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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mehan. As countless experiences in the past have shown. Cuban. Reder. Ayers. however. ultimately. reforms of the 1960s (e. Hart-Landsberg. Most of these approaches are rooted in Dewey’s ideas (1902). Dwyer. Cohen. the creation of technologies or the ideas of academic researchers or policymakers do not determine how classrooms are run. and the support and funding of the National Science Foundation. 1988. 1993).g. 1963). teachers accomplish classroom activity with their students in the schools (e. and have been explored since then in the progressive movement (as chronicled by Cremin. & Pfister. Gal. but much of this research has shown that teachers have good reasons for transforming outside ideas for their own classrooms. Ringstaff. 1989. & Sandholtz. Drayton. they are in a better position to understand the particular contexts in . and in recent efforts such as LabNet (Ruopp. we hope to create an extended learning community whose participants conduct authentic. Some critics might say that teachers do not accept ideas from the outside simply because they are stubborn or closedminded.g. with the aid of high school teachers and computer industry representatives. Fullan & Miles. 1990. CoVis includes a set of ideas and networked computer tools assembled by a group of university-based researchers. collaborative scientific inquiry. 1961). seeking to aid in the reform of high school science classes toward project-based science (Pea. Schwab. 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. 1986. 1993). 1992. Tyack. & Abel. 1991. With these ideas and tools. 1992.13 Project-based science reforms in general and in context In recent years. Above all. Bruner. 1993. The Learning Through Collaborative Visualization (CoVis) project follows in this tradition. Sheingold & Hadley. 1990).

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

just as they would in any other particular classroom. the particular tools and resources Rory’s students have access to. what they should do. In order to gain a better understanding of the challenges and complexities of such an endeavor. I have conducted in-depth research on Rory’s continuing journey designing and implementing a project-based science class. Finally. enable him to off load certain supporting functions. . The students have to somehow make it their own. Paradoxically. from the library to data on the World Wide Web to scientists on the Internet. though. and many more. All of these particulars. ultimately combine to create the meaning and significance of project work enacted in Rory’s classroom.” The particular students Rory works with in every class change the strategies he takes—he spends more time trying to focus Brad’s energy. 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. The affluence of the community may at times highlight the importance of grades as levers for getting in to “good colleges. [and] how do you prove that you solved it?” There are no “cookbook” procedures or lists to memorize in his class. for instance. and more time trying to challenge Alison’s ideas and open her to new ones. it has also dictated an open campus policy that both benefits and frustrates Rory. or what they should know.15 evidence.” The particular values Rory holds toward student responsibility and student-teacher relationships affect his willingness to prod students who are goofing off. The particular culture and atmosphere of the school and community Rory works in has encouraged innovative techniques and technologies. he must often facilitate students’ use of these same resources before their effective use can relieve the pressure on him. His particular view of how children learn affects how much he directs students as well—as he put it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will explore related efforts that have been tried in the past. agricultural educators after the turn of the present century introduced the idea of doing “projects” (Alberty. Dewey and later progressives refined the concept (Cremin. and yet remain rare today.” educators. In addition. I will begin to address these questions. 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. 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 very fact that project-based approaches have been tried before. showed success. and what we have learned from them. First. and concerned citizens have come to reconsider and reconceptualize the potential importance of project-based approaches to science learning. “hasn’t this all been tried before?” And with good reason. I will then consider why. 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. 1961). 23 . 1927). other researchers. at this particular “historical moment. The historian of education might well ask. begs investigation. 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.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. Along with this. 1982).

