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


By Joseph Louis Polman


© Copyright by Joseph Louis Polman 1997 All Rights Reserved



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.



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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their teacher. and Jeff sit at a table trying to figure out what kind of project they can do on comets. Rory Wagner’s real name is used. The volume level in the room is high. For their projects. monitors facing in. Kevin browses the World Wide Web at the computer to Rory’s left. sits on the stool at his tall demonstration table in the front of the room. Nearby. in the vicinity of another computer. followed by his partner Rob.Chapter 1 Expeditions to Mt. Kim. 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. Rory’s students began working on their final quarter-long project of the year a week earlier. At his request. talking with Alex about possible project topics. Some students are sitting at the movable work tables in the middle of the room. Andrew joins Rory and Alex. 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. 1 . Rory Wagner. Amanda. with multiple conversations going on. Sarah and Susan sit at another computer in the back of the room. Jorge. and Mike are in their usual back corner of the room to Rory’s left. the students design and conduct research within the broad domain of Earth Science. Seventeen ninth through twelfth graders sit in clusters scattered about the large laboratory room equipped with sinks on either side. Alison and Sophia at the Macintosh computer just to Rory’s right read electronic mail Sophia just received from Israel. 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. Elisabeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

this has affinity to Suchman’s (1987) “situated actions” and Schön’s (1982) “reflection in action. Amanda. The midstream adjustments Rory makes are countless. When the students present their projects to one another and they are discussed and critiqued publicly. Rory has detailed the paper format in a handout which describes the major sections. Alex. The design of projects is participatory because it is socially constructed. Such adjustments midstream are like “design in use” of the upfront plans (a term borrowed from Allen (1993). and what each section includes (see Appendix E for the handouts).” In such interactions. This social construction of design takes place at several different levels. 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 individual student projects is also iterative. these interactions involve what Pea (1994) has termed “transformative communication. to looking for ways to deal with grading conflicts such as the one with Kim. and Jeff. 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.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. Sometimes. ranging from the negotiation of project topics such as those described with Kevin.”) 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. in that students hand in milestones and receive feedback from Rory before incorporating them into their final paper. Rory has changed this document over time. For example. they are participating in the group’s . Rory and students like Jeff and Amanda interact to define and implement each and every project.

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.18 sense of what valid projects are and how to conduct good projects. In Rory’s particular situated work. one aspect of the same environment or task can be seen as . 38. 1990). Brown & Duguid. and resources can turn out to be severe constraints” (p. 1988). Making a distinction between “resources” and “constraints” can be misleading. elaborated by Norman. 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. 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. each with certain affordances (a term introduced by Gibson 1986. Specifically. about topics such as salt lakes. Thus. Finally. since “constraints can be turned into resources. The paper format Rory and his fellow teachers constructed affords a way of structuring classroom activity around milestones corresponding to paper sections. Usenet News and electronic mail afford contacting and communicating with scientist mentors. Rory’s input to Kevin and Alex on their geyser project was based on another project from the previous year. students’ interests are a resource. Constraints for Rory include the structure of the school day. affording a means of students making problems their own. limited amounts of time with many student groups working on different problems. and the culture and practices of schooling students encounter outside of Rory’s class. though. Designers often talk about the set of given resources and/or constraints in the environment. Network tools such as the World Wide Web afford searching for information and data that can inform students’ inquiry.

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

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

In Chapter 3. I will review some historical background on child-centered educational practices and the appropriation of technology to support teaching. I will detail how the traditional . I will show how smoothly running student projects take advantage of the activity structure for projects that Rory has designed. In Chapter 9. I will describe how I developed the questions which motivated this study as part of a larger educational reform effort. 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. In Chapter 6. In Chapter 5. I will show why Rory needs to “bootstrap” students in his course into new practices. in his “expeditions to Mount Everest” with students. I will also describe some early frustrating efforts by Rory to address the bootstrapping issue by a form of modeling. as well as describe emerging views of learning relevant to project-based teaching and learning. The plan for this document In the following chapters. I will walk through Rory’s first day of class. Specifically. In Chapter 4. in Chapter 2.21 area: the complexity of putting project-based science into practice in an internetworked high school classroom. because an entirely new group arrives each year. In Chapter 8. I will attempt to describe what Rory has learned in his project work. the background and attitudes of the students in Rory’s class. and simultaneously set the stage for the action from 1995-96 to be detailed in the following chapters. In Chapter 10. and the methods used to approach the research. This will include a description of the classroom space. and show how they serve as a foundation and a means to transition students into practices different from standard schooling. I will detail Rory’s activities introducing new tools and Earth Science content during the first quarter. and the school and wider community. enacted. and refined over the years. In Chapter 7. I will describe Rory’s personal background leading to his interest in projects.

and how they find ways to improvise their way toward the top. How he has helped his students to work together. How to find and work with a myriad of guides. Where the key footholds are in precarious situations. And above all. 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 can we learn from Rory? We can learn what paths he has taken. In Chapter 12. How to survive the bitter cold of the night. 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. How to judge the winds and unexpected storm clouds. What kind of grapples and knots he uses in different situations. 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. . In Chapter 11.

Along with this. I will explore related efforts that have been tried in the past. 23 . 1927). agricultural educators after the turn of the present century introduced the idea of doing “projects” (Alberty. 1982). First. and yet remain rare today. showed success. and concerned citizens have come to reconsider and reconceptualize the potential importance of project-based approaches to science learning. and what we have learned from them. The very fact that project-based approaches have been tried before. 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 reformers of the 1960s revived it (Ravitch. I will examine some of the ways in which the nature of today’s attempts at project-based science are shaped by historical particulars. In addition. at this particular “historical moment.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. I will begin to address these questions. I will then consider why. 1961). Dewey and later progressives refined the concept (Cremin. 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. “hasn’t this all been tried before?” And with good reason.” educators. begs investigation. The idea of project-based science education is firmly rooted in the tradition of child-centered education spanning two centuries prior to the 1990s. The historian of education might well ask. other researchers.

however. The child’s every whim should not direct the educator’s every action. whereas “sugar-coating” of tasks with extrinsic rewards fosters simply the appearance of attention (Dewey. 1964). 1895). Instead. 1897). p. Dewey’s philosophy that “learning is active . but he ought to do nothing but what you want him to do” (cited in Bantock. Learning must also build from the child’s personal experience: instead of learning geography from maps of distant locations. As Rousseau put it. “No doubt [Emile] ought only to do what he wants. Froebel and Pestallozzi founded schools in Europe.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. rather than imposing ideas that are relevant only from the perspective of the adult or society at large (Archer. 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. 1990). Parker later led reforms in Quincy. it involves reaching out of the mind” (Dewey. Emile is better served by studying his own area and constructing his own map (cited in Farnham-Diggory. which Americans such as Francis Parker observed in their travels. The importance of children’s interests was stressed by both Rousseau and Dewey. Dewey noted that genuine interest linked to both the means and ends of the task at hand fosters true learning. The importance of interest implies that teachers need to diagnose interests as indicative of children’s development and readiness to learn (Dewey. teachers must work to diagnose and cultivate those dispositions. Building on children’s natural dispositions implies that all students cannot be treated the same. 1984). 42) has much affinity with Rousseau. . 1902. Numerous schools and movements have been influenced by these basic childcentered principles...

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

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

Carol knew those right answers. Classroom discourse was characterized by teacher instruction and questions followed by terse student answers. it became clear that Carol understood mathematics not as a living and growing domain of inquiry. Carol Turner3 . 1963. 1902) stressed that the developing interests of children should continuously interact with the direction they get from adults. but as a set of static tools to be learned. and tightly structured activity so as to instill them in children. consistent with the goals of the reform. Instead. who appeared to run a classroom where children were actively engaged.27 later progressives. cited in Ravitch. Sarason (1971) identified the same important issue of teachers’ lack of understanding of a reform effort in the case of the New Math. This fundamental view led her to overlook the possibility of children formulating problems themselves or evaluating alternative mathematical claims.g. This critique of progressivism amounts to placing the blame for its eventual failure on misguided and thus ineffectual implementation of the reform. 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. 59). having defined education as growth without end. 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. Because Carol 3 The names are pseudonyms. On closer examination. Dewey criticized later progressives for “proceeding as if any form of direction and guidance by adults were an invasion of individual freedom” (Dewey. 1983. p. 256). Dewey’s own work (e. 389) As Hofstadter mentioned. Deborah Ball (1990) studied a teacher. 1938.. Dewey. 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. there was always a “right answer” “out there” (p. (Hofstadter. . p.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can computers and networking provide supportive resources? Recently. however. 1995). Once the school year began. were asked to learn a great deal about mathematics itself and new ways of teaching it. The promoters of radio. many of whom had little math background. Blumenfeld. 1984.35 their use of time. Office of Technology Assessment [OTA]. Cuban. film. within a short workshop and the few weeks following it before the upcoming school year. instruction occurs in individual classrooms.. Cuban (1986) documented how several waves of technology in this century failed to significantly alter the practices of teaching. But the history of reform related above.g. as well as Cuban’s (1986) study of how new technologies have failed to alter teaching practices should serve to temper optimism. 1993). 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. 1987. elementary school teachers. and some teachers make efforts based on their beliefs about how learning occurs. such efforts meet with some degree of frustration. and the lack of extra help or resources in putting complex ideas into practice (Cole. They were left on their own to flounder or flourish. 1993).. and more external pressure due to college entrance exams and requirements as well as job market qualifications (Cuban. Ultimately. Pea. reformers have stressed that computers and networking can perhaps provide vital support for teachers attempting to put project-based science into practice (e. et al. there were scant resources for supervision and ongoing work with the classroom teachers. 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. and . Due to the unavoidable constraints of school structures. 1991. In order to implement the reform.

