFO sightings. We are both intrigued by how Condon was able to take a scientific approach to a problem surrounded by so much hearsay. As mentioned in Chapter 9. Rory initiates a discussion with the UFO Sightings group about potential research questions. “I should watch out for groups that need support instead of just waiting for it to become a problem. Cheryl. Condon and his colleagues claimed UFO sightings could be explained by meteor showers. the UFO Sightings group begin the project by collecting and synthesizing background research on the topic. rocket launches. In contrast. and Rory and I are both intrigued with the group’s description of the Condon report. they mention the socalled “Condon report” (Condon & Gillmor. In our meeting before class. such interactions initiated by Rory are relatively rare. but his efforts are thwarted by lack of student receptivity. On the same day. 1968). I think I’m trying to back off because I don’t want to give them a topic and make it my project.

. “Right. instead bringing up the description of Condon’s analysis in the group’s Background Information report.” He gives them the example of the cold fusion debate a few years ago.. they couldn’t duplicate what they said .” Doubtful.. “I don’t think there’s any way to prove it unless they saw the alien in there and they waved at them. and sits down with them. Cheryl sees Rory’s project at this point as essentially the same as an extensive report for an English class. saying. saying. But when other people tried it. Say they said it was a meteor shower. Rory responds. Rory does not directly address Cheryl’s confusion at this time..” As mentioned in Chapter 6. That’s another thing people do in science . That’s the problem. Shortly after completing attendance and answering some procedural questions about the research proposal assignment. others check it . “You could verify what somebody else has done. these guys said they had created cold fusion in the lab. once someone says they’ve proved something. and Sylvia. she begins to grasp the importance of using empirical data to support a claim. “OK. Bruce.” Rory agrees. and then points to how this could be applied in their project: . He continues. Rory suggests. and serves as another example of transformative communication. you guys. “I don’t see why we can’t write a report on it if people have written whole books on it.” to Cheryl..274 UFO Sightings group proves pivotal in formulating a specific research question.” Cheryl pipes up. In science.. where the meteor shower was. Does it match the same spot? If the sighting was here [points one direction] and the meteor shower there [points another direction] the government’s explanation could be wrong. “Any ideas on how?” Bruce says. As time goes on.. what do you want to do?” Bruce replies. . “We want to show UFOs are alien space ships.. such as the “Junior Theme” she had done the previous year.The idea is to verify the government’s explanations. That’s the only evidence there is. Rory says. and when and where people saw the UFO. You could look at the date. “OK.

the students originally present the Condon Report as relevant to the history of the UFO debate. starting with the submission of the report by the students and continuing with the discussion in class. and thus something to be cited. Cheryl comments “I think I’m gonna turn Amish. 4 community libraries.” Instead of high-tech resources. I will not describe the rest of the UFO Sightings project in much detail. this sequence of interactions. In frustration near the end of the project when they are trying to assemble their paper in a word processor. In addition. and Sylvia do not pick up on the technology as quickly as Beth. and the Internet. they choose four UFO sightings from the 1960s described in the Condon report. In this example. Rory shows them they can treat the study as the seeds for the next phase of the activity structure: a research proposal to independently confirm or falsify the previous research. The independent confirmation is based on printed data sources found . and on one sixth of the days only one student was present). Rory and the students create a new meaning for the citation: the seeds of a study intended to provide independent confirmation or falsification. that this research formulation succeeds despite the fact that the group is “dysfunctional” in terms of attendance (at one point. can be seen as another instance of transformative communication. finding the Condon Report eventually in the Northwestern University library.275 The students decide to run with the idea. on only one half of the project days were all three group members present in class. and try to independently confirm or falsify the Condon report’s explanation. after striking out at the school library. For their final research report. The students refer to some research in their Background Information report. I hate computers. however. intending it as an example of what is known and has been reported about their subject. Thus. Through their interaction. Cheryl. Bruce. I will note. the group almost exclusively uses the library.

a daily weather book (Thomas. some projects don’t turn out well. who worked on the Woolly Mammoth project. Heather in 1994-95 told me that “the second project is going better because we understand Rory’s expectations better. The group members chose geysers as their topic and built on some of the ideas the group the previous year did not finish. “the strongest guy” in the group was Mark. who worked on the Zodiac project. Repeating the cycles Despite Rory’s best efforts to support projects through the activity structure punctuated by milestones. They could not confirm or deny the Condon report’s assertion that a rocket launch explained a fourth sighting. Kevin and Alex did an abysmal project on UFOs during the fall. Surprising both Rory and myself. Mark. and they gathered data and did an analysis of dormancy patterns in geyser . and could have been seen in that location. the data I have suggests that the repetition of the project cycles allows some students to improve who have trouble the first time around. but made significant improvements in research formulation and data analysis during the second round when they did a project on geyser eruption patterns in Yellowstone National Park. Although I did not carry out detailed observations on the following two project cycles of the 1995-96.. teamed up. just as the Condon report claimed. 1990) confirmed that a scheduled re-entry of satellite Agena into the Earth’s atmosphere occurred at the time an airplane crew reported a UFO over Mexico. and guide students’ work through transformative communication.276 in library searches: a nautical almanac (Casey. et al. Later in 1995-96.. For example. 1989) confirmed the position of a planet in the exact location where a UFO sighting was reported. NASA launch records (Stanford. et al. and Tom F and Tom M. He worked very consistently.” During the same year. 1979) confirmed that the local conditions matched those associated with mirages caused by refraction through warm. dry air.

who had such trouble finding a partner who she felt was contributing well. And then. some kids just don’t have much chance to succeed in Rory’s class.. the simple repetition may help more than the way he explains what he wants. who worked on three different projects that ran into trouble the first time around. you get the best grade on that. it’s a pretty good class. anything Earth Science is related to—stars. there’s not much he’s doing wrong at all. and had told me she would probably work alone. “This is due then. Also later in the year. ‘cause everything. Patti: Right.277 basins that lay adjacent to one another. data and analysis is probably one of the hardest things. The two of them did a project on why Saturn has more prominent rings than the other big planets. and stuff like that . At the beginning of the project in the third quarter. Patti: So. This is due then. Beth. like. We didn’t know anything. Rory asks the students for feedback on how they think projects could be improved. Like. But like now we have a better idea. easy. “OK.. background information is basic. that’s similar to what you do in other classes. at this point. entailed in like each subject.. But like at the very beginning. Diane. Like. Patti. For the final project. asked Mark to work with her since he had done such an impressive job. Nonetheless.” Excellent. but for many students. did the interesting project about the relationship between the number of tornadoes and the number of deaths caused by tornadoes per year (mentioned at the end of Chapter 10). Joe: That’s the most similar. pick a topic. and we pretty much know what he expects. But then we were like. like. when we did our first project. when you have a basic background of like. you didn’t exactly know what was. project..” And like. Joe: Yeah. We talked about it in an interview: Joe: So. Two prime examples from this class are Cindy and Barb. it was like a little obnoxious. it’s not bad. And like. and Marie. you know.” Rory tries to. as it stands. Both of them . ’cause now we like know what we’re doing. basically. Patti saw the second project as much more manageable than the first one. Here you go. like. Like. . so. are there any other things that you think he could do that would be helpful to help people to do their projects? Patti: No. and Pamela asks him to “be more specific what [he] want[s]. And so.

I don’t know how to do things this way . and not just synthesizing known facts: Joe: What are you up to? Cindy: I’m doing volcanoes. I have a conversation with Cindy in the middle of her volcanoes project. that shows she still doesn’t understand projects as involving making original contributions. but I wish it was more like a normal class. I can’t focus on that during class. where they “do labs and take notes and take tests and everything.278 could use more structure and guidance than they receive in Rory’s class. “I feel like this class is a waste of time. well. sort of.. Mostly I’ve got this information that I have to put together. This could involve offering such students project ideas.. Joe: Do you have any data on it? Cindy: What do you mean? Joe: Like numbers of eruptions and stuff? Cindy: No . I feel like I don’t learn anything. all around the Pacific ocean basically.” She also says. for instance from the list of promising questions Rory has been accumulating for several years.. She continues to have procrastination problems. We then have the conversation referred to in the previous chapter about wishing Rory’s class were more like the other teachers’. and now I have to sort it. Joe: What about volcanoes? Cindy: Volcanoes in the Pacific Rim. Like I come in here and we’re just supposed to work on our projects. Even more support could be provided if Rory were to recommend such students work on questions for which he knows data resources are available.” The question this begs is: what can be done to address the needs of kids like Cindy? One possible design change is to adjust the level of structure available for students on their second or third time around. Some people like it better [this way]. and does not seem to be understanding project work any better.. Joe: And where have you gotten to with it? Cindy: I’ve collected all kind of information [shows me a pocket folder]. I wish we kept doing things like we started. as another .

the “impossible task” of teaching becomes more difficult. the complex work teachers perform as facilitators and guides attempting to maintain this equilibrium for project-based student work is left mysterious. If we imagine a tree swaying between these two extremes. such as questions of fairness given the deliberate differences in difficulty of such projects. she had much less opportunity to become accustomed to new practices without failure in project work. The examples detailed in this chapter are intended to show how it is possible to guide student work just enough to maintain that equilibrium. Conclusion Project-based science teaching and learning involve complex role changes for teachers and students. Since each student and group requires a different level of structure and guidance to maintain equilibrium. When she was confronted with the computer skills exam.279 CoVis teacher does. Such a strategy could undoubtedly introduce or exacerbate other problems in the system. But to the extent that this strategy could be made workable. who is uncomfortable with new practices. Moving too far in one direction or the other compromises both motivation and learning. maintain equilibrium so that students remain challenged and have maximal opportunities to learn. In other words. the goal is to maintain equilibrium. The framework of transformative communication provides one productive strategy teachers can use in the role of facilitator. Too often. it would provide a leg up for a student like Cindy. In this chapter. so that the tree does not fall over. The Plesiosaur case and the UFO Sightings case. she had an opportunity to get more comfortable by watching others perform successfully. I have described some of the complex work performed by Rory to try and maintain a balance between the extremes of highly structuring student activity and leaving it too open. among .

however. and even so. In particular. students could look for scientific debates like the Plesiosaur locomotion controversy or the explanations of UFO sightings (and also the question of whether a new object identified in space is a black hole. both of which Adam pursued for his projects). Such debates may spark student interest and sense of ownership. the results can be unexpectedly impressive when Rory and the students are able to maintain a balance between openness and guidance. and that I had to like figure it out.” Obviously. “I really liked just—it was sort of just like a mystery . As we have seen in this chapter.. and demonstrate to students that science involves research and argumentation that they as thinking persons can participate in. and the debate about whether Pluto is a “proper” planet.280 others. Several particular directions toward which teachers can steer transformative communication became apparent through the examples detailed in this chapter. As Beth put it when I asked her what the most interesting part of her project was. Rory could ask students to look for scientific claims during their Background Information research that they might like to question or see if they can independently support during the later phases. . Students need to find debates for which they can get and use empirical evidence. teachers can steer the difficult task of research question formulation toward independent confirmation or falsification. In addition. This is a potentially important leg up for students having trouble formulating research either because their topic is difficult or because they lack confidence. latching onto scientific debates is not a foolproof recipe for success. To aid in this process.. they may still encounter other pitfalls along the way. show how Rory uses transformative communication successfully to help students accomplish projects more sophisticated than they could originally conceive. as the Dinosaur Extinction and UFOs & Aliens cases exemplify.