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

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

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

. Sarason (1971) identified the same important issue of teachers’ lack of understanding of a reform effort in the case of the New Math. Carol Turner3 . 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. On closer examination. Carol knew those right answers. who appeared to run a classroom where children were actively engaged. 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. Because Carol 3 The names are pseudonyms.. This fundamental view led her to overlook the possibility of children formulating problems themselves or evaluating alternative mathematical claims. there was always a “right answer” “out there” (p. 389) As Hofstadter mentioned. 1963. 1938. 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. Dewey criticized later progressives for “proceeding as if any form of direction and guidance by adults were an invasion of individual freedom” (Dewey.27 later progressives. p. This critique of progressivism amounts to placing the blame for its eventual failure on misguided and thus ineffectual implementation of the reform. but as a set of static tools to be learned. 1902) stressed that the developing interests of children should continuously interact with the direction they get from adults. cited in Ravitch. consistent with the goals of the reform. Dewey’s own work (e. 256). and tightly structured activity so as to instill them in children. 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. Deborah Ball (1990) studied a teacher. having defined education as growth without end. (Hofstadter. p.g. 59). Dewey. Instead. 1983.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent research which intersects the traditional disciplines of psychology and anthropology has proven useful in describing the relationship between persons and cultures. as well as sociological and educational research on reflective practice. As mentioned in Chapter One. et al. Newman. which was seldom recognized or encouraged by their institutions. they serve as a sobering reminder of the difficulty of learning technologies and changing practice. cultural psychology is the study of the ways subject and object. figure and ground. 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. 1989. the 608 teachers of grades 4 through 12 took considerable time and effort. 1) found that mastery of computers in teaching took generally five to six years. 1990). Individual persons do not seize meanings within a sociocultural vacuum. practitioner and practice live together. 1992). person and context. other researchers have referred to this process of “seizing meaning” as “appropriation” (Leont’ev. psyche and culture. Along the way. Sheingold & Hadley. mitigate the applicability of Sheingold & Hadley’s findings to other teachers today. 1981. and dynamically.44 (Sandholtz. (Shweder. p.” As Shweder describes it. Ringstaff. dialectically. & Dwyer. Richard Shweder (1990) describes this hybrid discipline as “cultural psychology. Although changes in technology and culture. along with specific social circumstances. require each other. 1990. 1992. 2) from the world. Sheingold and Hadley’s “nationwide survey of teachers who are experienced and accomplished at integrating computers into their teaching” (p. 1) This cultural psychology is based on the premise that environments are created by the way human beings “seize meaning” (p. but neither does the sociocultural environment . and jointly make each other up. self and other.. Pea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brickhouse & Bodner. • Student project artifacts from 1994-95 and Semester I 95-96 (the latter including milestones as well as final report. 8 Should Rory and I disagree about the accuracy of events or their meanings. I have asked for Rory Wagner’s reactions and feedback. that disagreement would be noted. 1995 (consisting of drafts of Chapters One-Three). and Semester I 95-96. Ayers. To date. I have asked Rory to review and comment on the formal proposal submitted in July. 1992) and the perspectives of researcher and participant are thus converging (Mehan. • Handouts from 1993-94. . and sections of this report as they were completed. For example.8 Since then. and incorporated them.. 94-95. 1989.63 • Interviews with four individual students and one pair of students during and after their first projects in 1995-96 (see Appendix F and Appendix G for interview guides). and we discussed the aptness of this metaphor for his work.g. to see whether the interpretations “ring true” to lived experience (e. and papers representing ongoing analysis. no such disagreement has surfaced. Rory attended a “brown bag” talk in February 1995 where I first presented my conceptualization of iterative. 1978). participatory learning environment design. At various stages in the development and construction of this 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rory knew he faced a challenge in conveying what he meant by doing a project.” 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. 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. . 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. 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. among other things.