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

There is also widespread belief that technology can effectively support changes to such approaches (Dede. inquiry-based approaches. Thus. Means. The reasons for interest in child-centered approaches. The question of whether and how computers and networking can serve as resources to educators who are agents in the change process remains. such as inquiry and projects (e. technology use. teachers and students are (Harel & Papert. of course—for instance. it might be fruitful to consider how teachers have “situationally resourced choice” along with “situationally constrained choice” in environments incorporating computers. 1989). due to cultural and historical particulars. National Research Council. 1996). 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. reformers were reminded that computers.5 Once again. . 1989). OTA. 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. I turn now to a discussion of how today’s efforts to change instruction toward project-based science differ from previous reform efforts. the claims for transfer of general cognitive skills were questioned by Pea & Kurland (1984). Mehan. Since the same “objective fact” can be interpreted as either a constraint or a resource. like other technologies. 1990. are not themselves agents for change. A particular historical moment Understanding the context of efforts at change requires looking at this particular historical moment. rather. 1993. and their interconnections are 5 This criticism was not the only kind leveled at Papert. There is a renewed interest in child-centered approaches to learning science. By 1990. 1995).37 larger social system” (Mehan.g. 1993. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) from the world. self and other. Along the way. Individual persons do not seize meanings within a sociocultural vacuum. person and context. Richard Shweder (1990) describes this hybrid discipline as “cultural psychology. Sheingold and Hadley’s “nationwide survey of teachers who are experienced and accomplished at integrating computers into their teaching” (p. 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. Although changes in technology and culture.. along with specific social circumstances. and dynamically. figure and ground. As mentioned in Chapter One. practitioner and practice live together. require each other. and jointly make each other up.” As Shweder describes it. et al. psyche and culture. the 608 teachers of grades 4 through 12 took considerable time and effort. cultural psychology is the study of the ways subject and object. 1) found that mastery of computers in teaching took generally five to six years. but neither does the sociocultural environment . & Dwyer. Recent research which intersects the traditional disciplines of psychology and anthropology has proven useful in describing the relationship between persons and cultures. 1990. 1990). p. (Shweder. Sheingold & Hadley. Pea. Ringstaff. 1992.44 (Sandholtz. 1989. dialectically. 1992). other researchers have referred to this process of “seizing meaning” as “appropriation” (Leont’ev. 1) This cultural psychology is based on the premise that environments are created by the way human beings “seize meaning” (p. mitigate the applicability of Sheingold & Hadley’s findings to other teachers today. Newman. 1981. which was seldom recognized or encouraged by their institutions. they serve as a sobering reminder of the difficulty of learning technologies and changing practice. as well as sociological and educational research on reflective practice.

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

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

Blueprints for school reform and other social change generally fail.47 In this way. 1992). the range of possible choices. and the conflicts and interactions between the many available courses of action. I will characterize the types of decisions a teacher has made and continues to face in his journey. 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. the tradeoffs and implications involved in his choices. not a blueprint (Fullan & Miles. I will describe a journey. since they assume an ability to rationally plan for all the possibilities of complex and varied situated environments. . The description and analysis of this one journey will thus serve as a guide for future travellers along the paths of reform.

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

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

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

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

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

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

researchers attempt to show how certain values of objective variables correlate to certain outcomes. 5) I argue that such interactions are essential to the “total learning environment” Harel and the teacher were able to create. Goals and limitations of process-product research Harel is careful to call her ideas about how this complex system worked speculations and conjectures. This is the direction that the so-called “processproduct” research has chosen to explore. 1986. and speculations about the interrelationships among the factors. It is also significant that there is enough description to be able to raise additional conjectures about the learning environment as a functional system. before interjecting a comment or clue. Tobin. because she is unable to reduce them to statistical studies. 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. sat next to them. and problems in a friendly and informal way. looked at their programs. and that .. and discussed with them their designs. helped them when asked for. 1986). (p. 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. An example is waittime research (e. including conjectures about a number of factors that may have affected students’ improved performance. students will learn more if teachers wait longer after asking their questions.54 meanings and interpretations of both the activities and the topics. Her research makes important contributions. One might think that this problem might be overcome by gathering more numerical data on the process students went through.g. programming. Rowe. but Harel does not present them in detail. 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.

In fact. the many levels that influence what goes on and what it means in the classroom became apparent. Putting interpretive methods to work In my discussion of efforts to put child-centered practices. Through study conducted in the interpretive tradition. is an important one. 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. or an electronic mail message sent. and action. Understanding such a complex problem. 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. however. such as project-based teaching. 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. 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. We also wouldn’t know anything about how teachers could help construct meaningful interchanges between students and scientists. Reasons for this include “being there” personally and with all senses engaged. The distinction between an objective behavior. statistical studies are inadequate to the task of describing learning environments as “functional systems” of actors and actions. the relatively extended amount of .55 if teachers are told they should wait by researchers. from Harel’s ISDP classes to Rory Wagner’s Earth Science class in CoVis. as Peshkin (1988) asserts. Similarly. 126-7). with the kind of complexity and interrelatedness that exists in classrooms. I am using Erickson’s (1986) definition of a behavior as a physical act. they will do so. such as time waiting. we wouldn’t know what the e-mail exchange meant to the student. into practice.

but instead encourages a view broad in scope. my results could also be used to identify factors of particular interest for conducting larger scale process-product research on similar environments. I started this journey with statistical analyses of predefined factors that seemed likely to be relevant to technology and project-based science. Thus. I have to get there first. and soon found that one factor. I argue that there are different ways to understand the world. 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. I believe statistical input-output and processproduct designs can and do complement interpretive designs. so I now turn to an examination of the interpretive tradition and approach as I have put it into practice. with a stance that does not require prespecifying everything that will be recorded. 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’. For example. for instance. This led me to an interest in prying open the black box the teacher factor represented. and interpretive research holds an important place among the plurality of approaches available for educational research. In conducting interpretive research. Like Eisner (1993) in his AERA presidential address. I do not wish to make an argument for interpretive research as the sole vehicle for research. emergent themes which are manifestly important to action in situ can be captured rather than ignored. 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.56 time devoted to the phenomenon under study. the “teacher factor” mattered immensely. in my research with Rory. As should be clear from the development of my own research. however. .

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

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

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

was from the first half of the 1995-96 school year. 40). I was present on average one to two days per week from October through May in Rory’s Period 7/8 class. which makes up the bulk of this report. 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. 1992. In addition. 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). I acted “primarily as an observer but [had] some interaction with study participants” (Glesne & Peshkin.” Thus. During that year. The most complete and intensive work. my role can be characterized as “observer as participant. In 1994-95. Details of the sources of my field notes from this period are shown in the table below. p.60 observation continuum discussed by Glesne & Peshkin (1992). . 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.

I have attempted to reach ever closer approximations of understanding Rory and his students’ perspectives. Glesne & Peshkin. Early on. 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.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 believe the development of rapport through personal interactions allowed my subjective personality to be used as a tool to better the research. and following Bill Ayers’ (1989) example. . Like Lightfoot (1983). 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. 1992). I have included in Appendix A a brief autobiography focusing on issues related to the conduct of this research. By being there and developing rapport through personal interaction with participants in the setting. 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. Thus. Deliberately sampling for a variety of kinds of evidence can increase the discipline of inquiry. 1989. 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. and reveal that subjectivity to the reader (Ayers. I had a strong focus on the use of technological tools. rather than something to be avoided. Such triangulation of data sources can include observation of events. For this reason. Interpretive researchers also attempt to critically assess throughout the research process how their own subjectivity may bias the work.

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

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

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

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

and Kotlowitz (1991) shows how urban violence. But they are better approximations than are otherwise obtainable. For this reason. For instance. grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss. but the applicability of the case studied and described is left to the reader (Firestone. Thus. detailed cases. 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. By considering the different layers of context that are shared with other settings.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. In my study. Erickson has pointed out that the focus of interpretive research is usually particularizability rather than generalizability (Erickson. But by gaining a fuller understanding of how the larger issues . Ayers (1989) shows how widespread social problems are manifested in particular preschool teachers’ work. the drug trade. 1993) . 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. 1979) is developed that accounts for a variety of local events and variations. 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. Erickson describes particularizability as being achieved by examining “concrete universals” in particular. I attempt to show how such issues as traditional schooling practice affect the implementation of project-based science teaching. In this way. like urban violence and changing from traditional school practices. the interpretive researcher can begin to indicate what aspects of the concrete case under study may apply to other cases. 1986). and comparing them with one another.

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. 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. 1986) of how projects can be organized in networked science classrooms. 1990). This case study aims to explore “what could be” if an experienced. we know a priori that the technological infrastructure in CoVis classes is exceptional as an NSF Educational Testbed. p. CoVis is explicitly an exploration of what education “could be” if teachers appropriated project-based approaches in technology-rich. In the previous chapter. As Schofield uses the distinction. is exceptional within CoVis. 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. As Schofield points out. In addition. As mentioned at the outset of this chapter. networked classrooms. readers are in a better position to apply these findings to other situations. we do not want to know what is typically the case. In some of these cases. there is an additional problem with unusual approaches or environments. In addition to the problems of local meanings in multiple settings mentioned previously. . 217). reflective. most research (especially in the positivist tradition) aims at studying “what is” in typical settings. and refine them over several years.67 particularize to these cases. 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. Studying his classroom allows me to build a more complete model (Erickson.

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

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

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

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

about a particular problem. Rory himself “got bored . they [will be] more apt to be more energized by that. 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. Rory decided to step out of the familiar upstream struggle he’d been waging..” Instead of him saying “do this. he decided to throw out his textbook reading . But after reading LabNet (Ruopp. and he felt that “if students are involved with doing things that they pick and design... .” especially with four classes on the same subject in the same day. it is not surprising that Rory was intrigued by the idea of getting students involved in doing science research. In the second quarter of 1992-93. He had been “trying to get them to think a little bit . Given the background described above. the process had become too frustrating. But he felt over and over again that the “kids aren’t interested—I am.. At the time he became involved in CoVis. Rory’s department head suggested he go to the CoVis meetings which had begun the previous summer.72 Finally.1993) and thinking hard about what he was trying to accomplish. to see if he was interested. et al..” 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. After nineteen years. or what’s out there.. Most of them decided to wait until the Fall of 1993 to begin projects. They don’t care about it. whether it [was] critically. Rory was not sure he would be teaching for much longer. and take more interest in and ownership in it. do this.” Fish out of water In September of 1992.. so they had longer to discuss and plan.” the students would get to make decisions. This approach was one that he had not tried. do this. that they haven’t ever heard before. in September of 1992. [with] talking about the same thing over and over again.

So I was really—you talk about winging it. he hoped he could get his students to play an active role in defining research problems. So instead. but felt they would enjoy the freedom of studying almost anything about the Earth they wanted. he turned to the model of the graduate research project. as his advisor had done. He assigned students a quarter-long. 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. he was reminded that “things . he said. He was uncertain how exactly he would go about helping his students do projects. then changed the “rules of the game” to a non-traditional model. much as he had done for his masters. “I felt totally like a fish out of water. Now. but years later he decided to pursue a masters in geology. Because I had no idea what I was doing. At the time. Rory attributed some of the students’ frustration to the fact that he had started the year out traditionally. You know? This was really 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. because the LabNet teachers had all been working on physics projects. He would provide mostly feedback and advice. When he . open-ended project with no formal requirements other than that it have something to do with mapping.73 assignments. and performing the analyses. designing approaches to the problems.. He studied the mineral compositions and fracture patterns in rocks in Wisconsin. and “cookbook” labs. under the guidance of a graduate advisor. He himself had what he later characterized as a “vague” sense of what he wanted his students to accomplish. however. and that they give an oral presentation at the end.. and he was unsure how to accomplish what they were doing in his Earth Science class. As mentioned previously. lectures. As related earlier. Rory avoided graduate studies right after college.

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

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

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

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

. 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.

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

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

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

among other things. 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. .” 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. His first step to accomplishing this was preparing and presenting a Powerpoint slide show at the beginning of September answering.82 pedagogy departs from the norm. 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.