So anyway. I will start this concluding chapter with a story from Rory. “Mr. Like any change from familiar practices. It’s hard and risky when you first start.” So now I find out I was afraid they’d think I was an idiot who didn’t know what I was doing. we were reminiscing about the territory he’d covered. I got out there and just started mowing it. and I do different patterns. so I wouldn’t have to turn too sharply. it gets better. One day near the end of my time in his class. If you do it the same way it starts to wear grooves . And I try to do it differently every time. When we first moved into our new house. and the whole time these people thought I was an expert! Doing projects has been sort of like doing that for me. trying project-based instruction can seem a risky and discomforting proposition. teaching or otherwise. Then I imagined all the people in the neighborhood thinking what an idiot I was. when we were going to be gone out of town. 281 .. I asked one of the neighbor kids to mow the lawn. and they’d see if I did a crappy job. But I can’t do all those fancy patterns you do. Before he would agree. I would sort of do these big loops. and tried to figure out the best way to do it. because I’d never done it before. I sort of went around in these different patterns.. But if you keep working on it. I’ve gotten a lot better. I have conducted this study and assembled these tales in hopes of giving other teachers and others interested in reform places to start. I got a riding mower. I was really nervous and a little embarrassed about mowing the lawn. That’s the thing. he said to me.Chapter 12 Retracing our steps and considering their implications Looking back As is only fitting. because I read somewhere it’s better for the grass. you can’t just turn on a dime like with a push mower. I try and make it as efficient as I can. Wagner. So anyway. Recently. going diagonally and in these loops. when he told me: I make this analogy to mowing my lawn. and you’re a little embarrassed. and everybody could see me doing it. I can do it.

I can walk in there with no lesson plan and I can take control of that class with no problem.” just as students have.. walking me through a project I think would help me.” You have to give them some kind of direction... and so forth. It’s an unknown entity and you’ve got to keep in mind that you’re asking the teacher to go from something that they really know very well—I can lecture on any topic you want in Earth Science any day. The kids were supposed to take a position.. .. There’s a delicate balance there.. You can’t have kids bouncing off the wall. Most of us teachers. This work is intended to provide a model to help other teachers see what a teacher does to support and guide project-based activity. There was no real direction as to.. You have . do research basically and then come up with their finding. if you will—I’m more of a facilitator or the coach or whatever terminology you want.. and the kids now are . I would have needed to go through step by step I think how these kids did these specific projects and examples .. and.. This teacher’s point that in our society. more student-directed. she said I think I needed to run through a good model . I didn’t see much on [the activity description] as far as how teachers are directing the kids and how are they keeping them on task in the classroom. teachers have been trained to be “traditionalists.. When you step back. that have been trained to be traditionalists. one experienced teacher talked about the problem of implementing open-ended curriculum such as a project on Global Warming: .282 The call for models One of the reasons I hope this case study can prove useful to other teachers interested in trying project-oriented teaching is that some have requested models. Somewhere we as teachers. To me that is so open-ended that I don’t know that I even knew how to get them started.. In interviews conducted by Greg Shrader as part of an evaluation of the CoVis project’s expansion. have to sort of be reguided and retrained on how to handle that type of a situation. When Greg asked this teacher for ideas on how to help people get started with project-oriented pedagogy. You still have to sort of feel that you have control in your classroom. conclusions.. once we’ve done it once or twice I think from there we can pick it up. to be honest. that’s it. There’s a certain comfort level that you kind of have to . ... Otherwise they’ll sit there and as soon as they hit their first road block.. is an important one. I can’t just set my kids on the computer and say “go find something that supports you or doesn’t support you.

. teaching style. you know. Again . Thinking about what other teachers can gain by looking at what he’s done. But other teachers would do well to remember that they will have more success if they explicitly “situate” their designs for their classroom learning environments based on particularities of their class. there’s just. who cares. “another class.” Even taking such things into account. They think. and administrative situation. including your department chair and principals and whatever. You know. this is really cool. this is gonna guarantee the success of everybody that’s trying this. based on particular aspects of their situation. if you do [this] step after this [step]. and parents in the community think about doing science a different way?” To address the latter issue. Rory makes an effort to convert parents and administrators at open houses and inservices. “here’s how I’ve done it.. make up your own. I wish I had done this when I was in high school. the kids are going. every time we’ve had an open house and talked to parents. this whole process is like just one step in the same direction as.” And if you don’t like what I’ve done. there’s no right way or wrong way to do this. [You] take it from there. “Wow. available resources. there’s no recipe for this either! You know. goals. by all means. offset by a set of constraints which he has to face based on . Rory suggests they think about two things: the “time dilemma”—how much can you and are you willing to devote to projects?—and “what will your administrators. I have tried to present Rory’s work as a set of strategies which he has been able to implement and use successfully in certain cases. I can just tell you what I’ve done. Rory warns other teachers This is no guarantee that it’s going to work for you. and I wish I could come back and take this class so I could do all this neat stuff.” And. here it is. or had parent conferences. believes that other teachers will be able to implement some form of project-oriented instruction.” You know. instead of [telling the students] “here’s the recipe. too. You know. He suggests you have to be able to sell [doing science a different way] in a positive light. Rather than a step-by-step recipe for how to implement projects. But I can’t tell you.283 The need to customize these ideas for other situations Rory. parents are always much more supportive and interested and excited about this than their kids are.

And then .. You have to be patient with yourself and the kids. You know. He refers to those qualities as “PFC” for short. in the beginning when we started doing this. Rory believes many teachers potentially interested in trying these strategies will already have the most important qualities for “what it takes” to put project-based science teaching into practice in technology-rich classrooms. he told me. . And then it was giving them more structure. flexible. Rory has made an effort to follow the example his grandfather and father set him as “practical tinkerers. and work with what you have in interesting ways. it was too open. [Good] teachers are already patient. Adapt and improvise: Improvements through iterative design Throughout the years he has been practicing project-based teaching. and creative. After I thought of this. Instead. I realized that’s what teachers do.. To do project-based science. just trying to get them to do work. they can enable local practitioners to design their own interventions. in a new way. You have to be flexible because things go wrong with the technology and so on. I think there are three main things: you have to be patient. and then it’s like. flexible. it’s fine . Donald Schön (1982) makes the point that outsiders cannot solve the situation in which practitioners find themselves. because this takes time and is not easy. it was basically . and creative. but I hope that the strategies and experiences described here can enable others to design their own local solutions. Rory has continually made an effort to “adapt and improvise” his guidance to better support students. and adjust to the situation.. fiddling around with it.. because you have to be able to come up with new ideas.. And you have to be creative. teachers [interested in project-based science] already have lots of experience and skill to work with—they just have to learn how to use it in a new realm. He told me. and you have to be willing to adjust.284 certain universals such as time and common cultural norms like students who have been enculturated into traditional schooling.. In this case. PFC. my explication of Rory’s work cannot solve other teachers’ challenges in implementing project-based pedagogy.” As in the Clint Eastwood line he likes from the movie Heartbreak Ridge.

but he is performing it in a setting for more than twenty children. 4. he instituted a system of milestones to help structure students’ work. He also made improvements in helping students find relevant empirical data. and helping students to understand what empirical data is by requiring them to turn in tables or images that show the data. where you’re at. And finally. Bruner. and again. Controlling frustration and risk in problem solving. he at first had trouble helping kids get far at all on their projects. You just get better at what you’re doing all the time. in 1995-96. & Ross (1976. So it still is fine tuning.285 tuning. Then in 1994-95. 3. 6.” The challenge: “Tutoring” more than twenty students at once Wood. then you start recognizing the patterns like I’ve started to do. through motivation of the child and direction of the activity. with what you have. by learning how to use Internet resources such as Usenet news and the World Wide Web. I guess. he made further progress in helping kids learn to perform data analysis. so that the learner can manage components of the process and recognize when a fit with task requirements is achieved. . Rory has tried to live by the maxim from Teddy Roosevelt. by making sure that they focused in on doable questions after learning about their chosen topic and using examples of successes students had had the previous year as models. “do the best you can. 93-94) The role that Rory plays as a project-based teacher is remarkably similar to this description of tutoring. 2. he made significant improvements in terms of helping them refine research questions. be requiring that they turn in graphs. with experience. (pp. Demonstrating an idealized version of the act to be performed. Throughout his efforts. They are: 1. Reducing the number of steps required to solve a problem by simplifying the task. In Rory’s case. Recruiting the child’s interest in the task as it is defined by the tutor. Marking critical features of discrepancies between what a child has produced and the ideal situation. You should. 5. So that’s helpful. To solve this problem. cited in Rogoff. Maintaining the pursuit of the goal. 1990) identified six functions a tutor fulfills in scaffolding a child’s performance.

however. he demonstrates an idealized version of projects (function 6) by verbally describing examples of successful project ideas and giving an example presentation to the class. As stressed in Chapter 1. and refining the milestones when they don’t function well. elements which are mixed. I will provide an overview of Rory’s design. He has reduced the number of steps (function 2) by putting a system of interim milestones into place. A design framework for project-based science learning In order to better enable others to use this case study as a model for thinking about project-based science teaching and learning in other settings. He marks critical features of what students produce (function 4) through having the milestone assignments which feed into the research report. He maintains pursuit of the goal (function 3) by providing coaching feedback in the form of transformative communication. . I will first focus on elements of Rory’s environment which primarily serve as constraints on successful accomplishment of projects.286 Rory tries to recruit students’ interest (function 1) by allowing them to work on any topic in Earth and Space Science they choose. and marks discrepancies between the reports that students produce and more ideal science research reports by marking those reports and discussing them with students in class. He tries to control frustration and risk (function 5) in students’ project work by giving students an opportunity to revise their work and by respecting both their complaints and suggestions about how he could better help them. he plans on providing an ideal project report for students to use in the future. and elements which tend to be resources which afford accomplishment of projects. In doing so. each of these elements can manifest itself as a constraint which disables certain functions and a resource which enables other functions. And finally. which helps motivate the students by giving them a voice and helping them see how their ideas can be built upon and improved.

Conversely. like the Zodiac group (Chapter 9). They mistakenly believe in the early stages that doing a project is not much different from other reports they have done in school.287 The elements range from personal motivational factors. can get shortchanged when other students like Julie and Amy (Chapter 10) manage to command a great deal of Rory’s time. can become complacent because they perceive an abundance of time. if fulfilled according to the letter. Table 14 gives an overview of these elements. it’s not surprising that some students. though. especially in terms of the number and length of interactions he can have with students during class. At that late date the time is too short to salvage much. especially for students like Rory’s who have little experience with comparable learning activities. Constraints • Time • Risk and grades • Epistemology: Conflicting beliefs about teaching/learning Mixed Resources • Transitional activities • Student ownership/interest • Teacher’s personal beliefs/proclivities • Models • Tools • Activity structure with accompanying artifacts • Transformative communication Table 14: Design elements for Rory’s project-based learning environment The constraints continually influence activity in Rory’s class. like Barb (Chapter 9). Rory’s time is clearly limited. to practices. to cultural beliefs. should guarantee a high . which are described below in more detail. Some students. and they inevitably figure out at the end of their project that they should have put in more work earlier. Thus. grades become a salient concern for both the teacher and student. Time can cause problems in two ways. and occasionally spur crises. Students can try to reduce their risk and optimize their grades by trying to turn Rory’s written and oral comments into contracts which. Since open-ended projects increase the ambiguity and risk of classroom practice.

summarized below) might be preferable to focusing on work grades. Rory has instituted a system of work grades. The “transmission” epistemology which many students espouse constrains Rory’s ability to successfully institute project teaching. it appears that placing more value and attention on Rory’s system of milestones (part of the “structure” under Resources in Table 14. In order to reduce student risk of failure. are valued more highly in the opposing epistemology. The practices which Patti learned of figuring out ways to empirically examine questions about the phenomenon of deaths associated with tornadoes. the ambiguity and risk associated with learning how to do projects. specifically. as well as theorize about their causality. Seeing “teaching as telling” and “learning as accumulation” can lead students like Patti (Chapter 10) to conclude that Rory lacks the knowledge he should have—memorized facts about minor details in Earth Science—and also to devalue their own learning because they have not accumulated those same kind of facts. This system inevitably causes conflicts and arguments with students that hinge on nit-picking for points. subverts the organic nature of research and reporting. Such explosions can result in the development of an adversarial relationship between teacher and student. and the degree of common ground necessary to accomplish guided participation is lost. the system also exacerbates Rory’s lack of time. they do not make any distinction between Rory’s telling them about . can lead students like Debbie to “explode” after encountering difficulties (Chapter 10). For these reasons. however. while being graded on them. which guarantees students points for time on task and punishes them for time off task. because keeping the necessary records consumes considerable time (Chapter 10). which is rooted in the social constructivist tradition. Finally. Treating Rory’s feedback as such a contract.288 grade (Chapter 10). The transmission view is also associated with students not recognizing certain limits on communication involved in Rory’s teaching of new practices.

