This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
and theories alone, no matter how successful, does not meet the pedagogical and societal demands for science and mathematics education in a sustainable manner, nor do classrooms structured around a behavioral learning theory in which teaching was telling and learning was memorizing. Our understanding of the nature of learning and of science and mathematics is shifting and resulting in more effective science and mathematics education programs.1
Studies in cognitive psychology and brain science have identified several principles with significant implications for the teaching of science and mathematics:2 • Learning engages the entire physiology, and some aspects of how the brain is wired are affected by experience; • Learning is influenced and organized by emotions and mind-sets based on expectancy, personal biases and prejudices, degree of self-esteem, and the need for social interaction; • Memory is organized both spatially (allowing for “instant” memory of experiences that build upon one another) and through a set of systems for rote learning; • Humans possess a need to make sense of the environment, and understand and remember best when facts and skills are embedded in natural, spatial memory, or ordinary experiences. Further, the search for meaning takes place by “patterning” or attempts to meaningfully organize and categorize information;
• • •
The brain downshifts under perceived threats and learns optimally when appropriately challenged; Concepts are learned best when they arise in a variety of contexts, are represented in a variety of ways, and when students have a chance to use the concepts on authentic tasks; Learning to do well involves practice in doing. Students cannot learn to think critically, analyze information, communicate scientific ideas, make logical arguments, work as part of a team, and acquire other desirable skills unless they are permitted and encouraged to do those things over and over in many contexts; and, Effective learning requires feedback. Students must be able to feel free to express ideas and to receive analysis and comment from their peers. Such feedback helps students reflect on their ideas and performance, and see relationships among items of knowledge and test their validity.
Nature of Scientific Knowledge
Our understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge is shifting. The notion of science as a collection of facts and processes is now replaced by one in which science provides conceptual and technological tools that allow people to describe and explain how the world works with power and precision, and to achieve a richer understanding and appreciation of the world they experience. Thus the science classroom is transformed into an inquiry-based culture - a community of explorers - where
! 7 ! TechKnowLogia, March/April, 2001 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.
became the chief mode of instruction. Inc. creativity. Instructional Implications These new understandings are leading to enhanced instructional programs in sciences that have the following characteristics: • • Hands-on: Students are actually allowed to perform science (directly and vicariously) as they construct meaning and acquire understanding. real-life questions and issues in a format that encourages drawing on multi-disciplinary knowledge. and where students can "work" like scientists engaged in the process of collective sense-making. For decades. It takes these subjects out of the realm of the magical or extraordinary. thought to "strengthen" the bonds between questions and responses. understanding memorizing math facts to get the the conceptual nature of the probright answer lem. business and every-day world. • Foundations of Mathematics Education The enhancement of mathematics education has followed a path similar to that of science.TechKnowLogia. and the skills needed to live and work effectively.curiosity. and questioning are valued. Reality-on: Students are presented with problem-solving activities that incorporate authentic. outlined above. behaviorism was (and in many places still is) the predominant foundation for mathematics teaching: building "bonds" between a mathematical stimulus and a response (the correct answer). allowing students to develop higher-order thinking processes and skills. With the advancements in cognitive science. The objective is to promote students’ insight into the real scientific. the view of math changed from "numbers and computations" to "math as problem solving." leading to the following major shifts in math education: Drill and Practice View Research Base Goals of Math Instruction Goals of Learning Behaviorism Mastery of isolated facts and skills Problem Solving View Cognitive Sciences Understanding of mathematical concepts to apply to new problem situations Applying computation skills and Problem solving. vessel receiving knowledge Active. Minds-on: Activities focus on core concepts. dialogue with informed expert sources. knowing when to employ skills and facts as tools to solve the problem Passive. and encouraging them to question and seek answers that enhance their knowledge and thereby acquire an understanding of the physical universe in which they live. 2001 © Knowledge Enterprise. collaborative effort. connecting prior knowledge from external sources to new formal knowledge Views of Learner ! 8 ! TechKnowLogia. March/April.org . and generalization to broader ideas and application. where resources and opportunities are made readily available. technological. Thus drill and practice on math facts and computation. www.
Instruction should help students understand mathematical concepts rather than just give them isolated facts and procedures. discover. Renate Nummela Caine. and. • • Minds-on. Students actively construct knowledge through doing and problem solving rather than by passively assimilating information from the teacher and textbook. and Sam Crowell.g. basic skills instruction should not be separated from thinking skills instruction. these understandings are leading to enhanced instructional mathematics programs that have the following characteristics: • Hands-on. and as workers in the market place. Tucson: Zephyr Press. as they attempt to make sense of their experiences through real world problem solving. Problems are solved in various ways and knowledge is often constructed by groups of people.TechKnowLogia. Students should solve problems in order to construct formal mathematics knowledge (e. The quality of mathematical thinking and reasoning is dependent on what one knows. Sustainable in the sense that the students are quipped with modern tools for life-long learning. www. Implications Instruction should provide opportunities for thinking and reasoning throughout the math curriculum. • • 1 2 Authentic. Students must be provided opportunities to construct mathematical knowledge through thinking and reasoning. 2001 © Knowledge Enterprise.org Mindshifts: A Brain-based Process for Restructuring Schools and Renewing Education. and meaningfully construct mathematical concepts and relationships in contexts that involve real-world problems and projects that are relevant and interesting to the learner. Instructional Implications Just as in science. focusing on the core concepts and critical thinking processes and skills needed for students to create and recreate mathematical concepts and relationships in their own minds.Implications for Math Teaching/Learning Important findings from cognitive research have had the following implications for math teaching: Principle Thinking is a continual process and is fundamental to learning mathematics. Reality-on. they will have difficulty learning the conceptual knowledge later and lack the power to use mathematics. Some parts of this article have benefited from materials posted on NCREL’s web site: http://www. discuss. ! 9 ! TechKnowLogia. March/April. if students practice skills before they understand the underlying concepts. Students should be encouraged to solve mathematical problems collaboratively. as members of society.ncrel. minds-on and reality-on approach makes science and math education: • Engaging in the sense that students are involved in the learning process and not viewed simply as “receptacles” for knowledge. and value different problem solving approaches.experimenting first-hand with physical and simulated objects and mathematical constructs before learning abstract mathematical concepts. Inc. by Geoffrey Caine.org . Benefits A hands-on. involving students in really doing mathematics . and to think and reason with their mathematical knowledge. representing physical events with algebraic symbolism). The development of mathematical thinking does not linearly follow the acquisition of basic skills. Thinking and knowledge are not separate components of mathematical competency but rather are highly related. listen to and challenge each other. and the development of what one knows is dependent on mathematical thinking. allowing students to explore. 1994. since what they are learning has meaning to them as individuals.