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

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

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. because you’re trying to look at the world from a whole different perspective than you normally do. Since these issues may have prevented students from grasping and applying the lessons about doing projects. where and why?” The results of this effort would be graphs that were more like what students typically worked with in their own projects. but instead involved tables of numeric values and graphs of them. 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. And so you’re asking them to shift from a horizontal view to a vertical view. in which they were responsible for the research design. “maps are tough.” which he saw as fundamentally different from original science—mostly due to the lack of analysis of empirical data. Instead. Looking back a year later on the mapping projects.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. 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. 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.” In addition. But it was not clear to Rory that the students were able to transfer the experience to their later projects. students “started doing your basic library research paper. Rory attributed at least part of the problem to the difficulty of mapping. to compare with its current shape. 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. and some kids don’t have that vertical view. You have to find historical records of the beach (which may include maps). .

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

highlight some of the important pitfalls of this strategy.87 Thus. 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. and students’ experience in the model project must parallel their experience in later projects for transfer to be successful. organization and graphing of sand data in a spreadsheet. Ultimately. Most importantly. Rory decided that he would drop the model project strand from the introductory activities in the 1995-96 school year. 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. I would note. the model project “never really accomplished [Rory’s] goals. and reaching conclusions about the beach sand.” The pitfalls of modeling Due in part to lack of student engagement and transfer. In Rory’s 1993-94 and 94-95 efforts. teachers must find ways to engage students in actively considering the rationale behind the model project while working through it. 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. there was a structural parallel that Rory saw between the model project . Rory distributed instructions on exactly what graphs students should make. For instance. analysis. the sand analysis project fell into the same kind of trap traditional labs do—students never took interest or ownership. Rory intended students to think about the sand data collection. including how the graphs should be labeled and what data should be in them. however. Rory’s experience does. when the students were asked during the second quarter to do data collection. however.

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

Rory opted to jump directly from the earth science lectures and activities introducing the network tools to the students’ first project. In effect. In the end. . he would ask important questions.” And Rory could “work with [the students] a lot. He would not provide the answers. the class would “get to the real stuff instead of talking about what they’re going to do.89 be distributed the way it is. 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. though. so that students would not lose the context. In this way.

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

He is tall.” In front of the blackboard is a tall. and dark black hair. They range from casual— skateboarding shorts. torn jeans. the teacher’s base. 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. a blue chambray shirt and a wolf tie—casual for a teacher. . Rory is wearing brown corduroys. with ruddy skin. Although the students’ attire leans heavily toward the casual. with a touch of the outdoors Rory loves. His looks and fitness make it difficult for students to discern his age.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. On the blackboard the students see the class name: “Earth Science 114 & 119. baggy flannel layered over t-shirts. permanently attached demonstration table with a sink and a stool behind—clearly.

he says. I’ve got some additions to make. so if you just bear with me . attendance and grade sheets.” Three more students walk in late and find a place.. Rory opens the three ring binder in which he keeps class lists.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. and a schematic of each class in a plastic sheet on which he indicates students’ daily absence or presence with erasable colored markers.” Then he smiles wryly and adds “I’m sure we’re all glad to be here. if anybody’s got more schedule changes. Rory says. getting no comment. easily projecting his voice so the whole class can hear. he continues “this is Earth Science 114 and 119 . and Monday and Wednesday we have a double . We meet every day Period 1.” Gesturing to the board. bring them up. Looking up from his writing.. “OK... welcome back. “OK.

you can call me “Rory” if you’re comfortable. I’m still in authority. As I go through your names.” He continues: OK. 13 eleventh graders. and Mark. but I want you to think of us working together.. but this one is mostly older students: one ninth grader. The Period 7/8 class I observed in 1994-95 had a large number of freshmen and sophomores.93 lab period.” As in the rest of this relatively wealthy. but individual classes are skewed one way or another by the fact that students in a given year tend to have similar schedules. and if you’d like to be called something different. Wagner. I’ve got 100 some to learn. let’s do attendance. in contrast to the Period 1/2 1995-96 class described here.. Thomas prefers “Tom. I’ll respect nicknames if you prefer them . Some ask him to call them by a nickname. 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. the Earth Science course.. I need to begin learning your names. Emily. he has slightly more older students than younger students. or “Mr. whose parents are from the Middle East. most of the students are white—the exceptions are Cheryl. who is African-American. whose parents are Asian. 4 tenth graders. As far as my name goes. and it’s inevitably a difficult process . Most of the students raise their hands and say “here” when their names are called. The core sequence of science .. Where the students are coming from Interest in science and this class At Lakeside High School.” Timothy goes by “TJ. Rory’s classes routinely consist of 9th through 12th graders. I’ll try to learn all your names by the end of the month.” and Jesse prefers “Jess. along with some other courses such as Anatomy and Environmental Science. I’ll be handing out a paper tomorrow explaining the expectations for the class. The students wait quietly while Rory goes through the list of names. suburban school. Throughout all Rory’s classes.” I’m trying to break down some of the barriers to open communication. and 10 twelfth graders are taking this class. let me know if I pronounce them correctly. are considered “alternative” science courses and are taken by fewer students than chemistry and physics.

3=maybe. To see how the students in Rory’s class compare to other students. 1=I am NOT a “science” or “math” person 3=Neutral 5=I AM a “science” or “math” person 1=disagree strongly. 3=neutral.0 56% 2. 5=agree strongly 1=definitely not. chemistry. 5=definitely yes Mean (µ) % most negative response All other CoVis classes (n=1592) Mean (µ) % most negative response 2. Rory’s classes (n=70) Item Scale Meaning (all are 1-5 likert ratings) Circle one number for the scale. 3=maybe.0 49% 2.4 36% 2. .94 classes are biology (which most 9th graders take and all students must take at some point).7 28% 3.0 19% Table 3: Mean student responses to survey items on science interest. 5=definitely yes 1=definitely not.2 16% 3. 3.5 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? 1.2 16% I enjoy classes in science. 5=definitely yes 1=definitely not. 3=maybe. and physics.8 57% 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).8 26% 3.

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. is one of the few. Rory’s classes come out below the means on all these survey items that relate to students’ enjoyment of science. and participation in scientific activities. along with Adam. Patti does not like science. whereas Beth says she likes science. like Patti and Beth. students in CoVis do not express much enthusiasm for science or science classes in the survey. the freshman in Period 1/2. 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. and one of them must be in “physical sciences” (which include Earth Science. Although they are not required to take the class. 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. 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. but doesn’t consider herself good at it.95 In general. expectations about future use of science. and more than half say they will “definitely not” become scientists or major in science in college. Steve didn’t know much about the course or the way it was taught before arriving today. Patti also took the class to be with some friends who were signing up. and most freshmen take biology. and Physics). was . Cheryl. Since he is a freshman. some of the juniors and seniors in the class. Besides. who come in with a strong interest in science. Since Lakeside requires two science credits to graduate. Steve. In addition. Nevertheless. 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. too.

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

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

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

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

000 students at the school is $12. or Aleut. The difference between Rory’s course and the overall average is in part .com).” Again. In addition. Eskimo.sunspace.” The school and community context Lakeside High School is a public high school situated in an affluent. 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). 1995). 11% Asian or Pacific Islander. the students at Lakeside as of 1994-95 (the most recent year available) were 85% white. Steve. 2% black. although the buildings were built half a century ago. 1995). Students who arrive at school carrying Starbucks coffee cups do not look out of place. The average spending per student for the just under 3.” As Beth put it. 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. the average per capita income in one town in the district is $62.100 there between groups like the Indians and English.” and the word aptly describes the grounds. Although there is an average student/teacher ratio of 12/1. “the teacher tells you [everything] to do to complete it. is large and well-apportioned. According to the 1990 census. According to demographic information available on the Sunspace Internet site (http://www. or someone who’s already found the answer. and 2% Hispanic. The “campus. mostly white.000 (Krieg & Wheelan. and less than 1% American Indian. 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. community in the suburbs of Chicago.” Beth echoed Rory’s intuition that students had not been asked to play a role in figuring out how to answer a research question.000 (Krieg & Wheelan.

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

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

and an animation of an approaching globe plays. for that matter .103 Where they’re going: Overview of CoVis. “I have a little presentation to give. the class. CoVis is something from the Northwestern University School of Education..” You are automatically part of it by being a part of this class. . The television screens are set to display the image from the computer monitor. 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.” 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. or any other earth science class at Lakeside. You’ll have to sign a couple of forms. He opens up the Powerpoint slide show on the computer in the front right corner of the room.. and projects Once attendance and the other preliminary comments are completed. followed by the title “Earth Science and CoVis Project. funded with National Science Foundation money. 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 turns to a presentation he prepared about the class last year. CoVis means we’ll be using a lot of tools . He returns with a remote computer controller that works like a television remote. As was mentioned in Chapters 1 and 2. Rory’s particular appropriation..” and goes to his office next door to get something. Rory then explains the term CoVis: The “Co” stands for “collaborative” and the “Vis” for “visualization... take a survey or two. which focuses more strongly on the “Co” in CoVis than the “Vis. This sketchy summary glosses over a host of complex issues.. Rory’s particular appropriation and realization of CoVis will differ in important ways from other teachers’ or the abstract vision. Rory turns on the large televisions which hang above the class. That’s it. He says.” will continue to be conveyed and realized in situ throughout this day and over the next few months.

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

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

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

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

Just before the end of class. . I say a few words about my research and role. 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. as will be discussed at greater length in Chapter 10. and I will be around a lot. Rory introduces me.108 guided participation which Rory is trying to foster. The 40-minute class is finished for the day.

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

He explains how to get around.0 9. This year. switch between applications. and work with windows.0 21. he shows the students Netscape Navigator.0 Technology Teacher Demos Student Activities & Exams Total Technology Periods Discussions of Policies/Procedures (including assignments.5 19.5 2. 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. .0 68. during the second week of the quarter.110 periods.5 37. 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. Rory gives the class a demonstration of the Macintosh. Students come into his class with a wide range of computer background and skills. including three single periods and two double “lab” periods. a program used to browse the World Wide Web. 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. Then.5 9. open applications. open and save files. on Monday and Wednesday): Category “Content” Subcategory Lectures & Exam Videos Total Content Periods # of Periods 28.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

U. Jupiter.5 Asteroids ~2. Table 6 is constructed over the next few minutes.U.” refers to astronomical units.7 Earth 1.U.” Rory told me in interviews.0 Saturn 9. They looked for it and they found [the asteroid belt].8 Jupiter 5. but some comets. Mars. about twice as far away from the Sun.0 Neptune 30. and it is a convenient unit of measurement based on the distance between our sun and the Earth (which is 1 A.0 Pluto 39. and “are currently looking for Planet X...—so far they’ve found no planet.125 briefly explains that “A.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? . At least my understanding of the way some of the .U. scientists eventually found all the planets we know of in our solar system. distance Mercury . Venus. at around 80 A. An early astronomer noticed the progression of distances from the sun. Saturn.0 Mars 1. equivalent to 93 million miles).. and found Uranus. Using this technique. See how they sort of double? And then he predicted there should be another planet around 3 A. “I’m trying to—at every chance I get—to show examples of how scientists do science. from the sun. amidst explanation and questions about the asteroid belt: PLANETS A. you could see five other planets—Mercury.5 Uranus 19. Rory went on to explain how they looked for another planet beyond Saturn. Before we had telescopes.U.4 Venus .