but they can provide a helpful way station on the path. When students don’t recognize the possibility of a gap between what they are told and what they understand. as well as his willingness to hear students’ complaints and arguments about aspects of their projects helps to maintain an atmosphere . Rather than starting the year with activities wholly unfamiliar to his students. His openness to student feedback about how to conduct the class and support them.289 assignments and their understanding. Rory starts with familiar activities. His preference for a reactive stance during class makes it more likely that some students he knows need support will fall through the cracks. He has students conduct “standard library research” and then build off that foundation into new areas (Chapter 8). or he is deemed lacking in expertise. He encourages transitional practices such as “student questioning dialogues” (Chapter 7) during the lecture tour. but it also makes him eminently receptive to students’ unexpected problems and nurturing of their excitement. even for an accomplished teacher like Rory—he should “know” where every project should be going. students are likely to accuse Rory of being unfair. In addition. students who espouse the “transmission” view cannot recognize or accept the need for projects to be somewhat unpredictable and improvisational. Rory’s personal beliefs and proclivities can also both constrain and afford opportunities for supporting student project work. such as a lecture tour and teacher-directed assignments to introduce technology. The negative aspect of these transitional activities and the positive aspect are two sides of the same coin: their affinity to traditional modes of teaching and learning can mute or hinder Rory’s attempts to move students toward new practices. even though the interpretation of meaning by student and teacher can and frequently does widely differ.

but it does constrain Rory’s ability to control action in the classroom. A partial sample of an exemplary research report helped some students like Beth (Chapter 11) as a model for their own research report writing. These examples can help students gain a conceptual understanding of what they are trying to accomplish. On the other hand. some students—like Barb in the UFOs & Aliens project (Chapter 9)— make choices against Rory’s recommendation and his fears are realized. Rory knows there are some students who make choices against his . thus. data collection. Annotation could help both of these kinds of written models be more useful to students. but it also creates time drains and potential distractions from substantive issues. written models in the form of archives have helped students to generate ideas. Overall. The complete model projects managed by Rory (Chapter 5) were subject to the pitfall of allowing students to disengage from critical thought.290 where students feel valued and respected. but summarized example projects (Chapter 8) do allow Rory to make the crucial decision processes of research design. Finally. student ownership tends to have positive results. Model projects have been used successfully and unsuccessfully in their many incarnations within Rory’s class. and analysis explicit. both of the variety Rory would like to encourage—like the Earthquakes project (Chapter 10)—and the sort that he would like to discourage—like the UFOs & Aliens project (Chapter 9). Rory’s policy of giving students ownership of their projects and the final say in strategic decisions affords giving the students a real voice in the classroom and its practices and in maintaining a high level of interest and motivation in students such as the Hurricanes group (Chapter 8) and the Plesiosaurs group (Chapter 11). In situ modeling of alternate ways of thinking about problems—genuine thinking aloud and discussion of research decision-making—is part of what Rory does in transformative communication.

with a system of milestones associated with artifacts (Chapter 8). Experts who agree to act as mentors can provide more in-depth and ongoing support. Although such sessions can result in valuable incidental learning. Computer applications such as spreadsheets enable students to do graphing as part of their analysis. As Rory’s expertise with technology has grown. and the association of artifacts with the subgoals engenders an intermediate “need to know” among students about how to do such crucial issues as how to formulate a research question on UFO sightings (Chapter 11) or how to carry out an analysis of hurricane path shapes (Chapter 8). adapting to change will always remain an issue. this has become less of a problem. affords students a crucial scaffold for accomplishing inquiry. Electronic mail and Usenet news enable access to experts working in various capacities in earth science fields. the problems and stumbling blocks with the technology can at times distract from the core mission of accomplishing science inquiry. most commonly queries for data relevant to an inquiry. The need to know and the need to turn something in . The activity structure Rory has developed and refined for projects. Technological tools also play a generally supportive role in Rory’s design. The activity structure breaks down the long and complex project into subgoals. Some experts provide feedback and information for students. But for teachers working at the edge of technology development. some of Rory’s class time is taken up with procedural issues related to the technology.291 recommendation—like the UFO Sightings group and the Black Holes group (Chapter 11)—which open up unexpectedly successful avenues. The World Wide Web has proven useful for data search and gathering by groups such as the Hurricanes group (Chapter 8). Thus. they do not necessarily reduce pressure on Rory as teacher because they engender a significant need to support and train students in their use. Although the technologies have these many affordances.

The presence of the activity structure. the feedback that Rory provides on interim artifacts is not just retrospective. students’ milestones build upon one another and some form of each early milestone is plugged in to the final research report. Tradeoffs of project-based science in schools Some historians of education have remarked that the 20th century has seen the “pendulum” of reform efforts swing back and forth between “traditional” goals of education and “progressive” goals (e. Cuban. In such conversations. Rory can get insights about the students’ current thinking as well as about the possibilities for the students’ projects. Since the activity structure is designed to correspond to portions of the science research article genre. These conversations with one another and the situation are a powerful way for teachers with expertise in inquiry to guide students. and they can do the same for the Data Analysis milestone for that section of the paper. 1990). 1982. help engender occasions for transformative communication (Chapter 11). In . which Rory can provide written feedback on.. On those occasions when students are putting their milestones together. and he can provide students with insights about how students could expand on and use what they have begun to know in the next stages of their inquiry. as well as student ownership and interest in their projects.g. The ensuing conversations afford Rory an opportunity to provide guidance that is likely to be taken seriously and appropriated.292 encourages students to approach Rory with any confusions they have. Thus. Tyack. Ravitch. students can iterate their ideas and writing in the Background Information assignment when they are preparing the Introduction of their final paper. transformative communication among Rory and the students may take place. 1990. Unlike a set of isolated assignments. The interim artifacts that students produce serve as externalizations of students’ knowledge and current thinking.

Conversely.293 Table 15. reaching and maintaining the equilibrium point for different students and groups can be difficult. As mentioned in Chapter 11. 5. Familiarity Structure Predictability and Time on task Consistency to reduce risk of failure Isolated and abstract cognition “Progressive” Goal Growth Exploration Student interest and Commitment to task Customize interactions to maximize teachable moments Distributed and situated cognition 4. For the design elements shown in Table 14 and described above to help rather than hinder Rory’s efforts. teaching strategies associated with calls for “back to basics” and traditional didactic instruction have a tendency to overemphasize goals on the left side at the expense of goals on the right side. . 3. 2. I show some of the goals of such reforms which are often seen in opposition to one another. of course. “Traditional” Goal 1. Teaching strategies associated with progressive education have a tendency to overemphasize the goals on the right side. he must maintain a balance along each of these dimensions. Rory’s design of a learning environment for project-based science can be seen as an attempt to find a workable equilibrium between these tradeoffs. at the expense of the goals on the left side. The rub. Table 15: Tradeoffs in traditional and progressive teaching practices Maximizing a goal on one side of Table 15 often severely compromises the corresponding goal. is that goals on both sides are laudable.

data search and organization. and analysis. Thus. Rory also needs to support students bridging from their current knowledge and practices to new practices. because they increase the risk they face. Rory tries to connect to practices students already understand. and by building later phases of projects on the foundation laid in the previous phase. perhaps Rory could more directly encourage students to make their needs known by proactively approaching the teacher for support. the changes in practices may result in students’ misconstruing their teachers’ intentions. For the students who don’t do as well at getting milestones in. Rory also repeats the project cycle three times during the year. Finally. the milestones in the activity structure serve this purpose. and may build on that knowledge through transformative communication. Rory provides students with a basic framework for their activity. Rory thus needs to be concerned with recognizing when students are getting off track. Students (and others for that matter) may naturally resist such changes. In addition to the milestone artifacts which to some degree externalize student thinking. but the interim deliverables require students to actively think and .294 To optimize the first dimension. and also acknowledge students’ increased risk. the mere presence of looming milestones results in many students making their confusions and needs known to Rory. In addition. Rory frequently asks students what they know or have done so far. To solidify student learning of research design. As a teacher changing the game he is prepared to explain. In order to help. Rory has to find a way to “change the game” from traditional schooling and also “change the rules” without casting students adrift. To optimize the second dimension. Rory does this through transitional activities in the first quarter and at the beginning of projects. Along the way. and even “sell” his reasons for the changes he would like students to make. the changes in the game may result in students beginning to flounder. defend.

for instance. His effectiveness is partly due to exposure to a range of project cases. In this way. Rory has become more effective at this kind of support with increasing experience in project-based teaching. One key pitfall to watch out for with this strategy would be becoming too rigid in a possible path students could take. As we saw in the UFOs & Aliens as well as the Zodiacs project (Chapter 9). some students still need more structure than they are getting. this is one purpose for sharing Rory’s experiences with others in a case study like this one. and analysis. To optimize the third dimension. Rory could provide students who experience trouble the first time around more scaffolding by giving them a list of promising topics for which he has a number of well-developed ideas.295 participate in the research design and analysis decisions. whereas the student controls the process when the pendulum is too far to the right. Rory makes recommendations and gives the students nudges. the teacher controls the process. I have made some suggestions on how to address the needs of students who need more structure. but leaves the final say resting in students’ hands. In episodes of transformative communication. . When the pendulum swings too far to the left. which provides him a sense of the pitfalls and promise different paths may hold. data collection. Rory is able to establish co-ownership with the students and optimize this dimension by coaching without taking over. he could provide extra scaffolding as needed while still maintaining as much challenge for the students as possible while the project develops. and missing opportunities for challenging them to think instead of providing them canned solutions. he can think ahead of time about ways to address the three key phases of projects: research question formulation. as we saw in the research proposal phase for the Plesiosaur project (Chapter 11) and the analysis phase for the Hurricanes project (Chapter 8). For each topic.

problems can develop like the one we saw with Cindy and Beth: the more confident and able student learned more and the less confident and able student fell further behind (Chapter 11). Rory tries to help students manage troubles with work division that can feed into problems such as the Plesiosaur group’s. but more concerted measures would undoubtedly make a difference. Rory tries to customize the amount and kind of support provided in the form of verbal and written feedback. Since all students are not likely to approach Rory without some prodding. however. The students in the Plesiosaurs project (Chapter 11) shared their enthusiasm for the dinosaur with Rory from the beginning of the . When students work in groups. To optimize the fifth dimension. Since occasions for feedback and discussion around substantive science topics appear to be so important. Finally. but still guarantee a minimum level to prevent students from falling through the cracks. Rory requires students to work together. increasing the worth of milestones in Rory’s assessment scheme could help. instituting some means of ensuring a level of minimum interaction with students could increase some students’ chances for success—for instance. it is helpful that interim milestones provide more occasions for feedback and support. The problem with instituting such measures is balancing them with all the other kinds of support and guidance Rory is trying to carry out. he lets students make their needs known. when more student interest and commitment is fostered. For instance. and talk to or correspond with people who can offer directed expertise. During class. and also makes the students to some degree individually accountable. students are more likely to initiate interactions at the most teachable moments. and responds to those needs. there are important interrelations between the dimensions. and tries to encourage students to use any and all tools at their disposal.296 To optimize the fourth dimension.