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

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

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

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

when the students were asked during the second quarter to do data collection. there was a structural parallel that Rory saw between the model project . Most importantly.” The pitfalls of modeling Due in part to lack of student engagement and transfer. and coming to conclusions in their own projects. teachers must find ways to engage students in actively considering the rationale behind the model project while working through it. Rory intended students to think about the sand data collection. however. 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. Students did not need to consider why the graphs they made were apt. Rory distributed instructions on exactly what graphs students should make. Rory’s experience does. and reaching conclusions about the beach sand. For instance. analysis. Rory decided that he would drop the model project strand from the introductory activities in the 1995-96 school year. I would note. the model project “never really accomplished [Rory’s] goals.87 Thus. and students’ experience in the model project must parallel their experience in later projects for transfer to be successful. the sand analysis project fell into the same kind of trap traditional labs do—students never took interest or ownership. organization and graphing of sand data in a spreadsheet. Ultimately. 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. however. highlight some of the important pitfalls of this strategy. that Rory’s experience with model projects does not necessarily imply that such projects could never prove useful to students. including how the graphs should be labeled and what data should be in them. In Rory’s 1993-94 and 94-95 efforts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1=I am NOT a “science” or “math” person 3=Neutral 5=I AM a “science” or “math” person 1=disagree strongly.0 19% Table 3: Mean student responses to survey items on science interest.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. To see how the students in Rory’s class compare to other students. 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). 5=agree strongly 1=definitely not. Rory’s classes (n=70) Item Scale Meaning (all are 1-5 likert ratings) Circle one number for the scale. 3=maybe. chemistry.94 classes are biology (which most 9th graders take and all students must take at some point).8 57% 2. 3=maybe. 5=definitely yes 1=definitely not. 5=definitely yes Mean (µ) % most negative response All other CoVis classes (n=1592) Mean (µ) % most negative response 2.2 16% I enjoy classes in science. 5=definitely yes 1=definitely not. 3.0 56% 2.8 26% 3.4 36% 2. .2 16% 3.7 28% 3. 3=maybe. 3=neutral. and physics.0 49% 2.

and most freshmen take biology. Steve. and one of them must be in “physical sciences” (which include Earth Science. Patti does not like science. Rory’s classes come out below the means on all these survey items that relate to students’ enjoyment of science. expectations about future use of science. larger percentages of Rory’s students give the lowest possible ratings on these survey items: 26% are emphatically NOT science people. 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. 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. is one of the few. too. In addition. Steve didn’t know much about the course or the way it was taught before arriving today. who come in with a strong interest in science. whereas Beth says she likes science. Nevertheless. Cheryl. 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. and Physics). but doesn’t consider herself good at it. and more than half say they will “definitely not” become scientists or major in science in college. students in CoVis do not express much enthusiasm for science or science classes in the survey. and participation in scientific activities. Besides. 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. He signed up because he wanted to do something different. was . along with Adam. Although they are not required to take the class. like Patti and Beth. some of the juniors and seniors in the class. Patti also took the class to be with some friends who were signing up. the freshman in Period 1/2. Since Lakeside requires two science credits to graduate. Chemistry. Since he is a freshman.95 In general.

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

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

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

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

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. In addition. According to the 1990 census. or Aleut.” Again. and 2% Hispanic. According to demographic information available on the Sunspace Internet site (http://www. The difference between Rory’s course and the overall average is in part .” Beth echoed Rory’s intuition that students had not been asked to play a role in figuring out how to answer a research question. Eskimo. 11% Asian or Pacific Islander. 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 teacher tells you [everything] to do to complete it.000 (Krieg & Wheelan. the students at Lakeside as of 1994-95 (the most recent year available) were 85% white. 1995). mostly” The school and community context Lakeside High School is a public high school situated in an affluent.100 there between groups like the Indians and English. Steve. and less than 1% American Indian. is large and well-apportioned.” As Beth put it.sunspace. The “campus. Students who arrive at school carrying Starbucks coffee cups do not look out of place. the size of Rory’s classes over the past three years has ranged from 15 to 28 (28 is the enrollment of the class described here). the average per capita income in one town in the district is $62. or someone who’s already found the answer. although the buildings were built half a century ago. Although there is an average student/teacher ratio of 12/1.000 (Krieg & Wheelan. 1995).000 students at the school is $12. 2% black. The average spending per student for the just under 3.” and the word aptly describes the grounds. community in the suburbs of Chicago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.0 Technology Teacher Demos Student Activities & Exams Total Technology Periods Discussions of Policies/Procedures (including assignments. again using the overhead televisions to show the whole class. on Monday and Wednesday): Category “Content” Subcategory Lectures & Exam Videos Total Content Periods # of Periods 28. switch between applications. including three single periods and two double “lab” periods.5 19. He explains how to get around.0 68. Rory gives the class a demonstration of the Macintosh.0 21. Then.110 periods. he shows the students Netscape Navigator. Students come into his class with a wide range of computer background and skills.0 9. open and save files. during the second week of the quarter. This year. open applications.5 9. grading & network use) and Values GRAND TOTAL Table 5: # of periods spent on activities during the introductory quarter Computer activities: Learning to use new tools Starting two years ago. and the CoVis classroom is the only one at the school currently hooked up to the Internet. a program used to browse the World Wide Web. 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.5 37. and work with windows.5 2.