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

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.


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.

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. but they are in some ways a gradual step in the direction away from traditional schoolwork. Thus. And although the lectures are dominated by teacher talk. the “content” of these lectures is not only established.. he has reinforced his comment by encouraging students to create notes to use on their computer competency and science content exams. 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. but also narratives and concepts of scientific practice. 1993) have conducted similar lecture tours intended to “prime” students for conducting projects. such as LabNet.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. they involve more student questioning and student control than is customary in traditional classrooms. Teachers in other reform efforts toward project-based instruction. scientific concepts. factual. Finally. 36. et al. the lectures have served the dual purpose of “covering content” and simultaneously describing the practice of science students will attempt to participate in later. These activities do not constitute the same level of “guided participation in a community of learners” that is represented by projects. Given the prevalence of traditional teaching practices and the . (Ruopp. Although Rory leads the students through lecture activities rooted in a “transmission” model of communication.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in Chapter 1. But for the first project in 1994-95. Rory adjusted the milestones for the 1994-95 year such that Step 1 did not include deciding on a research question. learn more about. Too . (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. 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. Rory added the report as a formal milestone to focus the initial period of learning about the chosen topic area.” such as Amanda’s query. students did not turn in Background Information reports such as the one Dave and TJ have done. (4) analyzing the data.143 question. if necessary. 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. 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. but instead a general topic area which students then have time to read up on and.” or else you will not get far. (3) finding or collecting data that would answer the question. rather than relying on informally giving the students time to learn about their topic. 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. Therefore. especially English and History). Later in that year. Then they could come up with a focused research question by brainstorming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

we’ve had a couple that have hit Texas. tropical storms.. he tells me afterward: I asked them why they picked those [years]. They kind of like start here [southeast of Florida].. 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. Dave: Some—that’s like the general. “we thought we would compare average years. Rory is unsatisfied with their use of the data to support conclusions. In this conversation.... and 11 .. You know. For their data analysis milestone due at the end of week 6. You can’t just say it. But maybe the average is not in terms of numbers. and they said. You can say you have 4 apples. And so there always doing that [I draw a C swooping from southeast to northwest to northeast] Dave: Pretty much. and hurriedly compose an ad hoc “conclusion” in the email message to which they attach the map images. “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. They just barely get the assignment together by the end of class on the due data. those are the ones that blast over there. you have to convince me they are all apples . figuring out how to turn this general impression into an analysis of data proves difficult for Dave and TJ.” How do you define the average year? Maybe with frequency? Someone in another class is looking at the number of hurricanes per year. and then some of them occasionally. that these are average years. and generally some—you know. or the reader. TJ and Dave turn in four separate maps of hurricane paths for 1899 and 1993-1995. maybe it’s in terms of paths. Other years had 5. such as TJ and Dave’s contention that the years . There’s also the number of storms. you know [draws one going over Florida. yeah.. There were 21 hurricanes last year. but if 3 are red and one is green. so I asked them “How did you figure out they were average years?” “We looked at maps” “You have to prove it to me..150 .” So I said to them. Joe: Right. and then they kinda swoop like that [along the East coast]. then use those . 8. he pushes the students to not make claims. and the number of each hurricane category . in electronic form and traced on transparencies... Joe: And there’s more of them over here [in Atlantic off coast] Dave: Yeah. However. Maybe you can see which years are average. and some have gone up the coast of Mexico. 10. and one into Texas/Louisiana]. you know Joe: Oh.

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

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

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

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

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

” Rory comments: In this statement.156 towards the United States and finished back east of the northern United States. Which diagrams show this? Of the total # of storms over this 11 year period. and give the number of storms within each category among the 83 storms over the period. First of all. “Bottom Line: Lots of ideas. Which ones are ‘doable’ in the available time? You decide. . how you came up with your Conclusions/Results. you need to show/prove this is true. You need to show. how they could classify each storm in the time period as having one of a set of path shapes. 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. They also produce a pie chart showing the percentages of each shape (see Figure 4). Rory ends by writing. exactly how many (and then. and how often each cell in a grid dividing the total area was hit by a storm. the boys carry out many of Rory’s suggestions. perhaps where they turn if they turn. such as the C-shape they mentioned. what %) of the storms had this “C-shape” path. Back up what you say with your graphs. After these comments. in step-by-step fashion. late in the game.” For their revised report. They categorize each storm as having one of three 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 the boundaries of the “spaghetti bowl” of storms are.

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

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

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

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

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

1.” Another one of the eight graphs shows the density of the moons: Density Moon Miranda Titan 0 0. “the graph [of orbital period] shows that Earth’s moon has the longest orbital period.32 days.5 2 2.4 days.162 In the final draft of the paper. and then list each graph’s interpretation separately. the students once again include only graphs of single variables.5 Figure 6: Density of three moons from Final Draft . For instance. while Miranda has the shortest orbital period. 27.5 3 3. 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. they write.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

With regard to overall number of interactions. As I describe later in the chapter.01. half of their interactions focus on science issues. and their project turns out quite well. one would expect the Moons project and Barb’s UFOs & Aliens project to encounter similar levels of trouble. 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. in fact. on the other hand. For the admittedly small sample of twelve projects in the class. coefficient=2. If overall number of interactions were all that affected differential success. Although the taciturn Moons group do not interact often with Rory. Looking at Table 10 and Figure 8. but this is not the case.179 about problems with the printer in the classroom. and discussions focus on procedural issues more frequently than science issues. 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<. The Zodiac group. an example of a non-project discussion was when TJ and Rory discussed lacrosse coaches and tournaments.3) . 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. the hurricanes group interacted much more with Rory than the Moons group or Barb (the UFOs & Aliens project in Table 10). but almost always around procedural issues (most often computers and Netscape).

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. because some discussions cover topics in more than one category .

such that Rory is stretched the thinnest in the beginning of the project and the end of the project.” however. varies over time. There is an ebb and flow to the overall project activity.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 .

at the end.182 get their research started. Rory is not as busy. and get their research proposal formulated. 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 . Table 11 and Figure 9 show the differences. students are trying to bring everything together. use the tools most intensely for the first time. During the middle phases of data collection and analysis.

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

A total of 348 of the interactions (73%) were initiated by students.184 To see the degree to which Rory’s support of students is reactive rather than proactive.. 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). Of the 68 interactions initiated 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. previously initiated by the students. or 12%. . but delayed by Rory until after he finished something else).e. and 53 (11% of the total) were initiated by Rory with no direct prompting from students.vs. 15 of them (3% of the total) followed up on discussions begun previously in the class (i. I coded the same 474 interactions between Rory and the students by who initiated the interaction. and 68 (14%) were initiated by Rory (58 interactions. Table 12 shows who initiated the interactions described.

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

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

Rory offered to help the Zodiac group. the Wooly Mammoth group. but they can be seen as indicative of the ways in which such instances occurred. and it led to issues about searching for information and the group’s understanding of their topic. initiated by Rory in response to Debbie’s despondence following her friend and partner’s suspension from school. Similarly. these 7 instances should not be taken as an exhaustive compendium of science-related discussions initiated by Rory during this project. who did the Sun project. As mentioned in footnote 1 of this chapter. or had he been able to glean more promising seeds for . the final two discussions were initiated by Rory with the Moons group and the Earthquakes group in the latter stages of the project. was an outgrowth of a non-projectrelated discussion.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. and the Plesiosaur group each on one occasion with a Web search. Three of the seven were outgrowths of discussions that began with procedural issues during the background research phase of the project—specifically. Rory’s tendency to avoid Barb could perhaps have been overcome had their been other doors open to begin more extended discussions. after he went home and ruminated about a discussion he had had with the group the previous day. One discussion with Debbie. 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.

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

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

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

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

For their research proposal.” In the next couple of weeks. In the end. the group continues to get little done. . 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. as Rory puts it. but instead for Mark’s sake. so they change their proposal to “an analysis of the relationship between astronomy and astrology. “this is only a small part of the project.” specifically by comparing astrological claims about star position relative to astronomical findings. “it’s kind of organized. 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. they have no astronomical data.” This turns out to be the most in-depth conversation the group members hold with Rory during the entire project. and he is unable to match the group with a mentor. according to Rory and my observations. The students immediately turn in their “Data collection” milestone (already one day late). Rory reminds them. They do some library research and gather some useful materials. Nevertheless. “you need lots more [data]. Pete convinces Rory to bump their grade back up to a B. they continue to focus their information gathering on the Zodiacs and largely ignore astronomical sources on constellations. At the end of the conversation. Instead. it is a negotiation for a grade. Naturally.” and partly because. in between discussion sessions in the back of class and playing games.192 college. and Rory reminds them they will need it if they intend to compare the astrological zodiac to the astronomical position of the stars. partly because. In week four. but it is almost completely unrelated to improving their project. as Pete puts it. Pete expresses interest in getting a mentor for their project.

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

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

but they also knew the overall worth of the milestones paled in comparison to the worth of the final paper (one quarter vs.” But the flexibility Rory has retained in the deadlines works against his best intentions in a case like the Zodiac project. their final report is a classic example of what Rory terms “going informational”—just synthesizing reported findings of others. 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. and Mark played it as loose and cool as they possibly could. But they still had to learn what it took to complete an earth science project. 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. As mentioned in the previous chapter. 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. with no new analysis. they could get by. one half of the quarter grade). the group finally began to see that they were going to be in trouble. Thus. But Pete. figuring they had done reports before so knew what he wanted. the stuff doesn’t come just like boom . As long as they did fine on the final paper and the one milestone they turned in. Pamela. partly through discussions with Rory about putting the paper together. Pete.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. In the end. and didn’t need that much time to complete it. and when [he] want[s] it done. Pamela.” So he tries to tell them as specifically as he knows how “what [he] wants done. Rory knows that the necessary work to do a good. In the final week of paper revision. and Mark knew they would lose points for late or completely missed milestones. original project often takes a great deal of time and effort—“doing [projects].

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

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

if you don’t want to. The subject of grades brings us to the topic of the next chapter. he was approached by a student who wanted his input. and perhaps back up their importance by assigning them more weight in the final grade. In addition to such outright rebuffs. 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). follow up.” 22 Besides such meetings with groups who have not turned in milestones. Rory said “OK.198 With that. 22 This comment was made by email in the Spring of 1997. . in which I will discuss how grades and other aspects of school culture constrain and to some degree undermine project-based teaching. or choose not to. Rory could also stress to the whole class on a more regular basis the importance of getting milestones in on time. 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. Before he got there. after I asked Rory to review this chapter.” and got up to head back to his table at the front of the room. but won’t be able to.