Rory’s design of an activity structure that requires a high degree of exploration and thought within it makes it more likely that students will seek him out for needed guidance at teachable moments. 182) Zilversmit goes on to point out that change can be revitalizing. Continued change as inevitable and revitalizing Even with all the effort and refinement Rory has put into his project-based teaching. For students who are slower starters. continually recognizing needs for improvement can become frustrating and tiring for educators. Also. But in some ways the educators who believe they have reached a stable solution may be the ones who are worse off. but on the other hand its not all that surprising considering the kids are always changing. the reiterated demands for change are not signs of failure. resulting in discussions where students received guidance and help from Rory. Rather than seeing the need for continued improvement as a failure. they are part of a process that is essential to keeping education vital. Essential for the health of education is the process of change. and also gained vital practice with search tools they used themselves later. Questioning accepted ways is essential to the health of schools. I’m starting to become convinced that the [reworking] is an endless process. In an email message. Seemed a little depressing at first. and therefore. (Zilversmit.297 project. As the project continued. 1988b) it can never be done perfectly. “you know what. 1993. maintaining sufficient levels of consistency helps maintain their commitment. As Zilversmit said. p. he has still not been able to make everything work to his satisfaction. Questioning accepted ways is essential to the health of change. Over the years. he once said to me. because they are fooling themselves. Beth’s growing commitment and interest in plesiosaurs made her eager share triumphs and difficulties with her teacher. we should see it as an opportunity for .” And since teaching is an “impossible profession” (Cohen.

into the world of science. This is knowledge-intensive and thought-intensive work for teachers. or poring over students’ writing. At the very least. as Rory did with the Moons project (Chapter 8). Resources for guiding expeditions into science In closing. It has certainly provided a great deal of excitement and interest for Rory in his teaching. along with the frustration of difficulties. but it may also benefit from creative and surprising connections. more footholds may become available. such as Rory’s idea of making a grid and performing counts to analyze hurricane paths. fostering. based on his own experience of performing mineral content analysis in geological research. For teachers. and recognizing footholds for transformative communication.298 renewal. making science expeditions more successful involves organizing and if necessary creating elements of the landscape that can be pointed out. as long as the teacher recognizes them as something that can be transformed into a productive move in scientific inquiry. For teachers and others interested in designing and creating supportive resources for learning environments. Some of the footholds can be built into the activity structure with milestones beforehand. Like . such as Rory did in the UFO Sightings project (Chapter 11). like Rory’s and his students’. Once students step into these footholds and take some more steps. I would like to return to our expeditions in the mountains. it involves rumination on students’ projects outside of class. In assignments students turn in and comments students make during class. It may involve making mundane connections between experiences in one volcano project and another volcano project. more crevices that can be used as footholds may become apparent. I would like to stress some of the lessons for teachers and others interested in supporting learning environments for expeditions. making the expeditions more successful involves creating.

In addition. water quality. collections of data resources like the hurricane Web site Dave and TJ used. and energy. can be helpful to supporting projects. Especially useful are materials that relate to the topics that appeal to students. hurricanes. kids can seize them and build off their interests. And “Waterworld” signifies the environment.299 the feldspar on Rory’s original expedition years ago. students can be inspired in unexpected ways. in that they both supply ideas and potentially supply data collections that can be reanalyzed and refuted or refined. and kids like these topics along with lightning. and a book of volcano eruption data Rory has acquired. Such “distributed intelligence” in the environment can allow the teacher to off-load some of the supporting. which appeals to students in the form of global warming. another favorite of students. and earthquakes. or combined with other data collections for completely new inquiries. In this way. serve as valuable sources of empirical data. As more resources about these topics become available. There are many opportunities for creating and finding useful and usable collections of data resources to support project-based science teaching and learning. “Twister” and “Volcano” signify disaster and destruction. Additionally. One way to summarize topics that interest many students is by analogy to big budget Hollywood films with strong doses of special-effects. just as they were on his summer trip to the Rockies. Beth and Cheryl. “Independence Day” signifies aliens. the work of students from year to year can become a growing “activity base” (similar to a knowledge base) for future projects. items such as a set of Time/Life books Rory thought he would never have use for have become a resource for students beginning their background research on their topics. materials that can be pointed out. and perhaps picked up. The promise of expeditions into science To the degree Rory and the students are able to maintain the delicate balance of motivation and support. who worked on the Plesiosaur and UFO .

. “I have all this plesiosaur paraphernalia.” She is really excited about what she has learned: I grew. Cheryl says she “learned the way scientists speak—I’d never really written a scientific paper before.” Although math educators would surely be displeased with her opinion of their subject. Neither Beth nor Cheryl considered themselves “science” people coming in to Rory’s class. Like sort of a puzzle. I could learn things that people.300 Sightings projects (Chapter 11).. at the British Museum . Cheryl’s perspective on science as inquiry rather than memorization is heartening.. McNeil] Alexander and a couple of other people—no one really knows as much as I do. Through their participation in Rory’s class. academically . as she told me. she also becomes virtually obsessed with a dinosaur she had never heard of before she arrived in class. Through her work on the Plesiosaurs project and afterward. provide two examples of such unexpected inspiration.. that science is a lot more open to options than a lot of people think it is . like I figured out that I could really . I’m gonna order . She gets excited to find the image of a plesiosaur image on a juice box one day.” She also learned. their perspectives have changed..” Cheryl signed up for Earth Science because it looked like the easiest science credit available to her. it’s not like math where there’s one answer ... Beth becomes interested in and capable of engaging in scientific debates such as the geologic implications of underwater nuclear testing. like. I would say that I’m one of the leading experts on the plesiosaur .. however. Like.. but I’m not good at it. I used to think [science] was “this is how this is” and “this is how this is.. I could really learn things with my mind. You know.. respectively. you know? I wanna order it. Like how many people in this world know about the plesiosaur? . Beth started the class saying.... “I like science . and tells me... Through her work on the UFO Sightings project. they have a skeleton of a plesiosaur. like no one really—except for like [R.

Rory will continue to explore the paths students’ projects can take in their ascents to such heights. And as the year goes on. But the view is glorious from her current vantage point. And like the “trusty Sherpa guide” he tries to be for his students. . In her expeditions into science.301 This young woman has clearly come a long way from thinking she is “not good at science. And that can’t hurt as Rory guides her on new expeditions into science. and invite more students on new adventures to the peaks.” even though her beliefs may be a bit grandiose. he will return to the foothills at the beginning of each new year. she will surely find that unseen peaks become visible around the next bend in the trail.

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A question that qualitative researchers are commonly asked is “how do you plan to manage the problem of subjectivity?” This question implies that objectivity is ideal and subjectivity represents only negative bias. The audience member wondered whether and how the situation changed when the author wasn’t there. and I am modeling my own effort after his.Appendix A A personal story: Walking around in other people’s shoes Tracy Kidder made a comment at a talk (1995) I attended which I will always remember. Lightfoot. 1983). I disagree with the idea that subjectivity should be minimized. Kidder replied “I don’t know what happened when I wasn’t there! I wasn’t there when I wasn’t there!” The lesson I took from his comment is: don’t try to get rid of yourself. Bill Ayers (1989) provided a great example of this in The Good Preschool Teacher. my emphasis). admit your presence and try to make good use of it. As mentioned in Chapter 3. Since I admit that my personal perspective has played an important role in the conduct of this research. 1994. 16. I feel it is only fitting that I attempt to present my perspective to readers. Heshusius. Clearly exasperated by a question he often hears. p. 1989. Kidder was asked by an audience member what difference he thought his presence made when he researched Among Schoolchildren (1989) and Old Friends (1993). and instead agree with those researchers who believe that subjectivity should be taken advantage of because of the interpersonal richness and entry into meaning it offers (Ayers. I also admired 315 . Bill Ayers put it eloquently: “subjectivity is not a dirty word when subjects are the objects of study” (1989.

such as Thanksgiving. and we kids were often content to play with our brothers and sisters. From a very early age. all of whom my parents had after getting married in their thirties. I often joke that I was born a pacifist—I just refused to fight. I attended a . with a few teenage years as dictator. Bill was the second and was the most frequently in trouble as well as my constant companion. and Easter. they were content to focus on raising their children.316 the way that Pierre Bourdieu (1990) straighforwardly admitted and tried to take advantage of the dispositions that grew naturally out of his own background among the “French peasantry. I will try to reveal some dispositions that my background and experiences have helped foster. I took on the role of mediator in the family. but know that I at times feared justifiable anger. I recall my childhood as a time of warmth and security. Christmas. Along with many others in our community in the shadow of the University of Notre Dame. Dee Dee was the youngest and was the chatterbox and social center. my reaction was invariably to try to find some common ground or appeasement. Fights took place between every conceivable pair of siblings. New Years. I was the third of five children. we were raised Roman Catholic. I see the mediation skills I developed as quite useful. except no one fought with me. From my current vantage point.” Following his example. highlighted by holiday celebrations with my immediate family and grandmother. Sarah was born first and played the big sister role of leader and advisor most of the time. I was born in South Bend. Laura followed me and played the role of quietly supportive sister and daughter. When someone got in trouble or angry. Our family was close and lived a relatively selfcontained life—having waited so long. and so no one was interested in fighting with me. Indiana in 1965 and spent what I have often considered a “sheltered” childhood there. my parents told me.

because you don’t ever get to stop worrying about it. Nonetheless. and that Dad had to work a great deal of overtime to help make ends meet. and I never thought we lacked anything. I knew that we were not well off financially. they always found a way to get by. and became active in school and later church activities. Mom told me years later that she didn’t think it was worth pinching every penny. This is not to say that compared to the rest of American culture the community I grew up in was progressive. Mom took several years off work to stay at home raising us. as she had done for years. I would say that the schools and parish we attended were distinctly post-Vatican II institutions affected by progressive elements of American Catholic intellectualism. he would come home from work in his stained blue shirt and play and laugh with us. and none of the teachers (including the nuns) practiced corporal punishment of any kind. My Mom and Dad were an interesting pair—she a registered nurse with a masters degree and he a plumber and pipe fitter with an apprentice’s training. Regardless.317 Catholic grade school and high school which did not fit the stereotype of Catholic schools so often characterized in popular culture: there were few nuns. He dropped out of college after his football career was ended by a knee injury. In my mind. on the contrary. it’s not clear that they had many other options. I think now that the years and years of financial concern must have been incredibly stressful to them. Both of my parents always seemed to have complete confidence in me. the greatest gift they gave me was the belief that I could accomplish just about . On the other hand. By this I mean that most teachers and priests stressed conscience and the messages of forgiveness and social justice instead of rules and regulations or fire-and-brimstone. it was conservative on the whole and not very culturally or racially diverse.

My difficulty performing math problems quickly at the blackboard led to what I considered a terrible grade. The few times I had trouble. I had to learn these things eventually—as an undergraduate to some degree. I have found that the adult work world (or at least the kind of professional work I have been involved with) rarely provides answers to the request “just tell me what I should do. but Mom told me that Einstein’s teachers thought he was stupid because he was a deliberate thinker just like me. but even more so at work and graduate school. I was lucky enough to have a disposition well-suited to traditional.318 anything if I put my mind to it and worked at it. highly structured teaching.” Like Rory’s students. but I put it off until two days before it was due and had a very difficult time putting it together. The best example is the dreaded “C” I received in fourth grade math. Luckily. I always enjoyed school immensely and was in many ways a prototypical obedient. albeit with the support and guidance of others. I did not attribute it to any fundamental inability. but instead circumstances. though. which my mother convinced me was due to the fact that the teacher was outrageously unjust and rigid. Much like Cindy described in this study. model student. But in my case I feel that more challenges to think for myself and participate in the framing of problems would have benefited me at an earlier age. my experiences in school and in sports seemed to back up their confidence in me. I managed to pull it off. as I did most of my school work. I would not necessarily have been comfortable with open-ended projects in those days. I have had to build those answers for myself. I have always found it ironic that many of us who talk about changing traditional schooling so much were very successful in that same system. Einstein . I remember an independent project of sorts I had to do in physics class my senior year in high school—we had weeks to do it (along with our more traditional labs and tests). Unlike Cindy.