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

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

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

Rory had spent a summer loading boxcars. Rory introduces Newswatcher. so Rory asks her about who her favorite music groups are overall and in the area. Sonia relates how she taught four-year-olds during the summer. because he went there with his father to repair the bowling machines years earlier. For instance. As he had done in . and they bring in pictures to share and discuss the Alpha role in the pack and “wolf psychology. her sense of guilt associated with growing up “privileged. When Rory learns that Beth spent the summer with her aunt in New Mexico who studies wolves.114 students’ anecdotes about their summer. or going to summer camp. but a few are more extensive. a program to read and send posts to Usenet newsgroups on the Internet. the two continue to discuss it throughout the year. working in stores or mowing lawns. much like Tom’s summer loading produce on trucks. just as Rory’s sister does. saying this will also give them practice at responding to messages. Tom F mentions having fun working at his father’s produce factory in the summer. especially when you work with friends. TJ talks about his lacrosse playing at a national tournament during the summer. and since Rory used to coach the sport. Barb talks solely about punk shows she was able to see in the summer in her initial message. during the course of exchanging multiple messages they discover that she saw a show at a bowling alley Rory knew. and he and Rory discuss how hard work can be fun. and then the two get into an extended exchange about the rewards of teaching. She relates how she danced and howled with the wolves.” and making a difference through community service. 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.” After a week of concentrating mostly on lectures. Many of the exchanges do not go much beyond simple description of summer activities like mountain climbing or white water rafting.

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

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

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

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

Jupiter. you could see five other planets—Mercury.. Before we had telescopes. At least my understanding of the way some of the .0 Pluto 39. An early astronomer noticed the progression of distances from the sun.U. equivalent to 93 million miles).125 briefly explains that “A.” refers to astronomical units.” Rory told me in interviews.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? . Using this technique.U. and it is a convenient unit of measurement based on the distance between our sun and the Earth (which is 1 A.0 Neptune 30.U.0 Saturn 9. at around 80 A.8 Jupiter 5.U. 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. Table 6 is constructed over the next few minutes. distance Mercury .7 Earth 1.5 Uranus 19. and “are currently looking for Planet X. Saturn. Rory went on to explain how they looked for another planet beyond Saturn. They looked for it and they found [the asteroid belt].U. about twice as far away from the Sun. but some comets.5 Asteroids ~2..—so far they’ve found no planet. Mars.. amidst explanation and questions about the asteroid belt: PLANETS A. from the sun.0 Mars 1. and found Uranus. scientists eventually found all the planets we know of in our solar system. Venus.4 Venus .