Despite the efforts at transition. But time is not the only cultural factor which constrains and molds project activity in Rory’s classroom. other aspects of school culture play a significant role in the meaning of project activity. 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. 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. 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. For instance. Katrina says.Chapter 10 How the school culture affects guided participation Introduction As described in the previous chapter. In Chapters 7 and 8 I described some ways Rory attempts to aid the transitions to new practices. For students. As Brickhouse & Bodner (1992) found with beginning science teachers. 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. “No way! We don't have a final in here?” 199 . institutional expectations and students’ reactions to classes impose constraints on teachers’ actions. Marie and Katrina will be shocked to find out they have no final exam. whether he wants them to or not. the norms of school culture color students’ interpretations of Rory’s class.

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

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

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

192). just as Julie’s actions do. Increased ambiguity and risk in project-based class Although Julie’s pushing Rory for clarifications and reassurances may seem over dramatic or unnecessary. are “fraught with ambiguity and risk” (p. Like the Moons and Hurricanes groups. classrooms. 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. Julie is preoccupied by how long the paper should be: she did not believe at first they could write 5 pages on the topic. As Doyle (1979) has pointed out.” After Amy and Julie begin their data collection. “there’s no need to change your question. 194) Doyle goes on to point out that many student strategies in classrooms may be directed toward reducing ambiguity and risk. 1979. You can leave it as it was.” Julie says to Rory when they are starting the Analysis phase. But the teacher may try to help out as well. allows them to . to the degree that classroom tasks can be seen as “an exchange of performance for grades” (p. 194). though. (Doyle. As Doyle says. 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. p. assuming the teacher holds the students accountable for the quality of their solutions. 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). she has good reason for her actions. as Rory does in this and other cases. “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. which are invariably socially complex. 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.203 Rory tells her again. ambiguity and risk are low. the Earthquakes group has difficulty with Data Analysis: Julie and Amy fall into the pitfall Rory has identified of data analysis “by inspection.

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

but still focuses on the points. Outside . and make it difficult for them to ignore his comments. and so those two are connected. It’s right there. and for the Method when it is not adequate. Julie is outraged that they “only got 3 out of 5 [on the title page] for not having a date.” Ironically. Julie moves on to more substantive parts of the paper. The analysis. Next. saying “listen.” Rory tries to clarify. if we were writing something down?” Rory replies. Rory’s reason for giving the students zero out of 20 for the Conclusion. How can you give us a Zero. but you didn’t do it. Rory explains to them later. “It’s not all [missing]. I mean. but you didn’t do it. saying “Yeah. because you didn’t analyze the data. is directly related to students’ tendency—exhibited here by Julie and Amy—to nit-pick about points. calculating students given a chance to revise settle for leaving problems they acknowledge. but he tells them it was on the handout he gave them a while back anyway. so that’s how it works out. that he is just trying to let them know that the changes they need to make are important.” Rory tries to explain that the title page only has three parts. We have a lot.” Amy retorts. Julie tells Rory that she thinks “you should get extra credit for doing it” at all.. I know what it says. as well as the Black Holes and Sun groups.. Too often. but corrected it the day after that. They think otherwise. but Rory’s experience has taught him that could backfire. the Conclusion . 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. “Well.205 previous week. 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. and copies are always available if they lose them. we wrote something down.

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

like Julie and Amy. 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. students who are unsure of what to do may avoid teachers to keep the teachers unaware of the students’ “deficiencies. but they should be included. March. Pictures that are interesting but not substantive may be included in a “popular science article. 24 For a more complete discussion of students’ learning and appropriation of the scientific research report genre. Beth told me in interviews she did not want Cindy to ask Rory for help because Cindy didn’t know what was going on.” The inclusion of pictures to which they never refer in their text is a common mistake by students. a Methods section is needed so that others can attempt to confirm or falsify your work. in progress). see (O’Neill.” Over the next couple of days. but it is useful nonetheless. 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. and Beth did not want Rory to think Cindy’s confusion reflected a general problem in the whole group.207 complete independently” (p.” but not in a formal article such as they are writing in his class.”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. . 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. 109). In other cases. don’t put it there. 1997. In this case. the writing and line of reasoning must be 23 An example comes from the Plesiosaurs project to be described in the next chapter. and Rory explains that such pictures are not included in scientific research articles. the abstract may seem to cause repetition with later sections. he tells Amy “It’s like a tattoo on your forehead to make yourself look better—if you don’t need it. Rory tells them they “didn’t need it. simply because the teacher did not correct students earlier. and above all. O’Neill. of a car crushed under a building in the San Francisco earthquake of 1989. Students will not only recruit teachers’ help to aid in completing a task they could not complete alone.

In later quarters. Therefore. That’s. 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. you give them to the jury. And.. writing papers where your audience already has the prior knowledge of stuff. 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. et al. because—and the difference is.” After Julie makes this comment. 1996. In English class. your books and stuff. and you walk in with your stacks and stacks of briefs.. That there’s a logical. they have to laboriously go step by step and prove this. in progress) . Or you say. For a discussion of this aspect of mentoring. I think that the reality is someplace in between writing for a kindergarten. like. Not only that.208 explicit and logical. 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. see (O’Neill. how he wants it done. Julie points out that “This is only for writing... Rory discusses it further with Cheryl and Julie. Otherwise it would be ridiculous. from the data that you have to the conclusion. and disprove this. let’s say you’re. Acquit us!” You don’t do that. but at this point in Rory’s use of mentoring.. you know what I mean? . like. and you throw them all up on Ito’s desk. and writing for a very enlightened audience. but the research report is only going to be turned in to him and not read by a wider audience25 . “You know what? You have to write the paper out like you’re writing it to a kindergarten. because you’re assuming they already know the story of Hamlet. uh. he has not really been able to foster much sharing. because he has found that they otherwise do not do so.. on something about Hamlet. 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. like. O’Neill. OK? The example I used yesterday would be . like.. Rory responds. For example. “there’s all our stuff.. Even though everything is in there. you know. you don’t have to re-tell the story of Hamlet. . what you’re trying to do is convince the reader that [pause] how can I say this? . and you have to dissect like that. OJ Simpson’s lawyers. and say. step-by-step process from.. This last point is summarized by Julie when she explains to the even more exasperated Debbie.

“It doesn’t. “I’m not trying to say that we don’t want to do anything else. and also “generate efforts on [students’] parts to reduce these factors” (p. and make you happy with. you don’t have to have four thousand volumes or four thousand pages. 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. how you get from step 1 to step 2 to step 3. 195).” out of a sense of fairness. you know? . but Rory continues. with our report. From my first year of presence in Rory’s classroom. like.” A . It’s just like I want to know what I can do to make it better. you know. Otherwise you haven’t done your job. logically. when seen in a certain light. In addition. One form such efforts take is students simply trying to convince Rory what they already did was good enough. 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. Rory’s curriculum changes increase students’ levels of ambiguity and risk.209 in the students having authentic reasons for trying to make themselves clear. 194). but Rory cannot make it the same.” Julie assents. The situation of the students is much different. I can recall students entreating him. “But this is the way science is done! It’s the same idea.. 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. So he says simply. Julie may be following this strategy during one of the long conversations after getting their paper back. but just show me. but she explicitly denies it.. saying.” Julie concedes the point. “just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!” Like the teachers mentioned in Doyle. the activity tends to be high in terms of both ambiguity and risk for students.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both common ground and differences in perspectives and ideas are needed for communication. “But I don’t want to redo it.” Julie just says. 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. Rory wants to focus on how to fix things. “Oh. as did most of the students] and then he gives me a 39% on the paper. so the means of achieving high marks must change as well. as mentioned in Chapter 1). communication would not be necessary or interesting. Returning to Rogoff’s (1990) characterization of guided participation. and there would be little impetus for partners to develop greater . and I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that I had an A in the class [in the first quarter. She says: Although a degree of sensitivity and ease in establishing intersubjectivity are important. For instance. most people didn’t even hand it in! I should get more credit than that just for handing it in. Sylvia. I mean. and other students that the nature of the work is completely different in these quarters. Continuing her rant. 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. and she just wants to get a better grade. 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.218 Debbie points out. The point is that I worked so hard on this. they must be balanced by sufficient challenge to allow and encourage change.” Debbie continues. the kind of adversarial relationship Rory and Debbie have developed appears problematic. Rogoff points out that guided participation relies on a certain degree of “intersubjectivity” between the teacher and the learner. Otherwise.

level by performing some of Rory’s suggested analyses. according to Rory. beat-up clothes. 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. Jason ends up salvaging the project to a C. worn clothes that announce her affinity for the Grateful Dead (she tells Rory in her email exchange with him that the . Even though he is suspended.219 understanding or to stretch to develop a bridge between alternative views. its surface may end up cooler than before if it has expanded far enough. If the contentiousness spins out of control or time creates problems as described in the previous chapter. Patti wears a “grunge” outfit of dark. 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. Near the very end. ironic commentary. while by the end he and Debbie had trouble reaching any common ground. Carla has frizzy. 1990. The Dinosaur Extinction project provides an example. which for some reason attracts the students with the most “alternative” bent every year. and often provides the class with witty. saying “never mind. (Rogoff. Even when those pitfalls are avoided. however.” 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. But Debbie rebuffs him. some students’ work may prove disappointing because they choose to do as little as possible to get by. shoulder length brown hair and wears earth-toned. p. projects can encounter difficulties and may fail. Patti and Carla are two juniors who sit in the far corner of the room (at the table labeled B3 in Figure 1). Somewhat unfamiliar patterns may play an important role in forcing children to stretch their understanding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but the product [isn’t] everything. 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. Amy. 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. and in fact contributes to Rory’s lack of time to do assessment for guidance. TJ. Even though Julie and Amy were somewhat preoccupied with the performance-grade exchange. 1979) in students’ minds. again to the detriment of the scientific nature of classroom tasks.227 room. In the Zodiac project. it becomes clear teachers should try to maximize opportunities for assessment for guidance. In the Earthquakes and Hurricanes projects. on the other hand. and the only result is a mark in his work grade book. and the product. Such assessment for judgment does not help students accomplish scientific activity in any direct way. looking over students’ shoulders to see what they’re up to. the judgment aspect of the work grades may overemphasize the “performance-grade exchange” nature of classroom tasks (Doyle. Mark. Rory has reasoned . 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. Peter.” In order to emphasize the process. for instance. and Dave were luckily more concerned about turning milestones in than monitoring their work grade.” Rory wants to “accentuate the process. and Pamela made sure to come in and make up days they had missed getting work credit for. In addition. Julie. or else the situation is just too risky for both the students and Rory. their focus on the milestones helped them. Given this distinction between assessment for judgment and assessment for guidance. but blatantly ignored turning in some of the milestones. Julie actively resisted working every day. in fact.