I was always analytic. Standing up on his porch.319 turned out to be a genius. English and literature were the most difficult subjects for me. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Most of all. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough. and I followed my older brother in being an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy novels in my free time as an adolescent. who introduced me to books that began to expand my world. 278-279) The sentiment of standing in someone else’s shoes has been . though. she imagined what the events of the summer recounted in the book must have looked like from Radley’s perspective. My seventh and eighth grade math teacher let some of us finish the book in the first month of school and spend the rest of the year working on challenging problems in the back of the room and going to math contests. and was repeatedly told that my greatest aptitude was in math and science. we read To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee. For the most part. and it had a profound effect on me. playing organized sports such as football and basketball.” (pp. My seventh grade English teacher made it difficult but worthwhile to get an A. I spent most of my time after school. I earned high grades. In the end of the book. 1960). Lee described how Scout began to see what the world must have looked like to Boo Radley. My high school math teachers repeatedly challenged me beyond the standard curriculum. She said. but I always found them interesting. In ninth grade. The teachers I remember most vividly were the ones who challenged me or opened my mind to new worlds. My high school German teacher opened up a whole new culture for me. and she was pretty much convinced I would turn out that way too. I recall my high school English teachers. 1969). and then doing hours of homework until bedtime. My seventh grade history teacher started a reading club and helped me see the tension of the Cuban missile crisis by reading and discussing Thirteen Days (Kennedy. however. “Atticus was right.

and showed me in some small way what it must have been like to walk around in some other people’s shoes. I’ve always joked that their brochures must have been amazing. Brown had an exchange program with a university in the German Democratic Republic. I would note that although I always had an interest in biological and physical sciences. a nation known only as “East Germany” to most people in this country. Going to a prestigious college far away was also perhaps the best way for a child like me to be “good” and still find room for rebellion and forging my own life outside my family’s sphere. let alone visited the school. I use the greeting “hey” which I learned not from my friends and acquaintances in the northern Midwest but from my acquaintances in the South I visited only in the pages of this book. The novel took me to that place. In regards to science education reforms. one reason I decided against a career in them was that I never became as engaged in them as students like Cheryl and Beth did in Rory’s class. Given my already mentioned propensity for being a mediator. literature and culture was what “came to life” for me. but that novel made it real to me. but in part I wanted to see a wider world and other perspectives firsthand. To this day. the “Deutsche Demokratische Republik” . and I ultimately dropped the idea of completing premedical requirements and instead focused on my stronger interest in language and literature. At the end of high school. no matter how odd it seemed to me at first. College did indeed open up new perspectives for me. I began to see how many conflicts and misunderstandings are caused by people being unable or unwilling to see another’s perspective. with a focus on 20th Century novels from US and German cultures. I decided to attend Brown University on the East Coast even though I had never left the Midwest. I remember in high school German class having a great deal of trouble remembering which name. and tried to figure out what might explain what they are doing. I completed a concentration in Comparative Literature.320 expressed by many.

. Studying abroad in the GDR was undoubtedly the most profound learning experience in my life. the phrase could either mean to literally 31 “Deutsche Demokratische Republik” means “German Democratic Republic” and was the official name of the East German state. because it was a colloquialism irrelevant to formal classes. train stations. the Russian military base is over there” and “guck mal. and besides.321 or the “Bundesrepublik Deutschland. I wanted to learn it so I could follow everything and participate more fully in whatever was going on around me. restaurants. and north to Rostock on the Baltic coast. When I got upstairs to my room. When I first arrived. and many other places. Finally. They kept saying this phrase. They said things like. more than five years of German classes did not help that much. through participation in the daily life of a city where speaking English was not enough.” as they talked about their city and pointed out things in the distance. however. when I went to grocers. Most times there was simply no other choice. Part of the learning was about the language. “guck mal. and they told me it meant to “look” or “see. I pulled out my big dictionary and couldn’t find the word because I didn’t know how to spell it. “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” means “Federal Republic of Germany” and was the official name of the West German state.” I had never heard the phrase. I had to figure out how to get my point across in German. I had to ask someone. arriving at the student dorm.” which sounds like “kook moll.” stood for “East Germany” and which for “West Germany”31 We used to ask: How could East Germany call itself “democratic” when they were really communist? In the spring of 1987 I found myself flying across the Atlantic toward this same distant land. and taking a train to Berlin. across the border at Friedrichstraße. and talking with my German roommate and some of his friends as we looked down at the city of Rostock. it’s a pretty interesting town.” and “guck mal. I remember the first day. we’ll be going to classes over there in the pedestrian mall” and “guck mal.” As in English. there’s the train station. “Guck mal.

It did. shoes made in the West just looked different from shoes made in the East. both literally and figuratively. perhaps more so than many in the US trying to “get ahead” or even just get by.322 cast your eye in a direction. I knew my experience. did not allow me to fully see the world as GDR citizens did. I found that people in the GDR had time to spend with each other and that they took the time and effort to truly talk with one another. In fact. I found that this nation reviled where I grew up did a much better job recycling than communities back home. although they allowed dangerous levels of industrial pollution. It did not take long to figure out that the simple view of a people oppressed by an evil state did not begin to capture the complexity of the culture I was walking around in. so much so. I returned for a year to the GDR to teach English and study the educational system after I graduated from Brown. Eventually. or to consider what someone is saying. some of my friends in the GDR told me that I could pass for a German from a distant region—thank God I eventually shed the notorious American accent—except for my shoes. that the four month trip in my junior year was not enough. but that many citizens had to at least feign loyalty to socialism and the Party to get a promotion. I had special privileges like being able to buy Yoplait yogurt in the Western store in downtown Rostock in exchange for “hard” cash. Nonetheless. I felt that I began to understand some of my friends in addition to growing fond of them. For one thing. however. even though I refused to (that wasn’t hard since the local dairy . take me a while to figure out how to accept or get my mind around all that complexity. no matter how empathetic. You see. I had to admit there were innumerable contradictions about the place and the people. I found that GDR citizens had universal child care where no such thing was available in the US. Similarly. I had a great deal to learn about how to “see” life in the GDR as my new friends were asking me to consider it. I was still walking around in a Westerner’s shoes.

and finally project management. cancer was discovered in her lungs. In college my interest in computing had grown out of an educational project with a German professor. and later testing. but its importance paled in comparison to family matters—Mom’s health. Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. During my first two years of graduate school. . Before the designated “cure” time of five years. I could always cross the border to West Berlin. I learned a great deal about computer software and business. After returning from the GDR. I spent many weekends visiting Mom and Laura in South Bend. and my own upcoming wedding. Far more importantly. though. The soldiers with automatic rifles and large dogs might look menacing to me. It was a time when I was constantly reminded of the important priorities in life: my career was important and I was glad to find the move to education fulfilling and challenging. or Denmark with my US passport.323 products available at the grocer were much better anyway). but was ultimately dissatisfied with the bottom line being quarterly profits. Another reason I wanted to move from Boston to Chicago in 1982 was that my mother’s breast cancer had metastasized to her lungs. Lübeck. I eventually began working for a software development firm on telephone support. Dee Dee’s pregnancy. and I decided to go back to school to learn more about education and work on finding ways for using computing and software well in education. while Mom’s health steadily deteriorated. My search brought me to Northwestern and the just-beginning CoVis project headed by Roy Pea and Louis Gomez. and I wanted to be nearby. Shortly after Dad’s death. but they would not jail me as they did my friend Ingmar when he tried to cross. My father had died while I was in college due to complications of colon cancer. but surgery and radiation resulted in a remission for nearly five years. after years of pain and nausea-inducing chemotherapy.

1996. We spoke to her on the phone before and after the ceremony. beyond the woefully inadequate statement that it was probably both the happiest and saddest time of my life. Mom died. but my advisors at Northwestern were willing to give me a chance to contribute to the CoVis project and complete my dissertation while living most of the time in New York. and decided that . Later that evening. The loss of Mom and Dad did not submit to easy explanations for me. On June 18. this presented some difficulty. But I will reflect here on an aspect of this and many of my experiences that relates to my choice of research methods.324 Shortly after beginning graduate school. She had accomplished her goal and given our entire family a much-needed and much-relished celebration. Since she was at the University of Rochester. It is not appropriate or possible in this context to pursue the complexity of this story. I believe my experiences have caused me to decide that “embracing complexity” is the only way to face life. It was a difficult prospect. but worth it to us given what our experiences with Mom had taught us about the importance of priorities. Katie was the only one of my friends not interested in German studies who had shown a strong desire to understand my stories of the GDR. Mom had been determined to live until the wedding even if she could not attend. My uncle who stayed with her in those hours mercifully and wisely decided to inform us the next morning. For instance. Louis. and she visited me there for a month in 1989. we were finally able to decide to share our love for good. Katie and I were married at her wonderful family’s home in St. Katie Plax and I decided to marry after years of sharing as much of our lives as we could. I was unsatisfied with the kind of empty platitudes I thought many religious people offered. Having resolved our career path decisions—she started medical school when I started graduate school—and shown ourselves that we could make it on our own.

The intellectual side of this development is related in Chapter 3. I passed my qualifying exam at Northwestern and began developing the ideas for my dissertation research related here. As I said. and also privately expressed a great deal of “illicit”—from their party’s perspective—interest in Western culture and society. for fear of oversimplifying. This is in some ways related to my own reluctance to rely on statistical research techniques alone to examine a classroom like Rory’s: I was afraid I would oversimplify the social world of the class if I did not use qualitative methods. I would add that many events in human life are difficult to explain with reference to one or just a few factors. For instance. but I became increasingly interested in a classroom observational study. Just before getting married.325 Harold Kushner’s philosophy described in When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981) was more adequate somehow. Looking at different levels of meaning and intersecting cultures and subcultures can often help to explain seeming contradictions between actions or events on personal and societal levels. It would . but find their own means of expressing personal and interpersonal idiosyncrasy within those bounds. Part of what I took from Kushner was a belief that some events lack an explanation or root cause. people act in some ways to fulfill roles assigned to them by the wider society. I had just moved away from Evanston where the CoVis project was based. so I will briefly explain some of the personal side here. Some of my friends in the GDR were publicly allegiant to the socialist party but privately critical of its actions. But my experiences have also helped me to see how to reach more complicated conclusions. but I began to develop ideas about how people’s actions can relate to multiple levels of meaning and culture. for instance. in addition. Seeing life in the GDR obviously contributed to my belief that social life is inherently complex. One danger in my belief system is that I might be reluctant to reach conclusions even if they are valid or useful.

and we were on our way.326 have been easier to do survey research. and my knowledge of earth science was abysmal compared to Rory’s. I tried to maintain several principles. Eventually I proposed this study to him on a visit to his class later that fall. In my time with Rory and his classes. including reciprocity. and privacy. Thus. That fall of my third year. I cannot thank Roy Pea enough for encouraging me along this path. I sometimes had to remind the students that I needed to do other work even if their technical problems were not solved. which I share with him and others. but Rory and I both recognized I had additional responsibilities such as notetaking which I could not neglect. and referring me to Bill Ayers for direction on how to make it work. and had spent some time in his class along with a few other teachers in my first two years. Rory and I shared two important goals. I began to correspond by email with Rory about his project-based science teaching from our attic in Rochester. But that was not the only way. I had always admired Rory Wagner’s courage and work in the classroom. I helped the students with technology and project-related problems. During class. I provided a . he does not share in some rewards. I often repeated that I had no authority on procedures or grades. and I did not believe it would have provided as many answers. Rory and I received different “rewards” from my work and presence in his classroom. When substantive issues about projects arose. Clearly. but it would not have been as interesting or rewarding for me. One way I try to contribute to these goals is through the research that I produce. After class. but I hope some degree of reciprocity was retained. I also became a resource for supporting him and his students more directly at times. however: improving project-based teaching and learning in classrooms. such as the degree. respect. my role in the school was not strictly limited to observation.