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(4) analyzing the data. Too . rather than relying on informally giving the students time to learn about their topic. especially English and History).” such as Amanda’s query. and (5) writing up the final paper. 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.” or else you will not get far. in Chapter 1. if necessary. Later in that year. Therefore. students did not turn in Background Information reports such as the one Dave and TJ have done. (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. 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. “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. Rory adjusted the milestones for the 1994-95 year such that Step 1 did not include deciding on a research question. But for the first project in 1994-95. (3) finding or collecting data that would answer the question. 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. 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. Then they could come up with a focused research question by brainstorming. but instead a general topic area which students then have time to read up on and. learn more about.143 question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27. For instance. and then list each graph’s interpretation separately.” Another one of the eight graphs shows the density of the moons: Density Moon Miranda Titan 0 0.5 1 1. they write.5 3 3.5 Figure 6: Density of three moons from Final Draft .5 2 2.162 In the final draft of the paper.32 days. 1. while Miranda has the shortest orbital period. the students once again include only graphs of single variables.4 days. “the graph [of orbital period] shows that Earth’s moon has the longest orbital period. 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.

163 Similar graphs in different styles are included for mass. and distance from planet. and shows Rich and Steve how they can directly test it using their data. “We have come [to] the conclusion that both Titan and Earth’s moon [have] a much greater mass and density than Miranda. 1967) . surface temperature. this allows the students to participate in a new way . except in the statement that “Titan has a short orbital period in relation to its mass”—upon which they do not elaborate. In the “Data Analysis” section of the paper. buried in the conclusion.” Rory latches onto this claim about how mass and density could be related to the orbital period of the moons. with graphs combining variables.5 3 2.5 1 0. They have written. something more like a testable claim appears. Steve and Rich do not mention relationships between variables. But at the very end of the paper. He sketches a number of graphs like Figure 7: 3.5 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. and that this could be why both Titan and Earth’s moon have longer orbiting time periods.5 2 1. put another way. Rory sees how something the students have done can be transformed to a more successful “move” in the “language game” of science (Wittgenstein.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

varies over time. such that Rory is stretched the thinnest in the beginning of the project and the end of the project. 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.” however. At the beginning students are trying to .

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

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

. I coded the same 474 interactions between Rory and the students by who initiated the interaction. were unknown because not noted in written field notes or indeterminate because reported second-hand to me by Rory). and 68 (14%) were initiated by Rory (58 interactions. or 12%.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. A total of 348 of the interactions (73%) were initiated by students.. Table 12 shows who initiated the interactions described.vs. Of the 68 interactions initiated by Rory. but delayed by Rory until after he finished something else). previously initiated by the students.e. 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. 15 of them (3% of the total) followed up on discussions begun previously in the class (i. and 53 (11% of the total) were initiated by Rory with no direct prompting from students.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. Beth decides to try and contact other experts including Alexander. and she’d gone to Montana [on a dig]! So then she calls this woman in Montana. Beth finds out that there is indeed a big controversy around their research question. After her success with the paleontologist in Montana. whom Beth calls. Finally. But they know of another expert on the East Coast..254 Digging up plesiosaurs successfully: Developing fluency with a variety of tools With a strong research question grounded in what turns out to be a heated debate among paleontologists about how plesiosaurs swim. She gave some references to her. but they are unable to get there by closing time on weekdays. and she’s an expert on ichthyosaurs. She writes him email. largely driven by Beth. in magazines like Nature. they are still having trouble finding information on the swimming motion. Laura has talked about visiting the Field Museum downtown in Chicago. and excited to talk with her . they begin having more success in tracking down useful references and experts. including a book entitled Dynamics of Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Giants. by R. the Plesiosaur project is headed in the right direction. Beth tried [that expert]. The articles eventually lead to more useful references. and finds their Web site with Alexander’s email address. and is told their plesiosaur expert is on sabbatical in Cairo. She finds his university affiliation in the “About the Author” section of his book. One day after school Beth calls the museum on the telephone. From this woman. But in the second week of data collection. For weeks.. This person was delighted [Beth] called. McNeil Alexander (1989). She found what she was able to do after a few weeks in her . and then hears from him several weeks later. She then searches the Web for the University of Leeds. As Rory tells it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. ’cause it’s astronomy. Trying to stop plate movement seemed silly to Rory. we can say.” 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. “Kids can come up with some interesting projects . Now. 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. Now. Because I’m not 100% sure it’s not going to be successful. and it didn’t work? Rory: You know. it didn’t because they didn’t do this. that you wouldn’t think of. “well wait. Patti: But if it’s done in the past.” That would be OK. [hesitantly] It’s OK to start. maybe I can do it better. to see if it is. I’ll generally let you go with it. so I have to let you explore it. it gets very iffy as to which direction you go with that. is—if there’s any way that you can do it. And that’s the beauty of this. and this is frustrating to people. But it’s OK. Um . and it didn’t work. “well. even though I might know that maybe there isn’t a good way to actually come up with a project. since he maintains that he cannot predict all the promising avenues students might uncover or generate. but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t work if you did it. or they did do this when they should have done this.. Let’s say somebody did a project in the past. he decides to let the students run with their topic. In the class discussion about “How to do a project.” 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. that’s a possibility. like last year. ’cause I don’t want to discourage [trails off] The thing I do.” And so you say. Despite his misgivings.. I have no problem with that. And so I have to let you explore. essentially.. maybe by looking at that project. if it’s part of earth science. even if I think that maybe it’s not gonna be successful. the question is. Because people can do things that I don’t know they can do. ’cause I don’t know that you can’t do that. and he said he would have rejected the idea in his first .267 research project on UFOs that relied on empirical data and argumentation.