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

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

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

Thus.” When I pressed her. and taking tests. 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.. proper explanation. “Hopefully you’ll do a different project. 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. On another occasion. she conceded “Well. making up a period. we learn something of course. and using the textbook. “Are we doing this again next semester?” Rory replied. I would have liked that better . later in 199596.” Sophia clarified. Sophia then asked. Like I was in here one day during second period.. “sometimes you just want like.231 confront and at times accuse Rory. Later in the year. Sophia did not recognize this form of learning as valuable. the implication is that Rory’s knowledge is lacking.” Similarly. ’Cause they do more things. 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. in 1994-95. “No. I will ask Cindy what she thinks of projects. Sophia confessed she thought “We don’t learn anything in this class. 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. I mean. I wish we just had a normal class like with taking notes from the board. “If you don’t know how to do it. 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.. . They do labs and take notes and take tests and everything. Julie says. Patti said to me. 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. like they really learn in class. Her response is: I don’t like it.. and I wish I was in the other class .

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

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

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

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

unguided discovery depends on acquisition of knowledge by an active learner with the teacher remaining passive. 1992. They must be sensitive to overlapping zones of proximal development.” (p. Ann Brown says Guided learning is easier to talk about than do. 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. (Brown. 209). who must model. 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. In contrast. 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. lecture-based classrooms depend on transmission of knowledge from an active teacher to a passive learner.Chapter 11 The balancing act: Coaching. As Rogoff describes. p. and guide the “discovery” process into forms of disciplined inquiry that would not be reached without expert guidance. Some researchers refer to this “middle ground” as “guided discovery” or “guided learning. the model of “community of learners” is based on the premise that “learning occurs as people participate in shared endeavors with others. Some of 236 .” For example. Successful teachers must engage continually in on-line diagnosis of student understanding. It takes clinical judgment to know when to intervene. 1994). 169) By considering the projects described in the previous chapters. with all playing active but asymmetrical roles. where students are ripe for new learning. However. foster. Guided discovery places a great deal of responsibility in the hands of teachers.

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

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

Too bad it doesn’t work that way. and so there’ll be one hyperlink that will take them to someplace that has all that stuff. Just plug in a “keyword” and a world-wide search would bring all the information you need right to your computer within seconds. but did not find answers or useful data sources. 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 . so they can just use it. When students first begin searching on the Web. It can also manifest itself in students typing all or part of their research questions directly into a Web search. Once [students] learned how to use the network. People often also view the Web as a “superlibrary” of sorts. or they want to click on a button. As Rory found out when he first started doing projects. and type in their question. 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. Rory says what they want to do—there are two things they want to do. and have downloaded every piece of information that can be useful for their project. As Rory puts it. 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.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. including all the data. but it is also important as an illustration of students’ difficulties searching for information. when Julie brought a potential research question to her. In fact. the introduction of the often over-hyped Web can bring problems as well as provide solutions. They want to either go to a search page. 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. Amy provided an example of this inevitably ineffective strategy in the Earthquakes project. many students figured that research would be very easy.

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

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

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

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

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

Whereas Schön was talking about reflective practitioners of design. working alone. 103). 95). As Rory tries to tell the students. but he often needs to help them see how what they know can be used to accomplish scientific inquiry. Rory and the students “come to appreciate and then to develop the implications of a whole new idea” (Schön. the process of transformative communication enables both Rory and his students to “engage in a conversation with the situation which they are shaping” (Schön. they do know important and useful things about their topic and data as they get further into their topic. p. 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. in real-time or written discussions. but the important things is that both teacher and student participation contributes. 103).252 In these interactions. the process is remarkably analogous in these social interaction between teacher and student. but in this case it also allows them to engage in a conversation with each other. 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 . In these cases. 1982. 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. we can see how the activity structure for conducting projects helps Rory to support students through transformative communication. To borrow a phrase from Donald Schön (1982). such as architects. The activity structure sets up the students’ desire to formulate a researchable question. 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. thus leading to mutual insights. or an analysis strategy that will help them to answer their question. p. The interactions can take place over an extended period of time.

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

She finds his university affiliation in the “About the Author” section of his book. in magazines like Nature. Laura has talked about visiting the Field Museum downtown in Chicago. including a book entitled Dynamics of Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Giants. and excited to talk with her . largely driven by Beth. and she’d gone to Montana [on a dig]! So then she calls this woman in Montana. they begin having more success in tracking down useful references and experts. and finds their Web site with Alexander’s email address. Beth decides to try and contact other experts including Alexander. This person was delighted [Beth] called.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. For weeks. She then searches the Web for the University of Leeds.. She found what she was able to do after a few weeks in her . and is told their plesiosaur expert is on sabbatical in Cairo. But in the second week of data collection. by R. Finally. and then hears from him several weeks later. She gave some references to her. After her success with the paleontologist in Montana. As Rory tells it. But they know of another expert on the East Coast. and she’s an expert on ichthyosaurs. Beth tried [that expert]. they are still having trouble finding information on the swimming motion. but they are unable to get there by closing time on weekdays. the Plesiosaur project is headed in the right direction. One day after school Beth calls the museum on the telephone. The articles eventually lead to more useful references. 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.. McNeil Alexander (1989). From this woman. She writes him email. whom Beth calls. Beth finds out that there is indeed a big controversy around their research question.

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

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

Rory’s allowing students to access a wide variety of resources and people does not guarantee success or “delivery” of the needed support. “OK. in that teachers in general. so that he can become less essential to their later success. you don’t dial up a curriculum service. 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. are to a very large degree autonomous. You’re in charge. forty. kids. Paradoxically. and you know. or telling them what to do. or monitoring. This is in stark contrast to science teaching environments where students must work primarily on their own. 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. whatever. And you’re either running the activities. twenty. openness to such distributed resources. you’re God. you’re like Mom. and networked hypermedia to tools such as search engines. I need a project. As with other aspects of Rory’s teaching. 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.257 The resources Rory encourages students to tap range from artifacts such as traditional print media. or coming up with things. and there are communications roadblocks. that’s what we do. and say. Um . thirty. I need an experiment for Thursday. because. And. you know. 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. As mentioned in Chapter 7.. Rory himself has to find ways to facilitate students’ learning how to use and access such external resources. their assigned textbook. videotapes. what do I do?” Importantly.. And there’s nobody that comes in and helps you. especially other people who provide valuable expertise. But Rory’s time spent . very self-reliant. with only their teacher. and whatever lab handouts and equipment they receive as resources. and—what do I want to say—very self.

Rory expresses his concern about depending on Cindy for crucial data they need for their analysis to Beth and Laura. Group difficulties and combustion At the same time as Beth’s successes in finding information.. left on her own. ‘the plesiosaur swim like this . She says to me. Shortly after Rory becomes concerned. Cindy. Some sea turtles use a rowing motion.” But they insist on trying it. and write up the group’s data analysis section. and some use underwater flight. based on our analysis they swim the same way. they can use it as evidence for which motion the plesiosaur used.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.” Her task is to find data on sea turtles to compare to the plesiosaur.. saying. If the group can show that plesiosaur fin anatomy is more like one type of sea turtle.’” Cindy focuses on what to put in the write-up: “What about underwater flight? We have all this stuff on it. Beth and Laura decide to “make Cindy do something.. Rory begins to worry about Cindy contributing to the group. saying “you don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face. which have similar flippers to the plesiosaur’s. and I’m not sure how to put it in.. Beth has clearly been driving the process. “the scientists came to two different conclusions. The data analysis plan that Beth and Rory have worked out goes like this: they will compare plesiosaur fin anatomy to sea turtles’. and Laura is making efforts to contribute as well. this controversy. “What you should be saying is. But Cindy frequently hangs back in class when the others go to the library searching for information. turtles swim like this .” . does not understand how to talk about the plesiosaur debate.” Then she approaches Rory. “Should we turn in both those conclusions? Should we compare rowing to underwater flight?” Rory replies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beth complains that Cindy hasn’t done anything. is excited with what you’re doing. doing nothing. Sarason (1971) refers to a survey of experienced teachers. Thus Sarason calls for efforts to make schools a more interesting place for teachers as well . 163) One reward teachers can get is involvement in intellectually stimulating problems.” and constant giving in the context of constant vigilance required by the presence of many children is a demanding.265 are being met with the text in each section. After the rewrite of the report is done.” 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. (Sarason. and “it’s really nice when you’re teacher. The annotated example report is a promising adddition for the future. an annotated example could perhaps make it easier for students to use the example as a tool for case-based reasoning (Schank. the group still has to prepare a presentation to the class. sense of mission.. however. He goes on to point out that “teaching is giving. and challenge that they once did” (p. 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. 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. 1990). p. 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. taxing affair that cannot easily be sustained . while Cindy complains the group doesn’t talk. like. They are able to divide up the work for the presentation and get through it. to sustain the giving at a high level requires that the teacher experience getting. draining. excitement. 1971.. 163). Laura tries to moderate.

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

” That would be OK. Now. but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t work if you did it. the question is. that’s a possibility. And so I have to let you explore.. since he maintains that he cannot predict all the promising avenues students might uncover or generate.” 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. 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. and it didn’t work. Patti: But if it’s done in the past. Because people can do things that I don’t know they can do. ’cause I don’t want to discourage [trails off] The thing I do. or they did do this when they should have done this. In the class discussion about “How to do a project.. it gets very iffy as to which direction you go with that. is—if there’s any way that you can do it.. ’cause I don’t know that you can’t do that. Despite his misgivings. Trying to stop plate movement seemed silly to Rory. and he said he would have rejected the idea in his first . But it’s OK. Now. we can say. so I have to let you explore it. he decides to let the students run with their topic. even though I might know that maybe there isn’t a good way to actually come up with a project. I’ll generally let you go with it.” 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. even if I think that maybe it’s not gonna be successful.267 research project on UFOs that relied on empirical data and argumentation. [hesitantly] It’s OK to start. maybe by looking at that project. and this is frustrating to people. “Kids can come up with some interesting projects . Let’s say somebody did a project in the past. And that’s the beauty of this. essentially. “well. Um . maybe I can do it better. “well wait. that you wouldn’t think of. Because I’m not 100% sure it’s not going to be successful.. it didn’t because they didn’t do this. if it’s part of earth science. and it didn’t work? Rory: You know. to see if it is. like last year. ’cause it’s astronomy.” And so you say.