This usually led to uncovering either (1) some constraints or tradeoffs I had not recognized. Rory began to combine his primary work of teaching and planning the class with my primary work of research more and more.327 sounding board for Rory to reflect and share ideas with. Therefore. For example. or (3) previous events that informed the actions of which I was unaware. Over time. to inform practice and research. you can usually find a “reasonable reason” from their perspective. (2) alternative motivations and goals for the actions. when something “negative” or problematic occurred. and also planned future activities and made notes for himself on new ideas that grew out of our conversations. Regarding respect. he updated his own work grade sheet while updating me on groups’ activities over the phone. I tried to figure out why it happened before judging the incident negatively. and what consequences their actions had. but at times also shared a different perspective or just the fruits of an extra set of eyes on classroom activities. I did not just absorb such comments. This often led me to change an initial opinion about what appeared at first to be a “mistake. Considering alternative choices and their implications was part of what Rory and I were both trying to do. but did not presume to have all the answers. When you walk in someone else’s shoes.” although alternative choices sometimes still appeared attractive. I viewed my primary job as understanding what Rory and his students were doing in relation to projects. So this kind of discussion also served to uncover and flesh out strategies to take that one or both of us had not previously considered. . I admitted to having opinions about classroom activity. why they were doing so. This is similar to the idea Donald Schön (1982) relates about teachers “giving students reason” rather than assuming they simply make uninformed mistakes.

and asked whether he thought about doing that in another situation. I tried to ask probing questions about why Rory did what he did. yet they came in and thought they could tell everybody how they could fix things and make them better. but rather many possible valuable realizations that are different in many ways. In other words. Sometimes I reminded Rory of an alternative that he had mentioned to me before. not the only alternative. and I felt the strategy usually fruitless. I didn’t want to make the mistake those engineers did—I wanted to listen and try to make sense of the way things worked in this setting. This has to do with teachers working in many . This relates to a vivid memory I have of my Dad talking about the “educated” engineers coming in to the Bendix plant. I also mentioned some ideas I knew other teachers had tried or researchers had suggested. if only they had listened. So instead of giving pat solutions that probably wouldn’t work. where he worked as a pipe fitter. but I tried hard to present these as possible alternatives. Inevitably. and making pronouncements about the way things should be done. Now I was in the position of possibly becoming the know-it-all with all the formal training and no respect for the people really doing the hard work. fully specifiable way to do projects well. I did not generally tell Rory what I thought he should do.328 Since Rory was not accountable to me. This attitude was concordant with my belief that there is not any one. One value behind this kind of attitude was simply respect for Rory’s professional work and choices. Dad talked about how they knew nothing about the way things really worked. the educated engineers’ suggestions caused all kinds of other problems that the people there every day could have told them about. I also reminded Rory frequently that I think project-based science teaching in a classroom is both complex and difficult. I don’t believe there is such a thing as the ideal realization of project teaching.

Rory was given the option of being anonymous in written work. I did not identify the student to Rory32 . and thus change what future courses of action might work well. and that was after the end of the school year. If Rory had acted abusive toward students in my judgment. Regarding privacy. students’ real names were never used in materials read by outsiders. but also with the reality that each teacher (such as Rory) and class of students can take actions to change the context in which they are working. I never asssociated such comments with an individual until I wrote this report. I would have been forced to confront him. if such comments led me to discuss an issue with Rory outside class. Rory and his students could request that any comment or action be “off the record” and not reported in the research. but also grading the students in ways that could be subjectively affected. Of course there were logical limits to my not expressing outright disapproval. On those occasions when Rory left the classroom and I was the only remaining adult. Finally I was able to resume our social visits and conversations when I realized I didn’t need more data. I did not want to put him in an uncomfortable position. I did not pretend I would let the students do whatever they would like. All conversations between myself and Rory contributed to my understanding of what he was doing. I have tried to keep the high school anonymous. 32 I took this step because Rory was not only in a position of authority over the students. but chose not to take it. I spoke little to Rory about his next year as its first four months unfolded. and thus became potential “research data” even when our meetings were mostly social. because the mound of data I had to conquer was just too daunting.329 different contexts. . and I never had any problems. but he of course did not do so. I assumed that any negative comments students made about Rory were not intended for his ears. though this is difficult. This fact eventually became a burden I had to shake: after the summer of 1996.

. Like her. Katie had had a session where she was videotaped doing a history with a pediatric patient’s mother. it can and will be used in some sense to judge what you’ve done professionally. and it is admirable that he was willing to repeatedly endure that kind of scrutiny. I only hope I retain reason to have gained that trust.330 Recently. for teaching purposes. the courage that it took for Rory to open up his classroom and his work was literally “brought home” to me. Rory put a great deal of effort and time into his professional identity. I was reminded of how nerve-wracking it is to be videotaped with the knowledge that no matter how laudable the intentions of the taping.

and the most significant revision (JP .Appendix B Original study conception. There is a complex and ongoing interplay between the (changing) culture of a class. and the affordances of the tools.e. and practices making use of them. The classrooms into which these tools are introduced develop their own specific cultures. especially 33 Note that the focus on tools rather than project pedagogy was a serious flaw in this conception.7/18/95) 331 . the (changing) meaning of these technological artifacts. appropriation) of these communications tools in CoVis classes.33 Specific tools • e-mail • Cruiser • News • Collaboratory Notebook • Mosaic. Gopher & Fetch Purpose The schools participating in CoVis have established cultures. before entering the field (7/18/94) Topic Appropriation of communications tools in classrooms oriented toward reform to projectoriented pedagogy. I am interested in exploring the adoption and adaptation (i. The tools themselves are cultural artifacts. This implies that the members of each class and to some extent the CoVis community negotiate and establish certain shared and unique meanings for these artifacts.

texts for public e-mail and news discussions. complete texts/video for selected private e-mail. NB. Cruiser. and Collab. • At least three structured interviews with teachers during each selected reformintensive period across the year. and the meaning of the tools as they relate to these activities. Methods I think it would be beneficial to focus on one or two CoVis classes for the qualitative research at least. Cruiser. once in the planning stage. once during the situated activity. Mosaic. • Classroom observations and opportunistic interviews of students in selected classes during the same reform-intensive periods. Gopher. implementing. pertaining to the perception of outcomes.332 as it relates to efforts to implement reform toward a more project-based approach to teaching. NB exchanges) . and once afterward pertaining to outcomes. These interviews would be developed through more open-ended interviews and observations early on in the year. • Perhaps a followup interview at the conclusion of the period with students. Important issues would be the meaning of the reform activities to them. This will include examination of specific reform-intensive periods during the year. news. and reflecting on new or developing projectbased activities in the CoVis environment. Fetch. Collab. when teachers are planning. • Next-generation surveys on communication tools • Tracking and logging of electronic activity (usage numbers for e-mail.

333 Research Questions • What environmental constraints affect efforts at reform appropriating the tools? e. situated actions. curriculum. culture of schooling. views of science. etc. departmental/school pressures. management and control issues (allowing free movement in class. social environment. and reflection on outcomes? How do the teachers’ own perception of these relationships affect subsequent efforts? Background • Reform literature (Particularly empirical studies that deal with technology introduction. Examples are the design experiments literature. other tools and affordance available . pedagogical techniques. engendering a sense of wider community • What are students’ and teachers’ perceptions of and frustrations with the activities themselves and the use of the tools in the activities? • What events or ideas are crucial to changes in opinion or actions? • What are the relationships between teachers’ plans. support.) • Teacher planning literature (which I’m unfamiliar with) • Performance assessments of teachers with respect to reform efforts .g. asynchronous comm). putting up with "disruption" from Cruiser).. lack of time/short periods (related to use of synchronous vs. on efforts at reform. • How does the meaning/understanding of a tool affect the uses of that tool? • What unique capabilities of these tools are crucial enablers of project work? • How do opinions and uses change and develop over time? • How do the teachers’ efforts affect the culture of their classes? e. assessment. infrastructure. parents. the influences of curriculum..g.

334 Results • Set of guidelines for educators trying to implement reforms leveraged with technology. and their effects . incorporating: .better understanding of constraints and their effects on reform using technology . and the effects of these uses .range of uses of the tools.range of meanings and understanding of these tools.

(3) in future efforts Audience (1) Practitioners. was subsequently revised following discussion with advisors. (2) in other similar classrooms. cultural. and assessing project-oriented curricula? • What is the context and meaning of the teachers’ actions relating to project activities and technology in these classrooms (teachers’ and students’ perspectives)? • What are implications of teacher and student choices relating to projects and technology in these classrooms? • What are the social. The decision was based primarily on the realization that two settings would not add greatly to an understanding of how a project-based learning environment functioned as a system. (2) Researchers. 335 . (4) Policymakers Methods Classroom ethnography • in-depth interpretive fieldwork • comparative: two classes at two schools34 34 Note that the plan to conduct field studies with two teachers. and historical backgrounds of these classrooms? • How do the teachers’ previous experiences feed into current plans and actions? Goal: Inform efforts at changing teaching practices leveraged with technology (1) In these specific classrooms. in two different schools.Appendix C Refined study conception. implementing. (3) Designers. upon entering the field (10/17/94) Purpose of research Question: How do these teachers appropriate CoVis computing and communications technologies while planning. but instead would detract from the extent of detailed study possible within one environment.

a few individuals’ email) • written documents produced (e. Second level effects include changes in the social atmosphere or arrangements of work. 1991). Part of the goal of this study will be to document how such changes occur in these classrooms. For example. which couldn't reveal as much about the system. The technologies can have both first-level and second-level effects. and a greater feeling of belonging and commitment from traditionally more peripheral members. and reflection phases • participant observation in classroom during project implementation phase • teacher "curriculum summaries" and bullet points • electronic logs of communication activities • electronic records of complete communications (in selected feasible cases . project work phase. participatory style with the aid of communications technology (Sproull & Kiesler.e. student interim reports and final reports) • selected videotapes (project introduction & startup phase.336 Sources • audiotaped teacher interviews in planning.g. hierarchical style to a more horizontal. implementation.g. teacher handouts. An early example is the introduction of email by Rory Wagner in his classes Multiple project cases would be more appropriately used within one setting instead of using two instances of settings. project report & closing phase) Hypotheses Communications tools can be used in the process of changing from heavily teacher-directed. . there can be greater participation from all members in the group. lecture & seatwork activities to student-directed activities with teacher as guide Analogy to managers changing from a top-down. Firstlevel effects include changes in information flow and exchange.

and what kind of social roles are permissable or advisable will obviously play a large role here.g. they were. literacy with computing and communications technology is an educational goal held by many. As numerous writers have pointed out (e. at least) as an end in itself This contrasts to the adoption of previous technologies such as radio and television as teaching tools. He began to establish an environment where students’ individual interests were validated by asking them to write to him about their summer vacations. He replied to each of their email messages individually. adoption of these technologies is likely to be driven in part by a desire for students to learn how to use them. 1990. Computing and communications technology adoption is viewed (in part. to a much larger extent than "radio literacy" or "television literacy" ever was.337 this year. rejected. such technologies often experienced symbolic adoption by school systems simply to appear trendy. and the adoption was not accompanied by any questioning of a transmissional pedagogy with a focus on efficiency. Individual teachers’ beliefs about "adventurous" project methods. Tyack. The structural constraints of these schools and classrooms often worked against easy adoption. . 1992). and some continued ongoing conversations with him over several messages. which encountered numerous problems. so that perceived second-level effects feed back into first-level strategies. not surprisingly. the inevitable difficulties encountered in practical use within classrooms proved fatal. Today. Fullan & Miles. Thus. In such cases. If the technologies did not seem to be providing more effective (read efficient) transmission of the same materials.

and dependability of technologies • development of shared experiences and meanings over the school year It will be the goal of this research to examine how these and other emergent factors play roles in the learning environments these teachers design and implement. . • structure of time in school • number and placement of computers combined with number of students • teachers’ personal experience with technology • teachers’ relationships and exchanges with other teachers • administrative and departmental pressures relating to technology." The teacher’s perspective and the contours of school and classroom settings are all socially constructed. like its predecessors. "content"). the following factors. however. abilities (esp as perceived by teacher) • teachers’ views of science • teachers’ curricular goals • design.e. will be tailored to fit the teacher’s perspective and the tight contours of school and classroom settings. not immutable factors. and control • classroom management and control issues • students’ background. assessment. These can be affected by. especially in an environment rife with change. subject matter (i. capabilities. for instance.338 Computing and communications appropriation depends on multiple and complex factors One formative idea here is from Cuban (1986): "the new technology.