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

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

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

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

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

So during class that day. but his efforts are thwarted by lack of student receptivity. Condon and his colleagues claimed UFO sightings could be explained by meteor showers. Rory initiates a discussion with the UFO Sightings group about potential research questions. the interaction with the . 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. Along with the other groups. Two days after he gets the Background Information reports. Cheryl. In our meeting before class. 1968). Bruce and Sylvia are obvious candidates for providing with extra support. the only official study of UFO sightings put out by the US government. 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. they mention the socalled “Condon report” (Condon & Gillmor. the UFO Sightings group begin the project by collecting and synthesizing background research on the topic. In their interim report of background research . and Rory and I are both intrigued with the group’s description of the Condon report. and other known phenomena. Rory says to me before class. Rory attempts to initiate a similar discussion with the Dinosaur Extinction group. such interactions initiated by Rory are relatively rare. In contrast.273 An example is provided by the way Bruce. We are both intrigued by how Condon was able to take a scientific approach to a problem surrounded by so much hearsay.” Given the problematic nature of UFO projects in the past. before deciding on a specific research question. On the same day. rocket launches. “I should watch out for groups that need support instead of just waiting for it to become a problem. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. however. 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. 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. 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.286 Rory tries to recruit students’ interest (function 1) by allowing them to work on any topic in Earth and Space Science they choose. I will provide an overview of Rory’s design. I will first focus on elements of Rory’s environment which primarily serve as constraints on successful accomplishment of projects. He has reduced the number of steps (function 2) by putting a system of interim milestones into place. And finally. elements which are mixed. He maintains pursuit of the goal (function 3) by providing coaching feedback in the form of transformative communication. 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. each of these elements can manifest itself as a constraint which disables certain functions and a resource which enables other functions. . In doing so. He marks critical features of what students produce (function 4) through having the milestone assignments which feed into the research report. and refining the milestones when they don’t function well.