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

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

In some cases. as Rory has done. but it means that he is less able to support some groups’ topics well. 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. so they could help one another better. such as the Woolly Mammoth and Barb’s UFOs & Aliens project. perhaps. Lepper. or know when they’re on the right track or not.270 some groups. To address this problem. teachers. 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. then. So hopefully. in the case of the UFO Sightings project and the Black Holes . have a diverse enough background to do that. et al. but Diane and Tom F’s preference for the former led them to pursue it. Tom F. as Lepper et al. or give them suggestions. and there is less natural opportunity for cross-group collaboration and pollination of ideas. decisions about topics and research questions fall into this category. Opening up to so many topics. means that they are free to make decisions the teacher does not think will be best in the long run. Diane. so it is a less ideal option. as previously mentioned. (1993) mention. you know. That’s not a problem. At the end of the Woolly Mammoth project. If not. he would remove the opportunity for students to learn those skills. provides even more opportunity for the majority of students to hone their search skills. In addition.” In Rory’s class. giving the students real choice on matters that are fundamental to their work. you know. But if Rory did that. On the other hand. So. 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. 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. Rory’s suspicion that the project will go badly is borne out. He could still have them work on the same topic. Rory thought the latter idea was much better. you steer away from that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In doing so. which helps motivate the students by giving them a voice and helping them see how their ideas can be built upon and improved. he plans on providing an ideal project report for students to use in the future. and refining the milestones when they don’t function well. He has reduced the number of steps (function 2) by putting a system of interim milestones into place. He maintains pursuit of the goal (function 3) by providing coaching feedback in the form of transformative communication. 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. 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 marks critical features of what students produce (function 4) through having the milestone assignments which feed into the research report. As stressed in Chapter 1. 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. I will first focus on elements of Rory’s environment which primarily serve as constraints on successful accomplishment of projects. 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. and elements which tend to be resources which afford 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. elements which are mixed. I will provide an overview of Rory’s design. And finally. each of these elements can manifest itself as a constraint which disables certain functions and a resource which enables other functions.

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

the system also exacerbates Rory’s lack of time. however. 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. The transmission view is also associated with students not recognizing certain limits on communication involved in Rory’s teaching of new practices. Rory has instituted a system of work grades. Finally. which guarantees students points for time on task and punishes them for time off task. which is rooted in the social constructivist tradition. the ambiguity and risk associated with learning how to do projects. Such explosions can result in the development of an adversarial relationship between teacher and student. because keeping the necessary records consumes considerable time (Chapter 10). summarized below) might be preferable to focusing on work grades. The practices which Patti learned of figuring out ways to empirically examine questions about the phenomenon of deaths associated with tornadoes. 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. In order to reduce student risk of failure. as well as theorize about their causality. while being graded on them. are valued more highly in the opposing epistemology. they do not make any distinction between Rory’s telling them about . Treating Rory’s feedback as such a contract. and the degree of common ground necessary to accomplish guided participation is lost.288 grade (Chapter 10). specifically. For these reasons. This system inevitably causes conflicts and arguments with students that hinge on nit-picking for points. can lead students like Debbie to “explode” after encountering difficulties (Chapter 10). subverts the organic nature of research and reporting.

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

These examples can help students gain a conceptual understanding of what they are trying to accomplish. Annotation could help both of these kinds of written models be more useful to students. 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. 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 knows there are some students who make choices against his . On the other hand.290 where students feel valued and respected. written models in the form of archives have helped students to generate ideas. Model projects have been used successfully and unsuccessfully in their many incarnations within Rory’s class. but summarized example projects (Chapter 8) do allow Rory to make the crucial decision processes of research design. 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). some students—like Barb in the UFOs & Aliens project (Chapter 9)— make choices against Rory’s recommendation and his fears are realized. but it also creates time drains and potential distractions from substantive issues. data collection. student ownership tends to have positive results. but it does constrain Rory’s ability to control action in the classroom. and analysis explicit. Finally. A partial sample of an exemplary research report helped some students like Beth (Chapter 11) as a model for their own research report writing. The complete model projects managed by Rory (Chapter 5) were subject to the pitfall of allowing students to disengage from critical thought. Overall. thus.

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

Ravitch. Thus. Unlike a set of isolated assignments. as well as student ownership and interest in their projects. Rory can get insights about the students’ current thinking as well as about the possibilities for the students’ projects. the feedback that Rory provides on interim artifacts is not just retrospective. The presence of the activity structure. 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. transformative communication among Rory and the students may take place. which Rory can provide written feedback on. 1990. Cuban. 1990).. Tyack. students can iterate their ideas and writing in the Background Information assignment when they are preparing the Introduction of their final paper.g. These conversations with one another and the situation are a powerful way for teachers with expertise in inquiry to guide students. In . The interim artifacts that students produce serve as externalizations of students’ knowledge and current thinking. and they can do the same for the Data Analysis milestone for that section of the paper. 1982.292 encourages students to approach Rory with any confusions they have. On those occasions when students are putting their milestones together. In such conversations. Since the activity structure is designed to correspond to portions of the science research article genre. students’ milestones build upon one another and some form of each early milestone is plugged in to the final research report. help engender occasions for transformative communication (Chapter 11). 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. The ensuing conversations afford Rory an opportunity to provide guidance that is likely to be taken seriously and appropriated.

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. As mentioned in Chapter 11. 5. 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. at the expense of the goals on the left side. 2. “Traditional” Goal 1. For the design elements shown in Table 14 and described above to help rather than hinder Rory’s efforts. . of course. reaching and maintaining the equilibrium point for different students and groups can be difficult. 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. Conversely. is that goals on both sides are laudable. I show some of the goals of such reforms which are often seen in opposition to one another. 3. The rub.293 Table 15. Table 15: Tradeoffs in traditional and progressive teaching practices Maximizing a goal on one side of Table 15 often severely compromises the corresponding goal. Teaching strategies associated with progressive education have a tendency to overemphasize the goals on the right side.

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

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

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

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

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

kids can seize them and build off their interests. and earthquakes. water quality. collections of data resources like the hurricane Web site Dave and TJ used. materials that can be pointed out. serve as valuable sources of empirical data. “Independence Day” signifies aliens. In this way.299 the feldspar on Rory’s original expedition years ago. The promise of expeditions into science To the degree Rory and the students are able to maintain the delicate balance of motivation and support. Especially useful are materials that relate to the topics that appeal to students. and perhaps picked up. And “Waterworld” signifies the environment. 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. can be helpful to supporting 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. students can be inspired in unexpected ways. just as they were on his summer trip to the Rockies. One way to summarize topics that interest many students is by analogy to big budget Hollywood films with strong doses of special-effects. and kids like these topics along with lightning. and energy. in that they both supply ideas and potentially supply data collections that can be reanalyzed and refuted or refined. Additionally. Beth and Cheryl. the work of students from year to year can become a growing “activity base” (similar to a knowledge base) for future projects. which appeals to students in the form of global warming. who worked on the Plesiosaur and UFO . or combined with other data collections for completely new inquiries. In addition. Such “distributed intelligence” in the environment can allow the teacher to off-load some of the supporting. “Twister” and “Volcano” signify disaster and destruction. another favorite of students. and a book of volcano eruption data Rory has acquired. hurricanes.

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

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

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Kidder was asked by an audience member what difference he thought his presence made when he researched Among Schoolchildren (1989) and Old Friends (1993). admit your presence and try to make good use of it. I also admired 315 . Clearly exasperated by a question he often hears. Heshusius. Lightfoot. 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. 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. p. I disagree with the idea that subjectivity should be minimized.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. Since I admit that my personal perspective has played an important role in the conduct of this research. 1989. 16. 1983). and I am modeling my own effort after his. 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. my emphasis). 1994. As mentioned in Chapter 3. Bill Ayers put it eloquently: “subjectivity is not a dirty word when subjects are the objects of study” (1989. I feel it is only fitting that I attempt to present my perspective to readers. The audience member wondered whether and how the situation changed when the author wasn’t there. Bill Ayers (1989) provided a great example of this in The Good Preschool Teacher.

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

and I never thought we lacked anything. Nonetheless.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. as she had done for years. This is not to say that compared to the rest of American culture the community I grew up in was progressive. On the other hand. he would come home from work in his stained blue shirt and play and laugh with us. it’s not clear that they had many other options. He dropped out of college after his football career was ended by a knee injury. Mom told me years later that she didn’t think it was worth pinching every penny. they always found a way to get by. on the contrary. because you don’t ever get to stop worrying about it. it was conservative on the whole and not very culturally or racially diverse. Both of my parents always seemed to have complete confidence in me. and that Dad had to work a great deal of overtime to help make ends meet. and none of the teachers (including the nuns) practiced corporal punishment of any kind. 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. the greatest gift they gave me was the belief that I could accomplish just about . I knew that we were not well off financially. 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. Mom took several years off work to stay at home raising us. I would say that the schools and parish we attended were distinctly post-Vatican II institutions affected by progressive elements of American Catholic intellectualism. I think now that the years and years of financial concern must have been incredibly stressful to them. and became active in school and later church activities. In my mind. Regardless.

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. albeit with the support and guidance of others. Unlike Cindy. but Mom told me that Einstein’s teachers thought he was stupid because he was a deliberate thinker just like me. Much like Cindy described in this study. 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. I always enjoyed school immensely and was in many ways a prototypical obedient. The best example is the dreaded “C” I received in fourth grade math. but I put it off until two days before it was due and had a very difficult time putting it together. 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. I did not attribute it to any fundamental inability.” Like Rory’s students. 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. as I did most of my school work. 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). my experiences in school and in sports seemed to back up their confidence in me. Luckily. which my mother convinced me was due to the fact that the teacher was outrageously unjust and rigid. but instead circumstances. I managed to pull it off. Einstein . model student. My difficulty performing math problems quickly at the blackboard led to what I considered a terrible grade. I have had to build those answers for myself. highly structured teaching. I would not necessarily have been comfortable with open-ended projects in those days. The few times I had trouble. though. I had to learn these things eventually—as an undergraduate to some degree. but even more so at work and graduate school.

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

At the end of high school. Brown had an exchange program with a university in the German Democratic Republic. 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.320 expressed by many. a nation known only as “East Germany” to most people in this country. but in part I wanted to see a wider world and other perspectives firsthand. I would note that although I always had an interest in biological and physical sciences. I remember in high school German class having a great deal of trouble remembering which name. and showed me in some small way what it must have been like to walk around in some other people’s shoes. with a focus on 20th Century novels from US and German cultures. 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. To this day. I began to see how many conflicts and misunderstandings are caused by people being unable or unwilling to see another’s perspective. The novel took me to that place. I completed a concentration in Comparative Literature. and I ultimately dropped the idea of completing premedical requirements and instead focused on my stronger interest in language and literature. let alone visited the school. 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. College did indeed open up new perspectives for me. the “Deutsche Demokratische Republik” . I decided to attend Brown University on the East Coast even though I had never left the Midwest. Given my already mentioned propensity for being a mediator. literature and culture was what “came to life” for me. no matter how odd it seemed to me at first. and tried to figure out what might explain what they are doing. In regards to science education reforms. but that novel made it real to me. I’ve always joked that their brochures must have been amazing.