without imposing my organization on it: Can you describe for me how you arrived at the way you are running your classes today? Said differently: give me your account of the past couple years of doing projects. how did you start doing them? • How explain to students? • What structure did you provide? Form of guidance? • What concerns did the students have? 339 . What were the important events and ideas? Punch list (Questions to cover if not mentioned. in your opinion? • What were difficult obstacles to doing projects which you’ve now overcome? Once you became interested in doing projects.Appendix D Teacher and student interview guides February 1995 interview with Rory Wagner First question to ask to try and have him relate as much as possible. in your opinion? • What is the most important benefit of doing projects. in your opinion? • What are the most difficult obstacles to doing projects. or elaborate on if briefly mentioned) What got you turned on to the idea of doing projects? • What were you doing before? Can you describe the way you ran your classes? • Could you describe your satisfaction with what you did before? (process? results?) • Was there anything you liked about the previous way that you gave up? Why was it worth it to do so? • What is the most important aspect of doing projects.

and how do you see yourself working on them? What role have discussions with other teachers played in how you think about. and why? 2nd level punch list (Further questions to be asked if he doesn’t cover along the way. time allowing) In your view. and run your classroom these days? What role have school-wide and departmental efforts played.340 Can you describe each of the project cycles and activities that you have had since the first? • Any lessons learned along the way? • Particularly memorable successes • Particularly memorable problems (plus how handle) Can you describe your current standards for projects.what accomplishments. "Project of Excellence") What role do you see technology playing in your classroom? • instrumental. and how you came to them? • What goals do you have for your students .g. goal in itself. if any? (e. or both • how help in accomplishing projects . set up. and why? How are you thinking about doing the next academic year from the beginning. what skills • How has your model of an ideal project changed over time? How are you thinking about doing the next project cycle. what skills as a teacher does it take to run a project classroom? • What are your particular strengths? • What are your particular weaknesses.

swaying tree 2) What do you see as the important resources at your disposal for accomplishing projects? What role does x play? What difficulties do you encounter in trying to take advantage of x? Resource Role Difficulties Specific computer tools if not mentioned yet: WWW. Cruiser. email. Is there anything special you would tell someone coming to teach the same kinds of students in your earth science classes? What did you tell [the other Earth Science teacher] when she started? What would you tell her if she were starting now? 4) What advice would you have for a new teacher about the administration at Lakeside? . CNB. Weather Visualizer What would your class be like tomorrow if CoVis was gone? What would your class be like next year if CoVis was gone? 3) What advice would you have for a new teacher about the students at Lakeside? What are they like. Climate Visualizer.g.341 May 1995 Interview with Rory Wagner 1) What do you think are the most important issues to think about in running a projectbased science classroom? One way to think about it is: What advice would you give to a new teacher who had never done project-based science before? What are the issues in doing projects you are thinking the most about currently? e. how best to reach them and handle them. statement of problem. what do you need to be concerned about. news.

how best to reach them and handle them.342 What are they like. what do you need to be concerned about. What are typical interactions with parents? Is the shouting match or confrontation typical? Offers of help? Information about child you should know? How involved are most parents? What did you tell [the other Earth Science teacher] when she started? What would you tell her if she were starting now? What do you think about at parent-teacher conferences? What are your concerns/worries? Have they changed over the years? How? What are the concerns of your department? The administration? 7) Is there anything about the institution of schooling as you have it here at Lakeside that you think could be changed to better accomplish project-based science teaching? . what do you need to be concerned about. how best to reach them and handle them. how best to reach them and handle them. What did you tell [the other Earth Science teacher] when she started? What would you tell her if she were starting now? 5) What advice would you have for a new teacher about your department head at Lakeside? What is the department head like. What did you tell [the other Earth Science teacher] when she started? What would you tell her if she were starting now? 6) What advice would you have for a new teacher about the parents of Lakeside students? What are they like. what do you need to be concerned about.

graduate adviser. open campus) any other resources that are controlled by the institution or shared 8) You told me a little bit about your father and grandfather. and what you learned from them." Are there any others which are particularly meaningful to you? Why? 10) Switch gears again if time. teach them to fish and they eat for the rest of their lives.g.g. for good or bad or indifferent reasons? This year. like "you can’t paint with a dry brush" and "give someone a fish and they eat for a day.different versions of handouts . teachers. but any particularly salient ones would be interesting to know about (note rel to this . Why is each memorable? Are there any projects or trends in projects that caused you to change the way you structure or describe projects to the class as a whole or the next time around? I know this could be hard to remember. professors.do you still have them?) . Would you mind retelling that for the tape recorder so to speak? How do they fit in to your idea of work ethic? Are there any other people you feel like you learned a lot from? Any who particularly affected your ideas on learning and teaching? Why? e. What are the most memorable projects to you. last year.343 Specific aspects if not mentioned: scheduling grading space policies (e. whatever. wife 9) You’ve mentioned a couple of proverbs or aphorisms you find applicable to your work as a teacher.

last year.what think consequences are.e.what changes motivated.what are you doing differently and why . email first .lecture changes . Netscape play and later data .videos .role of conversation with Mayumi.this year.344 September 1995 interview with Rory Wagner • What advice would you have for a new teacher trying to do what you’re doing about the administration at Lakeside? What are they like. mini-project • I’d like to go over your thoughts on the first quarter project .goals.first of all. what changes coincidental . Example Project. students help formulate the questions about sand size in group brainstorming and focusing session. what affects you • Parallel question on advice about department heads • Compare and contrast startup this year with last . Model Project. followup discussion on further project possibilities • You’ve mentioned a couple of proverbs or aphorisms you find applicable to your work as a teacher. how do you usually refer to this project? Mini-project. Netscape collecting data assignment . what missing) . what are current thoughts on them: scoping in on size. evidence of so far. what do you need to be concerned about.what purpose do lectures and movies serve? . or what? .things the experience won’t help them with (i. like "you can’t paint with a dry brush" and "give someone a fish and they eat for .relative emphasis and time on tech.last year. and ways you see students using what they learn in 2nd quarter . lectures.specific ideas mentioned to me already. editor of the Far West story . tradeoffs involved .this year Netscape first .

relate to sustainability what stumbling blocks have you encountered. but it also informs interpretation of intended) • Follow up on important people in his experience.you mentioned a common quality they all had.what sort of role do you see them playing in motivation? . assessment sheets). see why he made specific changes from one version to another (e. You made a comment to me at the workshop about people who have influenced you. or emailing them off if you think of them. teach them to fish and they eat for the rest of their lives.after hesitating. etc. Were there any particular incidents or projects or trends in projects that precipitated the change (this is partially just a different kind of memory prod for events or ideas salient in a different way. . and how did they influence you? ." You also mentioned "you can lead a horse to water.345 a day. Are there any others which are particularly meaningful to you? Would you mind mentioning them to me if they occur to you in the course of your work. What was it? [inquisitiveness?] .g.benefits and drawbacks of having them? of using them in different ways? .how would you say your graduate advisor influenced you (if not mentioned yet)? • How did the Lakeside Internet connection come about? whose initiative. who was interested (departments and people) who was reluctant. which you’d been thinking about while weeding . where money coming from. Who were you thinking of. project description. class description. who pushed. you mentioned that there were 2 or 3 teachers who influenced you. • Using handouts from class that have changed over time. but you can’t make him drink" in class this year. do you expect to encounter? • His opinion on grades: what role do they play in his classroom? . deliverables.

and possible changes you’ve considered? Can you describe for me how you currently envision the paper format for the next time around? Can you describe for me the milestones as you currently envision them for the next time around? . Can you describe for me "on tape" the reasons for your re-evaluation. just getting into the "real" project)? Why? What do you think are the tradeoffs involved comparing "model projects" with jumping right in? • Do you plan on any transition discussions or activities going from these current projects to the next? Is there anything you plan on stressing to them when they begin the next projects? • What do you see as the primary issues to work with your students on in this coming project cycle? How do you see yourself working on them? (we’ve talked about .e.get specific comments from him on tape by leafing through or in writing (may be best in writing) February 1996 interview with Rory Wagner • Looking back.discussion of possible analyses and coming to conclusions) • You’ve talked about changing the paper format lately. what do you think of the way you introduced and started projects this year? Would you do it that way again (i. no model project.346 • My Chapter 1 .

anything else related to the Web site or Internet connection .including the lecture part and the project part .347 • We were talking yesterday about some of the seemingly inevitable difficulties of having students work in groups.what happened there.what is doing projects like? .anything else related to project science • Thank you December 1995 interview with students (confidentiality and reason for interview) • Why did you sign up for this course? Is it what you expected? (What did you know about it/what kind of reputation does it have?) • How would you describe this class to another student? .what should they know if considering taking it? • • How do you think the lectures relate to the projects in Rory’s class? How is this class like or different from other classes youu have taken? . What do you think are the hardest things about having students work in groups? Why do you think it’s worth it to have students work in groups? (what benefits to them?) (what benefits to the running of the class?) • Can you update me on school-wide or district wide recognition and awareness of what you guys are doing? You mentioned an Institute day in late Sept/early Nov . and have there been many other things .specifically science classes .

labs.What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of each method? • • • What do you think Rory wants you to learn in this class? Do you think it happens? What do you think you are learning in Rory’s class? What do you think you’ll take away from the experience of Rory’s class that will be helpful or valuable to you later? • Some specific questions about your project now: .How often do people go to the library when they say they do? You and your group? . Could you summarize what you did for the rest of the project since then? . and you had just begun your data analysis.Can you summarize what you’ve done in your project so far? .presentation • What do you think was the best project (besides your own) you’ve seen in the class this past quarter? .information and data . and quizzes throughout the year (or a mixture)? .turning in paper and doing rewrite .What do you think of the work grade? February 1996 interview with students • Last time we talked was just before Christmas.what science classes have you had? • Have you done "projects" in other classes? How are the projects in this class the similar and different? • Do you think doing projects are a good way to learn science? Why or why not? How do you think what Rory’s doing in his class could be improved? • Do you prefer a science class with projects or a more traditional class with lectures.348 .

e.349 Why? • What do you think was the most interesting part of your project? • What do you think was the most frustrating part of your project? • What do you think you learned by doing this project? • For the presentations. what would be good about it?) • I was wondering what you think of Rory as a teacher. What do you think makes a project good scientifically? Do you think your opinion would agree with Rory’s? What differences are there? (data. what do you think are Rory’s strengths as a teacher? What makes Rory a good teacher? What do you think are Rory’s weaknesses as a teacher? What could make Rory a better teacher? Are there any other aspects of "ideal teaching" that you don’t see in Rory? • Thank you . Of course I won’t tell him. use data to come to conclusions) Has your opinion about what makes for good science changed this year? How? What do you think was good or interesting about your project scientifically? • What could you have changed about your own project to make it better? Added to it? Have you considered continuing your project? If you were going to continue this project. First. Rory asked you to rate how good the various projects were scientifically. what would you do next? • What (else) can you imagine doing for your next project? Why? (i.