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

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

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

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

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

the feedback that Rory provides on interim artifacts is not just retrospective. Ravitch. The ensuing conversations afford Rory an opportunity to provide guidance that is likely to be taken seriously and appropriated. 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. Rory can get insights about the students’ current thinking as well as about the possibilities for the students’ projects. Thus. In such conversations. 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. transformative communication among Rory and the students may take place. In .292 encourages students to approach Rory with any confusions they have. Tyack. These conversations with one another and the situation are a powerful way for teachers with expertise in inquiry to guide students. students’ milestones build upon one another and some form of each early milestone is plugged in to the final research report.g. 1990. as well as student ownership and interest in their projects. help engender occasions for transformative communication (Chapter 11). The interim artifacts that students produce serve as externalizations of students’ knowledge and current thinking. Since the activity structure is designed to correspond to portions of the science research article genre. The presence of the activity structure. which Rory can provide written feedback on. 1982. Unlike a set of isolated assignments.. Cuban. On those occasions when students are putting their milestones together. students can iterate their ideas and writing in the Background Information assignment when they are preparing the Introduction of their final paper. 1990). and they can do the same for the Data Analysis milestone for that section of the paper.

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

For the students who don’t do as well at getting milestones in. the milestones in the activity structure serve this purpose. To optimize the second dimension. Rory also needs to support students bridging from their current knowledge and practices to new practices. the mere presence of looming milestones results in many students making their confusions and needs known to Rory. and also acknowledge students’ increased risk. defend. As a teacher changing the game he is prepared to explain. and even “sell” his reasons for the changes he would like students to make. In addition.294 To optimize the first dimension. perhaps Rory could more directly encourage students to make their needs known by proactively approaching the teacher for support. Students (and others for that matter) may naturally resist such changes. Rory provides students with a basic framework for their activity. In order to help. data search and organization. and by building later phases of projects on the foundation laid in the previous phase. Rory also repeats the project cycle three times during the year. but the interim deliverables require students to actively think and . Thus. Along the way. because they increase the risk they face. Finally. the changes in the game may result in students beginning to flounder. the changes in practices may result in students’ misconstruing their teachers’ intentions. Rory tries to connect to practices students already understand. and may build on that knowledge through transformative communication. In addition to the milestone artifacts which to some degree externalize student thinking. and analysis. To solidify student learning of research design. Rory thus needs to be concerned with recognizing when students are getting off track. Rory does this through transitional activities in the first quarter and at the beginning of projects. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that can’t hurt as Rory guides her on new expeditions into science. he will return to the foothills at the beginning of each new year.” even though her beliefs may be a bit grandiose. But the view is glorious from her current vantage point. 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. . In her expeditions into science.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. And like the “trusty Sherpa guide” he tries to be for his students. And as the year goes on.

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

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

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

but Mom told me that Einstein’s teachers thought he was stupid because he was a deliberate thinker just like me. but even more so at work and graduate school. My difficulty performing math problems quickly at the blackboard led to what I considered a terrible grade. 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. Unlike Cindy. model student. The few times I had trouble. 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 had to learn these things eventually—as an undergraduate to some degree.” Like Rory’s students. as I did most of my school work. Much like Cindy described in this study. Einstein . The best example is the dreaded “C” I received in fourth grade math. but instead circumstances.318 anything if I put my mind to it and worked at it. but I put it off until two days before it was due and had a very difficult time putting it together. Luckily. I have had to build those answers for myself. which my mother convinced me was due to the fact that the teacher was outrageously unjust and rigid. 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). albeit with the support and guidance of others. highly structured teaching. my experiences in school and in sports seemed to back up their confidence in me. I always enjoyed school immensely and was in many ways a prototypical obedient. I managed to pull it off. though. I would not necessarily have been comfortable with open-ended projects in those days. I was lucky enough to have a disposition well-suited to traditional. 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. I did not attribute it to any fundamental inability.