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

It did. or to consider what someone is saying. but that many citizens had to at least feign loyalty to socialism and the Party to get a promotion. Eventually. I found that GDR citizens had universal child care where no such thing was available in the US. that the four month trip in my junior year was not enough. For one thing. Nonetheless. I found that this nation reviled where I grew up did a much better job recycling than communities back home. I returned for a year to the GDR to teach English and study the educational system after I graduated from Brown. did not allow me to fully see the world as GDR citizens did. shoes made in the West just looked different from shoes made in the East. although they allowed dangerous levels of industrial pollution. Similarly. perhaps more so than many in the US trying to “get ahead” or even just get by. 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. 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. I had special privileges like being able to buy Yoplait yogurt in the Western store in downtown Rostock in exchange for “hard” cash.322 cast your eye in a direction. 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. no matter how empathetic. In fact. both literally and figuratively. 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. You see. I had to admit there were innumerable contradictions about the place and the people. I knew my experience. I was still walking around in a Westerner’s shoes. 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. however. I felt that I began to understand some of my friends in addition to growing fond of them. so much so.

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

Louis. She had accomplished her goal and given our entire family a much-needed and much-relished celebration. But I will reflect here on an aspect of this and many of my experiences that relates to my choice of research methods. Since she was at the University of Rochester. We spoke to her on the phone before and after the ceremony. this presented some difficulty. Later that evening. Katie and I were married at her wonderful family’s home in St. I was unsatisfied with the kind of empty platitudes I thought many religious people offered. beyond the woefully inadequate statement that it was probably both the happiest and saddest time of my life. we were finally able to decide to share our love for good. and decided that .324 Shortly after beginning graduate school. Mom had been determined to live until the wedding even if she could not attend. On June 18. 1996. It was a difficult prospect. and she visited me there for a month in 1989. Katie Plax and I decided to marry after years of sharing as much of our lives as we could. 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. The loss of Mom and Dad did not submit to easy explanations for me. 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. My uncle who stayed with her in those hours mercifully and wisely decided to inform us the next morning. It is not appropriate or possible in this context to pursue the complexity of this story. For instance. I believe my experiences have caused me to decide that “embracing complexity” is the only way to face life. 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. Mom died.

325 Harold Kushner’s philosophy described in When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981) was more adequate somehow. but I began to develop ideas about how people’s actions can relate to multiple levels of meaning and culture. Some of my friends in the GDR were publicly allegiant to the socialist party but privately critical of its actions. for fear of oversimplifying. Just before getting married. One danger in my belief system is that I might be reluctant to reach conclusions even if they are valid or useful. but find their own means of expressing personal and interpersonal idiosyncrasy within those bounds. Seeing life in the GDR obviously contributed to my belief that social life is inherently complex. and also privately expressed a great deal of “illicit”—from their party’s perspective—interest in Western culture and society. 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. so I will briefly explain some of the personal side here. people act in some ways to fulfill roles assigned to them by the wider society. 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. Part of what I took from Kushner was a belief that some events lack an explanation or root cause. For instance. in addition. I would add that many events in human life are difficult to explain with reference to one or just a few factors. I passed my qualifying exam at Northwestern and began developing the ideas for my dissertation research related here. As I said. It would . but I became increasingly interested in a classroom observational study. The intellectual side of this development is related in Chapter 3. for instance. I had just moved away from Evanston where the CoVis project was based. But my experiences have also helped me to see how to reach more complicated conclusions.

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

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

One value behind this kind of attitude was simply respect for Rory’s professional work and choices. 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. and I felt the strategy usually fruitless.328 Since Rory was not accountable to me. So instead of giving pat solutions that probably wouldn’t work. where he worked as a pipe fitter. the educated engineers’ suggestions caused all kinds of other problems that the people there every day could have told them about. yet they came in and thought they could tell everybody how they could fix things and make them better. if only they had listened. 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. fully specifiable way to do projects well. I did not generally tell Rory what I thought he should do. but rather many possible valuable realizations that are different in many ways. This attitude was concordant with my belief that there is not any one. but I tried hard to present these as possible alternatives. and asked whether he thought about doing that in another situation. Dad talked about how they knew nothing about the way things really worked. This relates to a vivid memory I have of my Dad talking about the “educated” engineers coming in to the Bendix plant. Sometimes I reminded Rory of an alternative that he had mentioned to me before. and making pronouncements about the way things should be done. In other words. I also mentioned some ideas I knew other teachers had tried or researchers had suggested. I tried to ask probing questions about why Rory did what he did. I don’t believe there is such a thing as the ideal realization of project teaching. I also reminded Rory frequently that I think project-based science teaching in a classroom is both complex and difficult. not the only alternative. Inevitably. This has to do with teachers working in many .

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

. for teaching purposes. Like her.330 Recently. 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. 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 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. the courage that it took for Rory to open up his classroom and his work was literally “brought home” to me.

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

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

asynchronous comm). the influences of curriculum..g. infrastructure. parents. 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. culture of schooling. • 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. views of science..333 Research Questions • What environmental constraints affect efforts at reform appropriating the tools? e. curriculum. lack of time/short periods (related to use of synchronous vs. pedagogical techniques. support. on efforts at reform. other tools and affordance available . situated actions. etc. management and control issues (allowing free movement in class. assessment. Examples are the design experiments literature. putting up with "disruption" from Cruiser). 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.g. departmental/school pressures.) • Teacher planning literature (which I’m unfamiliar with) • Performance assessments of teachers with respect to reform efforts . social environment.

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

335 . (3) Designers. (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. cultural. (3) in future efforts Audience (1) Practitioners. (2) Researchers.Appendix C Refined study conception. (2) in other similar classrooms. 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. in two different schools. but instead would detract from the extent of detailed study possible within one environment. upon entering the field (10/17/94) Purpose of research Question: How do these teachers appropriate CoVis computing and communications technologies while planning. was subsequently revised following discussion with advisors. implementing.

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. For example. participatory style with the aid of communications technology (Sproull & Kiesler. Part of the goal of this study will be to document how such changes occur in these classrooms. 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. student interim reports and final reports) • selected videotapes (project introduction & startup phase. hierarchical style to a more horizontal. and a greater feeling of belonging and commitment from traditionally more peripheral members. implementation. project work phase. Firstlevel effects include changes in information flow and exchange.336 Sources • audiotaped teacher interviews in planning. project report & closing phase) Hypotheses Communications tools can be used in the process of changing from heavily teacher-directed. which couldn't reveal as much about the system. teacher handouts.g. a few individuals’ email) • written documents produced (e. Second level effects include changes in the social atmosphere or arrangements of work. The technologies can have both first-level and second-level effects. 1991). . 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 .g.e.

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

capabilities. not immutable factors. assessment. These can be affected by. like its predecessors.338 Computing and communications appropriation depends on multiple and complex factors One formative idea here is from Cuban (1986): "the new technology. "content").e. abilities (esp as perceived by teacher) • teachers’ views of science • teachers’ curricular goals • design. the following factors. especially in an environment rife with change. 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. subject matter (i. and control • classroom management and control issues • students’ background. . for instance." The teacher’s perspective and the contours of school and classroom settings are all socially constructed. • 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. however. will be tailored to fit the teacher’s perspective and the tight contours of school and classroom settings.

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. What were the important events and ideas? Punch list (Questions to cover if not mentioned. in your opinion? • What are the most difficult obstacles to 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. 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 . 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. in your opinion? • What were difficult obstacles to doing projects which you’ve now overcome? Once you became interested in doing projects.

or both • how help in accomplishing projects . time allowing) In your view. 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. and how you came to them? • What goals do you have for your students . what skills as a teacher does it take to run a project classroom? • What are your particular strengths? • What are your particular weaknesses. and why? How are you thinking about doing the next academic year from the beginning. and run your classroom these days? What role have school-wide and departmental efforts played. set up. goal in itself. "Project of Excellence") What role do you see technology playing in your classroom? • instrumental. if any? (e. what skills • How has your model of an ideal project changed over time? How are you thinking about doing the next project cycle.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.g.

g. 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.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. what do you need to be concerned about. Climate Visualizer. Cruiser. statement of problem. how best to reach them and handle them. CNB. news. 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. 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? . email.

what do you need to be concerned about. how best to reach them and handle them. what do you need to be concerned about. 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.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? . 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? 6) What advice would you have for a new teacher about the parents of Lakeside students? What are they like.

" Are there any others which are particularly meaningful to you? Why? 10) Switch gears again if time.different versions of handouts . but any particularly salient ones would be interesting to know about (note rel to this . wife 9) You’ve mentioned a couple of proverbs or aphorisms you find applicable to your work as a teacher.g. whatever. 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. teachers.343 Specific aspects if not mentioned: scheduling grading space policies (e. and what you learned from you still have them?) . 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. like "you can’t paint with a dry brush" and "give someone a fish and they eat for a day. graduate adviser. professors. 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.g. teach them to fish and they eat for the rest of their lives. for good or bad or indifferent reasons? This year. What are the most memorable projects to you. last year.

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

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

346 • My Chapter 1 . what do you think of the way you introduced and started projects this year? Would you do it that way again (i.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. 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? . no model project. Can you describe for me "on tape" the reasons for your re-evaluation.e.discussion of possible analyses and coming to conclusions) • You’ve talked about changing the paper format lately. 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 .

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? . and have there been many other things .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 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 .what happened there.including the lecture part and the project part .anything else related to the Web site or Internet connection .347 • We were talking yesterday about some of the seemingly inevitable difficulties of having students work in groups.specifically science classes .

turning in paper and doing rewrite .presentation • What do you think was the best project (besides your own) you’ve seen in the class this past quarter? .How often do people go to the library when they say they do? You and your group? .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.Can you summarize what you’ve done in your project so far? .What do you think of the work grade? February 1996 interview with students • Last time we talked was just before Christmas. Could you summarize what you did for the rest of the project since then? . and quizzes throughout the year (or a mixture)? . and you had just begun your data analysis.348 .information and data .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: . labs.

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. Of course I won’t tell him.e. 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 . What do you think makes a project good scientifically? Do you think your opinion would agree with Rory’s? What differences are there? (data. First. Rory asked you to rate how good the various projects were scientifically. what would be good about it?) • I was wondering what you think of Rory as a teacher. what would you do next? • What (else) can you imagine doing for your next project? Why? (i. 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.

with the exception of the margins. which have been widened. The versions included here are the ones students received during the period described in Chapters 8-12). which has been changed from Helvetica 10pt to Times 12pt. The handouts have subsequently been revised. and the font. 350 . to help them in completing their projects. 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.Appendix E Class handouts 35 Rory distributed the following handouts36 to students in the second quarter of 1995-96.

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

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

there will be more information about this later. (1 week) .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.” 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. (1 week) a) Graph your data to maky any patterns/connections more “visible. . why? . 8) Prepare a presentation to the class. (2 weeks) .

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

355 FRIDAY January 12th The PAPER is due. (10 Points) I need both a good paper copy. students prepared their presentations. students gave their presentations. January 24th during finals. . More about this later. Questions??????? See me. 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. which was due on Wednesday. From January 29th through February 2nd. and an electronic copy. From February 5th through February 9th. Presentations will be January 22nd and 23rd (before finals) and January 29th after finals.

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

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

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

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

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