The handouts have subsequently been revised. 350 . with the exception of the margins. to help them in completing their projects. which have been widened. which has been changed from Helvetica 10pt to Times 12pt. 35 Please note that these are “living documents” which Rory Wagner revises each year (and sometimes project cycle). 36 The formatting on these handouts has been retained. The versions included here are the ones students received during the period described in Chapters 8-12).Appendix E Class handouts 35 Rory distributed the following handouts36 to students in the second quarter of 1995-96. and the font.

based on the data you collect. or unravel the Ultimate Mysteries of the Universe. music?) -can you find a way to combine your interests with Earth Science? . They do this by trying to figure out “how things work. usually information in numerical or visual form. the better their “data” is. keeping in mind the “laws of nature” that control everything around us. Sometimes. with time “guidelines” for each step of the process. c) What are your own interests in life? (sports. and “explore” the workings of Earth Science “phenomena. or by collecting and using someone else’s data. Then they try to figure out what the measurements and observations mean. or it could just be a description of how you collected and analyzed your data to answer your question. ** THE DATA. Things they have “always” seemed to want to know about. to see what they can find out. All of these are ways to do science. photography. This can either be data which you would collect by observation or experimentation. and notice that it doesn’t “always” happen. They try to figure out “why doesn’t it always happen?” Sometimes scientists stumble upon new things while looking for something entirely different. which is what you are trying to find out about some phenomena. ** THE METHOD.” 1) Find a BROAD TOPIC in Earth Science that you are interested in. These time guidelines are not entirely “set in stone. the opposite happens. Basically. from which a conclusion can be drawn. because if somebody already knows the answer to your “question. Some of them have questions that “pop up in their heads” so to speak.351 HOW TO DO AN EARTH SCIENCE PROJECT Scientists try to understand the world around them.” you don’ t really have a question. Some scientists see what is “usually” happening. they might be given an area of research by their “boss”. this could be an experiment. But your research will be “original” to some extent. The more careful they are. which is what you actually do.” You are not being asked to solve all the world’s problems. Here are the steps we will use to do our projects. You are going to act as scientists. however. ** THE CONCLUSION you come to. They want to know “why” things happen. Or. (1-2 Days) a) Is there an Earth Science topic that interests you? (Volcanoes? Floods?) b) Can you use any available information sources to discover “anomalies?” ----things that are different from the usual.” To do this they usually have to make measurements and observations. which is the information you collect. The important parts of doing a project are: ** THE QUESTION. you’re going to be looking at how do things work? What proof (data) can you find? Can you “convince” your classmates that you have really “figured it out?” How do we go about this process? Scientists start in many different ways.

what rocks do they form in. Finding the “cure for acid rain” or “how to stop planetary greenhouse warming” might be topics that are a little too large to handle.” No trips to the end of the galaxy to collect data! c) You need to find an idea that you can “test. You don’t have to collect all the data yourself!! There are hundreds of scientists in the world working on lots of different research projects. . For example. data bases.” “measure. images. It basically has to be small enough to do. and CoVis communication tools come into play. whatever you can find. (2 weeks) a) Use all the resources available to you. GROUP MAXIMUM SIZE=3 (1-2 Days) a) It could be someone in your class. 3) Do background material research. 4) Narrow your broad topic into a research proposal. or any of the CoVis classes at schools across the US. journals. 5) Figure out how you are going to try to answer your question.” -use e-mail. or maybe there is one near your vacation home in Wisconsin.Library books. to get this background information. . if you were interested in “caves”. personal conversations. a) What do you already know about the topic? b) What other questions about the topic come up? c) What information do you need to find the answer to the “question” you have asked? d) Where do you find the information you need? 6) Collect Data. etc. whatever it takes. c) You have to do some reading in Earth Science or other specialized science books. just come up with an idea for something to explore. how long oes it take for them to form? b) You need to know enough about the topic to be able to explain it to someone else. telephone. any of the other Earth Science classes here at [Lakeside]. (1 week) a) You don’t have to actually find data in this part. personal conversations. you need to find out how they are formed. Images. This is where the library.. periodicals. -remember. so that they understand the basics too. CoVis newsgroups to find them. (2 weeks) a) You need to find out the way things work. or be able to find existing data to “support” or “prove” your research idea. Some may be available on the Internet. b) What is it about your broad topic that is most interesting to you? Maybe your fascinated by the fact that caves only form in certain states. b) Your partner(s) should really want to explore the same topic that you do.” “experiment on” (this is called “collecting data”). encyclopedias. b) Be sure that your research idea is “do-able. you don’t need an “anchor” you need a “partner.352 2) Find a research partner or partners. Somewhere there might be someone collecting (or has already collected) the data that you need. b) This might also be experimental data your group collects. where they form.

(1 week) a) Graph your data to maky any patterns/connections more “visible.” b) What does your data tell you? c) Does your data “support” what you started out to “prove?” d) Does the data “explain” the phenomena you were exploring? e) If the data shows something “different” that what you expected.353 7) Analyze your data to see what you have discovered.See the separate handout.this might be the “real” project!!! 8) Write a paper explaining your project. why? .there will be more information about this later. (2 weeks) . (1 week) . 8) Prepare a presentation to the class. .

on or by the following dates. Send me a copy by email. The Milestones grade will be part of your semester grade.354 Project Milestones and Due Dates In order to keep the work going at a steady pace. FRIDAY December 1st The RESEARCH PROPOSAL (10 Points) This MUST BE APPROVED by me before you can go any further. Show me the notes/outline. FRIDAY December 22nd DATA ANALYSIS should be done. (10 Points) Send me a copy by email. ** Everyone in the group should be doing this in order to become familiar with the topic. Five (5) "Bonus Points" will be given for Research Proposals. ** Read the chapter/section that relates to your topic. but it could be. you lose a point a day (5-4-3-21-0. (10 points) ** Start with your text book or any of the Esci texts in the lab. and send them to me by email.. Data Analysis and Papers that are completed and accepted BEFORE the due date. but you need my permission to go. ** If you need more information than your text can provide (which SHOULD be the case) see me for additional resource books located in the "office" next door. This does not have to be electronic. The first deadline is Friday! Due: FRIDAY November 10th THE BROAD TOPIC (5 points) and A LIST OF GROUP MEMBERS (5 points) REMEMBER. or 10-9-. (10 Points) Send/give me a COPY. you will be required to turn in documents. ONLY 2-3 PEOPLE IN A GROUP You can "package" these first two things together. . DON'T just walk out!!! The Internet is not usually a good place to look for this information. AFTER these resources have been exhausted.. the Library may be used. as proof that you have completed each of the different steps. Data Collection. Points will be given at each “Milestone” for the work satisfactorily completed. The "point values" below are the number of points that you get when you meet the deadline. Wednesday November22nd BACKROUND INFORMATION on your topic. FRIDAY December 15th DATA COLLECTION is due to be finished.-2-1-0) until you are out of points for that "section". ** Take notes or make an outline.

37 This deadline was moved back to accomodate the addition of a week and an half for students to complete a paper revision. FRIDAY January 19th37 CLASS PRESENTATIONS should be finished. From January 29th through February 2nd. which was due on Wednesday.355 FRIDAY January 12th The PAPER is due. . Presentations will be January 22nd and 23rd (before finals) and January 29th after finals. From February 5th through February 9th. students gave their presentations. students prepared their presentations. and an electronic copy. Questions??????? See me. More about this later. (10 Points) I need both a good paper copy. January 24th during finals.

Fragmented notes. Books printouts. Lots of notes. but they are greatly disorganized. Not well organized. paragraph form. . Well organized.356 BACKGROUND INFORMATION In order to help you prepare your background information. These are the types of “products” I am expecting for each of the corresponding grades. Ready to put in your paper after you type it. but overall content not complete. copies. complete or organized. but no evidence of reading or organizing. GRADE A+ A AB+ B BC+ C BACKGROUND INFORMATION Typed and printed. or underlined or highlighted copies. In other words. Absolutely no notes/copies/printouts turned in. D F Scarce note/copies. detailed or organized. Shows great depth of research. paragraph form. you need to turn in the appropriate type of background material. Little evidence of much research effort. but not detailed. and dreadfully incomplete. Highlighted notes. Lots of notes. Very detailed and complete outline. Some evidence of research. if you want to get a certain grade. I deveised this “scale” to help you. Handwritten. Ready to put in your paper. CHave notes/copies. or underlined or highlighted copies.

2) the information from your “Introduction. TITLE PAGE This page should include the title of your project. Time. and not at the end of the paper. If possible.” You need to describe your project goals. diagrams and charts: each report must have one or more Data Tables to logically/neatly present your data.” etc. Written report.357 PROJECT REPORTS The following reports are required from each GROUP: 1. charts or diagrams directly in the paper. it should include: 1) your original proposal/question. Each report must have one or more Graphs/Charts to help you visually present the findings of your data analysis. Diagrams may be included in the paper if they help to illustrate a point or explain a process. but every item on them must be clearly visible to everyone in the audience. This presentation allows you to share your research with the class. Length: as long as you need it to be to inform the class about your project. names of the authors. 2.” and 5) your “Conclusion. Typed. If copied from another source be sure to quote the source in. and date submitted. Posterboards will be allowed. tell how you did your research or collected your data. computer generated. Each presentation will be limited to 15 min. Format: This report should follow the format below.” or “Graph 1..” 3) your “Method. Computer images. If you have to attach an illustration to a page. and an analysis of your data (your results). double spaced. If it isn’t possible to include the tables. not taped or stapled. 1 . except during the questions and answers. The spreadsheet program. all of these items should be placed in the “body” of the report along with the text (like a book or a newpaper). 1987). Visuals are encouraged. or overhead transparencies would be best.” must be clearly labeled in your paper. or immediately after. No drawings on the chalkboard. Basically.” or “Diagram 1. Excel will aid you with table and graphs/charts. All diagrams/tables/charts should be typed.). Each section. the caption (“Graph from Press. followed by a question/answer period. . Class presentation. RESEARCH PAPER FORMAT Each paper must have each of the parts listed below. (this text is 10 point type) Graphs.” 4) your “Results. excluding the “Title page. Be sure to 1) label them (“Table 1. or copies from reference materials.. they should be as close to the text that refers to them as possible. and 2) include a descriptive caption (“Graph showing the relationship between . instead of on a separate sheet of paper.”). There may be more than one section on each page. it should be glued neatly (rubber cement preferred). 10 point type.

and how you went about trying to find it. METHOD (Process. or how things were related. graphs. and “WHAT YOU DID WITH IT. Research) In this section you describe what you did to find the answer to your question. that you found or made. This section may vary greatly depending on the type of project you do. See Page 19 in the “Style Manual for Research Papers. that you made in your attempt to find out just what the data means. INTRODUCTION (Background material/information) This section is for the background information that you collected. charts. the work of researchers or scientists that studied this area before you did. tt might be how you collected data electronically. 2) a description of your Method (what you did). It also includes any calculations. RESULTS (Data and Data Analysis) The “Method” section describes “HOW” you collected the data. It might describe how you constructed a model and tested it.. Experiment. why you needed it. Be brief. or it might tell how you collected your own samples or data and how you analyzed what you found. How did you go about finding the answer to your question?Tell what information you were looking for. The abstract gives the reader a quick overview of your project.” This would include any tables. You should include enough information here to provide the reader with enough general background information to 1) understand your research.. what did you find out? Specifically state how your data supports/proves/disproves your original question/proposal. Or. 2) show them that you really know what you are talking about. LITERATURE CITED This is where you document all sources. images. ABSTRACT This section is a brief summary of your work. charts. This section should summarize the important findings that have preceeded your work. and 3) your Conclusion.” 4 . It includes: 1) your Proposal (project idea/question). 6 .358 2 . did your analysis appear to be contradictory to what you thought it would be? If you were just trying to find out how something worked. etc. and this section “SHOWS” the data you collected.” but change the “page #” to the “year of publication. maps. so that he/she can decide from the abstract if he/she needs to read the rest of the paper. or from library resources. drawings. 5 . graphs. Anything you use that was created by someone else must be listed here. Be sure to use scientific citations when necessary. maybe even talk to an English . This should not be more than 200 words long. To create a Literature Cited. does the data you collected and analyzed “support” your original proposal/question? Or. Anyone who reads your report should be able to duplicate your research using this description of your research. etc. 7 . CONCLUSIONS (Results) What conclusions can you draw from the data you collected and analyzed? What did you find out about your original Research Proposal question? If you started your project with a specific point to prove or disprove. Be very specific. 3 . images. follow the format in the [Lakeside] Style Manual for Science Citations (or.

Copyright date.edu/~shimmri/geology/structure.359 teacher[!]. The Structural Geology Home Page. and personal conversations where you got information that you use in the research. Basically. 1995.) Be sure to include all the information you got electronically. TITLE PAGE ABSTRACT INTRODUCTION METHOD DATA & ANALYSIS CONCLUSION LIT. Netscape. http://hercules. there should be a reference to it here! How your paper is graded.geology. or science teacher. if there is something in your paper that you got from someplace other than being made up in your own brain.html#data Be sure to include your mentor if you have one. librarian. Application used. Steven H.) TOTAL POINTS= (5 Pts) (10 Pts) (20 Pts) (20 Pts) (10 Pts & 10 Pts) (20 Pts) (10 Pts) (10 Pts) (115 Pts) .uiuc. URL address Schimmrich. Title of Web Page.CITED STRUCTURE (spelling sent. The format we will use will be: Author (last name first). struct internal cit.

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