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

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

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

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

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

It is not appropriate or possible in this context to pursue the complexity of this story. Later that evening. 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. She had accomplished her goal and given our entire family a much-needed and much-relished celebration. this presented some difficulty. 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. beyond the woefully inadequate statement that it was probably both the happiest and saddest time of my life. Katie Plax and I decided to marry after years of sharing as much of our lives as we could. I believe my experiences have caused me to decide that “embracing complexity” is the only way to face life. For instance. Katie and I were married at her wonderful family’s home in St. My uncle who stayed with her in those hours mercifully and wisely decided to inform us the next morning. On June 18.324 Shortly after beginning graduate school. 1996. we were finally able to decide to share our love for good. But I will reflect here on an aspect of this and many of my experiences that relates to my choice of research methods. but worth it to us given what our experiences with Mom had taught us about the importance of priorities. It was a difficult prospect. Mom died. We spoke to her on the phone before and after the ceremony. Since she was at the University of Rochester. and decided that . and she visited me there for a month in 1989. Louis. 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. Mom had been determined to live until the wedding even if she could not attend. I was unsatisfied with the kind of empty platitudes I thought many religious people offered.

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

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

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

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

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

Katie had had a session where she was videotaped doing a history with a pediatric patient’s mother. the courage that it took for Rory to open up his classroom and his work was literally “brought home” to me. 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. for teaching purposes. Like her. I only hope I retain reason to have gained that trust. Rory put a great deal of effort and time into his professional identity. it can and will be used in some sense to judge what you’ve done professionally.330 Recently. .

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

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

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

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

upon entering the field (10/17/94) Purpose of research Question: How do these teachers appropriate CoVis computing and communications technologies while planning. (3) in future efforts Audience (1) Practitioners. but instead would detract from the extent of detailed study possible within one environment. The decision was based primarily on the realization that two settings would not add greatly to an understanding of how a project-based learning environment functioned as a system. (2) in other similar classrooms. implementing.Appendix C Refined study conception. (2) Researchers. in two different schools. cultural. (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 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. was subsequently revised following discussion with advisors. 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. 335 .

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

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

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

in your opinion? • What are the most difficult obstacles to doing projects. or elaborate on if briefly mentioned) What got you turned on to the idea of doing projects? • What were you doing before? Can you describe the way you ran your classes? • Could you describe your satisfaction with what you did before? (process? results?) • Was there anything you liked about the previous way that you gave up? Why was it worth it to do so? • What is the most important aspect of doing projects. in your opinion? • What were difficult obstacles to doing projects which you’ve now overcome? Once you became interested in doing projects.Appendix D Teacher and student interview guides February 1995 interview with Rory Wagner First question to ask to try and have him relate as much as possible. how did you start doing them? • How explain to students? • What structure did you provide? Form of guidance? • What concerns did the students have? 339 . What were the important events and ideas? Punch list (Questions to cover if not mentioned. in your opinion? • What is the most important benefit of doing projects. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

e. Can you describe for me "on tape" the reasons for your re-evaluation. just getting into the "real" project)? Why? What do you think are the tradeoffs involved comparing "model projects" with jumping right in? • Do you plan on any transition discussions or activities going from these current projects to the next? Is there anything you plan on stressing to them when they begin the next projects? • What do you see as the primary issues to work with your students on in this coming project cycle? How do you see yourself working on them? (we’ve talked about .346 • My Chapter 1 . 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. 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.discussion of possible analyses and coming to conclusions) • You’ve talked about changing the paper format lately.

specifically science classes .anything else related to the Web site or Internet connection .what should they know if considering taking it? • • How do you think the lectures relate to the projects in Rory’s class? How is this class like or different from other classes youu have taken? .what is doing projects like? . 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 .347 • We were talking yesterday about some of the seemingly inevitable difficulties of having students work in groups. and have there been many other things .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 happened there.including the lecture part and the project part .

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

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. Rory asked you to rate how good the various projects were scientifically. 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 . First. 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. What do you think makes a project good scientifically? Do you think your opinion would agree with Rory’s? What differences are there? (data.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.

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

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

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

why? .this might be the “real” project!!! 8) Write a paper explaining your project. (1 week) a) Graph your data to maky any patterns/connections more “visible. 8) Prepare a presentation to the class.” 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. . (2 weeks) . (1 week) .353 7) Analyze your data to see what you have discovered.See the separate handout.there will be more information about this later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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